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Is a VPN Worth It?: Your FAQ About VPNs, Answered

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Have you ever thought about how exposed your data is when you use a public WiFi network like a coffee shop or library? If you’re not using the right type of security, a hacker could intercept all your data, including login information and credit card numbers.

A VPN service can help protect you against these types of threats, as well as provide other benefits. Is a VPN worth it? Let’s take a look.

What Is a VPN and How Does It Work?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN gives you a secure connection between your computer and another server, encrypting everything you send or receive on the internet.

When you connect to the internet, everything you do gets transmitted through various connections. It could be a public WiFi connection at your local coffee shop or library or it could be the connection to your internet provider at home or in the office.

If you don’t encrypt the data you send and receive, the company providing your connection could track everything you do. And if you’re using public WiFi, any hacker connected to the same network can “sniff” everything you do, including logging into websites like your bank or entering credit cards or other sensitive information.

A VPN creates an encrypted connection, or “tunnel”, between you and the VPN server. Anything you send or receive will be encrypted so anyone trying to spy on what you’re doing won’t be able to see your data.

Keep Your Data Safe and Secure

The biggest reason to setup VPN software on your computer or mobile device is for security reasons. A VPN will stop hackers from using “WiFi sniffers” to intercept your data as well as stopping your internet service provider (ISP) from tracking what you’re doing.

Some ISPs track their customers and sell the data they gather for advertising purposes. Many public WiFi services do the same thing. You might not be doing anything that you wouldn’t want them to know about but any kind of tracking is a loss of personal privacy.

This can be even more important for people living in countries that track their online activity. VPN encryption can help shield their activities from Big Brother.

Bypass Geolocking on Streaming Content

When you’re using a VPN, everything you do gets sent to the VPN server and that server sends the request on to whatever website or service you’re using. This not only secures your information, but it also makes it look like you’re located where the VPN server is, not where you’re actually connected.

This lets you get around region locks on websites like Netflix and YouTube. Streaming media, particularly movies, has complicated licensing rules and not all content is available in all countries.

For example, if you’re located in Canada, you likely don’t have the same selection of movies on Netflix as someone in the US. And many YouTube videos won’t play because they’re limited to the US.

With a VPN, you can connect to a server that’s located in the US to mask your location. When you open Netflix or YouTube, you’ll be able to watch all the videos available to someone browsing from the US.

Most VPN services offer servers in many different countries and let you choose which server to connect to. This lets you bypass region locks for many countries by switching to a different server.

Servers that are further away from where you’re located might be a bit slower because of the added distance but you can connect to a closer server when all you want is the security benefits then switch to another one to bypass region locks.

Save Money When Making Purchases Online

This location-masking provides another one of the benefits of VPN – saving money when buying online. Some things you buy online have different prices for buyers in different cities or regions.

Airfare is one of the most significant. The cost of a plane ticket can vary quite a bit based on where you’re located. When you visit the airline’s website, they’ll show different prices to different people but you wouldn’t normally know the difference. Even if you visit the site on different days, it recognizes where you’re located.

With a VPN, you can connect to servers in different cities and check the price from each of them to look for the best deal. If you use private browsing each time you visit the site, any cookies or tracking code that was saved on your end will be gone so you’ll get an honest price based on the location of the VPN server.

You’ll likely be surprised at how much of a difference this can make. In some cases, you could save hundreds of dollars on the cost of airfare. The savings on a single trip could pay for your VPN service for several years.

Potential Pitfalls of a VPN

There are a few potential pitfalls of a VPN that you should be aware of as well. None of them are critical problems though. They’re more annoyances than anything.

Slower Connection Speed

When you’re connected to a VPN, everything you send gets routed from your computer to the VPN server, then on to the intended target. This extra step adds some overhead to your connection and will slow it down a bit.

This varies from one VPN service to another and is also partly based on your distance from the server. The best VPN services have fast enough networks that you’ll only see a small impact on your speed.

Dropped Connections

Occasionally, your connection to the VPN server can drop. When this happens, most VPN software has a network lock that will stop all traffic in and out of your computer. This prevents data from getting transmitted without encryption.

If your connection drops, it might reconnect automatically or you might have to restart the connection yourself. This can cause problems if you’re uploading or downloading large files or streaming a movie.

The quality of the VPN service has a bearing on dropped connections as well. It will happen much more rarely with the best services.

Anti-VPN Software

Websites like Netflix and YouTube realize people use VPNs to bypass their region locks so they’re always looking for ways to block them. Once they identify a VPN server’s IP address, they can block any connections coming from that address.

This creates a cat-and-mouse game between the VPN companies and the media companies. The best VPN services stay on top of these blocks and if one of their servers is blacklisted, they’ll take steps to work around it.

Is a VPN Worth It?

If you’re still wondering is a VPN worth it, you need to consider why you would be using it. From a security and safety perspective, what’s your data worth? And more importantly, what would it be worth to someone else? If you deal with a lot of sensitive information, the cost of a VPN is small compared to the cost of that data being exposed.

And from a region locking point of view, how badly do you want to access movies and other media that’s limited to certain countries? Having a VPN could save you quite a bit of money on buying those same movies and might let you access information you have no other way of getting to.

If you choose to use a VPN, make sure you do your homework. Read some reviews and research the company a bit. You want to be sure you’re comfortable with the company providing the VPN service since they’re the ones protecting your data.

Did you learn something from this post? Be sure to look around the rest of our blog for more helpful articles like this one.

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