What are the benefits of a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is primarily protection-oriented cybersecurity software. The first VPNs were launched nearly three decades ago to provide tech employees with secure remote access to businesses' databases. Internet-wide encryption (HTTPS protocol) was not yet implemented, making VPN security nothing short of revolutionary.
VPNs contribute to personal online safety by neutralizing surveillance and blocking malware and trackers. Fully-developed providers, like NordVPN, offer genuine no-logs policies and advanced tunneling protocols to guard user online privacy. Simultaneously, thousands of speedy worldwide servers bypass geographical content blocks and open unrestricted Internet access.
Over the last three decades, VPNs have been armed with numerous additional benefits, like Dark Web monitoring and server obfuscation. In this article, we'll elaborate on the many VPN benefits and outline a few limitations to give you a full view.
What do VPNs do?
At its core, a VPN is a powerful data encryption tool. It creates a secure and encrypted tunnel between the user device and the VPN server encrypting all information flowing through it. A robust VPN hides the original user's IP address and issues an alternative, simultaneously contributing to information freedom and online privacy.
But contemporary VPNs are much more than that. They are equipped with powerful additional tools that monitor the dark web for sensitive data leaks, provide real-time malware protection, block access to malicious websites, and secure file transfers. Alongside cybersecurity benefits, many use streaming VPNs to access geographically restricted Netflix, Max, Disney+, or Apple TV streaming libraries.
Privacy protection, online security, and the ability to bypass geo-restrictions make VPNs genuinely versatile programs. But don't rely solely on our word, as you can try out professional VPNs like NordVPN or Surfshark using a free trial or a 30-day money-back guarantee to see for yourself.
Benefits of using a VPN
VPNs can be installed on a router to secure entire home or business computer networks, as well as make a perfect traveling companion for public Wi-Fi safety. It all depends on your needs and know-how. Here are the main VPN benefits.
Online Privacy Protection
Political activists, journalists, and generally cautious Internet users use VPNs to protect online activities from unwanted attention. Without a VPN, online data flows through the Internet Service Provider's (ISP) servers unencrypted that monitors and stores user data. ISPs share this data with governmental institutions on demand, which is particularly troubling in authoritarian countries. VPN encrypts data going through ISP servers, that makes data not readable without decryption key.
Anonymous VPN service providers maintain a genuine no-logs policy. They do not collect, store, or share user data, using a RAM-based server structure to wipe out browsing activities once the session ends. You don't have to look far for practical examples, as NordVPN was one of the most downloaded apps during the Hong Kong protests.
Information routed through the VPN server cannot be intercepted and modified. The ISP sees that its user is connected to a VPN server, but cannot discern any activities, including visited websites, used applications, file downloads, etc. VPNs are often used with additional privacy protection software like the TOR browser and anonymous messaging apps.
Over the last few years, VPNs crossed a few bridges by releasing robust cybersecurity improvements. Tools, like NordVPN's Threat Protection, include real-time malware protection expanding the use case list. VPNs are an invaluable part of a broader cybersecurity kit, alongside antiviruses and firewalls.
A relatively recent WireGuard protocol update solved several problems, including a massive OpenVPN codebase and bouncing connection speed. WireGuard runs on a dense, easily-auditable code that guarantees a steady and fast connection speed, making VPNs perfect for public Wi-Fi safety.
A more recent addition is a Dark Web Monitor. Stolen user information is passed around illegal online markets to commit more serious frauds. A VPN scans such sites for leaked information and alerts the user to act upon detection immediately.
Unrestricted Internet Access
The Internet is divided into regions with different information availability. For example, streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ offer different content to viewers in the US than those in the EU. Simultaneously, due to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws, many US websites are inaccessible from Europe.
A VPN is the top tool to bypass online geographical restrictions and unblock more content. A worldwide server network allows the user to obtain a new regional IP address and unlock content restricted to that geographical location. For example, a user from Germany can connect to a server in the US and browse the Internet as if they were there.
VPNs are widely popular in countries like Russia and China that restrict access to popular websites like Instagram and Wikipedia. A VPN allows users in such countries to unblock websites from anywhere and avoid government censorship.
VPN for business
The first VPNs were business-only applications later adapted for wider commercial use. Although their commercial counterparts somewhat overshadowed business VPNs, they jumped right back in during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Most remote employees were introduced to business VPNs to guarantee safe remote access to sensitive business information.
A business VPN allows only specific IP addresses to communicate with business servers. Each employee connects to a specific VPN server, which connects to the business intranet via an encrypted tunnel. Remember that business VPNs aren't user privacy-protection software but secure communication from outside espionage.
VPN for gaming
Gamers use VPNs to solve latency issues, protect their devices from DDoS and Doxxing attacks, and access geographically restricted gaming servers. Low ping is essential for video games, especially as competitive as Valorant. If a player experiences high ping and stutter, they can connect to a VPN server nearby chosen gaming server. It will reduce data travel paths and positively impact session latency.
