The Need for VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) allows you to connect to the internet via a server run by a VPN provider. All data traveling between your computer, phone or tablet, and this “VPN server” is securely encrypted. As a result of this setup, VPNs:

  • Provide privacy by hiding your internet activity from your ISP (and government).
  • Allow you to evade censorship (by school, work, your ISP, or government).
  • Allow you to “geo-spoof” your location in order to access services unfairly denied to you based on your geographical location (or when you are on holiday).
  • Protect you against hackers when using a public WiFi hotspot.
  • Allow you to P2P download in safety.

In order to use a VPN you must first sign up for a VPN service, which typically cost between $5 and $10 a month (with reductions for buying six months or a year at a time). A contract with a VPN service is required to use a VPN.

Note: using a VPN service does not replace the need for an internet service provider (ISP). It is your ISP that provides your internet connection in the first place.

Commercial Vs. Corporate VPN

VPN technology was originally developed to allow remote workers to securely connect to corporate networks in order to access corporate resources when away from the office. Although VPN is still used in this way, the term now usually refers to commercial VPN services that allow customers to access the internet privately through their servers.

This article (and the BestVPN website) deals exclusively with these commercial VPN services. Use of the term VPN here should not be confused with private corporate networks. Those are an entirely different kettle of fish (despite similarities and crossovers in the underlying technology.)

How Does it Work?

Normally, when you connect to the internet, you first connect to your internet service provider, which then connects you to any websites (or other internet resources) that you wish to visit. All your internet traffic passes through your ISP’s servers, and can be viewed by your ISP.

When using a VPN you connect to a server run by your VPN provider (a “VPN server”) via an encrypted connection (sometimes referred to as a “VPN tunnel”). This means that all data traveling between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted so that only you and the VPN server can “see” it.

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