A VPN (or Private Virtual Network) may seem complicated at first, but it is simple software that anyone with little technical knowledge can use.
In this guide you will learn what a VPN is and how it works, why you need one, whether it is secure, remain anonymous, and more.
What is VPN and why do I need a VPN?
VPN is software that keeps your Internet activity private and secure.
Prevents Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and authorities from monitoring your transactions online. It also protects you from hackers who want to block your traffic.
A VPN is a powerful solution for staying online and staying safe, no matter where you surf the Internet or wherever you use the Internet.
There are four main reasons for using VPN:
- Keep your online activity private
Everyone has the right to use the Internet privately, and a VPN is a very important tool to help you with this.
Whether your school, workplace, ISP, or government is monitoring you, VPN works to keep your web activity private and increase your privacy.
It also protects your personal data to prevent it from being sold to advertisers.
- Protect yourself from hackers on public WiFi networks
Every time you connect to an unprotected public WiFi connection, you play a big gamble. Its open nature allows hackers to easily perform ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks that can easily sneak around, seize your private data, or phish.
A VPN is the only way to securely use public WiFi hotspots and to prevent these attacks. It protects you from hackers and enthusiasts and allows you to use the Internet without worrying about espionage or worry.
- Censorship by your school, workplace or ISP
Even in places like the US, UK or Australia, the internet is not as free as you might think.
At least your Internet service provider monitors everything you do online, and the government has the authority to request records of your online activity, including all the websites you visit.
If you’re in China, Russia, or many censored countries, the situation gets worse. The highest level of censorship can prevent you from accessing important sites such as Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia.
A good VPN creates a special connection between you and the VPN server to route web traffic around these web blocks.
- Unlock geographically disabled online content
There are also a large number of geographically blocked online content, including websites and applications. This means that you may not be able to access them based on your location.
Connecting to a VPN server not only encrypts your traffic, but also makes it look like you are connecting from the VPN server location. This means that websites and applications think you’re actually there when you’re not actually there.
How exactly does this work?
The description is surprisingly simple. Your IP address replaces the VPN location you select, unlocking the online content you are trying to access.
Remember, the more servers your VPN provides around the world, the more content you can unlock.
How VPN works?
A VPN can be installed on computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets and the most popular devices.
When VPN is running, it creates a private and secure internet connection between that device and the website or application you are trying to access.
Instead of moving in a straight line, like your usual Internet connection, when using a VPN, your web traffic is routed first to your VPN’s private servers, then to the website or application you want to access.
This special connection is like a secret tunnel that hides your web traffic from enthusiasts and hackers.
Your ISP can no longer see what you are doing and your connection is much more secure. Your IP address changes, and your browsing data cannot connect to your actual location, making everything you do online even more special.
You can choose from many VPN server locations around the world. This allows your VPN to fool websites and applications that you browse on the internet, allowing you to access previously blocked content.
If you choose a good VPN provider, you can probably take advantage of the protocol and encryption options to use.
You should always choose the strongest possible VPN encryption (currently AES-256) to protect your data, even if it slows down your Internet speed.
However, your protocol selection is slightly less black and white.
A VPN protocol is essentially a set of rules and processes that apply to a VPN application when connecting to a VPN server. These are the most common VPN protocols:
- IKEs2 / IPSec
- L2TP / IPSec
When testing a VPN, we try to use OpenVPN whenever possible. We think it is the best balance of speed and safety.
IKEv2 is also very popular, but we do not recommend using obsolete and unsafe PPTP.
Can I use VPN for free?
You can use a absolutely free VPN, but you should pay attention to the following:
- Monthly data limits
- Limited server selection
- Slow speeds
- Misuse of your personal data
- No technology to bypass censorship
- No servers to unlock broadcast services like Netflix or BBC iPlayer
- Annoying ads that slow down the application
In addition to the disadvantages, free VPNs cannot approach premium options.
Not all free VPNs are good. Some popular VPN services offer free versions of paid VPNs. They may have limited features, but are still an excellent choice if you want to connect to a VPN before you sign up for the full package.
If you want a free VPN you can trust, here is our best free VPN list.
Is VPN secure?
VPNs are absolutely secure. However, the VPN is of good quality and is obtained from a reputable VPN provider.
The best VPN services have a proven track record of not recording event logs, protecting their servers, and, above all, determining the privacy and security of their users.
Many legitimate VPN providers have even been audited by independent external cyber security firms to prove they are as reliable as they claim.
It is also important that any VPN you select follow a clear and detailed registration policy. You need to know that you can trust your VPN with your data and that it doesn’t record anything it shouldn’t.
Nearly all VPN providers record some kind of data – even if they only have login credentials or the number of users on a server at any given time.
‘No registration’ VPN does not record any personally identifiable information, ie how you use the service, which websites and applications you use, and when you use it.
Technologies used by VPN software are also important.
Your VPN needs to have the latest and most secure encryption levels, plus a good strong protocol option (such as OpenVPN and IKEv2).
However, there are many VPNs that are unsafe and you should avoid.
Incorrect VPN can save your sensitive data or sell it to third parties. We even saw viruses posing as VPNs.
Does a VPN change your IP address?
Yeah. When you select a VPN server to connect to, you are assigned a new IP address.
This IP address is valid only for the time you are connected and does not permanently change the IP of your device.
Different VPN providers offer different IP addresses per server. On popular servers, it’s a good chance that you share an assigned IP with another user. This should not affect you in any way. (Except for occasional deceleration at times of server congestion.)
Some VPNs provide static IP addresses, which ensure that you always get the same address when you connect. This can be useful to reduce the number of captcha you see on the web, and also allows you to tell software or devices to trust specific IP addresses.
We also occasionally see VPN providers that offer private IPs: addresses only to you and to you. While these are perfect for geolocating leaking websites and streaming services, logs are a bad choice for privacy due to tracking back directly to you the activities being held or tracked on.
Does VPN slow down the Internet?
Yeah. Best VPNs will have little effect on your internet speed, but they will all slow down a bit.
Basically, a VPN works by routing your web traffic through its own servers. This means that it requires a deviation rather than traveling in a straight line. As with every journey, deviations slow it down and speed up your internet speed while using VPN.
Encryption can also affect the time it takes to upload sites or download files. The higher the encryption, the longer the delay.
The closer the VPN server you choose to connect to, the less it will affect your internet speed. Therefore, it is important to check the complete list of server locations provided by a VPN provider before you sign up.
Can I use VPN for Torrent?
Yes – only if VPN allows P2P and torrent traffic.
A VPN is a great way to keep yourself protected and anonymous when using torrent, but not every VPN allows its users to open their torrent.
Make sure that the VPN of your choice allows torrenting on all servers or has servers optimized for P2P traffic.
Can I use VPN for Netflix?
Tired of Netflix being covered by the proxy error screen?
You are not alone. Fortunately, there are many quality VPNs that bypass the block and unlock Netflix and allow you to watch content from libraries around the world.
Three VPNs currently working with Netflix:
Make sure your next VPN works with Netflix. Check out the recommended options for our best VPNs for Netflix.
How about using a proxy?
Proxies are very different from VPNs and should not be confused.
A proxy makes it look like you are connecting to the internet from a different country, but that’s all it will do. It does not provide protection or encryption.
To really protect and encrypt yourself while online, you need to use a VPN. A VPN assigns you a new IP address when applying complex encryption and security protocols to ensure that you are protected as much as possible in the zone you select.
Find out more in our guide: VPN vs Proxy