Uncompetitive players use DDoS and Doxxing attacks to overflood victims' IP addresses with fake requests or expose their personal details online. Both threats target the victim's unique IP address, which is impossible if they use a VPN for IP obfuscation. Lastly, a VPN allows players to access geographically restricted games and gaming servers.
VPN for streaming
Due to distribution agreements, people worldwide receive access to different streaming content libraries. Those living in the US may not have the Spirited Away movie on Netflix, while UK residents do. Not to mention whole streaming platforms not being available in certain countries.
A streaming VPN will help you change your Netflix region and unlock foreign catalogs, it will also give you access to numerous other streaming serviced that are initially geo-blocked.
Moreover, streaming fans use VPN’s SmartDNS technology to access worldwide streaming content even on devices that can’t have a VPN installed. Meaning, you can stream whatever you want even on your Apple TV.
Here's a life hack that everybody likes. With a few little tricks, VPNs can actually help you save money on online subscriptions. Popular services like Netflix and Spotify have different regional prices, so why buy where it's more expensive if you can avoid it?
The price difference between the cheapest and the most expensive Netflix subscription is over $10. And that's per month! By buying Netflix where it's cheapest, you can save over a hundred bucks annually, more than what a VPN costs. Furthermore, a VPN expands streaming content options, so there's really little reason not to use it when hunting for cheaper online subscriptions.
The best VPNs provide these additional benefits:
- A kill Switch to ensure online safety if a VPN connection drops or the user connects to a different network.
- Split-tunneling allows for managing online traffic and avoiding speed reduction on apps that do not require additional encryption.
- A VPN that does not limit simultaneous connections is the best choice to protect all devices with one VPN account.
- Most advanced VPNs include a functional ad blocker to clean the web from trackers and adware.
- Server obfuscation is especially important in regions with tight governmental censorship and Internet access control.
- A Dedicated IP feature assigns a static IP address to secure online purchases and banking operations.
- Onion over VPN strongly boosts your online safety by combining the encryption of the VPN between your device and the server.
- VPNs that support P2P file sharing can help you stay anonymous while torrenting files and avoid ISP connection throttles.
Limitations of VPNs
Like all software, VPNs have limits. Pay close attention if you use a VPN to avoid political persecution or protect your online identity because using it outside of technological capabilities can put you at risk.
VPN does not guarantee online anonymity. IP address obfuscation and additional encryption significantly improve online privacy but do not ensure a 100% anonymous browsing experience. Online surveillance methods like browser fingerprinting monitor user details outside of the VPN scope, and that's why combining VPN with the TOR browser is a good idea for the most sensitive operations.
One of the most common VPN disadvantages is the connection speed drop. Because VPNs apply additional encryption and reroute the data flow through an additional server, it reduces the overall connection speed. Second-rate VPNs can decrease the connection speed to an unusable state. Meanwhile, noteworthy options will have a minimal drop. Occasionally VPNs can even increase the connection speed.
Additionally, VPNs should not be used instead of an antivirus. Although some already provide real-time malware protection, they do not perform full system scans. If your device had a previous infection or the virus sneaks in via USB, it will likely bypass VPN detection that focuses on online threats.
Finally, you should be aware that there are regions where VPNs are illegal. For example, if you use a VPN in countries such as North Korea, Iraq, Belarus, or Turkmenistan, you may end up in jail. However, in countries with such intense Internet surveillance, it's tough to ignore privacy violations, so if you decide to use a VPN, make sure you connect to the obfuscated server that masks a VPN connection.
Nowadays, VPNs have a lot to offer if you know how to choose a VPN that’s worth attention. It's a public secret that BigTech corporations and ISPs collect user data undermining the right to privacy. Simultaneously, cybercriminals use it to personalize phishing emails and social engineering scams.
VPNs address numerous online safety and privacy issues. Providers, like NordVPN, additionally inspect downloads for viruses and disable hundreds of online trackers and ads. IP address obfuscation denies numerous IP-based cyber attacks and opens unrestricted information access.
Because of use case versatility, VPNs are used by advanced and casual Internet users alike. However, they have setbacks, like connection speed reduction and limits to online privacy. A VPN on its own is more than enough to unblock Netflix but should be combined with additional cybersecurity software like antivirus and an anonymous browser for most sensitive operations.
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Is a VPN worth it?
Yes, a VPN is an essential online safety and privacy protection tool with numerous benefits. Fully-developed VPNs, like NordVPN, encrypt online traffic protecting it from third-party surveillance and blocking annoying ads. Furthermore, it provides unrestricted Internet access and more streaming content options.
Should my business use a VPN?
Yes, businesses should use VPNs to provide employees with secure remote access to business servers. Most businesses used VPNs during Covid-19 lockdowns to protect WFH employees from cyber criminals. Simultaneously, enterprises that allow BYOD policies use VPNs for public Wi-Fi safety.
Are free VPNs safe?
That depends. Some free VPNs collect and sell user data or have outdated cybersecurity protocols putting users at risk. Although, on rare occasions, you can encounter a genuinely ethical free VPN, it's best to utilize a freemium VPN like Atlas VPN that offers a limited but reliable free version.