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Have you ever logged into a public WiFi network at a coffee shop? Or maybe you’ve logged into a work network or your bank account on a home network. 

We’re living more of our lives online, managing work, finances, and other essential documents. It’s more important than ever to protect your online privacy so valuable information isn’t made public.

Connecting to the internet through a virtual private network (VPN) empowers you to stay secure while you’re online.

Keep reading to learn:

  • How VPNs work
  • How to use a VPN
  • The advantages of a VPN

What Is a VPN and How Do You Use It?

A virtual private network (VPN) provides a secure connection for your devices when you access the internet. When your connection is secure, your information stays private. 

At this point, you might be asking how does a VPN protect you? And how does a VPN work?

VPNs act like a middle man between your internet service provider (ISP) and the internet. When you route your connection through a VPN, you access the internet through your VPN provider’s private server. 

One of the main benefits of a VPN is that your data is encrypted before it’s transmitted. Using a VPN also hides your IP address, which protects your identity while you’re online.

Encryption Basics

Encryption hides your information by encoding it so it can only be read with the encryption key. Without the encryption key, your data appears nonsensical.

When you access the internet through a VPN, only your computer and the VPN have the key that can unscramble your encrypted data, otherwise known as decryption.

For example, if you enter your credit card information to make an online payment, that data stays encrypted until it reaches the seller or service provider. Your data remains encrypted and secure.

Each VPN provider has a slightly different process, but two main things happen each time you connect to a VPN:

  1. Your data passes through a secure tunnel where it is encrypted, making it unreadable when it travels between your device and the VPN server.
  2. Your device’s IP address will then match the VPN server’s IP address, which masks your real IP address to protect your identity.

Advantages of a VPN

Whether you’re considering a VPN for personal use or your company, there are various benefits to a VPN.

Using a VPN empowers you to share files securely, without worrying that the content will be exposed or compromised. Additionally, you can access the internet anonymously and protect your identity. 

VPN services keep your IP address, passwords, location, and other identifying data safe from hackers or “big data” collectors. So, if you want to keep your information away from big tech companies and malicious attackers, a VPN might be right for you. 

And some of the best benefits of a VPN? They’re affordable and easy to use. 

VPN services cost as little as a few dollars a month. The software is intuitively designed, so you can use it even if you’re a beginner to internet privacy.

Understanding the pros and cons of VPN can help you decide if you should use one.

Types of VPN

There are several types of VPNs, and it can be hard to understand how they’re different. However, VPNs fall into one of two categories, which makes it easier to figure out which VPN is right for you.

Remote Access VPN

A remote access VPN routes your connection through a secure remote server that permits you to establish a private connection. Additionally, it encrypts data to secure it. 

Remote access VPNs are the most popular options for personal use. Additionally, they form the infrastructure of commercial VPN services. To use a remote access VPN, you typically have to install the VPN software on your computer and log in to secure your internet connection.

Ease of use is one of the main benefits of a VPN with the remote access model. This type of VPN is simple enough for new users, making it an optimal choice for personal use. 

However, remote access VPNs usually aren’t a viable option for scaled operations or businesses.

Site-to-Site VPN

Site-to-site VPNs allow multiple users to access each other’s resources from fixed locations. For example, if you’re working in a company with office locations in various cities, they might use a site-to-site VPN to secure company data.

Site-to-site VPNs secure data by ensuring tall local area connections (LAN) connect to the same wide area network (WAN). All the offices are connected to one another, and the data they share is encrypted and protected by the VPN. 

Site-to-site VPNs encrypt all gateways, which means users don’t need to download VPN software to secure their data. Once a user logs into the company network, the VPN goes to work.

There are two types of site-to-site VPN services: 

  • Intranet VPNs are used when one company wants to securely connect multiple locations. 
  • Extranet VPNs connect multiple companies so they can securely share data and resources.

With site-to-site, the benefits of a VPN include security, efficiency, and scalability, which makes them ideal for corporations.

