12 Oct Introduction to VPN (Virtual Private Network)
VPN is an acronym for Virtual Private Network. And, it does exactly what it sounds like it does, it keeps your Internet connection private, encrypted and anonymous.
There are a lot of different uses for VPNs. Most regular Internet users don’t think they need a VPN but the fact is, everyone connected to the Internet needs a VPN. The following are a few scenarios that demonstrate why you need a VPN.
Why VPN Services?
Privacy and Information Security
VPNs mask your IP address so that your ISP provided IP address is not seen by the Internet. It also completely encrypts your data.
These two attributes make it harder for malicious people to launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) Attack or hack you. It also makes it very difficult for anyone to spy on you. In countries governed by oppressive regimes, VPN is an invaluable tool to share content that the government may consider seditious and which may lead to prosecution. VPNs also allow people to make anonymous reports such as whistleblowing or reporting crimes to the authorities.
VPN also allows people to access censored content in countries such as China which implements a wide scale firewall to prevent their citizens from accessing certain sites.
Secondly, a VPN can show you in a different geographical location. For example, using VPN, it is possible to watch content on a site like Netflix even when that content is not available in your country.
Prevent Data Throttling
Your ISP monitors the data you are sending to and from their data center. Many ISPs have a habit of throttling your connection based on what you are connecting to. In the recent past in the US, there was a fiasco with Verizon, Comcast and other companies that were slowing down connections to Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu and other companies that sell streaming services that eat up a lot of data. ISPs don’t like that so they would monitor the traffic going to and from your router and the moment a customer visits a high bandwidth site, they slow down the connection. A VPN makes this impossible because the ISP cannot monitor traffic going to and from a router that’s behind a VPN. The ISP is only able to see one constant stream of encrypted data and thus can’t throttle. Thus, the VPN provides better Internet access and streaming performance because the ISP has no idea what you are doing.
How VPN Works
Normally, your computer accesses the Internet directly via your ISP. While this direct connection may be fast, it’s rarely secured and is very easily traced back to you. The process followed when using a VPN to access the Internet is as follows:
- The VPN software on your computer or device encrypts your data.
- This data is then sent via a secure tunnel to a server in another location sometimes in a different city or country.
- The VPN server decrypts the information, assigns a new IP address and then sends it to the Internet. Essentially, the server accesses the Internet on your behalf.
- At this point, all your communications with the Internet appear to be coming from the VPN server.
What to Look for in a VPN Provider
There are four main things you should consider when selecting a VPN provider, namely;
- Due to the process of encryption, decryption and first sending the data to a server which then accesses the Internet, one of the “side effects” of this is a slower connection. Thus, one of the first things you should consider is the speed of the VPN service provider. It is encouraged that you make use of the free trial provided by most VPN providers to test your connection speed before and after you connect to a VPN.
- Consider whether the provider has their own server and network infrastructure or they are riding on the network of another larger provider.
- Find out if the VPN keeps a log of Internet activity. You definitely do not want to use a provider that logs your activity on the server. It beats the entire purpose of having a VPN in the first place.
- Finally, depending on your needs, find out if the VPN provider offers multihop. This may be necessary for added security.
A Comparison of Four of the Leading VPN Service Providers
|Express VPN||The British Virgin Islands||Massive server network that consists 100% of self-owned servers and a high bandwidth. Also offers enhanced obfuscation features.||No logs||30 days|
|IPVanish||United States||Massive server network that consists 100% of self-owned servers and a high bandwidth. The US is not a very good location for privacy.||No logs||7 days|
|NordVPN||Panama||Massive server network that consists 100% of self-owned servers and a high bandwidth.||No logs||30 days|
|VyprVPN||Switzerland||Massive server network that consists 100% of self-owned servers and a high bandwidth. Switzerland is an excellent location for privacy.||Connection logs (erased every 30 days)||30 days|