Last week we covered the question, what is a VPN?
A quick recap…
A VPN gives you privacy and anonymity online by creating a virtual private network on a public WiFi connection. The software lets you access the internet through a remote server (which masks your actual IP address), meaning both your location and your online activity stays private. Better still, the ‘private network’ avoids the pitfalls of publicly accessible WiFi — it:
- Gives you a secure and encrypted connection
- Secures the data you send and receive
- Prevents prying eyes from accessing your device
So, there’s what a VPN does. But how do you connect to a virtual private network? As it turns out — it’s pretty easy.
Check it and see.
How do you connect to a virtual private network?
You connect to a VPN using a VPN client.
In essence, a VPN client is a simple bit of software you install on your computer, your smartphone your tablet — and all you have to do is open it up to connect to a virtual network. If you have an iOS, Android, or Windows device, you likely have a VPN client pre-installed.
However, you may want to download a different one as every client has a slightly different feature set and user interface, which leads us to the next question…
— How do you choose a VPN?
The answer is: it depends. Given the options available, the best VPN to use is all about what you want from it.
- Is surfing the web in anonymity the most important feature?
- Are you worried someone might steal your details on a public connection?
- Are you a frequent flyer who wants to stream their favorite content on the go?
The best VPNs should satisfy 1, 2, and 3. But these aren’t the only points to think about — there are six other questions to consider before choosing a VPN client.
6 Questions to ask before choosing a VPN client
If you regularly use public WiFi, then a VPN can keep you secure. However, some VPN providers are better protectors than others.
So, do your research before you settle on a solution and ask the following six questions to make sure you browse on the most robust virtual private network.
— “Does the VPN client respect MY privacy?”
If you’re using a VPN, it’s because you want privacy. And the last thing you expect is a VPN provider who snoops on you. The best VPN services offer a ‘no-log policy.’
It’s their promise never to track what you look at; or, log your activity.
— “What protocol does the network use?”
A quick check of the specs will answer this one, but what are you looking for? Well, simply put: OpenVPN offers the most reliable security of any of the VPN protocols (as opposed to PPTP, for example).
Better still, OpenVPN is open-source, so it supports every major operating system (including iOS, Android, and Windows).
— “Is there a limit on how much I can browse?”
Some virtual private networks set data limits. If you’re an avid browser (or streaming is your #1 activity), then you’ll need a VPN service that matches your bandwidth needs.
Preferably, find a VPN with unmetered bandwidth and unlimited data.
— “What’s the location of the actual servers?”
A point that’s usually overlooked, yet one that’s often the most important: if you want to access certain services or websites, you have to do so from a valid IP address that’s in the right geography.
So, make sure your VPN client has a server in the right country.
— “Can I use the VPN across several devices?”
We’re all guilty of owning a few too many devices. If this sounds like you, or you want to keep your family safe when they browse the internet, then find a solution that can cover them all.
Ideally, when all devices are in use at the same time.
— “How much will it cost me?”
Cost might be the deciding factor, but try to look beyond ‘free’ options. As while you might not pay money, you will pay in other ways: be it via a bombardment of adverts, or in seeing your personal data harvested, then sold (defeating the point of the VPN in the first place!).
Typically, free options suffer from the following:
- No respect for your privacy
- Less secure protocols
- Data limits and lower bandwidths
- Fewer countries with servers
- Single-device access
So, while you won’t have to pay, you may well struggle with the quality of the service — and it’s highly unlikely you’ll have access to support.
Is there anything a VPN can’t do?
VPNs are an essential privacy tool for anyone who uses public WiFi. However, they aren’t a magic bullet and they cannot guarantee your safety across the web.
Some people think a virtual private network will prevent cyber threats like identity fraud (where someone steals your personal details and uses them to commit a crime)… in truth, they can’t — nothing can.
A VPN can only encrypt the data on the device you’re using to browse. Plus, it can only protect data that’s sent and received by you: meaning it can only stop a cybercriminal on a public network from stealing your login credentials or payment details, while you actually shop.
…but if a data breach happens outside of your virtual private network, then there’s not much you can do to safeguard that data.
What you can do is avoid the risks of public WiFi connections by using a secure, private, and anonymous VPN service — then pairing it with other security solutions that keep you safe online.
Feel free to give us a call on 207-223-7594.