Do We Need a VPN?
VPN might seem to be the last thing comes to our mind when we go online.
Complacent or not, we go about our daily routines both online and offline, often oblivious to what may be going on under the hood.
While there is certainly comfort in such an approach, the fact is that we are missing out, both in terms of convenience and personal security.
And by getting a good VPN, we can significantly improve our quality of life, in exchange for just a little money and effort.
What Is a VPN?
Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN is a secure connection between two or more devices.
This means that when we use a VPN, all our internet traffic goes through a remote host, operated by a VPN device.
From that point on, our actual IP address will appear as one of the VPN server’s IP addresses instead.
This may not seem like much, but in a world where information is the key, the ability to appear as someone else, from somewhere else, is invaluable.
Through a VPN, we don’t leave any digital footprints and aren’t bound by our countries’ (potentially restrictive) internet policies.
Please note that we will not be doing anything illegal here.
We all have the right to our privacy, and now we also have the means of enforcing it.
However, besides protecting our data, this legitimately sold service can not only let us get more out of the internet but also help us save a few bucks.
What Can a VPN Do For Us?
We can use this combination of security and anonymity in a number of ways.
1. A VPN Will Keep Our Data Safe
It’s no secret that our ISP (Internet Service Provider) has insight into pretty much everything we do.
But when we connect to a VPN, all our ISP sees is a secure tunnel between two parties.
That way, our business remains just that — ours.
Furthermore, a VPN encrypts our data, keeping it safe from government officials and hackers alike.
Encryption is always a good thing, but it is particularly useful when we are using a public network.
With it, no one will be able to intercept our data for whatever reason.
This form of protection is, sadly, not perfect, but it is far superior to no protection at all.
2. A VPN Will Let Us Access Blocked Content
Since it works as a constant proxy, a VPN may be used to access region-locked content.
For instance, not every country allows Netflix, or you want to stream the content from other regions.
A quick check: You can’t find Netflix in China, Crimea, North Korea and Syria.
So, how to get around Netflix VPN block here?
A VPN completely eliminates this annoyance by letting us change our IP address to one from a different country, which will fully unlock the service. Additionally, we’ll be able to access shows that are only available for streaming in certain parts of the world.
I find that NordVPN and CyberGhost are particularly great at it. Most probably is due to their dedicated servers for streaming purposes.
Should we find ourselves in a censorship-heavy country (or happen to be living in one), a VPN will easily open the internet’s doors wide for us.
With a little bit of IP address tinkering, previously blocked websites will be easily accessible. No one will be able to take away our online freedom.
3. A VPN Can Save Us Money
The immense inequality of earnings between people living in different countries is no secret.
However, the fact that online retailers often display different prices to buyers accessing their websites from different countries is not entirely well known.
Someone in, say, Germany, is going to see a higher price than someone in India.
While the ethics of the practice may be dubious, we can actually make use of this knowledge.
By setting our IP to that of a country with a lower average income, we will get better prices.
This doesn’t extend only to physical goods, but services like airplane travel and hotel accommodation.
There are a lot of hacks or tutorials on how to get a discounted price for all of that, so I’ll not be sharing any here.
This would be a great tip on how to get cheap airline tickets by using a VPN.
Taking into account that a decent VPN often costs no more than a few dollars per month (Surfshark cost less than $2 a month), it’s easy to see how convenient all of this can be.
Clever use will make it pay for itself, and then gain some.
Why the cheap proxy in the first place when a decent VPN costs almost the same right.
Surfshark should definitely in the checklist if you are looking for a budget VPN that comes with all the premium features.
VPN Downsides and Complications
As useful as VPNs are overall, they are neither perfect nor foolproof.
Problems can always arise, whether by accident or due to the nature of the service itself.
1. A VPN Can Cause Slower Connection Speed
By far, the most common issue associated with VPN use is significantly slower connection speed. This isn’t surprising, as our data will now have an additional stop on its way to where we sent it.
A slow internet connection is something no one wants, as it can cause great frustration. In order to minimize or avoid the issue, we should pick a VPN capable of handling greater speeds.
2. A VPN Consume More Data
Yes.Does a VPN use more data? The short answer is yes. Averagely, it will increase your data consumption by 5-15% in total due to the encryption process.
Say your monthly data usage is 20GB without a VPN; you will be consuming around 23GB of data monthly with an active VPN.
If you are tight on data allowance on a regular basis, it might be time for you to reconsider if VPN is necessary.
A free VPN will most likely limit your data usage as well on a daily basis to a minimum level to prevent large bandwidth consumption by free users.
Check out my Free VPN vs Paid VPN comparison for details.
3. A VPN May Temporarily Stop Working
Now, another thing that can happen, albeit not as often, is for the VPN to temporarily stop working.
This is known as a connection drop and is undesirable because, even though it’s rare and doesn’t last long, it can leave us with a digital footprint where we don’t want it.
The best way to prevent this is by simply killing the internet connection and reconnecting a minute later.
The VPN should be up and running again by the time we are back online.
Most of the VPN is using the term “Kill Switch” to represent this string of action.
4. Anti-VPN Software Is Slowly Catching Up
Then, there is the ticking time bomb — anti-VPN software.
Day by day, it keeps gaining ground in the great war for online freedom.
Some VPN services have already been successfully blocked by Netflix, which has a lot to gain from the development of such software.
It’s not quite there yet, and it has nothing on the better VPN services, but the threat does exist.
So, to get the most mileage out of our VPN, we should value security over everything else.
5. VPN Services Can Be Tricky to Configure
Finally, there is the issue of most VPNs being tricky to set up and configure. Those are the past days.
In fact, this is the number one reason why most people don’t use VPNs before; it can be a hassle.
Fast forward to 2020, all if not most of the reputable VPN is very easy to setup. Or they are all pre-set. All it needs is just installation and activation.
Most of all, the interface of a modern VPN is all but complicated. It can be turned on with just a simple click.
We shouldn’t be tinkering with any setting, but to install and turn them on.
Finally, Some Words of Caution
While a VPN is an extremely useful service, it is not an impregnable shield against online tracking.
It is, in fact, more of a Swiss army knife, in that it handles a good number of issues effectively.
However, there are some forms of internet tracking that a VPN will not protect us from.
The prime offenders here are good old cookies, and not the tasty kind.
For a long time, companies have used cookies to track our online movement even after we’ve left their websites.
This is why we should be clearing cookies with at least some regularity.
While a VPN will add an extra layer of protection, it is not antivirus software.
If we have any malware on our machine, it will easily drill holes in our defenses.
Installing some kind of antivirus software is pretty much mandatory for a secure online experience.
So yes, while complete anonymity is almost impossible, the next best thing is within our reach.
With a good VPN and some forward-thinking, we’ll barely leave any tracks on the web.