What is a VPN, what does it do, and why do you need one?
In short, a VPN is a type of online service that provides software/apps that you can install on your devices to make your internet connection more secure than it is by default. A VPN gives you online privacy through anonymity, and there are several VPN providers to choose between, paid and free.
- A VPN helps you to stay anonymous when you visit websites, so e.g. your internet provider can’t see which sites you’re browsing.
- A VPN allows you to download files and stream media without anyone knowing where your location is.
- A VPN helps you to get around region-blocked websites and services by allowing you to pretend you’re from another country.
Let me be clear. Without a VPN, your Internet service provider knows your entire browsing history and they can share this with your government if they’re pressured to do so. Even though your ISP (Internet Service provider) might be reluctant to sell you out, history tells us, that they will give in to pressure.
Once you have installed a VPN on one of your devices (laptop, phone, etc.) and enabled it, your VPN creates a connection between your computer and one of your VPN provider’s servers. These servers can be located everywhere in the world.
Your VPN then lends you a temporary IP address, while hiding your true IP address from any website, email or other services you connect with. This temporary IP expires often and is re-generated every time you enable/disable your VPN, e.g. when you reboot your computer.
When you visit a website with your VPN enabled, the VPN encrypts the data that goes between you and the website, by scrambling so it becomes unreadable for outsiders, including, the website you visit, and your ISP.
Using a VPN is virtually like adding a private (encrypted) network on top of your existing network. This VPN network acts as a shield when you’re doing things online. Whatever you are doing, it will look like your VPN is doing it, by exposing the “fake” generated IP to whatever website or platform you’re active on.
A VPN could be using a VPN that uses a VPN — you can imagine how deep the rabbit hole goes.
There are dozens of free and paid VPN services. I couldn’t tell you which one is the best. All I can tell you is that most VPN users will eventually use a paid service because the free ones are either unstable or unfulfilling.
I hate being the one saying “trust me”, but trust me, a VPN is the last thing you want to be cheap about.
I can think of few things more important than privacy, you?
I’ve been using Private Internet Access (PIA), for a couple of years, and I’m happy with them. They’ve been consistently stable and reliable.
I chose them at the time because they were in the top 3 on everyone’s favorite VPN lists. They were also the one website that had a simple, straight forward sign up process, which I always appreciate.
The only problem I’ve had with PIA is that I can’t use it on Netflix. But since I don’t watch much media, it’s not a big deal for me.
PIA frequently pushes updates to the native app which I appreciate, since the tech world is constantly evolving and it’s important to stay on top of things.
I won’t try to push PIA on you just because I like them. There are plenty of alternatives. But before you decide, use the following checklist to filter out the crap:
- If the VPN sounds amazing and is 100% free, it could be real, but it’s probably bullshit. Be careful what you sign up to.
- If it costs around 10-$15 / month and gives you full coverage on all your devices, that’s a good deal.
- If it costs $5 or less, that’s incredibly cheap, and unusual. Make sure it covers all your needs.
- If you can’t find consistently positive reviews about the VPN, from different sources e.g. blogs, message boards, and from known Twitter/Medium.com techies, — then it’s probably bullshit.
Spend some time looking around and comparing VPN prices and reviews, and then make a decision. The sooner you are protected, the better.
Happy private browsing =)