What Is a VPN and Do I Need One?

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VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and to understand why it’s a good idea to use one, let’s first talk about what computer networks are.

If you work in an office, all the computers are on the office network. This is a physical network and the computers that are included can all talk to each other and share information. By contrast, when that office network is viewed from the outside world, it looks like one computer. The information that’s sent back and forth between you and your co-workers is hidden from the public. Businesses need this kind of privacy to protect sensitive information and data. 

A Virtual Network

A VPN is, as its name suggests, a non-physical network, but it’s a network nonetheless. Since going remote, many companies have put all their employee’s work-from-home devices on a VPN. This way, business information that gets passed around is still hidden from the outside world, despite the fact that the employees aren’t connected to the same physical network.

Beyond the business world, VPNs can come in handy, even for simple things like watching a movie.

VPNs and Privacy

For people who value their privacy or just work with sensitive material on a regular basis, VPNs are a must. That’s because there are five things about your usage that are hidden by the use of a VPN.

  • IP address and location
  • Browsing history
  • Location for streaming
  • Device
  • Web activity

If you often log on to public WiFi networks, you should definitely be using a VPN. You don’t know who owns the network and you don’t know whether or not they’re tracking your online activity. Even your internet service provider (ISP) is able to see your web activities.

So, while you may be off social media to keep Facebook from getting your info, it’s much more difficult to avoid having your data taken and used by either an unknown person on a public WIFI or from your own provider.

VPNs and Netflix

If you travel a lot, you’ll find VPNs to be very helpful. For example, let’s say you want to watch a Netflix show while you’re in France. Well, it turns out that when Netflix sees that you’re requesting access from that country, it will show you the available movies for that region, not those available in your home region.

However, if you use a VPN with an exit node in your region (essentially saying you’re in your home country) when accessing Netflix, it looks to their system like you’re actually there. Thus, you’ll be able to watch the shows and movies you want from home.

Conversely, if Netflix carries content in another country — say France, once again — that isn’t accessible in your home country, you can use a VPN to say you are in France and access that French-licensed programs.

Getting a VPN

If you’ve decided to start using a VPN, there are plenty of services that you can use. But there are three main things to think about before purchasing:

  • Price
  • Reliability
  • Speed

Look for companies with more servers, since this will increase the speed you get when accessing websites. For example, Norton Secure VPN and PureVPN both have more than 2,000 servers available. However, you can purchase a monthly subscription service from Norton for as low as $4.99 compared to $10.95/month for PureVPN.

But don’t let the price fool you, PureVPN has servers in over 140 countries while Norton is only in 31 countries. Since you’ll be connecting to a VPN that is closest to you, a company with servers in more countries will provide a faster connection, especially if you tend to move around a lot.

Now that you know what to look for, you can start shopping for a VPN!

What Is a VPN and Do I Need One? — Quick Links

Norton Secure VPN