Corporate employees will most likely know the definition of a VPN (virtual private network). For everybody else, it’s just a way to watch Hulu from all over the world. Joking aside, there are quite a few compelling reasons why one should have VPN set up. The main and most compelling reason would be increased security.
VPN connections are, of course, encrypted, with levels ranging from 128-bit to 256-bit, depending on your provider. I personally use StrongVPN, but there many more providers. Specifically, I use an OpenVPN-based package. This is an open source security software that utilizes SSL/TLS for key exchanges. There exist corresponding client programs for major platforms, even for a rooted Android phone. This may all sound pretty technical, but in essence it means that your data is quite secure. Unless you’re a wanted man, and a brigade of hackers is after you, a VPN service will strengthen your computer against intrusions — especially when connecting to public hotspots; a VPN can minimize threats. You’re practically immune against hotspot sniffing.
Depending on the provider, it’s possible to use VPN to stay anonymous while downloading torrents. However, some providers keep logs, so do research beforehand. Effectively a VPN gives you privacy and anonymity while you you surf the Web. In conjunction with the private mode of your browser, and the encryption of the VPN, you’re truly private.
Bypassing Blocked Websites
Surely you have come across videos on YouTube or other Web services that you couldn’t access just because you’re not located inside the US. For a long time, Hangout On Air wasn’t accessible in Germany (until recently), or any live YouTube video, for that matter. A VPN or http tunneling were the only options to bypass such government restrictions (a VPN is faster and more reliable). With my own service I still get a ping of less than 150 ms, which is acceptable even for some gaming. Geo-restriction and censored websites are a thing of the past.
So the reasons for choosing to use a VPN are purely paranoid. If you often find yourself connecting to unknown networks in public areas, then this is a solution. It also acts as a virtual firewall that prevents malware infestation, unless you visit some really dodgy websites. Any threat from outside intruders is non-existent, unless you have that aforementioned hacker brigade on you.
This might be the deal breaker for some. There are free solutions out there, but I cannot speak for them. Like anything in life, free isn’t always the best solution. However, there is such a myriad of different services our there. There’s no particular reason as why to I chose StrongVPN, but I had a bad experience with HMA due to quite slow performance. My VPN Reviews may be a good place to start if you are someone who likes to read user reviews. The importance is to understand the different between a proxy and a VPN. In easy terms, the most important advantage of a VPN over a proxy is speed.
I personally connect to my VPN all the time, and often I even forget that I am so connected. So, in daily life, speed is really not an issue. It performs so well that I usually get my maximum bandwidth. Sure, the ping is not the highest, but then again I’m not a hardcore gamer. It makes little difference to me. In some situations I just feel safer.
Have you been using — or have you ever used — VPN services? If yes, what are your experiences?
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