VPN providers seem to promise you the world on their websites. It can make it hard to know how to choose between them - something our reviews can help you with no end. However, it’s good to know what we are looking for when we review a VPN provider and their product.
In the main, we investigate how well a provider’s service protects users when connected to the internet. But how do VPNs really do that? Here, we explore just that.
One of the ways that VPNs protect you, and your time online, is by encrypting your data. That means that only you, and whoever that data is intended for, can read your data. Encryption and VPNs are often referred to as tunnelling, and it essentially means that no one can get hold of your data. From that point, your data can’t be altered either and your online activity cannot be monitored.
The encryption process and tunnels that VPNs use means that you can often make yourself (and your device) “look” like you are in another country. You can therefore bypass geo restrictions which may not necessarily protect you while online, but it does mean you can access blocked content wherever you are in the world.
In some instances, that could make you safer, though as we discuss below, it’s always essential to abide by the rules of the country you are in when accessing online content.
The nature of the internet means that whenever you are connected, your internet service provider (ISP) can see what you are doing. As a result, your ISP can always keep tabs on you and hand over any data they have on you to third parties.
While this may be increasingly frowned upon without your consent, the fact of the matter is, sometimes you just want to stay anonymous online. Whatever you do through your connection. A VPN provides that by routing your internet traffic through a VPN tunnel.
By having a VPN established, you also protect yourself from incoming threats - like hackers or online cyber criminals. They can’t access your data when you send it out but they also can’t access your computer as you’ve protected yourself by hiding your IP address and location.
You won’t get spam as a result and you’ll not open any emails hiding viruses or malware. You’re much safer from threats in doing so and you can be sure that anyone in your family, household or business is the same.
Not all VPN providers promise this, so it’s important to keep an eye out for those that do. But, if your VPN provider doesn’t maintain logs, your activity while online is not tracked.
More countries are trying to force VPN providers to keep logs, but they’re finding ways around the issue as it’s one of the main reasons why so many people use VPNs - they don’t want their time online recorded anywhere. It’s important too as it keeps you away from prying eyes of governments or even having your data sold to third parties, like some ISPs do - thereby making a VPN almost redundant.
When you’re out and about, your vulnerability to cyber attacks and people infiltrating your connection is much more heightened. With a VPN you get round that problem and you ensure that you are safe wherever you are. Shared connections are not an issue if you set up your device with a VPN established.
Given the amount that we all surf the web, conduct video calls or anything else that requires a connection when away from our home or office, having mobile security is arguably even more crucial. A VPN can provide you with that connection so you get all the benefits of being secure while away from your desktop.
As a VPN masks your identity through giving you another IP address and location, you are protected against any data throttling or bandwidth throttling that ISPs may place on you, your household or business.
It means that you can continue to enjoy a great online experience where your speeds are not purposefully slowed down as you’ve used up your data that month, or your ISP wants to throttle your bandwidth for another reason. You can still stream video content to your hearts content and game online too - as well as ensuring that you are safe from prying eyes while you do so.
This feature is not offered by all VPN providers, but it’s a really great extra to see and one that we often recommend looking for in our reviews. A kill switch will cut your internet connection if a VPN connection drops out. It means that you do not and cannot continue with a surfing session or streaming content without realising that you no longer have the protection of a VPN.
You keep yourself safe as a result, and it’s done automatically without you having to check constantly that your VPN sis still established. Of course, the best VPN providers rarely see VPNs drop out, but they can happen despite even the best technology - so having a kill switch just in case is a brilliant added bonus.
While all these benefits add up to a compelling reason to sign up to a VPN - either for personal or business use - there are a few things to be aware of first. They may not be deal breakers for you, as a lot of the time the benefits do outweigh the downsides.
While this may look like a very strong reason not to use VPNs, if you’re in a country where they are allowed, you can, and should, still use them. However, there are a number of countries that have restrictions on their usage, making them almost null and void, or where they are banned entirely. At the time of writing, VPNs are illegal in Belarus, Iraq, North Korea, Oman and Turkmenistan. In China and Russia, they are heavily regulated.
Plus, it’s always a good idea to check that what you are doing while connected to the internet through a VPN is allowed in the country you are visiting. Just because you are using a VPN does not mean that you are above the law. Different countries deem certain websites or content as illegal, and you should adhere to the laws of the land regardless of whether you have established a VPN connection.
There’s no doubt that when you start talking about encryption, tunnels, virtual private networks and connection speeds, that the technology gets a bit eye-watering. If you don’t have an I.T bone in your body, it can be a bit mind boggling to really understand how a VPN protects you and also which VPN protects you better than others. At times like these, it’s good to know that US military grade encryption is deemed to be 256 bit AES - a term to look out for when comparing VPNs
If you have a subscription with a reputable and efficient VPN provider, this really shouldn’t be a problem you encounter. However, at times, VPN connections _can _slow your speeds down. Typically, and especially with a good provider, any slow down in speed will be all but imperceptible to a user and won’t affect your experience while online.
For some lesser versions of VPN provider out there, you may well experience a slow down in connection. This is why we recommend going with a well known provider whose reviews show that connection speeds are still lightning quick. For the cost of a coffee or two a month, you still have a quick speed while enjoying all the protective benefits a VPN can provide.
Surfing the internet safely is something that we should all ensure we are doing at all times. It can be so easy to get lured into the nets of cyber criminals so that they can access our data for ill gotten gains. You can be the victim of identity fraud as a result, incur financial harm or simply see viruses wreak havoc with your expensive hardware and other much used devices.
VPNs offer a way around that through encryption and anonymity being just two of the main methods in which a user can keep themselves away from prying eyes or hackers. It means that you can make the most of what an internet connection can provide, without having to worry that you’ll be a victim of a crime or held to ransom by a hacker threatening to infect your systems with malware.
The internet is so intrinsically linked now with every part of our everyday lives that it is crucial that we can connect safely, without fear that when we transfer data online, someone could use it for their benefit, and without your knowledge. VPNs offer the ability to protect against that, in a comprehensive and robust manner.