So you may be wondering why you should even use a VPN. You might even think that you have nothing to hide and who would want to snoop on what you get up to, in part you would be correct, unless you’re up to something you shouldn’t be then you definitely have nothing to hide but the issue of using a VPN is so much more than just covering your tracks or hiding what you’re doing. So for the purpose of this article we’ve decided to list the top five reasons why you as an every day internet user should be considering using a VPN.
- Access country specific content.
- Secures your web access on public networks.
- Access country or network restricted content.
- Safeguard your location.
- Safeguard your privacy.
1) Access country specific content.
This may sound more daunting than it actually is at first. As an example, in 2012 the United Kingdom hosted the Olympics and one of the best ways to view this live over the internet was by using the UK’s own TV service called the BBC and furthermore their online TV service BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately the use of this service is restricted to residents who live in the UK.
With a VPN that offers access to a UK gateway you can effectively appear as if you are in the UK thus allowing access to BBC iPlayer. The same as if you were in the United Kingdom yourself. So back in 2012 you would of enjoyed coverage of the Olympics direct to your home no matter where in the world thanks to the use of a VPN with a UK gateway.
The same can be said for the US based service Hulu.com – If you’re located within the US then you can stream and watch TV programs, if you live outside the US then you can’t. Again, as with the example above, when using a VPN service which has a gateway in the US you can watch and make use of Hulu.com from any location in the world thus opening a large range of TV shows that you might not of otherwise of been able to receive in your own country.
Hulu outside the US Without VPN
Hulu outside the US With VPN
There are plenty of other services and products which are only accessible in certain countries, some of the content is great to have access to and it is nice to have the choice that others might not be able to without knowing about VPNs.
Another situation when this becomes useful is if you have moved abroad or gone on a long vacation and just long for access to some of the services you can’t do without, again by making use of a VPN it will allow you access to those services if you connect using a gateway in the country that the content is accessible.
2) Secures your web access on public networks.
One area where your information is open to attack are public networks. That time you check your emails at the café using their wifi, or browse a website while waiting for your plane at the airport, you might even be tempted to connect to a neighbours wifi if they’ve left it unsecured or even if they have allowed you to make use of it.
The problem with public networks is you never know what is being logged or recorded, or even who is tapping in to that network to read the data being sent over it. A lot of what we now do on the internet is private, reading emails, chatting to friends etc, when you’re talking about something personal you hardly want the world to know.
A basic comparison of using a public network is like this, you have a piece of paper that has some personal information on it about you, maybe one or two login and passwords, you hand it to a stranger on the first floor of a building and ask them to run it up to the 10th floor, are you confident they wouldn’t read it? Most of us would put that in a sealed envelope and would not trust a complete stranger with our personal information.
When using a public network you’re basically allowing strangers to have a look at and record whatever you’re getting up to over that network, this includes having a read of your passwords when logging in to non secure websites. The difference between my real world example and the computerised world is that a back door could be left to read all your information over that network without a real person sitting there waiting to read it, they could record everything and come back at a later date to collect, you wouldn’t even know your information had been recorded.
Now the good news is that by using a VPN it encrypts all your data between your computer and the VPN server, so anything in between, ie; the public network can’t read the data that you’re sending.
This is an absolute must for anyone who does a lot of travelling or makes extensive use of public networks, these could be your hotel, train station, council or any other place that offers free or public wifi. If it isn’t your own personal connection then you should assume it isn’t secure. The only way to add this security is to connect through a VPN.
Using a VPN fully encrypts all the data sent from your computer to the VPN server meaning no one in between can either read or see what you’re doing or sending. This is personal security on the move!
The great thing about most VPN providers is you can use them both on your laptop and increasingly on your mobile devices such as IPhone, Android devices etc.
3) Access country or network restricted content.
Many of us are lucky to live in civilized countries which respect the rights to freedom, freedom to explore the internet and freedom of choosing what content is suitable to view, that is legal, of course.
Now in certain circumstances your network administrator might restrict the types of sites or services you can use, this could be a university or college that doesn’t allow you access to chat sites or a work place that blocks Facebook or Twitter so they don’t lose valuable working hours while you update your status (“I’m bored – only 2 hours of work left”) Whatever the situation you sometimes might feel the need to bypass certain restrictions and this is where a VPN will help.
