VPN: How Do They Work and Why You Need One?

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are increasingly popular and inexpensive. You may have heard of the technology, but how much do you really know about how they work and why you should have one installed on every network and device?

We’re about to take some of the mystery out of this widely available but woefully underused bit of tech that virtually anyone who uses the internet should have and use daily.

Virtual Private Networks Explained

No matter how hard you try, you can’t hide from Google data miners and other prying eyes. That is, unless you have a VPN installed on your networks and devices.

Virtual private networks are encrypted networks that shield your URL, identity, location, and activity from government spies, hackers, and even your boss.

how a vpn works infographic

They work by connecting your PC, mobile device, or network via your router to a server in another location using that server’s internet connection. That means it will appear that you are wherever your server of choice is located. If you travel or you live in an oppressive country that blocks access to some websites, you can see the benefit of disguising your identity and physical location. That’s not the only advantage to installing a VPN.

An important distinction that many people neglect is understanding the difference between proxy servers and VPNs. While a VPN functions very much like a proxy server there are large differences in security function. A succinct explanation can be found on this VPN review by Privacy Canada, “A proxy server is similar to a VPN server in that it serves as a relay between your machine and the service you’re accessing. The difference is that while a VPN server anonymizes all traffic to and from your machine, a proxy server is application-specific. Proxy servers also don’t encrypt your traffic, which can leave you open to intrusion.”

The key feature here is the added benefit of VPN encrypted traffic which creates a protected tunnel from your computer to the host server. Proxies do not offer this level of protection.

Why You Need to Install a VPN Today

With cybercrime and government intrusion into our privacy on the rise, it’s up to us to protect ourselves and our privacy while we game or surf the internet.

Removing Geo-Blocks From Content

The main reason that people like VPNs is that they allow you to still access streaming and gaming accounts from any location. Want to watch your favorite show on Netflix while you travel for business? Choose a server that’s located in your home region. Want to watch the latest binge-worthy show, but it doesn’t stream in your location? A VPN will get around that.

Using a VPN will also protect you if you’re living, travelling, or studying in a country that spies on or polices it’s citizens and prevents them from accessing web content. Just makes sure to choose a VPN that’s located in a country that values freedom and privacy and won’t turn over your personal information and activity to the authorities.

Tired of your school or employer blocking social media or other content? Installing a VPN will get around that, too.

Safeguarding Your Business

Running an online business means protecting your databases and customer information. The rise of remote work and a gig economy also mean more people working in coffee shops, hotels, and airports with public, potentially unsecured networks.

Trust me when I say that cyber criminals are waiting and watching for people who aren’t paying attention to privacy so they can take advantage of their carelessness. It only takes a few minutes for someone to access your device from an unprotected public signal and hijack your session or get into your files.

However, remote workers and freelancers aren’t the only ones who need VPN protection.

working remotely

Companies often connect all of their internal devices and IoT to one network, which makes every connected device and person vulnerable for exploitation. All it takes is one exposed smartphone or copier, and a hacker can access all of your databases and customer accounts.

Rather than take that chance, many routers allow you to segment your network for business and guest use, and you can install a VPN on each network and connected device. If anything sordid happens on one line, your other devices and databases are protected.

Improving Your Gaming Experience

Online gaming, especially mobile gaming, is more popular than ever. Not only do many gamers gather in internet cafes and other public spaces to play, they also indulge in virtual gaming in public or private gaming platforms with hundreds of anonymous people from all over the world.

Protecting privacy and location is essential, especially for underage gamers who could become the target of predators. By hacking into a device, criminals can also access accounts or personal information and use it for their own gain or sell it on the Dark Web. VPNs are vital for safe torrenting as well.

How to Choose a VPN

You can install a reliable VPN on a mobile device, laptop, or PC in seconds, and it will only cost a few dollars a month. That’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. They can even be installed directly on your router at home and at work.

What makes a reliable VPN? You want a VPN that:

* Has a strict no-log policy That means that they don’t track, store, or reveal your identity, activity, or location to anyone, under any circumstances.

* Uses the strictest and most current encryption standards If they use anything less than 256-bit encryption and

* Resides outside 5- , 9-, and 14-Eyes alliance nations. This will prevent government agencies from forcing the company to divulge your personal information and location.

* Has a large number of servers located at strategic points throughout the world. You want to be able to choose server locations in safe places and maintain a speedy, reliable connection.

* Allows multiple connections. Even if you don’t have a family or a busy office, chances are good that you access the internet from more than one device.

* Has responsive customer service. You need to be able to access support 24/7 via a range of platforms.

Beware: Some companies make promises they have no intention of keeping. In order to protect yourself, stay away from free VPN companies, read lots of reviews from pros and actual customers before signing any contract, and make sure that the company is willing to put their guarantees in writing.

Final Thoughts

We’re pleased to bring you the most current information about the technology and accessories that make life more convenient and entertaining. Now that you know what a good VPN can do for you, there’s no reason to wait. It just takes a few minutes to shop around for the best VPN for your situation.