Last week I wrote 6 Travel Gadgets I Always Have in My Carry-On, and someone asked why you should use VPN (Virtual Private Network), and I thought I’d provide more information about what they are and why they are so important. While I am not an internet or network guru, I do understand enough about how they work to provide some insight on the topic.
What Is a VPN?
A VPN or Virtual Private Network, lets you connect to the internet via a server run by a VPN service. All data traveling between your devices and the VPN server is encrypted and therefore more secure.
Easy enough right? Here’s a basic idea of how it works.
How does VPN work?
A VPN allows you to create a connection or tunnel from your internet-ready device (phone, laptop, tablet) to a server somewhere in the world. When you access something on the internet, it goes through that “tunnel” to the server and onto the internet. When the web server replies, the reply is to your VPN server and then your VPN server sends it back through that tunnel to your Internet-ready device.
Why you should use VPN
1. Your Internet Protocol (IP) Address Will Match the IP Address of the VPN Server
This feature comes in handy when you are traveling in countries that ban certain services such as Facebook or YouTube. Since you have the ability to choose your “Simulated Country”, you could set your location to the United States and access YouTube while traveling through China.
2. Access Public WiFi Hotspots Safely
If you use a VPN while connected to a public WiFi hotspot (Starbuck, airports, etc.), your network traffic will be encrypted. Public WiFi networks are very easy to monitor, it wouldn’t be that difficult for someone to sit inside of a Starbucks and capture all of your data. Since the WiFi point is “open” and none of that data is encrypted, passwords and other sensitive information could be up for grabs. While nothing is 100 percent, using a VPN can help secure sensitive information.
3. Remote Connectivity
Remote connectivity was one of the earliest uses of a VPN. Information can be accessed remotely from home, hotels or any other place while using a VPN. Companies love this aspect as it can increase productivity within the company.
4. Prevent Internet Retargeting
Retargeting is a form of internet advertising where an advertisement is targeted to consumers based on their Internet activity. You know those Nordstrom ads you see after visiting Nordstrom.com? Retargeting.
5. Privacy from Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Your internet service provider (ISP) may keep a record of what IP addresses you contact; this information can tell them what websites you have been visiting. VPN’s that don’t log or collect your traffic data is one way to keep your activities online a little more private.
1. Slower Internet Speeds (Maybe)
The distance between your location and your preferred server matters. For example, if there is a significant distance between your real location and your preferred VPN server, a loss of internet speed would be expected. To combat this look for servers closest to your location that suit your needs.
2. Reduced Connection Reliability
Just like in mathematics, more steps increase the possibility of something going wrong. In this case, connection reliability may decrease as there are more points of possible failure. Personally, I haven’t had any connection issues while using a VPN.
3. Not All VPN’s Are Free
You have to pay for some of the higher rated VPN services, and you will probably have to pay more if you want to connect more than one device. Some VPN services are free, and you can find many great options for less than $10 a month.
Which VPN Service Is Best?
I have used three different VPN services (CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, NordVPN) and I found all 3 to be reliable and easy to navigate. Numerous websites have done reviews (here, here, here) and many of them review my favorite, ExpressVPN, quite highly.
Here are some of the reasons I chose ExpressVPN in the end:
- A wide selection of servers
- 256-bit encryption
- Simultaneous connections for three devices
- Unbeatable simplicity and the best-looking client I’ve seen
If you do end up choosing ExpressVPN, I would appreciate it if you use my referral link, by using my link we will BOTH get 30 days free!
The Bald Thoughts
Just based on keeping your information secure is enough to answer the question of why you should use VPN when traveling or on public WiFi. I know some people who are always connected to their VPN as they believe it’s better to be safe than sorry. No matter which VPN service you end up choosing make sure it suits all of your needs.
Which VPN features are most important to you?