VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, which is a link or a connection made between the user and a server or a private network that helps you gain a secure connection on the internet. Your connection to the virtual world is being routed from a different server when you connect with a VPN.
Originally, VPN’s were used by multinational companies to secure and protect their data from getting hacked by any third-party. It was quintessential to gain a secure connection when employees work from a remote place and to achieve this VPN came to the rescue.
How does VPN work?
There are a lot of technical happenings when you connect to the VPN, but here we will enlighten you with basics and the functional part of the VPN. Working of VPN is quite straightforward. First, let’s see how you regularly access the virtual world. When you access the internet or type in a domain address, say wikipedia.com – a request is generated and is sent to the router.
The request states that the user wants to access Wikipedia. Now, the router translates that address of Wikipedia.com to an IP address – example (192.168.1.1). The router forwards this address to the server or your ISP (Internet Service Provider), and then your provider sends you all the information which you need to access Wikipedia.
In the above process, the following route is followed.
Device -> Router -> ISP
While using a VPN, you establish a connection between the server and your router. Here, your router will pass on the request to a server which will be responsible for handling all further communication between you and your ISP. In this way, you bring in a middle man who helps you bring in the required information and deliver necessary intel to the ISP.
With VPN, the route followed to access the internet is, Device -> Router -> VPN -> ISP
In the next segment, we see on,
Why use a VPN?
Now you know how does the VPN works. But, as you might have identified the problem of the shortest path. It is popularly known as the postman or the traveller problem. Here you select the shortest distance to reach from point A to B. Clearly, with the use of VPN, you add one more obstacle between you and the internet. So why slow down the process? Well, it does not precisely slow down your speed but takes an extra second or two to secure the data exchange.
See when you regularly connect to the internet, you share a lot of private information to the ISP and other trackers who eavesdrop while your router communicates to gain access. This private information includes and is not at all limited to IP address, Location, data of the websites which you visit, sometimes username & password of some accounts. All these information are more than enough to analyze your daily routine and perform a social engineering attack on you to empty your credit cards.
To hide all the leaking data, and make your internet experience great again, VPN comes into play. It keeps your data private, makes your connection secure, and helps you stay anonymous in the virtual world. If you choose to use it, then your identity remains hidden. Your ISP will never know what you’re doing, and no eavesdropper shall land their hands on your data. Furthermore, your location will not be revealed.
How to Choose a VPN Provider – What will you do with one?
For staying secure on public WiFI or network:
While using open internet in any coffee shop or a library, hackers can get access to critical data like your bank account details, email ID’s, social media accounts, and any other thing which you open while you both are connected to the same network.
Many times your internet activities are monitored by admin at the workplace. To bypass his watch over your daily routine, you can connect to the VPN.
To Unlock Geographically Locked Content:
For a person staying in India, it’s not possible to access some exclusive shows which Netflix offers to their audience in the USA or any other region.
Most of the TV channels like ABC, Discovery, BBC offers free live streams. The only condition for you to enjoy it is you must be present in a specific region.
Likewise, you can also unlock and play online games that are not released in your country.
To Shop Online
You can get exclusive discounts on hotels, flight bookings by faking your location using a server of that particular region. There are endless possibilities as 40% of the services are region limited.
To unlock censored content
Your college WiFi is blocking Facebook, YouTube & Twitter? Well, know you know how to bypass the locks and gain superpower. Internet censorship is quite common and is all over the world.
You can unblock and access any website available by using region-specific servers. Recently India banned porn and the only way to reaccess it is via VPN. Similarly, many regions block certain websites. China has a Great Firewall of China that regulates internet and limits access to many sites.
To Download files via TORRENT
Torrent is P2P connection, and most of the data available on it are pirated via some source or other. At some locations, torrents are blocked either by ISP or enforced by the government. In any case, you can reaccess it via VPN.
To Increase Internet Speed
Sometimes, internet connections can be a real mess. It happens because of your ISP throttles the link. What does that even mean? In simple terms, you are not getting the speeds that you are promised because of your Internet Service Provider, who thinks that putting a cap on transfer rate or limiting it for certain content like streaming movies or uploading huge files will make my client buy some expensive data pack or upgrade the current one.
Usually, you can remove the speed limits via a VPN. That doesn’t mean that it will increase your overall internet speed. In return, you get a better streaming experience with almost zero or no buffering.
