A VPN can help you achieve more online privacy by masking your browsing activity from eavesdroppers, your ISP, and others. VPNs encrypt your connection to provide more security when you’re on public Wi-Fi networks in places like coffee shops and airports.
At a basic level, if you activate a VPN (or virtual private network) when you go online, it can provide two key benefits.
Privacy — by masking things like your IP address, location, and search history, to keep them from being tracked by websites, internet browsers, cable companies, internet service providers (ISPs), and others.
Security — by helping protect your personal information and other data as it’s in transit, or being sent from and received by your device.
But that’s not all a VPN can do. A VPN can also help you in other ways.
1. Hides your private information
Websites and apps can constantly track your online activity, analyzing the data they collect. A VPN can prevent web browsers and others from accessing your connection, helping to keep information you send and receive anonymous and secure. Some VPNs also offer military-grade 256-bit encryption of your data.
2. Escape data-throttling
Data throttling occurs when you’ve used a certain amount of your data and, as a result, your internet service provider slows down your service. To avoid the inconvenience of data throttling and interrupted internet speed, consider using a reliable VPN for Android phones. With a VPN, not only will your data be free from the prying eyes of ISPs and others, but you also won’t be subject to a data cap. ISPs can place caps on data to maximize internet speed for some of their customers.
3. Avoid bandwidth-throttling
If you’ve experienced slower internet speed on certain websites and at different times, you may have experienced bandwidth throttling. ISPs — or anyone with administrative controls over your network — might be responsible for the slowdown. A VPN can help. It can thwart the sluggishness by encrypting your device’s internet traffic. This prevents anyone on the same network from seeing the content of your web traffic and disguises its destination.
4. Access region-blocked services like Netflix*
Some VPNs may be able to access geo-blocked content such as Netflix and other providers*. How? A VPN can change your IP address to make a content provider think you’re browsing in another location or region that allows access. Note: Always check the Terms of Service agreements to find out what’s permitted by your streaming service and follow those guidelines. Also, be mindful that some countries may have penalties for using VPN to circumvent its rules.
5. Avoid censorship when traveling abroad*
Some VPNs can help you bypass geographical restrictions. For instance, some countries restrict or forbid access to certain websites such as social media platforms or censor certain content. A VPN, however, may help grant you access by making your traffic look like it’s coming from a different location. Keep in mind that it is the user’s responsibility to identify whether their use of a VPN is legal or not, and to check the country’s laws before using a VPN.
6. Access regional sports coverage unavailable in your location*
Some VPNs can help give you access to sports coverage that’s geographically restricted. For instance, a television network such as NBC may not be available for viewing if you’re outside the United States. A VPN may be capable of making viewing possible. Even so, check your streaming service agreement for its Terms of Service, and also be mindful that some countries may have penalties for using VPN to circumvent its rules.
*Disclaimer: The subject of the legality/illegality of VPNs in certain areas throughout the world is an ongoing discussion, and what’s legal today may not be next month or year. Further, this article (1) is not comprehensive and (2) should not be relied upon as legal advice to consumers, and (3) is focused on the U.S. only.
7. Offer cheaper leased-line alternatives
A VPN can offer certain savings for businesses, in particular. For example, through VPNs, businesses may be able to bypass renting expensive network capacity lines that achieve connectivity between office locations. Instead, they could connect via public infrastructure through cheaper local leased lines or broadband connections through a local ISP.
8. Offer cheaper long-distance telephone charges
A VPN may be able to reduce long-distance phone charges. For example, instead of connecting via remote access servers and dial-up networks to access a company's intranet, you could connect to your local ISP access point.
9. Provide network scalability
As organizations grow, so do the costs of building a dedicated private network. Internet-based VPNs can allow businesses to tap into network lines and network capability already available, potentially giving remote and international locations in particular better reach and service quality.
10. Reduce support costs
Using a VPN may help a business reduce the cost of maintaining servers, because support can be outsourced to third-party service providers who can support a lower cost structure due to their many clients.
Are there disadvantages to using a VPN?
While the benefits of using a VPN may outweigh the disadvantages, there are a few potential drawbacks to keep in mind.
Slightly slower internet
A VPN reroutes and encrypts your internet connection, which may slightly lessen your internet speed.
Illegal in some countries*
In some countries, the use of VPNs is banned or heavily regulated, so always check the legislation where you’re located.
Potentially difficult to set up
Depending on the VPN you use, you may have some trouble setting it up. Be sure to choose a beginner-friendly VPN service to avoid this.
Lack of encryption knowledge
Unless you’re an encryption expert, it’s hard to know the encryption quality of your VPN. However, selecting a reliable VPN service with positive reviews will make it more likely that your encryption quality is high.
How to choose a VPN
The best VPN for you will depend on your needs and what you want to pay. Free VPN services may not offer all the features you need, and some services may offer free service in exchange for access to your data.
Here’s the choice. If VPN providers don’t charge user fees, they may pay for their costs through advertising or from gathering and selling your data to third-parties, like data brokers and marketers.
Choosing the right VPN for you might mean paying for one, if you value your online privacy.
Remember, a VPN gives you the ability and control to add additional layers of online privacy and security to your online activities.
It should offer a secure private network that will help keep your personal information safe from cybercriminals and anyone else who might attempt to intercept your data.
Once you’ve chosen a VPN that’s right for you, you can start enjoying some of the benefits of VPN you might not have known about — that is, before reading this article.
Alison Grace Johansen is a freelance writer who covers cybersecurity and consumer topics. Her background includes law, corporate governance, and publishing.
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