What is a VPN?

This week's guest post was kindly provided by Alex Grant of bestvpn.org.  Alex is a location-independent (digital nomad) product manager who specialises in VPN (Virtual Private Network) and security technologies.  

Read on for some interesting advice on this growing demand in the consumer market.

Have you ever found yourself locked out of your TV shows just because you were traveling?
Does your employer block access to your favourite sites from the corporate network? 
Does your Internet Service Provider (ISP) censor certain political blogs and news sites or file-sharing communities? 
Are you worried your government or service provider might be snooping on you?
If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," you need to familiarize yourself with the concept of a Virtual Private Network and choose a VPN to remedy your woes.
What Is A VPN?
A Virtual Private Network is a technology that encrypts your Internet traffic (makes it unintelligible to anyone without an encryption key) and tunnels it through servers run by your VPN provider.
When you connect to the Internet without a VPN  your traffic travels from your computer to the websites you visit and back while your ISP monitors your activity every step of the way. When you use public Wi-Fi without a VPN, hackers can easily intercept your traffic and, if you're shopping, steal your credit card details.
With a VPN, your traffic is first encrypted by the VPN software and then it passes to your ISP and on to the VPN server. Because it's encrypted, your ISP can't see the contents of your traffic. Neither can hackers.
Think of the VPN as a digital mask, or glove, that disguises your online activity. At the same time, it allows you to change your IP address and pretend like you're coming from a different location. Websites you visit through a VPN don't see your real IP address but see the location you want them to see.
In the VPN jargon, faking a location is called spoofing. With a VPN, you can appear as if coming from the UK while you're in China, or "spoof" into the US Netflix library while you are in Australia.
You still need your Internet Service Provider to access a VPN, but with VPN, your ISP, hackers or employers are unable to tell what you're up to online.
How To Choose a VPN Provider
A VPN is a subscription-based service that comes with a dedicated program for your computers and mobile phones. Many companies offer VPN services today. They run or lease servers in different countries to route your traffic through them.
But there is a catch. Even though your Internet provider cannot track your online activities when you use a VPN, your VPN provider can do so. Will it protect your data, or sell you out to data brokers and spy agencies? Due diligence is vital if you want a company you can trust.
VPN for Beginners takes an unusual approach to explaining VPNs to first-time users. Instead of pushing "best VPN deals" into your face, it takes a critical look at the industry as a whole, doing a great job of explaining both the VPN basics and the essential factors that should be affecting your choice of a VPN provider.
As much as you want to shop quickly and begin enjoying your VPN the moment you realize you need one, we caution against rushed decisions because:
-VPNs are somewhat technical but with a little research you'll get the hang of the topic 
-VPNs are not equal in price-per-value terms but many review websites shouldn't be trusted because they thrive on affiliate money
-Privacy and encryption are currently buzz words, so many malicious parties offer VPN services to sell users' data, not protect it
-Politics and corporate interests will most likely affect your choice of a VPN even if you couldn't care less about either of them 
VPN for Beginners is packed full of solid information.  Make it your edutainment read for tonight – you'll find yourself understanding the technical – and monetary – intricacies of VPNs laid out in clear and simple language.
Alex Grant
If you found this post useful or have any additional thoughts or questions on the subject, let us know by leaving a comment below or email me direct through the Contact Page.
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2 Responses

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