All about VPNs: what you need to know to choose the best service
Today, VPN is very popular but what does a VPN do? VPNs have become an increasingly important part of the internet, serving multiple functions. The technology can be used to remotely access files on your local network at work or at home, protect your data as it travels over public Wi-Fi, protect you from governments, or simply bypass geo-restrictions to watch content blocked for your country.
But choosing a VPN for you is not a simple task. It is necessary to know what your needs are and what each service offers to make a good choice.
To access a network remotely
If you need a VPN to access your home or work network, you don’t need a provider. What you need is to create a VPN server on your router or another device connected to it like a computer that is always on. It is recommended to buy a router that supports VPN servers to make the process easier.
For casual but safe browsing
Public Wi-Fi networks can be useful, but they are largely insecure. The VPN is a smart solution that protects your data with encryption while it travels, preventing the famous “man-in-the-middle” attack, in which someone with bad intentions can monitor everything that is transmitted over the network, including passwords and banking information. In this case, the home VPN solution that you can create yourself with your home router is a viable alternative. There is also the option of paying for a VPN service, which can guarantee your data privacy while offering good speeds. Free services can be enticing, but they’re free for a reason: they’re either very limited, or they can resort to shady practices like harvesting your information.
To bypass geo-blocks
In this case, the most important thing is to look for a VPN service that has servers in the country that has the content you need to access. Want to use American Netflix? Use a VPN that has US exit points. Want to access BBC content from the UK? Look for a service that has UK outlets.
VPNs are not the best method to browse the internet anonymously, as the contracted service can keep a record of everything accessed. Thus, Tor is a better alternative for those who don’t want to be tracked.
However, the VPN is a help, as in practice it is one more obstacle in tracking the user. If this is your case, it is advisable to choose a service that does not keep records (logs) and that is extremely popular, which causes the traffic of many people to be directed to a single exit point, making it difficult to distinguish who it is.
How to choose a service?
– Know how many servers the service has and where they are located. This will be important if you need to access geo-restricted content;
– How many connections are allowed? If you want to connect your PC, mobile phone, and tablet to your VPN account, you will need a service that allows more than one simultaneous access;
– What are the service limits? It’s important to know if your VPN service sets a data allowance and what it does when the mark is exceeded. Does it cut access? Does it limit speed? If there are restrictions, it’s good to know how much data you typically consume before accepting a limited plan;
– Does the service keep access logs? Most do not, because the user looking for VPNs would not want to have this information stored, and because the company does not want it, as it consumes valuable storage resources. However, it is worth confirming;
– What payment methods are accepted? It sounds silly, but if the VPN contract is intended to improve privacy, linking a credit card to the service is a way to defeat the purpose. Some platforms allow payment with Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies;
– Let’s assume the VPN service goes down while you are connected to it. You need guarantees that you will not be directed to an open and insecure connection in the middle of your browsing. The best VPN services have a “kill switch” feature, which completely blocks the connection in case of failure, letting the user choose whether or not he wants to continue browsing unprotected.