How VPN Works

Determining your VPN needs for the first time can be a daunting task, especially with all of the VPN providers offering a smattering of different pricing packages, protocols and device compatibility options.

Whether you’re considering a VPN for your company or for your own personal use, making a good decision requires a thorough understanding of the technology and capabilities of using VPN.

Before jumping for the best price you see, we encourage you to read through this list of frequently asked questions, answered by our team of VPN industry experts.

What exactly is a VPN?

VPN stands for „Virtual Private Network“. VPNs make it possible to use the internet for private communication, much as you would with computers physically connected via a network. Through encryption, a VPN provides companies with the functionality and security of a private network at a much lower cost.

Why would I use a VPN Service?

Perhaps the most common use of a VPN is for employees to connect with the office intranet while they’re traveling. A VPN can also connect multiple sites across an organization, like retail stores or remote offices. But more and more often, individuals use VPNs to connect to their home networks while they’re on the road or to maintain privacy (so their web browsing can’t be tracked). Another reason individuals may want a VPN is to circumvent regional censorship and restrictions called geoblocking.

How do I get a VPN account?

Many companies offer VPN access to their employees, and individuals have an increasing number of options. A good way to start is to identify several VPN providers and then research what their customers are saying about them. Whether through consumer-written reviews or online forums, a VPN provider’s customers will fill you in on the good, the bad, and the ugly. No company, of course, can satisfy every single customer, but your research will give you a good feel for who’s reliable and who’s not.

Can I use a VPN if I have a Mac?

Absolutely. Newer Macs come with built-in support for managing VPNs. With OS X, you can even have multiple VPN accounts for the same computer. You can set it up through the „Network“ option in „System Preferences.“

Is it safe to use a Free VPN Service?

The old adage „you get what you pay for“ generally holds true. Think of it this way: every company has to make money to stay in business. If you’re not paying your VPN provider, someone else is. Ask yourself who that „someone“ might be. It’s very likely someone who is paying for your browsing data. That’s not to say every free VPN provider is untrustworthy; just try to find out where they’re making their money and make sure it doesn’t undermine the reasons you want a VPN to start with. Aside from that, research a free VPN provider just as you would a subscription service: find out what their customers have to say.

Will a VPN slow down my internet?

It depends. Using a VPN can certainly slow down your internet, which is why most people only use them for information they want to keep private. You can route all of your internet activity through a VPN, but it will probably slow you down. Only you can decide the right balance of security and speed to meet your needs. Other factors that influence speed are the number of people connecting through the VPN and the VPN’s geographical location.

What does a VPN let me do?

Put most simply, a VPN lets you use the public internet to transmit private information. For instance, you could be relaxing in your recliner and use your company-provided VPN to access your work computer. You can also use a VPN to keep your personal information secure while you’re using an open wi-fi connection. You can use it to ward off data tracking, thereby keeping your browsing history private. The most interesting thing about a VPN is that the internet will think you’re wherever the VPN server is. For instance, say you’re traveling abroad and want to watch something on Hulu. You can’t do it…unless you connect through a VPN that’s located in the U.S.

What is the payment structure for VPN services?

Most providers charge a monthly subscription fee. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. There are other important things to consider. Do you have to sign a contract? Is there a limit on how much bandwidth you can use? If so, what happens if you exceed the limit? How secure is your information? Does the provider keep monthly fees low by selling your data? When choosing the best plan for you, just use consumer common sense – compare apples to apples, and make sure there are no surprises (like set-up fees or cancellation fees).

Do I need to have a subscription?

Most VPN providers do charge a monthly fee, although you may save some money if you pay for a whole year at once. However, some require contracts, and some don’t. Do your due diligence to figure out what plan is right for you.

How can I tell the difference between VPN’s?

The easiest way to tell the difference between VPNs is to rely on someone else to do it for you. There are countless reviews on the internet comparing and contrasting different providers. Once you find a few providers that look like a good fit, dig a little deeper to find out what their customers are saying about them.

Will I really remain anonymous?

That depends. It’s good practice to assume that nothing on the internet is completely anonymous. VPNs do an excellent job of camouflaging your online activity; you can be at your computer in Florida while appearing to be in France. Beyond that, it depends on the quality of the provider’s security protocol and how much or how little of your activity they monitor and store. And, again, the best way to learn about that is to research what their customers are saying about them.

Do I have to use the VPN every time I go online?

If you want to access your office network remotely, they’ll likely require you to use their VPN connection every time. But if you’re only using a VPN to protect your personal browsing activity, you can reserve it for sensitive information and route everything else through your regular browser.

What is a VPN protocol?

A VPN protocol is the manner in which a particular provider handles your access to the internet. There are several VPN protocols, each with its pluses and minuses and with varying levels of security. There are any number of resources to help you choose the protocol that best fits your needs.

How can I use VPN on my mobile device?

The main difference between a standard VPN and a VPN on a mobile device is that, while a standard VPN allows remote access to a network, the physical location of the user typically remains stationary. Mobile VPNs are useful for people who are constantly on the move but need uninterrupted access. With a mobile VPN connection, you can keep all of your apps open and connected as you move in and out of service areas.

What are the speed and storage limitations of VPN?

Limitations vary by provider. Some VPN providers offer tiers of service, where higher prices bring fewer limitations. This is another factor to consider when you’re choosing a provider.

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