What Exactly is a VPN?

VPNs have been become so commonplace within our connected world, that it is difficult to do anything online these days without seeing something about VPNs. VPNs are literally everywhere you look, and the competition between VPN providers is fierce. To choose the best VPN service for your unique set of needs, you should know what’s available so you can make an educated decision.

Choose Wisely

To really get to the bottom of what a VPN connection can do for you, it is important to recognise that there are different types of VPNs packages and each VPN company offers its own suite of special features and tools to protect the privacy and anonymity of its users. It is also important to remember that no matter what each company promises, they should all be able to provide protection from unwanted onlookers. If a particular VPN service is not able to offer that basic level of peace of mind, it is best to look elsewhere for a solution that cares about its users.

What is a VPN?

To start with, we should define VPN. The acronym stands for, “Virtual Private Network.” A VPN company will have many servers spread around the globe which they use to facilitate internet traffic for their users. Sometimes the servers are physical ones that the VPN company owns and operates themselves, and sometimes a VPN will rent space on third-party servers. In both cases, a user can connect to the servers of their VPN meaning the VPN is actually handling all online queries and responses. Traffic that travels between the user and the VPN service is fully encrypted which is why they have become so popular. A good VPN should be able to protect your search data from everyone, including hackers, marketing companies, ISPs, and even governments who are keen on tracking online activity.

Types of Service

The answer to the popular question, “What is VPN?” can be quite different for users of different types of VPN services. VPNs can be roughly categorized into two main groups: free and paid.

Free VPNs usually require no signup process and are simple to connect to. As there are no payment issues to worry about companies offering free anonymity services don’t need to validate their users identifiable information. While that may seem like great news from a privacy perspective, there are a couple of concerns with free VPN solutions. For one thing, the companies behind free VPNs are famous for being quite ambiguous, meaning your traffic is most likely being logged. Speed and bandwidth are also very limited with free services.

Paid VPNs, on the other hand, generally follow good privacy practices by not logging your personal information, provide fast connections, allow for large data transfers, and much more.

Many of them go so far as to fight ads and other unwanted internet traffic from getting to your device. Prices vary quite wildly when it comes to paid VPN services, but by carefully weighing the feature sets offered by various companies with your own personal needs, you should be able to see which service is the best fit for you.

For more information on what is comprised with a good VPN, see VPN Veteran.