The days of Wild West are over, or are they? No, they aren’t! They exist, but only on the Internet. Behind every click, lurks some unseen danger. You may not realize the threats because they remain hidden. There are hackers, data miners, government agencies, all looking at your online activities.
They know what you do online. They follow you everywhere you go on the Internet. Those people are totally aware of your online banking activities, about the things you buy, and movies or songs you download. They also know which naughty websites you visit at night (or day, perhaps).
These people are following you everywhere with various intents. Some want to steal your banking details, some want to take over your identity, while others just want to know what you do and then sell all that information to the highest bidder.
Guess what? You are allowing them to do that. You have a weapon – a powerful one – that can hide you and your activities online. No one can see or steal your data, not even your Internet Service Provider. That weapon goes by the name – VPN or Virtual Private Network.
What is a VPN, you ask? Well, it is a technology that will encrypt all your outgoing and incoming data using state-of-the-art encryption technology. So powerful is the encryption that even a supercomputer will take a million years or more to break that encryption. For individual Joes, it is virtually impossible to decipher the ciphertext.
Now that I have managed to scare you, and at the same time, reassure you with my amazing (or pathetic) story-telling skills, let me tell you the 10 advantages of using a VPN.
Just in case you want to know more about a VPN, you can read my full guide here.
Back on track… here are the 10 amazing advantages of using a VPN:
Advantages of Using a VPN
You need to stay away from the prying eyes…
…of copyright crusaders trying to hunt you down when you download something from torrenting sites.
…of nosy government agents, who will blatantly violate your privacy in the name of national security.
…of hackers who will steal your personal identity and financial data.
…of data miners and advertisers who want to blast you with products and services that they will make you believe are godly and heavenly.
…of draconian regimes that will blatantly abuse your human rights and try to stifle your voice by curbing your freedom of speech.
…of religious fanatics who will threaten you with death if you say things that they don’t like (take the recent example of the French teacher Samuel Paty).
You need to stay away from these people. You need to stay safe from these people. There is no denying that we are more vocal on the Internet, making the Internet a perfect place for these threats to exist!
A VPN can protect you from all these threats by hiding your IP address and encrypting your traffic using a state-of-the-art AES algorithm that NSA endorses openly.
Once you use a VPN, it will become impossible for anyone to know who you are and what you are doing online. No one can see your online activities, your financial transactions, etc.
Even if you use public Wi-Fi in places like cafes, school campuses, shops, restaurants, shopping malls, etc., you need not worry at all! Just ensure that you turn on the VPN before you go online.
If anonymity is one face of the coin, security is the other face. In case you are not aware, the AES encryption that the VPNs use is so strong that a supercomputer can take millions of years to break the encryption code.
So, when you use the Internet using a VPN shield, you can happily use your email accounts, social accounts, etc. without worrying about someone getting access to the passwords.
What more? VPN providers like NordVPN offer a full suite of security features that include Malware protection that can prevent your computer from getting infected.
3. Work Remotely
If you are an employee in a corporate office, you most likely use the office intranet or local area connection for work. But what if you have to work remotely. Don’t you get scared by the prospect of corporate espionage? Do you really want to become a pawn in the whole big game?
Why take the risk? If you need to work remotely, especially during situations like the current pandemic, or from a place or country where the government itself engages in such intellectual property thefts, you better get VPN protection.
A VPN will allow you to access confidential information safely. However, do remember that a consumer-grade VPN is different from the VPN used by corporate offices. Most likely, system administrators manually set up such VPNs for the office employees.
Then again, there are other businesses like Cisco that help set up VPNs for large corporations. These VPNs are different, and they come with enterprise-grade security features.
4. Bypass Filters and Unblock Websites
Many VPN services have advertised themselves as a tool to circumvent geo-restrictions put forward by various streaming services. Netflix, for example, has different libraries for different countries. However, people want to watch Netflix’s US library, which supposedly has the best collection.
It is a matter of debate about why some content is available in a certain geographic location only. I will skip that for now. VPNs can indeed bypass such geo-restrictions and allow you to watch streaming content made available only in a particular location.
Of course, those streaming services actively try to prevent VPNs from circumventing such restrictions, but they mostly fail.
Another advantage is that VPNs can bypass strict firewalls like the Great Firewall of China and allow people to access content that is generally restricted within a country. This feature is particularly beneficial for people who want to gain information from countries with draconian laws.
5. Safe Torrenting
It is needless to say that people use torrenting websites to download copyrighted material (mostly). Such materials include movies, songs, documentaries, etc. International copyright laws have made it increasingly difficult for people to access such content. There are people on the lookout to find those who engage in theft of intellectual property (as per copyright advocates).
Visiting a torrenting site like Pirate Bay isn’t illegal, but downloading something copyrighted from a torrenting site is. When you download something from a torrenting site, your ISP or Internet Service Provider can see that. And, if your ISP wants, it can inform that to authorities. This can lead to hefty fines.
The only way to circumvent this problem is to use a VPN. A VPN will hide your online activities so that your ISP won’t even know what you are doing online. Of course, your ISP will know that you are using a VPN, but as long as using a VPN is legal in your country, your ISP cannot say anything to you!
6. Human Rights Activism
We all know about a few countries where draconian laws exist. Blatant violation of human rights is a norm in such countries. The problem is that those countries’ horrible things often fail to make it to the news.
Why? That’s because the government brutally suppresses anyone and everyone trying to expose the government. The authorities keep an eye on everyone and prevent them from revealing things on online platforms.
