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These days, it’s incredibly important to stay safe while you’re online, whether you’re using your desktop computer, mobile device, or utilising public WIFI. While there are many methods that are designed to protect you when you’re using the internet, one of the most commonly adopted is the use of a VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network.
In simple terms, a VPN is a way to keep your browsing data anonymous by making it virtually seem like you’re in a different location. When you access the internet, whether to check Facebook, perform a Google search, or just tune into a stream on Twitch, you’re sending data out from the device that you’re using. This could be anything that has an internet connection.
What a VPN does, is create a private network within the internet connection that you’re using – a connection that can otherwise be very public, especially in the case of public WIFI hotspots. The VPN makes the connection that you form with the server you’re trying to access, much safer; essentially forming a virtual tunnel inside the much larger internet connection.
A VPN allows you to stay anonymous online by encrypting the data that you send when trying to connect to a new server. The normal process when you go online is to form a connection with your ISP, or Internet Service Provider. Every piece of data that your computer or device sends out, is sent via the ISP, eventually connecting to the server you’re trying to visit. While this allows you to easily connect to servers and access the information you need, private information, such as your IP address, can be widely visible.
The VPN protects the data, giving your internet browsing, searches, and even streaming, a much greater level of privacy. Instead of transferring data through public channels, when you use a VPN, you send the data through an encrypted tunnel. This stops the potential of a third-party intercepting it along the way, as only your device and the VPN server are able to see the data that you’re sending.
Privacy is one of the largest reasons why so many people choose to use a VPN when forming an internet connection. Effectively, a VPN stops the ISP seeing anything that you do online. All the data you send is fully encrypted and there is no way to tell what websites you visit – it’s all masked by the VPN. Using the VPN stops concerns over data harvesting, and third-party snooping, as well as addressing the growing concerns of cybercrime.
On top of the privacy factor, there are other key benefits to encrypting your data via a VPN. A VPN allows you to use international sites and get around geographic restrictions. Many countries have internal and external blocks in place, meaning that the population of the country can’t access certain material online and people outside the country can’t access information from that country. A VPN can bypass many of these restrictions, making it possible to access the international content.
There are also a number of corporate benefits to using a VPN: data can be accessed from a remote connection making working from home or abroad easier, and files can easily be shared for longer periods in a safe way.
The good thing is that there is an extensive selection of VPN providers that you can choose from. The bad thing is that selecting the right one can be a little difficult if you’re not sure where to start. When selecting a VPN server, be on the lookout for key features, such as:
Some VPN are designed for consumer use, while others are more geared to corporate use. With so many VPN providers out there, always do your research before committing to a single service and find one that is right for your needs.