Whether you’re working remotely or working with sensitive information that requires additional protection and discretion, a virtual private network (VPN) can provide you with an added layer of security and peace of mind.

VPNs are essential tools for privacy and understanding how they work and when to use them will help to keep you and your data protected when it matters most. We’ll go over the following points to help ensure you understand why using a VPN is important:

  • What is a VPN?
  • Reasons you should use a VPN
  • How VPNs work
  • VPN frequently asked questions (FAQs)

We’ll finish by recommending a few of the best VPNs available.

What Is a VPN?

A VPN is a tool to keep your online activity private. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel that connects your device to a remote server. Any information sent to or from your device goes through this tunnel, which keeps your data secure by scrambling it in a way that would make it essentially unreadable by anyone who may try to intercept that data.

Normally, when you’re browsing the internet, your device ― laptop, desktop computer, smartphone, or tablet ― communicates directly with the website that you’re accessing. When you send or receive data, it’s communicated over the wireless network that you’re connected to.

If that network isn’t secure, it’s possible for an attacker to intercept the information being sent via the network. That includes seeing what websites you’re visiting, messages you’re sending, even sensitive information like passwords and logins.

VPN for dummies
Source: NordVPN

A VPN eliminates this concern. While your data will still be transmitted via the wireless network, it’s being protected by the encrypted connection. Instead of communicating directly with the website you’re accessing, the VPN server serves as a go-between: it receives information sent through the tunnel and sends information back through it. This ensures the data is protected and encrypted.

Reasons To Use a VPN

Here are some of the top reasons that you should consider using a VPN.

Use a VPN for Security on Public Wi-Fi

The most important thing that VPNs provide you with is security, especially when you’re operating on an unsecured or public wireless network. As more people are working remotely and are handling potentially sensitive information, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your connection is secure.

Whether you’re handling proprietary data or answering emails via public Wi-Fi, there’s a chance that someone with malicious intent is on the network intercepting that data. By using a VPN, you mitigate that risk.

Your information is transmitted via an encrypted tunnel that keeps it safe and unreadable, even if it gets collected by a hacker. Your activity, information, passwords, and everything else remain secure.

A VPN Provides Privacy From ISP, Apps, and Other Legal ‘Spies’

Hackers aren’t the only prying eyes on the internet. Most of your activity is being collected with your tacit permission by your internet service provider (ISP), the apps and programs that you’re using, and websites that track your activity across the internet. You’re almost always being watched and monetized.

A VPN prevents that from happening. With a VPN, your activity is made private. Only you and your VPN provider know what you’re doing. Your ISP, apps running in the background, and the companies that serve up cookies and other tracking tools will be left in the dark as to what you’re up to.

Bypass Geolocations and Restrictions With a VPN

While we often think of the internet as global ― it’s the “worldwide web” after all, right? ― it’s still surprisingly restricted by location. You might find content to be geo-restricted, only available in certain areas. This can be tricky if you need to access that information for whatever reason but find it inaccessible.

bypass-geo-blocking
Source: Surfshark.com

VPNs can help negate these restrictions. When you connect to a VPN server, you’re perceived as being located where that server is located. As a result, the sites and services that you’re communicating with think that’s your geolocation.

That means you can spoof your location effectively, appearing in the region where the content that you need is available. This is particularly useful for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu that only allow content in certain regions.

How Does a VPN Work?

A VPN creates a secure and encrypted connection between your device and a server hosted by your VPN provider. When you connect to that server, all of your information is sent through that encrypted tunnel, ensuring no one knows where it originated from or what data is being sent. The website or app that you’re communicating with sends and receives data via the VPN server, which then securely shares it with you.

Which Devices Should You Use Your VPN On?

You can use a VPN on any device that you’re using to connect to the internet. The devices that you’re most likely to use a VPN on include your laptop and smartphone. This is because these are the devices that are commonly connected to unsecured wireless networks.

If you work remotely, you’ll likely be connecting to wireless networks that you don’t have control over. Turning on your VPN when connecting with these networks provides a level of security that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

five device policy image
Source: ExpressVPN.com

If you choose to, you can also set up and run a VPN on your desktop computer as well as other internet-connected tools like smart TVs, smart speakers, and other internet of things (IoT) devices.

If you have secured your home network with a strong password, this is typically not necessary. However, it does provide an extra layer of protection that ensures the data being sent and received by these devices remains protected.

Where Can You Use a VPN?

You can use a VPN anywhere. Because people are almost always connected to the internet, whether it be via the blanket connection provided by cellular towers or a wireless network, there’s no shortage of places where you can run your VPN.

Is There a Time When Using a VPN Is Bad?

There’s not a bad time to use a VPN. It provides you with protection and ensures that your data remains secure. Even if you feel using it’s not necessary, you should utilize your VPN for its additional layer of security.

However, there may be times when a VPN is less convenient in a way that outweighs its function. If you aren’t working with sensitive information and find that connecting to your VPN is creating a slower internet connection, you may choose to turn it off.

Additionally, if you’re connected to a VPN server that’s located in a region where the content or information that you need resides, it may not serve you to keep your VPN running.

What Are the Best VPNs?

Ready to get a VPN to protect your internet activity? Here are the best VPN services available and their top qualities:

NordVPN

  • Next-generation encryption
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Uninterrupted streaming

Visit NordVPN

Surfshark

  • No-log policy
  • Unlimited devices
  • Kill switch

Visit Surfshark

ExpressVPN

  • 24/7 Live chat customer support
  • No-log policy
  • Allows torrenting

Visit ExpressVPN

CyberGhost

  • 45-day money-back guarantee
  • Can connect up to 7 devices
  • Kill switch available

Visit CyberGhost

ProtonVPN

  • AES-256 encryption
  • Supports multiple secure VPN protocols (IKEv2 and OpenVPN)
  • Strict no-logs policy

Visit ProtonVPN

A VPN is a great way to protect your online activity. Whether you’re working remotely and need to keep your sensitive information secure, are worried about spying eyes intercepting your activity and login information or want to spoof your location so that you can access content free of restriction, you can set up a VPN easily on your devices.

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