What is a VPN?
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a service that allows one to connect to the internet in a safe and secure manner. It enables users to securely send and receive data across public or shared networks yet remain anonymous through encryption. It also allows users to access blocked content around the web. It provides privacy by hiding your internet activity from your ISP. It allows you to “fake your location” to access websites or web content that cannot be accessed because of your geographical location. It protects users against hackers when using a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
History of VPN
VPN was originally created to allow remote employees or workers to privately and securely connect to corporate networks to be able to access corporate websites and resources while away from the office.
Now that it is used for personal use, VPN services have been classified into Corporate VPN and Commercial VPN, the former is used for business purposes while the latter is used for personal purposes.
How does VPN work?
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the tool that allows you to connect to the internet. It connects you to any website that you wish to visit. All of your internet activity passes through your ISP’s servers and this can be viewed by your ISP.
Using a VPN lets you connect to a server that is run by your VPN provider through an encrypted connection. All the data that is traveling between your computer and the VPN server is kept a secret so that only you and the VPN server are aware of it.
Why is it gaining popularity outside the US?
There are a lot of countries that are very particular about the websites and web content that their citizens can access just like China, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and some other countries in the Middle East. Facebook, for example, cannot be accessed in China. FaceTime and other video chat applications are blocked in the Middle Eastern countries. A Netflix account in the US gives more access to movies and TV shows compared to a Netflix account accessed in other countries. Some applications can be downloaded for certain geographical locations only.
An American who travels to China may be upset for not being able to access Facebook in China or an ex-pat from Europe may be frustrated when he can’t talk to his family through a video chat while assigned in the Middle East. For such reasons and more, people have found a way to be able to destroy this barrier and keep them from accessing the websites or the web content that they wish to access. Since VPN has the power to let them access these websites and web content, VPN has been in demand.
VPNs usually have premiums for the kinds of service that they provide but since VPN has gained popularity, there have been some free VPN services made available to many users who are living outside the US.
Is there a risk in using a VPN?
VPN providers ask for premiums for a reason. A VPN’s main task is to protect data and your online activity through encryption. It needs premium to be able to provide you with the best services that they can offer you. Getting services from a free VPN provider poses a risk of catching some unwanted issues. Anything that is too good to be true always has a catch. It can cause privacy issues, hacking may occur if the data encryption is outdated, and it can slow down your internet usage while increasing your data usage.
Should you use a VPN for personal purposes?
Not all free VPN providers are bad. There are still VPN providers that serve you for the better. You just have to do a little research and check which VPNs are reliable. There are a lot of factors to consider before you choose the best VPN provider to suit your needs.
- Your Purpose
- Number of servers/countries
- Number of simultaneous connections
- Customer support
- Compatibility with your device