Selecting which VPN service is right for you can seem a little tricky at first as there are so many providers on the market - and they are all battling it out to get your business. If you’re not sure where to start looking for the right VPN for you, read on as we take a look at the things you need to know.
First of all, what is a VPN?
A VPN refers to a group of computers which are connected together via the internet. If you’re a business you can connect to a remote data center via your VPN and if you are a home user you can use it to connect to a network even if you’re not on the same local area network (usually abbreviated to LAN). A VPN is also hugely beneficial as it will secure and encrypt your data if you are using a public network – for example if you’re using a PC in your local library or your laptop in a coffee shop.
Connecting to a VPN is simple; you will either have a VPN client installed on your computer, which you launch when you want to connect, or you may need to log in to the provider’s website. Once you have launched or logged in your PC and the VPN’s server will verify each other and as soon as they recognize each other as being genuine your computer's internet connection and thus your data and communication will be securely encrypted so that no third party can access it.
A VPN is multi-functional too as not only will it allow you to safely connect to the internet but it will also allow you to watch television programs that are being aired abroad.
What can your VPN Do for You?
As we’ve seen a VPN can increase your security and ensure that your data isn’t been viewed by unscrupulous cyber criminals, and it enables you to access information when you’re not physically connected to a certain network, however there are different ways that you can use your VPN.
Whether you’re a student, an employee or you’re self-employed you may want to use a VPN so that you can always connect to a network no matter where you are. If you are security conscious and want to make sure that no one is accessing your data when you’re using public Wi-Fi a VPN is invaluable for protecting your privacy.
VPNs are also a must if you download a lot of torrents. Whether they are legal or illegal you don’t want to end up in trouble with the authorities or having to pay a fine just because you wanted to watch the latest episode of your favorite TV show.
Even if you’re not downloading torrents and you just want to watch a live sporting event or you want to view a program as it airs instead of waiting for it to be made available online (thus avoiding spoilers!) a VPN will allow you to do so. It will also let you listen to internet radio that may only be available in certain locations as well as giving you access to web based services or resources that are limited to a certain country or region.
Regardless of how important downloading torrents or watching television programs is to you, a VPN is a must when you’re working or browsing the internet on a public or unknown network. No matter whether you’re in an airport, a hotel or a café or restaurant if you don’t know that network, how do you know who also has access to it – and potentially your data. Even just checking your Facebook or Twitter account on a public network can put you at risk.
Choosing the Right VPN Service that Takes Anonymity Seriously
It really depends what you want to use your VPN for. Some VPNs are best for light usage, others are better if you do a lot of downloading and want to protect yourself whilst doing so and others still are aimed at avoiding the regional restrictions that some companies put on their apps and services.
So what are the things you need to consider when choosing the right VPN for your needs?
Protocol: the first thing you’ll probably spot is that you keep coming up against confusing sounding abbreviations such as SSL/TLS (also called OpenVPN Support,) PPTP, IPSec and L2TP – to name but a few. These are all VPN types and they will all give you a secure network connection however the most widely used type of VPN is SSL. Each type has pros and cons, however if you’re a regular home user you don’t need to get too bogged down in the fine details.
Where are the servers and exits: these depend on what you’re using your VPN for as well as where your server is and the locations of the ‘exits’. Put simply, what this means is that if you’re looking for a VPN so you can watch live television and you’re living in Canada, you need to check and see that the VPN provider has servers in Canada too. If you want a VPN so that you have extra privacy when you’re downloading torrents it might be an idea to choose a provider who is not based in the same country as you. It is also wise to ensure that your VPN provider has servers in a number of locations.
Logging data: connecting to a VPN means that you are entrusting the provider with your data and whilst it is true that you are protecting that data from people outside your network your information could still be logged by the service provider or even other systems that are using the same VPN. If you are concerned about this read all the small print and make sure you understand what your VPN provider’s policies regarding logging are. If the company doesn’t actually keep logs it’s not such a big deal which country they are situated in.
Protection against malware and spyware: don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re using a VPN you’re immune to attacks by malware and viruses. Continue to use HTTPS whenever you can and remain vigilant when downloading torrents, programs or software. If you are concerned however, do some research because some VPNs also come packaged with anti-malware and anti-spyware programs to give you extra peace of mind.
Mobile applications: whether you’re paying for your VPN or not it makes sense to get as much use from it as possible so make sure that you can use it across your range of devices, whether it’s your desktop PC or a smartphone. The majority of the biggest VPN providers have both desktop and mobile security which is far less hassle than having different VPNs for each of your phones, tablets or laptops.
The cost: there is a wide range of both free and paid-for VPNs out there so make sure you do your research, especially before buying a service. There are often quite substantial differences between the two types too:
Whilst a free VPN is perfectly adequate for light use or if you’re traveling and want heightened security, these services are more likely to record your online activity, so if privacy is the main reason for using a VPN, you might want to consider spending a little money instead. Free services also often have adware bundled in with them so you will likely start seeing those annoying little pop-up ads when you’re online too. They often also have a lower number of exit locations and are not as concerned with your privacy. A few good free VPN services are: