What is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is like a tunnel on the internet that keeps you safe while you travel online. When you use the internet without a VPN, it's like walking on an open road where others can see what you're doing and where you're going. But with a VPN, you become invisible to those curious eyes, and your information becomes a secret only you and the people you trust can see. It's especially useful when you're using public Wi-Fi at coffee shops or airports, as it protects your personal information from sneaky hackers. So, think of a VPN as your trusty guardian that ensures your online activities stay private and secure.
How to use a VPN
Using a VPN is quite simple, even for older adults who may not consider themselves experts with the online world. A VPN offers an added layer of security and privacy to your internet activities, so if you’re seeking that extra protection, it’s not a bad idea to consider a VPN. Here's a quick breakdown of how to use a VPN:
- Choose a VPN: Start by selecting a reputable VPN service from a trusted provider. There are many options available, so look for one that suits your needs, such as ease of use, server locations, and customer support.
- Install the VPN: Once you've chosen your VPN, download and install the application on your device. Most VPNs support various platforms like Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
- Sign in or create an account: Open the VPN app and either sign in with your existing account or create a new one if required. Some VPNs offer free trials, but for full features and better security, consider subscribing to a paid plan.
- Connect to a server: After logging in, the VPN app will present you with a list of servers in different locations. Simply select a server you want to connect to. If you're concerned about privacy, choose a server that's geographically farther away from your actual location.
- Connect and stay protected: Hit the "Connect" button, and the VPN will establish a secure and encrypted connection between your device and the server you selected. Once connected, your internet traffic will now pass through the VPN tunnel, keeping your data safe from prying eyes.
- Disconnect when not needed: Remember to disconnect from the VPN when you're done using it, especially if you're on a limited data plan or if you're accessing services that might be blocked by the VPN's server location.
Popular uses for a VPN
While VPNs are widely used for online privacy, in recent years people have discovered that using a VPN can sometimes help you secure better pricing or discounts for various products and services. Here are some ways a VPN can potentially assist in this regard:
- Geo-Specific Discounts: Online retailers may offer different prices based on your location. By connecting to a VPN server in a different country or region where the product or service is offered at a lower price, you can take advantage of geo-specific discounts.
- Dynamic Pricing Avoidance: Some websites use dynamic pricing, where prices change based on factors like your browsing history, location, or device. By using a VPN, you can reset these factors and see more neutral pricing.
- Airline Tickets and Hotel Bookings: The cost of airline tickets and hotel bookings can vary depending on your location. A VPN can help you check prices from different regions to find the best deal like the best country to book flights.
- Software and Digital Products: Some software and digital products may have different pricing tiers for different countries. Using a VPN to appear as if you're in a country with lower pricing might allow you to purchase the product at a more affordable rate.
- Local Deals and Promotions: Businesses may offer special deals or promotions exclusively to customers from specific regions. A VPN can enable you to access these local offers and get better pricing.
It’s essential to approach this practice ethically and within legal bounds. Some websites and services have terms of service that prohibit using VPNs to access geo-restricted content or manipulate pricing. Additionally, companies are becoming more sophisticated in detecting VPN usage for such purposes. Moreover, if you're dealing with sensitive transactions or sharing personal information, it's crucial to use reputable VPN providers with strong security measures to protect your data. Keep in mind that while a VPN can potentially help you find better pricing, it's not a guarantee, and results may vary based on the specific product or service you're interested in purchasing.
While VPNs can be useful to consumers in the ways mentioned above, they are broadly used for traditional things like personal online privacy and anonymous internet browsing. They can be very useful in the workplace, as well. Let’s go over the common uses for VPNs in more detail:
- Enhanced Online Privacy: By using a VPN, consumers can safeguard their online privacy and personal data from prying eyes, including hackers, advertisers, and even their internet service providers (ISPs). The VPN encrypts internet traffic, making it difficult for anyone to monitor their online activities.
- Accessing Geo-Restricted Content: VPNs enable users to bypass geographic restrictions imposed by websites, streaming services, or online platforms. Consumers can connect to servers in different countries and access content that may not be available in their location, such as exclusive streaming shows or limited online offers.
- Secure Public Wi-Fi Usage: When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops, airports, or hotels, VPNs offer an added layer of security. Consumers can shield their sensitive information, like login credentials and financial details, from potential cyber threats or hackers lurking on unsecured public Wi-Fi connections.
- Safe Torrenting and File Sharing: VPNs provide consumers with anonymity while engaging in peer-to-peer file sharing or torrenting. By masking their IP addresses, users can protect themselves from potential legal consequences or copyright infringement issues.
- Work Remotely and Securely: With the rise of remote work, VPNs allow individuals to connect securely to their company's network from anywhere. This ensures encrypted communication and protects sensitive company data from unauthorized access or interception while working from home or on the go.
By leveraging VPN technology for these purposes, people can take control of their online experience, protect their data, and enjoy unrestricted access to the internet while maintaining privacy and security.
Best VPN providers of 2023
Ready to give a VPN a try? A quick online google search will reveal there are many VPN providers out there. If you’ve never used a VPN before, you may not be sure where to start or who to trust. After some research, we found the following five providers that seem to always make the list of reputable VPN providers across different sources like Forbes and Tom’s Guide. We suggest exploring one of these providers to start:
- Private Internet Access
- Proton VPN
If you’re looking for added protection and capabilities for your online activities, using a VPN is the perfect solution. VPNs enable access to geo-restricted content, ensuring consumers can enjoy a broader range of online content from different regions. VPNs also safeguard sensitive information on public Wi-Fi networks and provide anonymity during torrenting and file sharing. Additionally, they allow remote workers to connect securely to their company's network. Furthermore, by changing their virtual location, users may sometimes access better pricing and discounts for products and services. However, using VPNs ethically and legally is essential, and selecting reputable providers with strong security measures is crucial for protecting data.