VPN is Virtual Private Network, but understanding the term is more than just knowing what it stands for. When you connect to the Internet, you use either broadband or dial-up modem but let us just assume that you do it with free Wi-Fi more often than not. Such connection goes through an open or public network, which means the server can identify where you access it from and some other information probably including your name and whether or not you are wearing any appropriate piece of clothing.
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Connecting to the Internet means receiving data such as documents, photos of your neighbors, images of cars you cannot afford, videos of a sleeping cat, and everything else depending on your request or search term. On the other end of the connection, a server (one that provides the data you need) also gathers data about you such as location and IP address so it can send the most relevant piece of information for your surfing pleasure.
VPN intercepts the connection by adding another layer of information relay. When you run VPN software on your computer and access the Internet, the software creates a private secure link to hide or fake your identity and location. It is as if you are somebody else in different location. In normal circumstances – without VPN – the Internet gathers information from your device, but this no longer applies. Every single one of your request will be sent to VPN server, not directly to the Internet as you may expect. It is the VPN server’s job to forward the request to the Internet, receive the information, and then send it back to your computer. Put in mind that adding another layer to the connectivity can reduce the Internet speed. There will be delay in the speed of information being requested and received because it has to go through a third-party server.
Free VPN tends to attract many users, including you and millions of others. Because you don’t want to pay for the service, the server often limits your bandwidth. Low speed is not uncommon consequence of free VPN, so it is only fair to patiently embrace the loading screen with positive attitude; screaming at your screen does make the Internet faster.
One of the biggest advantages of using VPN is the fact that you can browse the Internet anonymously. All data involved in the communication are encrypted across the connection. It is an effective precautionary measure to prevent hackers or certain websites from mining your data. Anytime somebody tries to figure out where and who you are, the request will always refer back to the VPN server.
VPN services have multiple servers located in different countries. Usually you are allowed to choose which server to use. For example, if you are using a server located in Hong Kong, the websites you access will think that you are in Hong Kong when in fact you are at a coffee shop in Fairfax or even South Pole.
People who travel often overseas yet need to constantly check their work email back home to see if last month’s paycheck has arrived can use VPN to unblock some restrictions. Certain countries actually block traffic or Internet users originated from foreign locations. If you are travelling to Iran to see what the fuss is all about that the country is mentioned too many times in the news, chances are you will need VPN to post a photo of your lunch on a camel to Facebook, because the social media is currently banned in the country.