Is a VPN worth it? When and why to pay for one

Is a VPN worth it?

Maybe you’ve done some research about VPNs but are asking yourself, “do I need a VPN?” For those who know little about the benefits of having one, this is a common question to ask. The short answer to this question is yes, investing in a VPN is worth it, especially if you value online privacy and encryption while surfing the internet.

VPNs, or virtual private networks, create a private network for one’s computer while using a public internet connection. VPNs conceal an IP address to make actions on the internet almost untraceable. To learn more about why a VPN is necessary and other information about why a VPN is worth it, continue reading.

5 reasons why you need a VPN

1. VPNs protect you on public networks

To better understand how a VPN protects your personal privacy, consider the following scenario. You head to Starbucks to grab a coffee and do a few hours of work. It might be normal for you to connect to the open WiFi network there; however, think twice before doing this without a VPN.

Do you know if the WiFi network is legitimate? There might also be hackers intercepting the traffic on that WiFi network. Connecting to an open WiFi network like this one can lead to a variety of security breaches on your device, including a man-in-the-middle attack. However, connecting to an open network through a VPN encrypts your data and prevents anyone from meddling with it.

2. VPNs protect you from your internet service provider (ISP)

Hacking is less of a concern when you’re browsing the internet from your own network at home. However, your internet service provider is the one to watch out for at home. ISPs have access to enormous amounts of data about you and your online habits.

The US Congress, for example, has given ISPs the ability to sell your information to third parties. Additionally, users often have limited ability in choosing ISPs. In some neighborhoods and cities, there are only one or two ISPs that offer wired internet service. Setting up a VPN prevents ISPs from selling your data to other people and making money off of data about your internet usage.

This concern is even more pressing in oppressive countries like China, where your browsing history could land you in jail.

3. VPNs allow you to change your location online

VPNs are especially handy if you are living or traveling outside of your home country. Without a VPN, you may find yourself using websites in different languages because the websites are localized to your current location. If you are from the United States but traveling abroad, you can VPN back to a familiar location and access web pages in your home language. 

You can also do the opposite. If you are at home in the United States, you can use your VPN to access a foreign location in order to legally watch shows or movies from another country. And because a VPN funnels your internet traffic, it still protects your identity when accessing foreign locations on the internet.

4. VPNs are easy and inexpensive to set up

Regardless of the VPN service you choose to use, setting up a VPN is easy and painless. The first step is to download the app provided by your VPN service for both your desktop and mobile devices. Aftering setting up a username and password, or logging in with your existing information, check to make sure it’s using your accurate location. And that’s it; it’s that simple!

5. VPNs add encryption to everything you do online

Ultimately, the decisions you make online are completely up to you. However, by using a VPN, you have the ability to add a level of encryption to all of your data. This is increasingly important in an era where accessing other’s personal data is becoming a huge concern.

The dangers of using a free VPN

If paying for a VPN is out of your budget, using a free VPN is an alternative. However, there are definite drawbacks and concerns to using a free version. The common phrase, “you get what you pay for” is applicable in terms of selecting a VPN. The more you are willing to invest into a VPN with a reputable company, the more likely your data will be protected. However, you can still select a free service to use as long as you take the below information to heart in choosing a reputable VPN provider.

One of the main draws to using a VPN is to protect yourself from hackers. However, there are some free VPNs that actually install malware onto your devices, which is a huge security concern while spending time on the internet. 

While VPNs are meant to protect your data from third-party snoopers, many free VPNs sell your data to others. Third-party snoopers typically use this information to better target ads to individuals. Where a VPN is supposed to be the protector over your data, many pawn off your data to the highest-paying organization.

Lastly, free VPNs often limit the amount of data you can use and only cover one or two devices. They also don’t usually have the fastest speed, so downloading 4K videos and large format files takes longer than normal. In order to get the data usage you want, many free services will entice you to upgrade to a paid version. At this rate, it might be better to just purchase a VPN through a reputable service. 

Keep these things in mind if you choose to look into a free VPN provider.

What to look for in a VPN service

While deciding on a VPN to purchase, consider the following.

  • How much data use does the VPN offer per day?
  • How reputable is the company?
  • What features does the VPN offer?
  • Additionally, look for VPN services that allow you to stream video content, as some VPNs won’t unblock services such as Netflix.

Ultimately, the choice here is not to decide whether or not you should use a VPN. Rather, what you should decide is how much you are willing to spend on a VPN and what services work best to meet your needs. 

Bottom line

Data is one of the most valuable commodities on the planet. Online data is sold through a variety of platforms and there is only so much control individuals have to protect their privacy online. However, using a VPN will let you gain back some level of control over the data you share with your ISP and other third parties. So in short, if you were asking yourself if a VPN is worth it, the answer is a resounding yes.

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