A Virtual Private Network or a ‘VPN' provides its online user anonymity by creating a private network on a public connection. It does this by masking your IP address with a system-generated IP. By doing this, it is virtually impossible to reach back to the original user.
Apart from protecting your online identity, a VPN also provides end-to-end encryption to completely secure any data transmitted over the network.
With more than 31% of internet users worldwide relying on VPNs, this industry is expected to reach $31.1 billion by the end of 2021. According to a study conducted by Research and Markets, this number is expected to reach a staggering $107.5 billion by 2027.
In view of the current global situation, more than 70% of companies are offering work from home to at least 1/3rd of their employees. However, data protection is important at every step. Sensitive data can be at risk when employees use free or non-secured WiFi networks for work.
How does a VPN work?
VPN creates a virtual tunnel between you and your system and the exit node on the internet, irrespective of the data carrier. It enables secure end-to-end data transmission through that tunnel.
It means, whenever you send any data through a VPN, it scrambles it into an unreadable format through encryption. The exit node has a decryption key that can re-assemble that data into a readable format.
A VPN service provider has servers located in multiple locations worldwide. It then assigns one of these server IP addresses to your system, making it seem as if that was your actual IP address. It prevents any trace back attempts to your device.
Types of VPN Protocols
There are various types of protocols used by VPN apps. However, some of the most commonly used and trusted protocols are listed below:
IKEv2 or Internet Key Exchange version 2 is developed by Cisco and Microsoft. It is a fast and secure protocol especially developed for Mobile users.
OpenVPN is an open-source protocol using OpenSSL and SSLv3/TLSv1. It's fast, secure & works best for laptop and desktop devices.
WireGuard is a new VPN protocol designed to be comparatively simpler in implementation. Having lesser lines of code makes WireGuard less susceptible to security vulnerabilities, and it also becomes easier to manage and audit.
Why do you need a VPN?
With so much dependence on the internet today, we cannot stress the significance of a VPN. Whenever you're surfing the internet or transacting on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, you risk revealing your private information and browsing habits to a stranger, including your ISP. It is best to have a VPN for the following reasons.
- Online security: When you're connected to the internet through an unsecured network, chances are someone can intentionally eavesdrop on your sensitive data like bank or credit card details.
- Online Privacy: A VPN masks your IP address and replaces it with its own server. It ensures anyone, including your ISP, can never trace back your browsing history, downloads, or even your geographical details.
- Access Geo-Blocked Websites & Bypass censorship: One of the main advantages of a VPN is having servers in multiple locations worldwide that enables you to access geo-restricted or censored content from any country. You can connect to a server location of any country from which you want to access the content.
- While Travelling (Either to access Business or Home Network): Whenever you are traveling and have to access your work or business network, you can easily set this up using a VPN. This will enable you to access a Windows Remote Desktop over the internet. You can then use local file shares or even play games over the internet as if you were on the same LAN.
- Protects on Public Wi-Fi network: Since a VPN ensures end-to-end encryption to your connection, no one can access your data when transmitted through the Wi-Fi, even if it's public Wi-Fi.
- Downloading safely & anonymously: The IP masking ensures that none of your online activities are ever traced back to you. You can download any data online with complete safety and anonymity.
Choosing the right VPN: Factors to Consider
- Ease of Use: However secure or feature-rich your Wi-Fi, maybe if it's not easy to set up and use, it's worthless. VPNs, irrespective of their security protocols & elaborate features, should be equally easy to use for every type of user.
- Speed: Many VPNs have a bad reputation when it comes to speedy connections. VPNs tend to trade-off your browsing speed for the additional security they provide. However, many VPNs now do not compromise your browsing speed. You should look for these types of VPNs.
- Privacy Protection: The main motto of a VPN is Privacy Protection.A good VPN should have a strict no-logs policy and never track & store any of your browsing activities.
- Compatibility: A typical user today usually accesses the internet on 3 to 5 devices, including Windows, iOS, Mac, Android, and more. An ideal VPN should be able to protect all of these different devices.
- Server Locations: A good VPN has servers spread across a maximum number of locations worldwide. It gives the user a wide variety of choices to connect & access data from various countries. Apart from that, this also ensures lesser traffic load on individual servers enabling faster response. If your work requires you to travel a lot, this gives you the freedom to easily connect to your home or business network.
- Is Using a VPN Legal in your country?:Some countries have tighter restrictions & strict policies that ban the use of VPNs. China is a major example of this. You will have to check and confirm it is okay to use a VPN in your country.
- Pricing: Pricing can usually play a major role in deciding your choice of a VPN. Many times, you might feel that free VPNs are the best choice economically. However, remember that free VPNs are never actually ‘free.' They might make their users' pay' in other ways than money.
Many free VPNs usually save their user's browsing history and serve them targeted ads. Some VPNs even take this a step ahead and sell your data to third parties. Other drawbacks include implementation of older protocols, no customer support, lesser choice of servers to choose from, poor connection speeds to name a few.
If you are new to VPNs, you can try out Surfshark VPN. Surfshark is a feature-rich VPN that includes unlimited device support, much cheaper and user-friendly. You can learn more about the features and whether it is a good fit for you in this Surfshark VPN review.
Apart from that, you can also go for some other good VPNs like CyberGhost, PIA, NordVPN & ZenMate.
Before you start using a VPN, you should check for all the above factors and select the best.
Depending on your needs, you can either go for a VPN from your workplace, create a VPN server by yourself. You can even sometimes host one out of your house.
Most users generally use a VPN to protect them while torrenting or streaming geo-restricted content that they can't access from their own country.