What Is a VPN? How Does It Work & Why You Need One!

By January 18, 2021January 30th, 2021Technology

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Working remotely doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be logging on from home every day. If you choose to work from a coffee shop or shared working space, then there is every chance that you’ll be accessing a public Wi-Fi service to get online. 

Browsing the internet via unsecured Wi-Fi means you could be exposed to prying eyes and people snooping around the public network.

Someone, somewhere could be able to see all your online activity and track it. Not only could you be exposing your browsing habits, but you could also be potentially putting your personal information at risk. 

That’s why a VPN – otherwise known as a virtual private network is a must for any remote worker who is concerned about their online security and privacy.

What Is A VPN?

A virtual private network – or VPN as it is better known – creates a private network from a public internet connection, enabling a user to browse the web securely and with anonymity from anywhere in the world.

When you’re working from home, this isn’t something you really need to worry about, as you own your own network connection and it is secured by the password required to access your router. Using a VPN is best suited for remote work while away from your home office.

For instance, if you’re on a business trip and trying to get some work done while you can still access the internet in an airport lounge, then consider just who might be closely monitoring activity on that network. Normally you wouldn’t give this a second thought, but if your line of work involves private data, then you may wish to use a VPN to protect your business and its customers or clients. 

How Does A VPN Work?

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VPNs work by creating an encrypted channel between a remote VPN server and your device. All your internet access is routed through this channel, keeping your data secure and encrypted.

Encrypted VPN services scramble your browsing data as it’s sent over the Wi-Fi network making the data unreadable and of little value to anybody trying to snoop on your activity.

As a result of this set-up, your device will also appear to have a different IP address, which is actually the IP address of the VPN server. This is what masks your location and identity.

Some users also choose to use a VPN with their home network, as it prevents their internet service provider – or ISP – from commercially profiting by selling anonymized insights into their customers’ browsing habits. 

What Does A VPN Hide?

Some of the best VPNs can help you hide or ‘spoof’ your location. This means that if you’re in a different country to your homeland and struggling to access some of the content or services that you can normally get hold of, altering your IP address via a VPN could help.

Hiding or changing your IP address means you can access the internet privately and that your browsing habits won’t be traced, allowing you to surf the web without worry.

However, there are still several ways your behavior and browsing habits can be tracked online while working remotely. Even while using a VPN, browser cookies can help companies track your internet usage whilst you’re using their site but also after you’ve clicked off it. 

A VPN can only do so much to provide you with the anonymity you desire, if you truly want to browse ‘off the grid’, then accessing the Dark Web is the only real way to guarantee absolute privacy. 

Why Should I Use A VPN?

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A lot of users subscribe to a VPN service if they do a lot of traveling for work and want to continue watching their favorite Netflix shows during layovers, for instance.

This works both ways too. For example, if you’re in the US and want to catch up on some UK dramas, then you can access streaming services native to the UK via a VPN. Equally, if you’re in the UK and want to binge through the latest American reality TV, then a VPN can help with that too.

That said, sites like Netflix work tirelessly to stop their customers from taking advantage of this trick. So, while it might work for you today, there’s no guarantee it will tomorrow, as the company works hard to identify and block popular VPNs that viewers use to circumvent Netflix’s regional licensing agreements.

There’s plenty of other good reasons to use a VPN though, not least to keep your personal information and browsing habits secure while you’re working remotely. 

Is Using A VPN Safe?

A VPN is a quick and easy way to make any unsecured public Wi-Fi network safer. However, it’s important to do a bit of research into which VPN provider to use before getting online. 

For instance, if you’re signing up for a VPN to protect your privacy, then you need to find a VPN provider that feels the same way. Opt for a VPN with a no-log policy, meaning that your online activities will never be tracked or logged. 

While a VPN goes some way to keeping you safe and secure online while working remotely, the internet requires users to look out for themselves while online. Consider using a password manager to keep your log-in details secure and anti-virus software to keep yourself safe whilst online.

What To Look For When Choosing A VPN?

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Other than picking a VPN provider that respects your privacy, they are a few other key considerations when choosing who to go with. 

Firstly, does the VPN you’re considering set data limits? Much like your mobile data plan, you can soon eat through a data allowance when working remotely with video conferencing a real data plan drain. So, if your VPN is capping your downloads, then you ought to consider another provider. Bandwidth may be a big deciding factor for you too. Accessing remote services, transferring large files and video calls, can all put a strain on a slow VPN.

Secondly, where are these VPN servers located? If you’re looking to access the web from a certain country or location, then this will be a pivotal factor in your final decision. Not all VPNs support every country, and some will only give you access to specific locations. So, do your research and ensure that the location – or locations – that you wish to access are accessible via the VPN you choose.

Finally, does this VPN support multiple devices? While you may be primarily using a laptop while working remotely, you want to be covered if you plan to send and receive a few emails via a mobile device – particularly if those messages are likely to contain personal information. Most VPNs will typically cover between three and five devices simultaneously, but it’s worth double-checking before you sign up.

How To Check If My VPN Is Working?

Once you’ve settled on the right VPN for you, it’s time to set-up and install it on all your devices. In order to check whether your VPN is working, make a note of your existing IP address and then run a test by searching in Google “what is my IP address” see whether your new VPN has altered it. Should you have been successful, your device will now show a new IP address in the country you chose to connect from.

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