What is VPN? A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, and more.

These days VPNs are really popular, but not for the reasons they were created. They originally were just a way to connect business networks securely over the internet or allow you to access a business network from home.

VPNs essentially forward all your network traffic to the network, which is where the benefits — like accessing local network resources remotely and bypassing Internet censorship — all come from. Most operating systems have integrated VPN support.

What is a VPN and How does it help me?

In very simple terms, a VPN connects your PC, smartphone, or tablet to another computer (called a server) somewhere on the internet, and allows you to browse the internet using that computer’s internet connection. So if that server is in a different country, it will appear as if you are coming from that country, and you can potentially access things that you couldn’t normally.

what is vpn

So how does this help you? Good question! You can use a VPN to:

  • Bypass geographic restrictions on websites or streaming audio and video.
  • Watch streaming media like Netflix, Hulu,…
  • Protect yourself from snooping on untrustworthy Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Gain at least some anonymity online by hiding your true location.
  • Protect yourself from being logged while torrenting.

Many people these days are using a VPN for torrenting or bypassing geographic restrictions to watch content in a different country. They are still very useful for protecting yourself while working at a coffee shop, but that’s hardly the only use anymore.

How does it work?

A VPN hides your IP address by letting the network redirect it through a specially configured remote server run by a VPN host. This means that if you surf online with a VPN, the VPN server becomes the source of your data. This means your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and other third parties cannot see which websites you visit or what data you send and receive online. A VPN works like a filter that turns all your data into “gibberish”. Even if someone were to get their hands on your data, it would be useless.

What are the benefits?

Change your location

Using a VPN changes your IP address, the unique number that identifies you, and your location in the world. With a new IP address, you can browse the internet as if you were in the UK, Germany, Canada, Japan, or virtually any country, if the VPN service has servers there.

Protect your privacy

Changing your IP address with a VPN helps shield your identity from websites, apps, and services that want to track you. Good VPNs also prevent your internet provider, mobile carrier, and anyone else who may be listening from seeing your activity, thanks to a layer of strong encryption.

what is vpn

Increase your security

Using a VPN protects you from security breaches in many forms, including packet sniffing, rogue Wi-Fi networks, and man-in-the-middle attacks. Travelers, remote workers, and all kinds of on-the-go individuals use it whenever they’re on an untrusted network like free public Wi-Fi.

Unblock websites

If you’re in a part of the world that restricts access to Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, or other sites and services, using a VPN will let you regain access to the free internet. You can also use it to break through firewalls on school or office networks.

Why should you use a VPN connection?

Your ISP usually sets up your connection when you connect to the internet. It tracks you via an IP address. Your network traffic is routed through your ISP’s servers, which can log and display everything you do online.

Your ISP may seem trustworthy, but it may share your browsing history with advertisers, the police or government, and/or other third parties. ISPs can also fall victim to attacks by cybercriminals: If they are hacked, your personal and private data can be compromised.

This is especially important if you regularly connect to public Wi-Fi networks. You never know who might be monitoring your internet traffic and what they might steal from you, including passwords, personal data, payment information, or even your entire identity.

what is vpn

So, do I need a VPN?

The answer to whether or not you need a VPN comes down to what you want and need. Many people probably won’t need to secure their private networks from cybercriminals, but there are many other good reasons to use VPNs.

If you use public Wi-FI a lot, worry about your ISP and other third parties snooping on your online activity, or just want to access streaming content from somewhere else in the world, a VPN can help. On the other hand, if reduced browsing speeds frustrate you, this might not be the tool for you. But it’s worth researching what the speed impacts actually are.

The importance of a VPN depends on your online habits and preferences. Investing in a VPN can make a huge difference in keeping you safe and secure online — but only if you actually use it.