To Get better connection for Online Games
VPN for Online Gaming is always a good option. You must use it when the server of your favourite game is located in some remote place. When you connect with VPN server located in that region for online gaming, you make a direct link which results in better PING, and it will certainly enhance your gaming experience.
To analyze your competition
Generally, whenever you visit a particular website, it keeps a log of your IP address and via some tracking tools such as analytics and pixel, they can know exactly what you looked for and the purpose of your visit. To avoid this digital trail that leads back o you, connect with a VPN. Still, there will be logging but what they will see a random IP address which won’t concern anyone.
Choosing the Best VPN – Important Features in a Glance
It’s not okay to scratch your head while the webpage loads itself. Speed is an essential factor to look after while choosing a VPN. Speed depends upon the region and the server that you select.
Sometimes, it will increase your upload and download rates depending upon how your ISP decides to throttle the connection. There are many VPN’s out there, promising lightning-fast access, but do they really provide what they promise? Some of them say 10MBPs link but what if your internet plan itself is of 2MBPs, is that suitable for you?
Next factor in the list is a secure connection. You don’t want to roam around in restricted areas and get caught by some leak of information. Usually, when you connect to the VPN, it changes your IP Address and DNS.
You also turn out to be in a different location. So what’s the catch? Well, we do specific tests on how VPN handles your IP Address, does it leaks your DNS? Is your VPN configured to process the infamous WEB-RTC Leak? All these points must be cleared right away when you go on VPN shopping.
3. Data Collection
Free stuff excites everyone, just like the free food. Similar is the case while collecting anonymous data. Some VPN’s do it for the research purpose by telling you that it’s to improve the product and provide a better user experience in exchange for your data.
Now, the question is, to what extent do they collect your data? Does your VPN crawl the apps installed on your device and scans them for the virus? But you hired that tool to guard your connection and not the computer! VPN’s must always stay in their limits while providing their service. Never exchange your data for the service.
What the government really want is complete control over what stays accessible and who can access it; furthermore, this locks the potential of research and development. Many sensitive things are lying on the internet, and they are blocked. Now, the question which must pop in your mind is what if my VPN restricts me from accessing things that I want, just like the government? Can I access everything that is out there with my VPN? There are many illegal things which you must not access. But, common censorship must be escaped.
5. Netflix Access
If you’re someone who usually wants to Netflix & Chill, we have some news for you. Netflix is in a battle against accessing GEO Locked content. It started a war against VPN’s by blocking proxy servers and IP’s. It’s been two years since Netflix decided to do so. Which means you have to select something that works on Netflix. Whenever Netflix blocks a server, VPN services brings a new one to reaccess it. Furthermore, this chase of block and access is commencing every hour. So you must lookout for a VPN that gives you 24/7 access to the Netflix content without any connection issues.
6. Torrent Access
Most of the college, corporates, and public WiFi don’t allow torrents. They have router-based firewalls that block P2P connections. With a VPN, it will be a cakewalk to enable torrenting. You might already know that speed will be a significant issue here, but it does guarantee a stable connection. Furthermore, it’s easy to track people who use torrents. So using a VPN will make sure that you stay anonymous while downloading torrents, which again is a plus point as most of the content is pirated, and you don’t want cyber enforcers knocking your front door.
7. Availability of Servers and Concurrent Connection
Again, it’s quintessential to have more available options to choose. Like if you’re in England and want to watch IPL Matches, then you need to select a VPN that has a server in India. Likewise, the same situation goes for any of the content that is identified and blocked on Geographical basis. Moreover, fewer options may result in less speed, as many users might connect to one single server and overloading it all at once.
While looking to purchase a VPN, always choose something that has servers in all the continents and major countries.
Apart from the availability of servers, concurrent connections sis something which you must consider to increase your level of anonymity. It means that instead of getting linked to the same server for a different device, it must allow you to link with separate servers for each unique device you plan to connect with VPN.
8. Technical Features
SMB’s to Enterprise level business must always look for technicalities while selecting a VPN. Some notable tech factors in VPN are – Most of the VPN’s out there are based on IPV4, so the question you might want to seek answers for – does it provide IPV6 support or you need to disable it altogether?
