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What Is a VPN, and Do You Need One?

vpnWe all want to be as safe as possible when browsing the web, and there’s no shame in admitting it; the internet is full of hackers and viruses which seek to do us and our systems harm.

While viruses are easily avoidable with the use of effective antivirus software and sensible internet usage, hackers on the other hand are more challenging to dodge, especially ones who utilize nasty tactics to get at our personal information.

Such tactics include setting up a WiFi point in a public area, commonly a coffee shop or restaurant, and being able to spy on anybody who joins that network. The hacker will be able to see the personal information of these users, and their bank details; people’s identities will be at risk if they join a malicious person’s network.

So, how would you be able to combat this and provide yourself with a malicious-free internet experience?

One of the best ways to protect yourself online is with the use of a VPN…

What Is a VPN?


what is a vpnSo, what on Earth is a VPN? To put it simply, a VPN (virtual private network) involves technology which adds a layer of security to both private and public networks, including broadband and internet hotspots which you may connect to with your phone or laptop while inside a coffee shop, for example.

It ultimately allows users to send and receive data publicly, and use public features, like use Netflix or BBC iPlayer, while also maintaining the secrecy of a private network. What this means is that businesses and companies alike can send valuable data securely without the risk of being spied on by anyone malicious, or even by their ISP (internet service provider).

If we want to find out if a VPN is right for you, we will need to go through the benefits and drawbacks of them…

Pros


pro tickFirst, we’re going to go through the pros of using a VPN while browsing the internet:

  • You Won’t Be Spied on by Your Internet Provider

One of the great things about using a VPN is that you can do things and visit websites which your internet provider won’t even know about.

While doing so may sound illegal, you can easily bypass restrictions to websites and services which your internet provider placed upon. For example, there may be a website where you can download music from for free which your ISP has placed a restriction on.

Using a VPN, you will be able to sneak through this restriction and download all the music in the world that you’d want. Bear in mind, I’m absolutely not commending pirating… I’m just pointing out that it’s something you can do without getting a fine or other consequences from your ISP.

  • You Can Use Country Restricted Services

When you use a VPN service, you can choose which country’s designated server you want to connect to. Because of this, you will be seen as a user from that country to the internet, ultimately allowing you to use any services that may be restricted to that country only.

For example, only UK internet users can use BBC iPlayer; if you were from the USA, for example, and there was a British show you really wanted to watch but BBC iPlayer won’t allow American users access, you can use a VPN to connect to a UK server and visit the iPlayer and watch that show with no hassle.

This is one of the biggest reasons why people generally use VPN services; and to be safe from prying eyes additionally, of course…

  • Hackers Won’t Be Able to See or Interfere with Your Personal Data

If you use a VPN, your encrypted traffic data will be secure and untouchable by a lot of sources, including pesky hackers who may seek to try and find and steal your personal information and data.

Because of this, you will be able to safely connect to a public WiFi hotspot without worrying if it might be a hackers way of getting to your information by setting up a fake hotspot… it won’t matter either way as they won’t be able to access your data.

  • VPNs Are Generally Cheap to Have

The good thing about many VPN services out there is that fact that they are generally pretty cheap to have for your PC; some can even be run on multiple devices at once, though this depends on the subscription you may have purchased from the VPN service.

VPN services are significantly cheaper than other forms of security solutions you can use to keep you safe online, and you won’t have to worry about obtaining any additional hardware or hiring a professional to help you set up a VPN either.

These are just a few of the total amount of benefits using a VPN will bring, but these are the main ones which I believe you should know about.

Cons


con XLooking through the benefits to using a VPN service, you would think there aren’t any drawbacks to them… well, unfortunately you would be wrong as there are a few you should know about…

  • VPN Servers Have Slower Internet Connection Speeds

Unfortunately, using a VPN service will make your internet connection speeds slower than if you weren’t using a VPN. How much this loss is depends on a few factors, such as the distance of the VPN server you have chosen to where your location is, and the amount of load on that particular server (how many other users are connected to it).

To combat slow internet speed, it would be best if you choose a server nearest to you, and one that has the least amount of load to it as well. Thankfully, many VPN services out there choose the best server for you automatically, so it’s very rare if you have to do it manually.

When it comes to playing online video games on your PC, a slower internet connection from a poor VPN server could have an effect on your game’s ping. This in turn will make your gameplay either lag and won’t make you play as smoothly as you would do if you were either using a better server, or no VPN at all.

  • VPNs Cost Different Amounts of Money Depending on Their Features

VPNs require a lot of research you have to do if you want to find the best one which fits your lifestyle online, and the features you may want also. Some VPNs cost the same with a specific set of features, while others may cost a little bit more yet still have the same features as the cheaper ones.

While you could opt to getting a free VPN, these are generally on a short trial, and the ones which are free forever don’t have the same secure features as premium ones, and it may be a risk to your privacy and security.

Do You Need One?


So, now that we’ve gone through the pros and cons of VPNs, the question that remains now is… do you need one?

Well, with how easy of a target you are online, especially if you are somebody who uses a lot of public WiFi hotspots, I would wholeheartedly recommend you to think about using a VPN service sometime in the near future.

While sensible online use can prevent the likes of viruses and other types of malware from infecting your computer, hackers are more difficult to avoid, and your valuable data and privacy may be at risk in their hands.

A lot of VPN services out there are very affordable, so they won’t cost you an arm or a leg to buy one of their subscriptions, either to pay monthly, annually or once every two years.

I don’t want to sound like I’m forcing you to buy a VPN service, but I highly recommend that you get a VPN as the internet can be a very dangerous place, and they help out a lot to combat both viruses and hackers.

Conclusion


To conclude this post, getting yourself a VPN to protect yourself online is a very good idea. Though using a VPN has its drawbacks, I hope the benefits are enough to encourage you to consider getting one in order to prevent hackers or your ISP from spying on what you do online, and to protect your privacy and security.

If you have any questions about VPNs, or about any of the pros and cons I’ve listed in this post, please don’t be afraid to type a comment down below in the comment section.

Happy gaming (and internet surfing)! 😉

Jamie – the PC Gaming Nerd

Jamie

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