What Is A VPN and Why You May Want To Get One
Whether you have personally used one or not, you have probably heard the abbreviation plenty of times or at least seen web ads promising to provide you with a stable VPN service.
So what exactly is VPN?
A VPN is a virtual private network, that allows you to create a secure connection to another network.
In simple words, what happens is this: you download a VPN on your computer or go to a special website, log in (just like you do with an email account) and your computer then establishes a connection with a faraway server. From then on, all of you Internet data is encrypted – meaning that your Internet activity will be protected from spying or censorship.
Why you may want to use a VPN
The reasons for using a virtual private network can vary. But what they all have in common is the search for privacy, security and sometimes anonymity. Using a VPN connection means others will not be able to track your activity online. Typically, the websites you visit can view your IP address, location, operating system, screen resolution and more. When your VPN is enabled, access to that information is no longer possible and what you do online will be secure from prying eyes.
Here are a few situations when that may come in useful.
To change your geo-location
For some of us living in China, VPN becomes a necessity for jumping over the local Firewall to access blocked websites (like Facebook and Twitter), so that we can keep in touch with family and friends or use Gmail and Google which can occasionally become inaccessible. In this case VPN allows us to choose a geo-location from where we would like to log in and allows you to browse websites as a local. With most VPN clients you will have a wide selection of locations to choose from – which is also useful for getting access to local data or media websites, like Neflix, when you are far from home.
To establish a secure connection when traveling
VPNs are often used by business travelers if they want to connect to their company’s network and local resources without sacrificing security. As the local resources will not have to be directly exposed on the Internet, company data will be protected, even when using public Wi-fi.
To secure a public Wi-Fi connection
If you are a frequent user of public Wi-Fi in coffee shops, you should know that your browsing activity on non-HTTPS websites is easily accessible to anyone who knows where and how to look. So if you would like to have the option of more privacy – you can connect to a VPN, where all your traffic will be redirected, making it invisible locally.
To download torrents
Torrents can be a great source of information and entertainment. But your ISP (Internet Service Provider) may not be all too happy about your late night fun with BitTorrent, and when your Torrent traffic is detected, it may result in slower Internet speed. To avoid that, VPNs are often used specifically for torrent download for faster speeds and more stable connections.
Where do I get one?
There are plenty of VPN servers available on the Internet, some free and some requiring a payment. You may want to start with a free version to test it out (and most paid VPNs offer a free trial). However, for long-term use a paid option would provide a more stable connection.
When shopping around for a VPN service, pay attention to the selection of locations it has on offer. If you want to log in as if you are in the States or Canada, for instance, , make sure your VPN provider has servers in those locations.