Can you have a router level VPN configuration? Furthermore, what protocol it uses? If it’s using the only PPTP protocol, then you must switch your VPN as it might be fast, but then again it is less secure. L2TP and IPSec are quite slow protocols but a further improvement over PPTP. So you must look for something with OpenVPN. IPSec and L2TP will be sufficient for an Android/iOS device as smartphones don’t support OpenVPN natively.
9. Additional Features
Before coming to a conclusion, you must check all the features in detail. Apart from world-class encryption and supporting protocols to match your technical requirements, there are multiple factors which conclude on what it takes to be an ideal VPN.
A feature named Kill Switch, which disables all the outgoing and incoming connection whenever the network is unstable or when it disconnects. This makes sure that your identity never gets compromised. Furthermore, does the VPN allows you to share it with your family, or how many devices does it support? Can you monitor usage and other analytics such as blocked connections, and server history?
10. Privacy & Logging policy
11. Usage Restrictions
This factor ultimately depends on your vendor. Paying for service on the top of your internet bill for a limited amount of bandwidth is not justifiable. Also, look for something that does not throttle your connection for online activities such as streaming videos as it eats up a lot of bandwidth. You must look for something that has proper and defined guidelines on usage policy. If it says daily usage limit of some GB’s or monthly usage limit (must be in TB’s), then you must look for an alternative. Always look for a VPN that does not have any usage restrictions whatsoever.
12. Device Compatibility
You must stay sure of the cross-platform availability. Check whether the VPN supports all the devices that you have. It’s evenly crucial that you can log in from multiple devices at once, in a combination of one Smartphone, Tablet, and a PC with the same credentials. If it restricts a limit to only one device, then you must reconsider your options.
User-friendly VPN is something that we see in all the available VPN’s. It doesn’t only mean that your choice must be good looking, but it also demands better understanding and less manual configurations be done by the user. For a non-technical guy, it must be easy to set up and use type VPN.
If there are complications for setting up, like giving some extra permission by changing settings or filling of IP address and password for the manual connection or putting a new configuration file for different servers in some folder located deep inside your file directories, then you must rethink of choosing that VPN. Always remember that you are paying money for the tool to work for you, and not the other way around.
14. Price and Payment Options
Cost as a factor entirely depends on your usage limits and how important it is for you to stay secure online. Check how many devices you are going to connect, how much security you want to have ranged from casual to enterprise-grade, what sort of activities are you going to do on the internet, and select the VPN plans accordingly. Always choose a VPN that has a minimum of 10-30 Days refund policy, as you might want to change it because it’s not always what the show in the adverts.
Payment options also play a role of its own. If the sole purpose of your purchase is staying anonymous, then you must choose something that can be brought with cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. Generally, most of the VPN supports PayPal, Credit/Debit Cards, and crypto as their mode of payments.
15. Customer/Tech Support
What comes after buying something is the after purchase experience. Be sure that they provide excellent customer support if something happens. Nowadays many accounts get cracked, in simple terms, your password might get stolen, and they will sell your account to someone else. If such fraud happens, then there must be a team willing to identify the scam and support you throughout the procedures. If this is absent, or miserable, then please find a different VPN.
Technical support is also equivalent to have for a proper VPN set up. If you’re planning to use a router wide VPN, then you might want to have a dedicated agent available to answer all your technical do’s and don’ts while you go through the features and face any technical difficulties.
Shall I use a free VPN?
There exist a class of people that has minimal usage of just bypassing the censorship, and the other type wants a perfect solution. There are many free VPN’s out there, and 90% of them collects or logs the user data. To sustain and earn money in exchange for the free service, they share your personal data with third parties.
Usually, this is done to target advertisements specific to the user interest, which generates more sales and revenue — some free VPN’s display advertising in exchange for the service. If you’re not bothered by the adverts, then go ahead, but it’s a strong suggestion that you must never compromise your privacy to gain free stuff or service.
Speed gets affected from time to time when we talk about any free VPN service as it collects data or runs ads in the background. Many of the VPN’s out there provide free trials, and if you’re not sure about what will be the best option, then you must avail them and select the one that works out.
If you’re a casual user who surfs social media and watch movies, then a lower-priced VPN that fulfils all the necessary requirements will be more than sufficient.
In case you turn out to be a business executive, then you need to have something with robust security, and a right customer and tech support. If you plan on watching movies or play games, then go for a VPN that has multiple server locations with a good amount of availability.
So what VPN is best for you? If you’re still looking for the specifics, then do let us know in the comments section below.