A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that allows you to securely connect to the internet via a provider that encrypts all data traveling between your device and the VPN server. We’ve talked about why VPN should become your most used app before. Today we’ll tell you how to choose and setup it.
How VPNs Work
Typically, you connect to the internet through your Internet Service Provider (ISP), which then connects you to websites. All your activities pass through your ISP’s servers giving them access to your personal data. When using a VPN, you connect to the server via an encrypted connection (a VPN tunnel) so that all data passing through your computer and the server can only be seen by you and the server.
Originally VPNs were developed to allow employees to connect remotely and securely to their employers’ network. However, with increasing concern for data security mounting on every level, private internet users are seeking the data protection that VPNs provide. This article, however, will explain the best practices for selecting and setting up a commercial VPN.
Pros and Cons of VPNs
As with anything, there are upsides and downsides to using a VPN.
Some benefits include safer browsing on public networks, more privacy because ISPs can only see that you are connected to the VPN, and geo-spoofing—appearing to be accessing the internet from the VPN’s location, not necessarily the location your true IP address is located. Also, using a VPN helps the user avoid censorship by a school, employer, or government server.
The downfall to VPN usage is that your internet will slow down. Because your connection must first travel to the VPN server then to the websites you want to visit, connection speed is compromised. Another potential negative is that while your ISP cannot see your activities, the VPN provider still has access. The upside here is most VPN providers do make a commitment to protecting your privacy, whereas most ISPs do not.
How to Choose a VPN
When setting out to find the best VPN provider for you, first consider what is the main reason for using one in the first place. Is it simply to protect your personal data? Are you trying to get around a streaming service limitation? Or are you looking for more secure privacy when browsing the internet? Once you have this decided, try to keep these best practices in mind as you review different providers. Generally, however, you’ll want to keep these aspects in mind:
Price: Most providers cost between $5 and $10 per month. There are free services, but the services included in those free providers may not meet your full privacy needs—and many sell your data. Some VPNs offer a free trial period which is a great way to try before you buy.
Number of servers/countries: If you need to connect to servers in several countries, make sure to pick a provider with a good selection of server locations.
Customer support: As a beginner, make sure to pick a provider that offers customer support in a timely manner as well as can explain the ins and outs in a way you can understand.
Security: How far is the provider willing to go to protect you against hackers and other entities trying to access your information? Also, what promises does the provider make as far as allowing access to your information. Make sure you review these promises carefully and take time to check the VPN’s terms of service.
Operation System support: Before deciding on a provider, make sure to know for sure if it is compatible with your device’s operating system. On top of being available on different operating systems, make sure that your VPN is also able to run on different devices—desktop, laptop, mobile, etc.
Speed: While all VPN usage means some loss of speed, some are better than others. Make sure to find one that works at the speed you need.
Logging: Does the VPN log your data? If this is not explicitly noted in the buying funnel, make sure to check the terms of service carefully or write to the support team to check.
Software: Look for a provider that offers a program that is easy to use. A lot of software packages include extra features that can be confusing and unnecessary for beginners. However, keep in mind that some features can be extremely helpful. For example, when privacy or security of financial data is a concern, it’s good to check whether the VPN provider offers a killswitch that blocks connections in case your VPN client gets disconnected, for some reason, until it reconnects. This way none of your traffic will be intercepted or exposed to an adversary. Ultimately, if you’re not familiar with a VPN brand or cannot find reviews, pay special attention to unnecessary add-ons in the install process which might put you at risk.
How to Set-Up Your VPN
Once you’ve done your research and settled on the VPN you think is best for you, signing up is easy, but each VPN provider has a slightly different set-up.
All you need to do is:
- Visit the provider’s website.
- Follow the designated link provided by the VPN.
- Follow the step-by-step instructions given by the provider.
Whatever your reasoning for wanting to use a VPN, making sure you find the best one for you is important. When it comes to internet safety, a VPN is a great step but doing your research is always the best bet.