Editor's PickInvesting

Everything you need to know about VPNs

3 Mins read

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is well established within the gaming and streaming communities.

However, for many others it remains an ambiguous tool. This article will establish what VPNs are, how they vary in service, and when they should be used.

Price variations

Within the market of VPNs is a variation of free services, such as Urban-VPN, and paid services like NordVPN. The main difference in service is that the majority of free VPNs incorporate adverts into your browsing. Alongside this, many free services fail to unblock Netflix or operate in China. A common argument in favor of utilizing paid VPNs centers the extent of server locations and bandwidth. Some free VPNs limit data usage to 500MB a month, whilst paid VPNs apply no limitations.

However, not all free services can be painted with the same brush. Whilst Hola VPN sells its client’s unused bandwidth to the Global Data Market, Betternet VPN shares the data of its clients with advertisers. Opposing both of these providers is Urban VPN, which is not only secure but also comes with no bandwidth or usage limits and can unblock sites such as Netflix. Therefore it is not the price of the VPN at hand which reduces its quality, but the reliability of the service provider.

What do paid VPNs have to offer and how do they differ from each other?

Paid VPNs tend to offer a wider variety of server locations. These VPN services also go a few steps further with regards to security measures. The most common measure is the adoption of a kill switch which monitors the customer’s connection to the server. The aim of the kill switch is to deter unprotected connections from joining devices. Therefore, if the server of your provider ever fails, the kill switch will immediately block access on your device. Extending beyond this is the use of double VPN, and protection from IPv6 and DNS leaks. A DNS leak is linked to the domain name system. When you enter a website into a search engine it is flagged to the DNS of your internet service provider (ISP). Through this your ISP is enabled to log all your searches. There are free DNS leakage tests online, and if these tests tell you your ISP’s server then there has been a leak.

Meanwhile, an IVp6 leak refers to Internet protocol, which provides the location for computers using networks. Third parties are sometimes able to make an IVp6 request, and if they gain information on your identity then this is the leak. Finally is the use of split tunneling which enables you to route certain aspects of your device traffic through a VPN, thus encrypting them. This occurs whilst your other devices have direct access to the internet without encryption. In other words, split tunneling allows users to use secure networks at the same time as public networks.

When to use VPNs

One of the main uses of VPNs is to avoid targeted bandwidth throttling. Throttling is the process of ISPs deliberately slowing the internet speed of consumers. This slower speed directly impacts the amount of bandwidth a customer may use, thus limiting activities such as gaming and streaming which require a large bandwidth. Throttling is intended to reduce internet traffic and ensure a consistent experience for all users. However, by using a VPN ISPs are unable to monitor your internet activity through your device not being traceable to your address. This then allows for the use of a large bandwidth without limitations or disruption.
An even more common use of VPNs is to increase privacy. VPNs limit who can access your information and data, whilst also masking your IP address. A common use of your data is marketing attempts by businesses who monitor your location, interests, activity.
A third use of VPNs is to avoid pricing discrimination when shopping online. This is useful because ecommerce stores tend to supply a variation of prices for products which change depending on buyer location. The use of VPN allows you to change the appearance of your location and see if you can get a cheaper price for the same service.
VPNs may be used to access more of the internet and bypass restrictions. For example, many users opt to use VPNs to unblock Netflix in other countries.
Our last example of using VPN is to public wifi more securely. Using unsecured public networks means that your browsing activity or other private information is at grave risk of being obtained. VPNs make it significantly harder for this data to be accessed, allowing you to browse freely in public spaces.

Final statements

A VPN is a virtual private network which masks the IP address of its users and reroutes their location. Within the market there is a variation of prices for VPN services. Whilst some free VPNs lack security or place limitations on data and bandwidth usage, some are reliable and it simply depends on the provider. Often, paid VPNs offer a wider variety of server locations and have additional security measures such as kill switches and protection from both DNS and IVp6 data leaks. VPNs are typically used to avoid bandwidth throttling and increase privacy. Additional reasons include: avoiding pricing discrimination regarding ecommerce, bypassing internet restrictions, and using public wifi in a more secure way.