In addition to protecting your company’s network, it’s crucial that you take proper steps to secure your website

How Secure Is a VPN?

The primary benefits of a VPN are identity protection and data security. VPNs use encryption to protect your data from hackers and big tech companies. However, you can still be at risk of malware, trojans, and viruses when you use a VPN.

On the whole, a VPN is an excellent way to protect your personal data, but you still need to take other precautions on the internet. 

If you visit a phishing website or download a compromised file, you’re at risk from malicious software (also known as malware).

Malware is software used by hackers to access your devices or network and damage them without your knowledge. 

Types of malware include:

  • Spyware
  • Ransomware
  • Trojan horses
  • Viruses

You can trigger a malware attack by clicking on a compromised email link. But, hackers also have more sophisticated tools to help them access other people’s computers. 

Even if you use a VPN to connect to the internet, you should update your software and backup your files regularly to protect against malware attacks.

You can also use malware scanning software, such as MalwareBytes, to find and remove malicious software on your device.

VPN Protocols

The quality of your VPN depends on the VPN protocols your provider uses. VPN protocols are how your VPN service encrypts your data and protects your information. 

VPN protocols affect the speed and stability of your connection and your level of encryption. 

The following types of protocols offer fast, stable connections and a high level of encryption: 

  • WireGuard
  • SoftEther
  • IKEv2/IPSec

When you assess the benefits of a VPN and compare service providers, make sure to consider the protocols.

Internet Tracking: What Does a VPN Hide?

Online privacy and anonymity are two main benefits of a VPN. But can people still track you when you use a VPN?

Let’s take a look. 

A VPN masks your IP address and encrypts your data to protect your privacy. 

However, there are other ways you can be tracked online, including:

  • Malware
  • Cookies
  • Digital fingerprinting
  • DNS leaks 
  • Social media

Cookies can track your internet behavior even if you use a VPN. To prevent cookies from tracking you, you need to adjust your internet browser settings.

Digital fingerprinting (also known as canvas fingerprinting) creates a digital profile using information like your computer settings and web browser preferences. 

Using a VPN helps cover your data, but if you’re serious about online privacy, you can configure your browser settings for added security.

In particular, we recommend you limit extensions and block third-party cookies.

Considerations Before Using a VPN

If you’re sold on the benefits of a VPN, the next step is to choose the right option for you. 

Here are some things to consider before you use a VPN:

Device compatibility

VPNs can be used on laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. They can also work on a variety of operating systems. Before you purchase VPN services, check to see if your provider is compatible with all of your devices. 

Keep in mind that some routers are not compatible with VPNs, so check that yours is. NordVPN is often rated by reviewers as the best VPN for multiple devices.

Ease of use and customer service

Most VPN software is easy to use. If you’re using a VPN to secure your personal connection, your provider likely has extensive tutorials and resources you can use. If you prefer to rely on customer service, read a few online reviews to see how other consumers rate the provider’s customer service.

Internet connection speed

Your internet connection speed will be determined by your device and the VPN protocols. Encrypting data can use up significant processing power. Check to see if your processor and router can handle a VPN without slowing down. Tools like Speedtest can measure a change in speed after you connect through a VPN.

Is a VPN worth it? We use the internet to manage almost every aspect of our lives, from communication to financial and health records. 

Without proper precautions, our identities and personal data can be accessed by malicious third parties. 

Tools like VPNs can help keep your information secure and private while you’re online. Although there are multiple benefits of a VPN, it’s also important to follow other best practices for internet privacy.

To learn more about hosting your website on a private server, explore Bluehost’s VPS plans today.

  • Machielle Thomas

    Machielle is a content enthusiast who has a passion for bridging the gap between audiences and brands through impactful storytelling. Machielle has also spoken at dozens of WordCamps throughout the years.

    Texas State University
    Previous Experience
    Brand Content, Content Marketing, Brand Lead, Operations Lead, Course Instructor
    Other publications
    Shopify, Contently
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