These days, VPNs are all the rage, and it seems that everyone is using them. If we didn't know any better, we would even say that they are a bit fashionable right now.
You probably already know all the reasons why you might need to have and use one.
However, all the claimed ‘best' guides only ever seem to deal with the positives. As always, things are not so black and white, and there are negatives to using a VPN too.
In this guide we plan on exploring both sides of the story, so keep reading, and let's check them out.
Pro #1: Privacy Protection
There is likely no need to explain this one in great detail – you probably already know all about it.
VPNs are privacy-oriented apps that can shield your online traffic, make it unreadable to others, and grant you a degree of online anonymity (although not 100%).
They are the ultimate privacy tech these days, and there is no denying that they are highly necessary, with all the online surveillance, hackers, and other such dangers.
Whether we like it or not, VPNs have grown to be a necessity, and they are not popular without reason.
Pro #2: Unblock Streaming
Of course, online censorship and geo-restrictions are still a big issue today.
We all believe that the internet should be open to everyone, and so should all of the online services that exist in the online world. And yet, the reality is different.
The UK still jealously guards its BBC iPlayer against the rest of the world, while Netflix limits pretty much every region on the planet, only providing a part of its content to each area of the world.
It is unfortunate, but it is true – you need a VPN to stream what you want, in most cases.
Pro #3: Change your IP address
Whether it is for safe torrenting, pseudonymity, reaching geo-restricted sites and services, or something else – you need your IP hidden.
Just as you wouldn't splash your telephone number around to strangers, you shouldn't allow your IP address to fall victim to this either.
VPNs can do that by replacing it with their own IPs, and they do so whenever you connect to one of their servers.
Your IP gives off too much information, and since information is one of the most valued currencies today, you need to be careful with what you give away.
Nobody likes being tracked online, so we need to take precautions.
Pro #4: Encryption
We have just mentioned that information is the most important and valued currency in the online world. This is true for all sorts of individuals and entities out there.
Governments want to know what you are doing online, hackers want to know your details so that they can rob you or use you, and even companies want to know your interests so that they can sell you their products.
With encryption, you get to shield your traffic and stop them all from snooping around your privacy, simply by making your online traffic unreadable to these spies.
It is one of the defining aspects of a VPN.
Pro #5: Access Geo-Restricted Content
We have briefly mentioned this already, but a lot of people do not realise just how limited their online reach is.
For example, the US blocks you from accessing so much of their content, including things like news, cooking sites, some games, and other websites.
These are all blocked due to GDPR, which eventually leads to you missing out on a lot of great things.
This also includes expats and travellers who cannot stay in touch with their homeland while overseas. China is the worst location for this but there are many others.
Luckily, VPNs can change that with a push of a button.
As we discussed, it's not all positives, VPNs can introduce negatives too which we'll explore below.
Con #1: Slower speeds
The first and most noticeable one is slower speeds.
Of course, this might not be an issue, depending on your original internet speed. For a lot of people, it is unlikely to be a significant problem, but it will be for those in remote locations who have reduced internet speed to begin with.
VPNs have to slow you down, as your data goes through them before leaving encrypted and shielded from view. There is no getting around this issue.
However, as long as you have a decent internet connection and are using it on a relatively powerful device, the effects should be minimal.
Con #2: Costs money
This one is quite obvious, and to adequately protect yourself, you need to pay for a premium VPN. Free services are as bad as not using a VPN at all, in most situations, so don't even consider them.
Of course, VPNs are pretty cheap and affordable, especially if you take an annual plan, such as with ExpressVPN offering a 49% saving.
You can often get a significant discount, which makes it more than worth it.
However, it is still an additional thing that you have to pay your hard-earned money for, so there's that.
Con #3: Trust
Now, we come to some real issues. We use VPNs because we do not trust the internet, our governments, and our ISPs.
But, can we trust our VPNs?
You cannot use one if you do not trust it, as using it pretty much requires utmost faith in the service of your choice.
Even so, not every VPN is the same, and you must never blindly trust in their claims. Always explore as much as possible before committing to one.
Con #4: Fake and Free VPNs
We all love free stuff, even if we do not need it or want it, at all. It is merely how we are, which makes free VPNs very tempting.
However, free and fake often go hand in hand, and you may end up trusting a service that will secretly record your data, and potentially sell it to the highest bidder.
Others will bombard you with ads, or even be malware carriers themselves.
The Google Play Store is bursting with such apps, and estimations suggest that one in five free VPNs are infected, so choose carefully.
Con #5: Remembering to use it
Of course, you might not need a VPN every time you pick up your phone or start your computer. Maybe you only need it for torrenting, browsing, streaming geo-restricted content, and alike.
Whatever the case may be, you might forget to use it, and if you do – you have basically just wasted your money.
It is similar to how most binge watchers treat Netflix – with weeks of constant activity, and then weeks or even months of nothing, while they keep paying for a subscription.
Mitigate against this by using the auto-load and auto-connect features of VPN apps such as those offered by ExpressVPN and others.
VPNs are a great technology that are helping us remain safe and private online, as well as allowing us to reach content that was previously not available.
However, they still do have their bad sides, which is not something you will see too often in various guides.
In this article we've rounded up not only the positives but also the negatives to help you get a well-rounded view of what a VPN is.
Have you found any other pros or cons of VPN use? I would love to know so drop me a comment in the comments section below.
Illustrations © Artizarus, Provectorstock, Naveed Hussain, Md. Delwar Hossain & Microvone | Dreamstime.com