what is a virtual private network


With over 4.3 billion active users, the internet is an open hub that almost anyone can access. Now, more and more of those users are turning to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to keep their browsing secure. In early 2019, 25% of internet users have accessed a VPN, and 35% of all desktop users used them every day. 

Even with its growing popularity, there might still be confusion on what a VPN is and how it helps. 


What is a Virtual Private Network?


A VPN is a secure connection to add privacy to either private or public networks that you would pay for monthly. Keep in mind that VPNs use the internet connection that is available, so if you aren’t connected, you cannot use a VPN. 

You might already use a VPN for business purposes, especially if you work remotely. They are still widely used to protect a company’s sensitive information, but lately people have been using them for personal use as well. 


How do VPNs Work?


Any device that connects to the internet has an IP address. This “Internet Protocol” address is an assigned number you have that gets linked to your online activities. This isn’t something you do; it’s done by your internet provider. It’s not a bad thing, but it does expose where you’re computing (whether it be at home or away). 

When you use a VPN, it hides your true IP address by giving you a temporary one. In turn that helps you stay anonymous while browsing the web. Your computer, or whatever device you are using, will act as if it is on the same network as your VPN. For instance, if your VPNs server is in a different country, it’ll appear as though you’re coming from that country too. 


How do VPNs help?


  • Increased anonymity: When your real IP address is hidden, outsiders cannot track where you are coming from. 

  • Data protection: VPNs will encrypt the data you transfer over a public Wi-Fi. 

  • More web access: VPNs could allow you to access blocked websites, but definitely be careful with this. 

  • Better security: There are so many cyber threats out there. Using a VPN helps you fight against hackers and other attacks because of how secure it is. 


Before you buy


Make sure you do your research before purchasing a VPN service. Everyone has different needs. If you’re using it for a business, you might look for something more expansive than someone simply using it for extra security on a public Wi-Fi. If you need a place to start, here’s a list of some VPN services you could try.