What Is a VPN and Why Do I Need One?
Ever seen a thriller in which someone asks, “is this a secure line?” The good guys or villains want to be sure their conversations can’t be overhead. When you get a VPN to connect to the Internet, you’re signing up for the online equivalent of a secure line.
VPN stands for virtual private network. Put simply, a VPN connects your computer, smartphone, or tablet to a shared or public network as if you're connecting to a private network. Banks, governments, and companies use VPNs to connect to their networks remotely. Now, it’s becoming more common for the general public to use VPNs. After all, we’re doing online shopping or banking and exchanging sensitive data. We don’t want others to be able to access or track what we do online.
A VPN is an encrypted connection to the internet. It’s your own secure and private internet connection that you can take with you outside of your home.
Benefits of a VPN
There are many advantages to having a VPN. For instance, your VPN also encrypts your online activity. Every internet user has a unique IP address assigned by their internet provider. It’s sort of the technological equivalent of your fingerprint.
When you connect to the internet using a VPN, your IP address is masked. The address used is that of your VPN provider. So, you look like them rather than your home connection. You might think of the VPN as wearing gloves that prevent you from leaving fingerprints when you move around online.
Your search history isn't logged. You don’t have to worry about bad actors or advertisers tracking your activity. If you want to check social media at work or on a school campus that blocks certain sites, your VPN lets you do so.
You can use the VPN to access a business network securely, too. So, you can use the technology to be more efficient when working remotely.
A VPN can also help you avoid geo-blocking. What’s geo-blocking? It’s a technology that restricts your access to services based on your location. For example, if you were trying to stream a Netflix show from your home country from overseas, you would be geo-blocked. But if Netflix can’t see you’re out of the country, it will let you in to catch up on your favorites.
You could also save money. When your location isn’t known, you can benefit from price disparities – the cost for the same product varies in different regions. The wealthier areas are charged more because sellers can get away with the price markup.
Who can use a VPN?
Anyone can connect to a VPN. You can connect your computers, phones, or tablets to a VPN. It’s a flexible solution that doesn’t need you to switch internet provider or buy any new equipment.
You can also work with a VPN provider. Some are free, but paid VPN providers tend to offer proven security and greater networking speeds.
This article was authored with the assistance of artificial intelligence and has been reviewed by Ted Saxton, a co-owner of Small Town Tech.
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