VPN is yet another acronym in an industry plagued by them. Let’s take a step back and look at an analogy to the real world before examining why you need a VPN.
You are in a foreign country. You know where you want to go, but are not sure how to get there. So you ask the first helpful looking local and they tell you to go the fruit shop on the corner and ask there. The fruit shop lady tells you to take the A35 road for 20 miles and you’ll see a wood carving shop. Ask there for more details. You do. It’s a straight road but traffic is heavy and progress is slower than you had hoped. “Oh yes” says the wood carver “I can see from your car you have come from Sofia. Did Jean send you?” We confirm she did, he is happy about that and directs us around the one way system to our destination.
Hopefully that all sounds familiar to at least one experience you’ve had? What you might not be so familiar with is the inner workings of the internet! I mean, when you type an address into your browser, how the heck does it know where the computer is that hosts your desired website?
Actually it is pretty similar to the above scenario. You connect to an internet service provider (ISP) which has a computer that knows another computer “down the road” and it knows another one, and so on until you reach one that knows the exact destination you are looking for. Normally all that takes seconds at most. Amazing!
But what if, in our original scenario, instead of just one local, there were loads of them and one of them knew that you didn’t have to go to the fruit shop lady every time – and that right now it would be a bad idea because she only knows about the A35 and it’s really busy at the moment? You would have got an alternative route and got to the wood carver more quickly.
And what if the wood carver hated Jean and refused to tell you the final instructions? All that travel but unable to complete your journey!
In the world of internet travel, that’s where a VPN comes in. Without one, your ISP will send you the same route every time. If that route is busy, your website will load really slowly or not at all. If you come from a location that your website doesn’t like (e.g. in the UK, the BBC TV site doesn’t like anybody from outside the UK) then the website will tell you that you can’t come in.
A VPN is a piece of software that can take different routes to get to your destination and in so doing can fool the destination website about where you have come from. The net result is that you can access sites that are geo-blocked (only accessible from certain countries) and potentially you can get to some sites more quickly. If we are thinking about TV or Sports streaming (the most common blocked sites) then speed matters. [Note – this won’t help to get you access to sites that you aren’t a member of. If you don’t have a Sky Sports or Hulu premium subscription, then taking a different route to get to their websites still won’t get you in. There are ways to do that, but they are not entirely legal and they are not what a VPN is for.]
A VPN, besides allowing you to load websites that are geo-blocked, also allows you to load sites such as Facebook and Twitter if you happen to be in a country where the government doesn’t want its own citizens to access these sites.
There are lots of companies that sell VPNs, generally on a subscription basis, and there are some free ones too. You download some software, install it, and when you next connect to the internet, the software will give you some options before you get sent anywhere by your ISP (such as which country you would like to be seen to have come from). Each piece of software has its own pros and cons and extra features beyond the basic functions.
The free ones are not as good as the paid ones. It takes a lot of investment to make a good quality VPN. They have to be regularly updated as TV companies, for example, find new ways to block them. The only way free ones can afford to keep going is via advertising and that slows everything down – which if you are going a circuitous route to your destination anyway, is not a great idea. There are a heap of other considerations too, mainly involving the security of your data as it passes around the internet.
So which one should you buy? I have tried many over the years, and I recommend what I consider to be the best solution. It’s PUREVPN and it costs about $50/year or looking at it another way, a buck a week to keep in contact/view what you want/guarantee social media access whilst you are on the road.
Here’s a link to that software.
Now, so far, we have concentrated on getting access to websites as our main motivation for investing in a VPN. There are however other reasons, including how to save money, as mentioned here, and what many would consider a far more compelling reason.
Not many of us would go on holiday and leave the front door to our house open; having placed a large flag out of the main window telling everyone where we are. Yet, in effect, an alarming number of us do that with our attitude to online safety. Most of us nowadays have an awareness of the need for online safety, but still lack an understanding of it and according to studies, don’t really care either.
If you are one of those who are happy to take some simple steps to reduce the risk of losing access to your email account or your facebook, and would prefer not to be wasting your time trying to get your bank and credit card company to refund payments you didn’t actually make, then read on. Otherwise, head straight for the nearest cafe with wifi and share your secrets with the world!
A VPN hides your information when you are logged on. It puts it inside a tunnel that others cannot get into. There are a lot of sites with the technical specifics of how that happens, but in essence that is what is going on. (Leave me a message if you want to talk about the nitty-gritty of how this all works.) All you need do is install a VPN on each device you commonly use in a public area – smartphone, tablet and laptop for example. Set it to be automatically used when you log on, and that’s it, the key steps you need to lower your chances of having your information stolen. If that sounds a bit complicated, don’t worry, I can help you do it.
PureVPN is not only a good solution because it is safe and it is fast, but their pricing covers you for up to 5 devices for the one price – which is great for family protection. I’ve used them for years now and recommended them to friends and family, and even the local computer repair shop owner, and so far we all happy.
A VPN may not be the sexiest piece of software on everybody’s shopping list, but it really should be one of the essential investments of our modern online age. So essential that it makes sense to buy the best available, and right now I believe that this is the one to buy.