With the sheer amount of hacking and snooping that goes on in the digital world these days, just about everyone who gets on the Internet needs to be using a VPN, or virtual private network.
If this service, that helps to protect your sensitive data and anonymity on the net, is news to you, please read on to find out how to protect yourself while surfing.
Terrific questions and we’re happy you asked!
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a conglomeration of computers that have been networked together over a public network to form a private group that keeps unwanted people off of said network.
VPNs can be used by businesses to connect remotely to data centers or satellite offices. Individual people can use VPNs to gain access to network resources, even when they’re not physically present at that location. Both individuals and corporations alike utilize virtual private networks in order to secure and encrypt communications whenever necessary.
When using a VPN, a user will typically launch a program or visit a special website, and then you log in given the credentials provided by that service. Your computer will exchange encrypted keys with the VPNs remote server, and once both computers have verified one another, a secure connection is established.
From here, all of the websites you visit and the data you download will be routed through this remote server hosted by the provider you choose. It keeps prying eyes off of the data you send and receive, and makes it look as though you are in another location or country.
Many different types of people could benefit from a virtual private network:
This person needs to use a VPN provided by their school or company because they’re on-the-go, but still have responsibilities in which to attend.
These people are downloading a lot of information, whether legal or illegal, and do not want to end up on some watch list or fined. It’s a ‘better safe than sorry’ precaution, and a lot less costly than the worst case scenario.
I’m guessing this is a category that most of our customers fall into. You don’t have to be engaged in illegal activities to want to keep your communications secure and encrypted. It’s not the end-all, be-all of protection, but it does add a very solid layer of it for minimal cost.
These guys are either from another country originally or have their hearts and minds on foreign lands. They want to see their native TV shows as they air, listen to streaming internet radio that is location-restricted, or use an app that may also be limited to specific countries or regions.
Since we don’t all fit into tidy labels or groups, it’s reasonable to expect that people have needs from each of the categories and really just want an inexpensive way to add another layer of protection for their sensitive data and anonymity.
There are tons of VPN providers out there, and it may seem overwhelming at first when trying to figure out how to select the best one for you, but here is a short list of the essentials to look for:
1.) Which protocols do they offer?
For your average user, the protocol(s) offered, may not be that important, but to the user, you'll want to make sure SSL (secure sockets layer) is offered for its added encryption.
2.) How many service locations do they offer?
According to what you're going to use your VPN for, the service's location and number of "exit servers" (where you exit to the internet and your IP address is logged) is important. If you want to get around certain location restrictions, then the service you choose will need a server in a country that can accommodate you.
3.) Do they data log?
OK, so even though this is a service we pay for in order to keep our data and ourselves anonymous, believe it or not, some VPN services still log your data! If this is an issue for you, be sure to ask ahead of time.
4.) Do they have added anti-spyware features?
Just because you're using a VPN does not mean your connection is foolproof and you no longer have to take precautions. Because even the VPN servers can be vulnerable to attack, they will often implement their own anti-malware programs. It's an added layer of protection that makes sense.
5.) Do they offer a mobile app?
Since you're paying for this service, a reasonable expectation is that said service will work equally well across all platforms. The better services offer this functionality, and because we're on our smartphones so often these days, it's almost necessity to utilize a VPN that has a robust mobile app.
6.) Is it a fair price?
While there are plenty of free virtual private network providers, as is often the case, you're going to get what you pay for here.
Free providers' service is typically painfully slow. They can't go out and spend a wad of cash on infrastructure and bandwidth, so they usually offer contextual advertising during the service. They'll also have fewer exit locations and not as secure encryption.
Paid services will take your privacy a lot more seriously. You will not see ads all over the place. The service itself is exponentially faster than the free ones, they often offer a free trial, and almost never will log your data - but still ask about it!
While there are plenty of bad VPNs out there, often while masquerading around as good ones, if you take a little time to do some research and ask enough questions, you'll undoubtedly come across a fast, reputable virtual private network like the one we use at Private Internet Access (PIA).
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