“What is VPN?” A virtual private network, VPN for short, is a private network system that was and still is used primarily by companies to protect their outgoing and incoming Internet traffic. In essence, these companies use VPN as a tool to protect their privacy as well as to shield their sensitive data from potential online hazards. In the past few years, the use of VPN has also risen in households due to VPN’s capability of adding an extra layer of online security. But that is not the only reason casual Internet users are using VPN. VPN also allows you to bypass geographic restrictions and access geo-restricted websites and streaming channels that would usually be geoblocked in your territory. I will discuss this part in detail in this article.
What is VPN? Protect Online Privacy Bypass Regional Restrictions
What is VPN? How Does It Protect Online Privacy?
You have probably seen the term VPN while configuring your iPhone’s or Android’s network settings. When you connect to a VPN server, all your Internet connections is encrypted. Your real IP address is masked and changed. Thus, protecting your privacy against government agencies, hackers, or other prying eyes who wish to eavesdrop on your online activity.
What is VPN? VPN Protocols Explained
VPN uses different protocols to encrypt your connection. Each of these protocols has a different level of security. The main protocols used by VPN are PPTP, OpenVPN, IPsec, and L2TP. The drawback is that the higher the security level of the VPN protocols you are using, the more your Internet speed might suffer. OpenVPN, also known as SSL, is one of the most commonly used VPN protocols, especially among corporate firms. Take a look at the most secure VPN protocols, from highest to lowest.
- IPsec (Internet Protocol Security)
- LT2P (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)
- PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)
What is VPN? Bypass Regional Restrictions
The other benefit of using VPN is that it allows you to unblock and watch streaming channels that are geoblocked. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, ABC, BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, and Showtime are all examples of streaming services that are not available abroad. These channels look at your IP address to determine your location and thus decide whether you are eligible to watch them or not. Using VPN, you can change your IP address. For instance, if you are an American expat working overseas, you can get a US IP address by connecting to an American VPN server, effectively unblocking all American channels in UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, or anywhere else overseas.
VPN is also very useful when it comes to accessing torrent sites like The Pirate Pay, KickAssTorrent, or TorrentHound. VPN allows you to securely download torrents without having to worry about your ISP monitoring your downloads.
Another place where VPN comes in handy is at school, college, or at work in the office. In such places, social network websites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, or Instagram are often blocked. Using VPN, you can unblock and access blocked websites at your school, college, or work.
Best VPN Providers
There are a number of elements which differentiate a good VPN provider from a bad one. First, you need to make sure that the VPN service you are using does not keep logs of your online activity.
Second is the speed of the VPN servers in use. This part is very important since it determines whether you can stream videos online without buffering issues. You can measure your Internet speed while connected to a VPN server by visiting SpeedTest.net.
The third aspect you should take into account is the number of VPN servers the VPN service provides and the countries it has VPN servers in. Moreover, proper VPN providers offer their users VPN apps/clients which can be installed on PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, or iPad. These apps make setting up and connecting to VPN relatively easy.
Last but not least is the VPN provider’s customer service. While using VPN, you might run into some issues especially if you are not techsavvy. Having a 24/7 customer service you can call upon when you run into VPN-related problems is very important.
I have tested and tried numerous VPN providers, evaluating their VPN server speeds and customer service in the process. You can find my review of the best VPN services in 2017 here.
What is VPN? Final Thoughts
Registering with a reliable VPN provider will set you back a couple of bucks each month. However, the benefits, both in terms of protecting your online privacy or unblocking geoblocked channels, more than make up for the money you are paying.