Perhaps the most common use of a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is for employees to connect with the office from home or while they’re traveling. A VPN can also connect multiple sites across an organization, like retail stores or remote offices. But VPNs aren’t just for big companies anymore, so if you feel like you need a VPN, you’re probably right. More and more individuals are using them for their personal computers.
Why You Need a VPN
Individuals use VPNs for the same reason businesses do: security. VPNs allow you to use the public Internet with the same degree of privacy you’d have on computers that were physically connected to each other. Think of the Channel Tunnel connecting England and France. The Atlantic is the Internet; the “Chunnel” is a VPN: a safe, secure tunnel that protects you from the sharks and other predators lurking in the ocean of the Internet.
Identity theft is a big problem, and it’s just getting bigger. Whether you’re doing online banking, shopping, sending emails, or just logging in to Facebook, your information is out there in the Internet ocean. With a VPN, you can transmit your personal data knowing it’s safe, even if you’re using a public Wi-Fi network (a risky move without a VPN). Nobody is reading your emails or capturing your passwords; you’re safe in your Chunnel.
Just like your house or apartment, your computer has an address. Called an IP address, it contains information about your physical location. It’s also attached to everything you do on the Internet. Everything.
That data is a gold mine for advertisers who want to spend their money efficiently by targeting people who have shown interest in their products. Have you ever been on Google and noticed an ad for a store you just visited? That’s because your computer’s IP address connects your visit to the online store with your Google search. A VPN camouflages your IP address. You can search and shop all you want without that data being tracked to your computer.
Learn More: What Your ISP Knows About Your Browsing Habits
Some countries block access to sites like Facebook. Other countries censor information that is not approved by the government. If you’re visiting one of these countries, a VPN can give you the same freedom of access that you have at home by routing you through a server in the U.S. It works around censorship by making it look like you’re somewhere else.
Censorship aside, some sites and services are only available in certain countries. Say you’re in Europe and want to watch something on Hulu… but Hulu is geographically limited to the U.S. A VPN gets around these limitations by making it look like you’re in the U.S. even if you’re not.
Learn More: Here’s Why You Need a VPN for Streaming
Originally intended for business, VPNs are becoming increasingly common for individual users who use their laptop, tablet, or smartphones everywhere. They provide private access to sites and services through a secure tunnel that protects the user from the surrounding “ocean” of the Internet and all the predators lurking there.
Related Read: Online Security Checklist