If you use the internet regularly whether on a smartphone, laptop or computer, a VPN could be beneficial. In this article, we look at what these services offer, how they help and how you can choose the right one.
Why is a VPN beneficial?
Before choosing a VPN and looking at the different features, you must understand why they are beneficial. We have listed the main benefits below. Firstly, VPNs are handy if you want to access an online casino, or other sites that could show up on your ISP’s logs. This is because they hide your public IP address and, in most instances, stop Internet Service Providers from logging your activity.
Secondly, VPNs give you access to locked regional content on sites that offer streaming services, so you can still watch your favorite TV shows and movies. Additionally, they encrypt your internet connection, give excellent security and are ideal if you often use public Wi-Fi hotspots. To summarize, we have listed the benefits in bullet points:
- Hide your personal device’s IP address
- Secure your internet connection
- Protect your device when using public Wi-Fi networks
- Give access to geo-locked content
- Hide your internet activity from ISPs
- Additional features like password protection and 2FA
What to look for when choosing a VPN?
There are many different VPN providers available, and it can be stressful trying to choose the right one. If you have limited technical knowledge and understanding of these tools, the whole process can be overwhelming. Don’t worry! To help, we have listed the key features to look for when picking a VPN provider to subscribe to.
Furthermore, don’t forget that there are some limited free VPNs available such as Proton VPN and the VPN built into the Opera web browser. These can be useful, although their features and range of servers will be much more limited than paid subscriptions.
As discussed above, VPNs work by routing your internet connection through one of their servers. VPN companies such as Nord and Surfshark usually have hundreds of server farms in worldwide locations. Looking at the servers they provide is incredibly important, and you should look at:
- Number of servers
- Server locations
- Server specifications
The number is important to give you variety and make sure that you can always connect to a server that will give you the best internet connection. This is because theoretically, the further away the server is, the slower the connection will be. For example, if you live in New York, you should get a faster connection connecting to a server in Washington, as opposed to the UK.
The locations are highly vital too as this will dictate what geo-locked content you can unlock. The more server locations the VPN company provides in different countries, the more geo-locked content you should be able to access.
Lastly, the specifications of the servers determine connection speeds and performance. Not all VPN companies publish their server info, but if they do, this can give you a clear idea of what connection speeds you can expect.
Despite popular opinion, the primary purpose of VPN services is to protect you, your devices and your personal data from hackers and deep web activity. Therefore, we advise you to look at their security features.
At a bare minimum, the VPN should hide your real IP address and give you either a static or dynamic one. However, there are other features to look for too, including encrypted connections, secure two-factor authentication (2FA) and content logging policies.
We advise you only to use VPN services that completely encrypt your outgoing connection using 128-bit SSL or better encryption. This ensures the data you send and receive is turned into an unreadable form that hackers cannot mess with.
Secondly, it is beneficial if the VPN provider has secure 2FA to login to your account. This is becoming relatively mainstream today and is an excellent security feature. Lastly, check the content logging policies of the companies. Many VPN services have a strict no-logs policy where they keep no data relating to your internet activities. This is preferable to maintain your privacy and anonymity.
When using a VPN there is a drawback – as you are connecting through another service, your internet connection may be slower. Think of it like a train journey. A VPN is like traveling from London to Edinburgh with a changeover in between at Sheffield. This is comparatively slower than traveling on a direct line with no stops.
As a result, it could be worth using VPN trials to see which offers you the best connection speeds and doesn’t hamper your internet activities.
Geo-unlocking relates to accessing content that is restricted in your country or region. A great example is Netflix. Netflix has different content libraries for different countries. Person A watching Netflix in the UK would see a completely different list of TV series compared to Person B watching the streaming service in the USA.
Many VPN services have technology that allows you to access these restricted content libraries. If this is something you are interested in, it is advisable to look at specifically which streaming services they can provide geo-unlocking for.
The price is also a huge factor although the features listed above should not be ignored. Most VPNs have a monthly subscription fee ranging from $3-10 per month. Think about how much you can realistically afford, which features you need, and you should then be able to pick a suitable provider.
Also, check for introductory offers. You may have seen YouTubers doing VPN promotions in which you can get a discounted price or several months free, for example.
In today’s digital world where most of us are connected on a daily basis, using a tool such as a VPN can be incredibly beneficial. Primarily, it can protect your personal data, hide your IP address and give you a secure internet connection.
Additionally, VPN software is ideal for geo-unlocking, which allows you to gain access to location-restricted content. Hopefully, this guide has given you an overview of what a VPN is, why they are helpful and how you can choose the best software.