- What is a VPN?
- How does a VPN work?
- Do I need a VPN?
- Do VPNs slow down my connection?
- Are VPNs illegal?
- How do I get a VPN?
- Are VPNs safe and secure?
- Do VPNs allow P2P traffic?
- Can I stream movies and shows with a VPN?
- Do I have to be technically skilled to use a VPN?
- How do I choose a VPN provider?
- Is a VPN the same thing as a Proxy?
- What is the difference between a VPN and SSH?
- Are there VPNs for mobile devices?
? What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s basically a way for you as a user to get a stable, secure internet connection where your data is protected and your IP address is hidden (or, to be more percise, camouflaged). VPN is particularly useful for people in countries where certain content or websites are off limits, because it allows you to bypass geo-restrictions. It also allows you to keep your activity hidden from your internet service provider (ISP) or anyone else who might be watching.
? How does a VPN work?
In order to use a VPN, you will, of course, have to have access to internet through your ISP. Once you establish a connection, you use VPN client software to connect to the VPN company servers. Many companies allow you to choose a server you want to connect to. There are servers in several locations so you pick the one nearest to you, or the one in the country of your preference. This connection is secured and encrypted, and therefore so is your entire online session for as long as you are connected. Your physical location is hidden, your identity is hidden, the content of your sessions (including personal info, credit cards, etc) is hidden, and so is your web history.
For example, if you live in a country where certain YouTube videos are not available, you will be able to watch them using VPN and no one will even know you’re doing it.
? Do I need a VPN?
Pretty much everyone who uses internet nowadays needs a VPN. With so many hackers, identity thieves and other malicious online presences, you can never be too safe. Privacy and security are just one aspect of VPNs, but probably the most important one. Also, if you feel the need to evade censorship, to access content (videos, TV shows, websites) that is unavailable in your region or country, to avoid surveillance by the government or other bodies and to protect your connection while using public networks, then yes, absolutely, you do need a VPN.
? Do VPNs slow down my connection?
Unfortunately, yes. However, this doesn’t mean that your connection will slow down to the snail-pace of the good ol’ dial-up – absolutely not. The speed reduction is usually only slight, but it depends on a number of factors, one of which is your location and the location of the server you’re using, and, of course, your own internet service provider.
? Are VPNs illegal?
The answer is – generally speaking, no, VPNs are not illegal. However, bear in mind that this only applies to using VPNs for legal activities. In most countries of the world, you can legally use another IP to surf the web. There is no law that says you have to use the IP address assigned by your ISP. However, if you use a VPN for illegal purposes, then, of course, you would be breaking the law. Just to be sure, online activities that count as illegal include child pornography, hacking, spamming, fraud, theft and scamming.
? How do I get a VPN?
There are hundreds of companies offering VPN provider services. Some of them are free, usually for a limited period of time, in case you want to try them out and see what it feels like to use a VPN. Once you decide which VPN provider you’re going to go with, you sign up, pay for a plan and receive the VPN client through which you will connect to the company servers and, from there, to the internet.
? Are VPNs safe and secure?
The whole point of a VPN is extra security and privacy, so yes, you are definitely safer with a VPN than without one. If the question is whether your data is secure from the VPN company, the answer is, again, yes, because these companies use encryption, whose level can vary depending on the company. Some use basic encryption and some use only the latest, most advanced encryption methods. It’s also important to note that some VPN companies keep logs of your sessions, while others do not, or at least that’s what they claim. The question of logs is definitely one of the most important ones when choosing a VPN provider.
? Do VPNs allow P2P traffic?
Yes and no; it depends on the VPN provider and sometimes on the specific server you are using. P2P file sharing is not always legal, for example if you are downloading movies or music from a torrent without permission from the owner, it’s definitely illegal. Because of this, some companies do not allow P2P though their VPN connections. On the other hand, this kind of file sharing can be used for purposes that are not breaking any laws, so there are many companies that do allow P2P. Some companies have dedicated servers only for P2P sharing.
? Can I stream movies and shows with a VPN?
Yes. Most users are worried that a VPN will slow down their connection to the point where streaming might seem futile, but as we already said, most VPNs don’t affect the connection speeds that much and streaming, in most cases, works just fine. This is important since many users opt for VPN precisely because they want to stream content that is not available in their countries. If streaming was impossible, a VPN would lose a big part of its purpose.
? Do I have to be technically skilled to use a VPN?
No. VPN client software is generally very intuitive and easy to use. Most VPN providers offer detailed tutorials and instructions on how to set up your VPN and there is always customer service in case you get stuck.
? How do I choose a VPN provider?
There are several things to take into consideration here. Price is just one of them, but luckily VPN providers offer different plans and prices to meet everyone’s needs. Another important thing to consider is speed, which can be determined through a simple speed test available online. Before signing up with a VPN provider, you should also look into performance and reliability (most importantly, the uptime), customer support, ease of use, security and privacy features.
? Is a VPN the same thing as a Proxy?
It’s fairly easy for inexperienced users to confuse a VPN with a proxy, since they both aim to protect your identity and data during your online sessions, by changing your IP and rerouting your traffic. However, they are definitely not the same thing.
The proxy will secure your traffic only through your internet browser, using proxy server settings. As such, it is not compatible or useful for certain non-browser based locations and technology, such as e-mail. A VPN, on the other hand, encrypts all of your traffic, regardless of the browser, and basically replaces your IPS. All traffic goes through the VPN server, making use of all of the server’s features, such as speed and location.
? What is the difference between a VPN and SSH?
Simply put, a VPN works on the transport level, whereas SSH (which stands for Secure Shell) works on the application level. With a VPN, you connect to a network and with a SSH you connect to a computer. Both of these technologies use encrypted connections and therefore provide extra security. VPNs are easier to use and they encrypt all of your traffic, while a SSH is somewhat cheaper but harder to use, and it also does not disguise all of your traffic.
? Are there VPNs for mobile devices?
Yes. Most VPN providers offer VPN for mobile devices that run on iOS, Android and sometimes Windows, meaning you can use encryption and stay safe and secure when browsing from your smartphone or tablet. In fact, mobile device users are particularly advised to use VPN since they often connect through non-secured public Wi-Fi, for example at the airport, mall, school, bar, etc.
Most VPN companies allow you to use your account on multiple devices, meaning once you sign up for a VPN you can use it on your computer and your smartphone/tablet. The number of devices varies depending on your plan. However, you will have to download special software for mobile VPN support.