One easy way to bypass government scrutiny is to use a VPN service and hide the real identity. Many human rights activists across the world use this method to expose government brutality.
7. Safeguard Multiple Devices
Most of the popular VPNs available in the market offer multiple simultaneous connections against a single license. This will allow you to protect multiple devices at once. Every popular VPN provider like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, SurfShark, etc. has dedicated mobile apps for iOS and Android and dedicated applications for Windows and macOS computers.
It is highly unlikely that you will have dozens of devices at home. Even if you have, there are VPN providers who allow installing their VPN on routers. Once you install a VPN service on a compatible router, all devices connected to the router get VPN protection.
8. Early Access to Online Gaming
Online gaming is an ever-growing industry. New games launch frequently. Unfortunately, they remain restricted to certain countries for some time before becoming available globally.
If you are nuts about online gaming, a VPN can give you early access to those games by allowing you to connect to a VPN server in the country where the game is available. This tricks the gaming servers into thinking that your traffic originated from the country where the game is available.
9. Prevents Bandwidth Throttling
What is bandwidth throttling? It means limiting your bandwidth, which in turn slows down your online speed. But who throttles the bandwidth? It is your ISP who can do that. ISPs can do this regularly. They may do it once a week or once a month.
One of the primary reasons for doing so is to remove network congestion to ensure that enough bandwidth is available for every user. If ISPs find out that you are using too much bandwidth by streaming TV shows or playing online games, or downloading large files, they will deliberately throttle the bandwidth.
While getting rid of network congestions is a noble cause, some ISPs simply want you to coerce you into purchasing higher and more expensive plans by deliberating slowing down your online speed. When you complain, they will convince you that you need to upgrade the plan to get faster speeds.
When you use a VPN, your ISP cannot know what you are doing online. You may play a game or download a file or stream a TV series. Do whatever you want. Your ISP cannot find it out. If the ISP remains unaware of your online activities that can eat up more bandwidth, it cannot throttle your bandwidth.
10. Helps to Avoid Online Price Discrimination
There are expansive claims all over the Internet that a VPN can help you save thousands of dollars. Apparently, you can do so by finding better deals for software, apps, games, streaming services, airfares, hotel prices, car rentals, etc.
The logic isn’t bad. It is not uncommon for service providers like airlines to have different pricing structures for different countries. It is highly likely that you will be charged more if you are from a developed country than a person from a developing country.
This is unfair, for sure! A VPN can definitely let you see the price difference, and if you can save a lot of money, that’s great. But you need to understand that it not always possible.
Sometimes, the price difference is covered in local taxes, currency conversion charges, bank fees. So, before you go ahead and believe that there is discrimination happening, take these factors into consideration and do some math to see whether you can actually save a lot of money or not.
Even more, many service providers will not allow you to make online purchases unless you have a debit card or a credit card issued by the local bank. Using an international card may not work out.
But if it works out and you are saving even 5 to 10 dollars on everything, it eventually adds up into a big saving. So, yes, VPNs can help you save money, and if you are lucky, you can indeed save thousands!
Disadvantages of Using a VPN
Okay, you have learned the advantages of using a VPN, but that doesn’t mean there are no disadvantages. There are a few negative sides to using a VPN service. Let’s take a quick look at them.
1. Slow Speed
You will invariably see some drop in speed. That happens because when you use a VPN to mask your IP and your online identity, a VPN will route your traffic to a different location (the server that you choose), and then it will send the traffic to the destination location. This extra distance that the data travels slows down the connection speed.
Another reason for such slowdown is encryption. Your data needs to be encrypted before it leaves your machine, and when it reaches the destination, it has to be decrypted. This process of encryption and decryption takes time, which in turn slows down the connection speed.
2. Connection Drop
Have you ever wondered what will happen if your connection to the VPN server suddenly drops? You won’t realize it and keep using the Internet. At that point, online activities become exposed.
To get over this problem, VPNs have come up with Kill Switch, which immediately stops all incoming and outgoing traffic the very moment your connection to the VPN server breaks. The VPN client installed on your device then attempts to re-establish the connection with the VPN server. Upon a successful connection, it allows all traffic.
3. VPN Server Load
The resources of a VPN server are always finite. This means that all users who connect to the same server use the same resources. If the number of users on a server increases significantly, the connection speed will drop. In the worst-case scenario, you may not be able to connect to the server at all!
Therefore, it becomes essential that you choose a VPN provider with a very large server pool and multiple servers in a single location. This helps to distribute the users on several servers, thereby reducing the server load.
4. In Some Countries, VPNs Are Illegal
While VPNs are legal in most countries in this world, there are countries where they are banned. So, if you intend to use a VPN service in that country irrespective of the fact that you purchased it when you were in a different country, it can land you in serious trouble.
Such Draconian countries have severe punishments for not abiding by the law. So, you better watch out.
5. Country of Origin
Many VPNs originated in countries like the United States of America, Sweden, Canada, etc. These countries are members of international intelligence sharing alliances known as the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes.
Member countries of these three alliances can force VPN companies or other countries to hand over customer data without informing them. That’s not acceptable, but that is what can happen.
In case you are not aware, the United States of America has what is known as the Patriot Act that can force any company to listen to the government authorities and security agencies. So, you should select your VPN provider very carefully. Ensure that you settle for a company located in a country, which is not a member of those alliances.
A VPN indeed has many advantages and some disadvantages as well. However, whether you will be satisfied with a VPN service or not is dependent on your requirements. So, you should ensure that you thoroughly research a VPN provider’s background and its capabilities before purchasing a subscription. Happy Shopping!