What is a VPN?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. VPNs work by providing you with an advanced, secure connection over the internet that safeguards your personal data, your IP address and your physical location. It does this by encrypting any communications you send and transmitting them through a secure server using various encryption protocols. Although the technology and methods used in VPNs are complex and difficult to understand by the average user, most VPN companies provide an easy-to-use interface that makes using a VPN a snap.

What can I do with a VPN?

There are many things that a VPN service allows you to do. For one, VPNs allow you to access websites that may not otherwise be accessible due to your physical location (like Facebook, Hulu, Netflix, etc.) by rerouting your connection through a server in a country that allows access. VPNs also protect your identity, your browsing history and any information transmitted against hackers, identity thieves, data tracking and more. In essence, a VPN allows you to operate on a public network as if it were private.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN works by transmitting the data and information from your computer through a VPN gateway or server, rather than through an unsecured open network. In doing so, the technology uses advanced encryption and VPN protocols to protect the data from being accessible by outside parties. An authentication header is added to the data transmitted using one of two types of encryption software (symmetric or asymmetric) and a VPN router then decrypts the data using authentication keys and sends it on to its intended destination. The technology is so advanced that it is virtually impossible for the data to be intercepted.

Can I access restricted websites using a VPN?

Access to some websites is restricted by location. For example, sites like Hulu and Netflix can only be accessed in the U.S. and certain other locations, but access is limited worldwide. Some countries, such as China and Iran also limit access to sites like Facebook and Twitter. Using a VPN service allows your connection to be routed through a server that may be located in a country that is different than where you are physically located. If the VPN server is located in a country that allows access to these sites, you may be able to view them. However, some websites try to prohibit access from VPN servers and some countries have strict penalties against using VPN services to access restricted content.

Is my identity and data safe with a VPN?

The amount of protection you have when using a VPN service depends in part on the service you select. Some VPN providers provide better levels of anonymity than others, depending on how the network operates and how much of your online activity is stored or monitored. If anonymity and protection are of paramount importance to you when using a VPN service, it’s best to check out some VPN reviews to see which companies offer the highest level of security and protection.

Is it legal to use a VPN service?

The answer to that question depends in part on what you are doing online when using the VPN and where you are located when using it. In general, VPNs are designed to protect your identity and the information you receive and transmit over the internet. If you are using this service simply to add a level of protection to your online activities, there is nothing illegal about that. If, on the other hand, you are using it to hide illegal activities, such as hacking, spamming, fraud, child porn, etc., then the acts are illegal (not the use of the VPN service itself). Some countries prohibit use of VPNs, such as China, Iran and North Korea, so use of these services by their citizens is considered illegal.

Will my internet connection be slow when using a VPN?

Most people will not notice a difference in speed when using a VPN service, since any slowdown is miniscule. However, not all VPN service providers are created equal, so the speed of your connection will depend in part on the quality of the infrastructure supported by the provider, as well as the distance you are to the VPN server. Many providers have servers set up around the world, so before choosing a VPN provider, make sure that you can access a server in close proximity to your location. In some cases, people may think that their VPN is slowing down the connection but the slowdown is due to the internet speed of their point of origination, which has nothing to do with the VPN service.

If I subscribe to a VPN service, do I have to use it all the time?

It is up to you when you want to use your VPN service. You have complete control over whether you connect to a VPN server when going online or go through your regular browser and server. Most interfaces make it easy to turn the VPN connection on and off so you can decide when you want to use it and when you don’t.

Can I use a VPN service on my phone or mobile device?

Yes, mobile VPN connections allow you to remain connected no matter where you go and also protect your data when you are connected to free Wi-Fi services. This means that even if you’re on the move, and are going in and out of service areas, you can still remain connected and can keep your apps open and working. You can also rest assured that your person information, such as passwords, emails, credit card or bank information, etc. is protected against hackers that may try to steal your information or identity. Many VPN providers allow you to use their services on multiple devices, so a single account allows access to a desktop or laptop, as well as smart phones, iPads and tablets.

What is the difference between a VPN and a proxy service?

A VPN provides you with total anonymity and protection as it routes all of your information through a secure VPN gateway. This means that websites and individuals trying to capture or view your information will only be able to see the information of the VPN server and not your actual computer’s information. A proxy provides you with some level of anonymity by making a specific browser send false information to websites you use. However, it only works when using certain web browsers and does not protect information sent directly through some programs, leaving you vulnerable. If you are looking for the most secure and reliable protection of your identity and data while online, using a VPN is the way to go.

Do I need to commit to a subscription to use a VPN?

Each VPN provider has slightly different rules for how users can access their network. Most charge a monthly fee, with many offering better rates if you sign up quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Some providers will allow you to enjoy a free or low-cost trial period, while others will offer a money back guarantee (up to a certain time limit) if you are not satisfied with the service. There are free VPN services, but as they say, “you get what you pay for”, so if you are choosing to use a VPN for identity and data protection, it is worth the few dollars you’ll pay per month to better ensure that you are getting a reliable and secure service. Free isn’t always worth it.

How do I know which VPN service to use?

There are many VPN service providers out there and often the hardest part is figuring out which one to use. The best way to choose a service is to look on VPN review sites and get an idea of what each service has to offer, while also checking out individual reviews from satisfied and unsatisfied customers. Many VPN review sites have checklists that will make it easy for you to compare features, pricing and other elements so you can select the service that most closely fits your particular needs.