The Importance of Using a VPN

When you're away from home or work and need to go online, you probably rely on public Wi-Fi access or the data connection from your mobile provider. In most cases, however, such networks are unsecured, which means anyone can see what you're doing. In a way, it's like you're giving hackers a free pass to intercept your data and communications. Fortunately, there's a workaround. It's called a virtual private network, or VPN, and it's the simplest, most effective way to maintain online privacy no matter where you go or how you connect.

What is a VPN?

Put simply, a VPN is a group or computers--or computer networks--that are linked together over the Internet. They are typically accessed via VPN clients, where users input their login credentials. However, they're sometimes accessed through links on the Internet. Either way, the user's computer exchanges a key with the VPN's remote servers. Once authentication is complete, everything that's sent and received between the two devices is secure and encrypted. Furthermore, the user can then access the VPN's resources, which comes especially in handy in work and school situations.

Benefits of Using a VPN

People and businesses use VPNs for many reasons, and they can be used to achieve different things. The top benefits of using a VPN include:

  • Security - If you are concerned about your data being intercepted, you need to start using a VPN. Unless you only access the Internet via a secure home or work network, anything you send or receive is vulnerable to hackers and others. Indeed, security is the main selling point of any VPN. Different VPNs use different security protocols, but SSL/TLS tends to be the most ubiquitous. There are pros and cons of using different protocols, so do your homework before selecting a VPN.
  • Privacy - Even if you aren't sending or receiving particularly sensitive information, you'd probably rather not have your activities out there for anyone to see. Many folks opt for VPNs to ensure their online activities are private no matter how or where they access the Internet. With a VPN, a quick login eliminates the risk of being spied on by others--or worse.
  • Access - Anyone who telecommutes or does online schooling has probably used a VPN at some point. VPNS are ideal in such situations because users can access network resources remotely. For instance, by logging into a VPN, a student can access files for their online courses. In recent years, VPNs have skyrocketed in popularity among people who want to access online resources in different countries. For example, if you are from the U.S. and living overseas, you may be unable to access certain websites in your host country. By using a VPN with servers in the U.S., you can sidestep this issue. With this in mind, keep the location of a VPN's servers in mind when looking for one.

Considerations to Make when Choosing a VPN

You'll quickly discover that there are hundreds of VPN providers out there. Clearly, personal information privacy is a major concern for most people, so business is booming in the VPN world. All VPNs aren't created equal, however, so do your homework. Free VPNs are available, but they lack extra features, and you usually have to put up with ads. Even if you pay for a VPN, make sure it uses a security protocol that aligns with your needs. As mentioned before, if you're using a VPN to access Internet resources in a different country, make sure the VPN has servers located there.

When it comes to personal information privacy, online security and unfettered access to the online resources you need the most, using a VPN is the way to go. Start investigating the options and give one a try today.