Welcome to our straightforward guide on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) – an essential tool to make your internet usage safer and perhaps faster than ever!
We explain what a VPN is, why it’s crucial in today’s digital world, and how to choose the best one for your needs.
So whether you’re a digital nomad, a streaming enthusiast, a p2p fanatic, or an internet privacy supporter, there’s something in here for you! 🚀
Let’s dive in!
🌐 What is a VPN and why do we need it?
If the internet was a bustling public street lined up with websites, apps, and platforms, a VPN—Virtual Private Network—would be like accessing the same high street but from a parallel universe or doing so using an invisibility cloak. As such, it’s a sacred tool for all kinds of internet users, from foreign soap opera bingers to digital nomads working their corporate jobs remotely.
Perhaps a good way of explaining it is by breaking ‘VPN’ into pieces. It’s ‘Virtual’ because it’s not a physical connection, ‘Private’ because it keeps your online activities to yourself, and ‘Network’ because it’s all about connecting you to another parallel network, like a parallel internet reserved for those with access keys.🔑
When you use a VPN, all your data is encrypted by wrapping it up in uncrackable code before it journeys across the internet. This encrypted data is unreadable to anyone who might intercept it, keeping your personal details well and truly personal.
A VPN is necessary to maintain privacy in an increasingly public digital world. It’s a tool for security, ensuring your data is shielded from potential interlopers. But beyond just security, it’s also a champion of digital freedom, helping you access to content that might be geographically restricted. 🌍
🚪 What happens when you connect to a VPN?
Going back to the internet as a bustling public street analogy, connecting to a VPN would be like unlocking a secret door to a parallel universe that exists within the same street. Only in this universe, it’s just you, the road is clear, and anyone from outside can just ‘perceive’ that you are there, but not know what or who you are– you essentially become like an encrypted ghost in the normal internet realm. 👻
When you switch on your VPN, it’s as if you’re stepping through this hidden door. Your device establishes a connection with a VPN server, which can be hosted by a friendly entity from anywhere in the world. This connection forms a secure, private channel — your very own road in a parallel universe that you are sharing with other VPN users.
Now, all data that leaves your device is encrypted, i.e., put into a secret language. It’s as if every message you send out on your private road is wrapped in an indecipherable code. Your messages look like gibberish to anyone peeking into your ghostly figure from the bustling public street, just a moving blob in the ether. 📨
This encoded data is sent through your private channel to the VPN server, run by your friend somewhere in the world. The server, equipped with the secret key to the code, decrypts the data into a language the internet understands. Your trusted friend takes your coded messages, deciphers them, and then delivers them to the right address on the public street.
Responses from the internet come back the same way but in reverse. Your friend receives the messages, encodes them, and sends them through your private road. When they reach you, they’re decoded back into a language you understand.🔍
So, when you connect to a VPN, you’re stepping off the public street and into your private parallel universe, ensuring a secure, private, and untraceable journey online.
I’m sure you can see the value in it now!! 💡
🎭 What are the main uses of a VPN?
Having a secret dimension that interacts with the internet in parallel has more uses than you may think, just like there are more possibilities than robbing banks if you had an invisibility cloak!
VPNs can be essential for privacy, freedom, censorship resistance, and internet performance! Let’s have a look at some of the main uses of VPNs for everyday layman people like us:
🔒 Privacy, please!
First and foremost, a VPN guarantees you some privacy while browsing. Your true internet identity (i.e., your IP address, which is like your passport/driver’s license showing where you are connecting from) is hidden, and your internet activities are masked from prying eyes, whoever this may be.
You can browse, shop, chat, or stream without worrying about someone snooping on you, which has become a prime worry in the coming age of hackers and online scammers. The more they know about you, the more elaborate the scams.
Some say that only people with “something to hide” want privacy, but this is clearly a gross misunderstanding. It’s the rhetoric of any dystopian Orwellian authority who wants to survey everything you do. We’d go as far as arguing that privacy should be a human right.
🚫 Down with censorship!
Part of the role of our governments and companies is to “protect us” from certain content or ensure that certain entities can earn royalties from their content all over the world. This is the reason why you may have been annoyed by a “This content is not available in your region” message.
Because a VPN allows you to connect to friendly servers in different countries, it enables you to access content from that region. You’re given a ‘virtual’ IP address to interact with this content as if you were a local. It’s like having a teleportation device: one moment, you’re in London, and the next, you’re watching shows only available to viewers in Tokyo.
For those who are fundamentally opposed to censorship, this is arguably the ultimate expression of their philosophical position, and for those who just want to be able to connect to their work emails from a different country, it’s the only way they can bypass any restrictions irrelevant to them.
🛡️ Connect from anywhere (safely)
Public, free Wi-Fi networks can be very convenient, especially if you travel away from your trusted broadband connection and only have limited mobile data. However, these enticing networks are a minefield– it could be an honest, humble provider or a malign entity farming for fools’ data.
It’s very easy to create a Wi-Fi connection that looks legit but, in fact, is gathering all of your data. Not only can this data be sold for large sums of money in black markets, but the black hat actor could be patiently waiting for you to insert your credit card details, your social security number, or any of your data that could put your own identity in jeopardy.
