If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard of VPNs but don’t quite know what they are. In fact, even VPN users often don’t understand the whole concept, scope, and benefits of VPN. Well, in this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to get started in understanding VPNs, what they do, and why you might want to use one. Once there, we’ll also tell you about some pretty decent VPN options that you can begin using for free.
What is VPN? Definition for a Beginner
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Generally, private data exchange networks consist of physically connected computer systems, enabling the fast flow of information in a secured and controlled manner. A VPN, however, achieves the same, well, virtually. It creates a virtual network, using Internet, to connect different computer systems, enabling the flow of data between them. What makes VPNs unique is that several remote computers across the globe enable the connection of all computers through the Internet.
Generally, VPNs are used to secure private and public networks. Corporates use VPNs to allow employees to connect to their networks remotely, yet securely. Also, when you use a VPN, your IP address changes from that of your computer system to an IP address provided by the VPN service provider. The result – you might be logged in to a network from Montreal, but will ‘appear’ as if you’re logged in from New York! This means that all kinds of regional restrictions imposed on web content access can be bypassed using VPNs. More on this later.
Learn all about what a VPN is at cloudwards.net.
What Does a VPN Do?
The primary responsibility of a VPN is to securely transfer data from one system to another, without the risk of an external party being able to hack into the data flow and access the data. This explains why corporations use VPNs. Different VPNs offer different kinds of security features, using all kinds of encryption protocols and tunneling methods. Just like a firewall software protects the data when it’s in your computer, a VPN protects it when it’s travelling on Internet. However, because of the anonymity of the data exchange, several other applications of VPNs appear.
Benefits of VPN for Beginners
1. Safe and secure web browsing
Just Google ‘cyber attack’ and check out new stories on the real threats posed by cyber criminals. A VPN is your way to make all your web browsing safe and secure.
2. Bypass geographical content restrictions
Want to access Netflix’s UK content while living in Malaysia? Want to overcome the restrictions imposed on access to certain websites by your employer, government, or educational institute? Want to experience services that are not yet available in your country? Use a VPN.
3. Connect to your employer’s secure network
You might need VPN to be able to connect to your employer’s network. Whether you want to perform your routine work, or need to access the office printer from a remote location, a VPN will help.
Understanding Different VPN Setups
Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is a less secure, though useful method of VPN configuration. It’s a good option for beginners because it’s widely supported. Then, there’s IPsec, and L2TP based VPN setup, slightly more secure. SSL based encryption is also offered in VPNs; it’s as secure as bank’s network. OpenVPN is another option, similar to SSL, but needs you to install a client. Now, we’re sure you’re confused as a beginner. Don’t be, because you have dozens of VPN service providers who sort everything out for you, right online.
How to Set up A VPN?
The simplest way to do this is to create your account with a VPN service provider. There are dozens of VPN services offering free services. Once you register on the VPN provider’s website, you are ready to use the service. You will need to download a desktop or mobile application (the setup package is offered on the website of the service provider).
Once the download is done, key in your log in credentials, and you will see a screen prompt telling you that you’re connected via VPN. In most VPN solutions, you will even get the option of choosing a country. For instance, if you choose US, the VPN service provides a US based IP to you.
With a free VPN account, you will, of course, have some restrictions. These restrictions are mostly in terms of the number of days for which you can use the service, or the amount of GBs of data upload and download you can undertake in the free package.
To continue with unrestricted access, you will need to purchase a premium plan. Thankfully, most VPN services offer pretty affordable packages. Also, most of them offer free trials, for 14 to 28 day. We strongly suggest that you experiment with at least 3 to 5 VPN services’ free plans before deciding on the one you wish to pay for.
Top Things to Look for in A VPN Service
1. The number and spread of servers of the VPN service governs the kind of upload and download speed you get. Generally, your web browsing is served by the server located closest to your real geographical location.
2. The level of data encryption is another major factor, because you don’t want your browsing information to be logged or recorded anywhere. Look for VPNs that adopt zero-knowledge policies, ensuring 100% anonymity.
3. The availability of compatible applications for all operating systems is a must. Look for a VPN that works on desktop, mobile, and supports all major operating systems.
If you’re a beginner and not quite abreast with the technicalities of VPN, it shall suffice for you to understand that these tools deliver unmatched web anonymity. Considering the cyber vulnerabilities we all are exposed to, it’s reassuring to have several VPN options, and some of them offering pretty useful free plans as well.
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