When accessing via a VPN your connection is making a direct connection to the VPN, a service that is unlikely to be blocked on your network, any request further than that is handled by your VPN service which in reality unblocks said sites or services.
An example is as follows :-
Without a VPN :
[You] enters Facebook.com -> Network Blocks Facebook.com – > End.
With a VPN :
[You] enters Facebook.com -> Your request is encrypted -> Request sent to your VPN server -> VPN server sends on the request the fetch Facebook.com -> Passes back the request encrypted to you.
Now for those who live in a free world not being able to Tweet your latest moves while in work is about where the problem begins and ends, although it is a very useful feature, it is rarely life threatening.
For those of you who live in countries where freedom of information is much more highly restricted a VPN can become an invaluable and sometimes life saving service to use. In recent years we have seen the Egyptian government try to control the internet and block freedom of speech. This is also widely adopted in China aka The Great Firewall of China.
Even more recently we are seeing more and more websites blocked in the developing world with the UK in the past year blocking many Torrent sites and other sites deemed to be illegal or not for our citizens. Now as a responsible adult who wishes to break no laws I feel the content that I access is my own choice and as long as I am not hurting anyone else or breaking any of the laws in my own country then I should be free to self police my internet use, after all, I’m over 18, I’m legally an adult, I don’t need my government to tell me what I can and can not access, if I break the law then I expect to be punished, I don’t however feel putting blocks in front of me is the correct way to do this when I have committed no crime in the first place. Making use of one of the VPN services listed on our front page gives you the freedom of choice.
So as has been shown, a VPN is a great way to unrestrict content that you feel you should be able to access and in some more extreme cases in countries that ban freedom of speech it can be a lifesaver.
4) Safeguard your location.
When you connect to the internet you are assigned an IP address. In the old days of dial-up internet these usually changed each time you dialled in, although there were some internet providers who assigned you a fixed IP.
An IP address is like a phone number specific to your connection, it can change from time to time, with broadband, cable and the like internet services you usually have the same IP for a period of time, this can range from a few days to a few weeks or months. Each time you visit a website, access a service or do anything on the internet then your IP can be recorded. This could build up a semi-permanent log of what sites you’ve visited, what you’ve searched for etc. It could be used for malicious purposes or also for bombarding you with targeted advertising.
The problem with IP addresses is they are also quite location specific, they are not an exact match to a location but they can get quite close at times. Take a look at a site such as http://geoip.flagfox.net/ and see just how close your own IP address can get to your physical location.
When posting on the internet you have the ability to remain anonymous, if you made a post on a specific forum or blog you may wish to keep your identity anonymous. With your IP address you are more or less giving away the area in which you live, coupled with other information you may of posted on the internet this could give a predator or other unscrupulous character enough ground work to locate you in real life.
By making use of a VPN service you can be anonymous to the extent of located anywhere in the world. Say you had a particular interest that may be frowned upon in your local community in small town USA that you wished to post about on a forum, you could connect up to your VPN, connect to an Australian gateway and then post to your hearts content knowing you’re safe in the knowledge that any access logs anyone had to said forum would give the impression that you’re living in Australia.
5) Safeguard your privacy.
One of the biggest reasons to make use of a VPN is to protect your privacy.
When connected to a VPN all information you pass through is encrypted so no one at your local ISP can see what you’re visiting or what you’re doing. After all, can you trust every single employee at your ISP who may have access to the data about what you’re visiting or doing while surfing the net?
It also stops hackers and other nefarious types from sniffing in on your internet traffic. As explained earlier a lot of data you send through your connection is unencrypted and by making use of a VPN you can ensure that all of your data is encrypted to the VPN.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the article and learned of some of the benefits and reason on why the every day user should now be considering and making use of a reliable VPN. Now you understand the advantages why not take a look at our comparison table on the home page and get signed up with one of our listed providers.
If you have any other great reasons on why a VPN is very useful to the average Joe then we would love to hear them in our comments section, so don’t be shy, share your thoughts.