People have had their identities cloned and used to open bank accounts, issue fake documents, etc.
In comes a VPN, encrypting all of your data into illegible gibberish, allowing you to connect to the internet via any potentially harmful WiFi network without any trouble. They may notice that you are using their door to enter the internet high street, but they won’t be able to know anything about you. The hunter just became the hunted!
🎮 Bypassing throttling (Don’t let them interrupt your gaming)
Your broadband internet provider is not only giving internet to yourself but thousands of other people. These entities have to ensure that everyone is getting the internet that they paid for, and when there are gridlocks in internet traffic, they have to distribute artificial slowdowns across the network.
The thing is, your provider is likely doing the throttling par an IP basis, meaning it is limiting internet speeds for those users in a certain geographical area or under a certain contract.
In comes VPN, which in this case is like a fast pass at an amusement park, helping you bypass this throttling by giving you a different IP and even masking your internet traffic, so your ISP doesn’t know what sites you’re visiting. Are you streaming, gaming, or just browsing the web? Who knows! 😛
📦 Sharing (safely) is caring
Some internet users are into exchanging files, music, videos, etc., with other users worldwide in peer-to-peer networks. For these enthusiasts, a VPN is a vital tool to share these files safely without exposing their IP addresses to other peers on the network. This way, they can send their packages with an anonymous return address, which is exactly what you need in the internet wild west.
🔍 How to choose a VPN?
When it comes to VPNs, there are generally two camps: Free-to-use VPNs and Paid VPNs. Both are useful, but you just need to bear in mind that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”.
💸 Free-to-use VPNs
These will almost certainly use your data and sell it to third parties. Remember that when you access a VPN, you trust the provider with all your data, as only they have the keys to decipher all your encryptions.
Most of the time, these Free-to-use VPN providers will not be bad actors, just regular businesses trying to make money, and if they don’t ask for a fee, you become the fee. As the old adage says: “If you don’t pay for the product, you are the product!”.
These services will likely have very limited speeds, advertisements, and a small selection of countries to connect from.
We would certainly NOT recommend these services– we have to bear in mind that the internet is still a highly unregulated wild west, and you are essentially giving them free access to all of your data… a seemingly small deal, with potentially bad consequences.
💰 Paid VPNs
These providers will charge you a fee to use their services in return for what should be higher quality, more selection and improved security and privacy.
Make sure that whoever you select offers robust encryption and preferably a kill switch to cut off your internet if the VPN connection drops and prevent your data from being exposed. Both of these are only available for paid services!
Something else to bear in mind if real privacy is your priority is to opt for a ‘no logs’ VPN that doesn’t keep a record of your activity. This is required in most countries by authorities, but some countries like Switzerland allow for this high level of privacy.
If you want to watch a specific show, ensure your chosen VPN has a server at that specific location. There is no point paying if you can’t watch the Korean soap operas that you’ve been missing!
And if performance is at the forefront of your mind, make sure to choose a VPN provider that guarantees a certain speed for long enough. Remember that some VPNs may allow for super-fast connections but only for a limited amount of data! Oh, and if this is to bypass ISP throttling, make sure your VPN speed is faster than the minimum internet speed guaranteed by your provider! 🚀
And last but not least, check out for trial periods! Most paid VPN plans will let you trial their services before a permanent sign-up. This is useful if you want to guarantee that it fulfils its desired role or if you just need a VPN for a specific event! ⏱️
🌍 Why are VPNs becoming increasingly important?
There are two global tendencies that are growing the importance of VPNs: internet censorship and cybersecurity.
Being able to bypass any roadblocks is an essential way of distributing power away from those who are starting to hold too much. At the end of the day, whoever controls the flow of information, ultimately controls the world. VPNs provide us with this tool– allowing for anti-establishment sharing of information to continue, no matter what happens in the regular internet realm. 🔓
On a parallel tangent, our personal data has become as valuable as currency, and unfortunately, cybercriminals are all too aware of this. Cyber threats are escalating at an alarming rate, with data breaches, identity theft, and online fraud becoming more prevalent and very underreported. 🔐
In this regard, VPNs are our personal digital bodyguards, shielding us from many of the threats that exist. By encrypting your data, VPNs protect your personal information, online activities, and digital transactions, adding a crucial layer of security to your online interactions. No one goes out into the world naked!
📈 Some interesting VPN statistics
Before we close this VPN guide, let’s let the statistics do some talking:
- The first version of the modern VPN was known as swIPe (Software IP encryption protocol) and was created in 1993 in the US. Only a decade later, as broadband internet exploded, did the first VPNs become widespread, but their use remained constant for private companies. 🔐
- The use of VPNs has grown substantially over the years. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of VPN users worldwide increased by at least 4x, with the biggest driver being an increasing demand for geographically-restricted content on video streaming services like Netflix or YouTube. Hello, England football games and K-TV! 🚀
📝 A final note…
We share a lot of our insights and guides on our blog, and we urge you to read as much varied content as you can! 📚(using a VPN if you can!😉)
📚 External Resources