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What is a VPN Used For?

The term “virtual private network” (VPN) might sound intimidating, but these devices are easier to use than you might think. Whether you’re an individual or large company, there are many benefits to using a VPN. Traveling and using public Wi-Fi, transmitting sensitive information or even just enjoying entertainment options on Netflix are all activities that can be done more safely through the use of a VPN.

In this guide, you’ll learn what a VPN is, what it does, and some of the most common VPN uses in 2022. We’ll cover both personal and commercial uses, so you can learn how best to use a VPN at work or home.

What Is A VPN?

VPN software protects your information by masking your device’s IP address. The software encrypts your data and routes it through secure networks to servers in far away states or other countries. A VPN hides your online identity, allowing you to browse the internet anonymously.

What Do VPNs Do?

VPN stands for virtual private network. In basic terms, a VPN provides an encrypted server and hides your IP address from corporations, government agencies and would-be hackers. A VPN protects your identity even if you are using public or shared Wi-Fi, and your data will be kept private from any prying internet eyes.

A VPN circumvents your personal ISP, instead of sending your internet connection to a hosted server. With servers located all over the world, users then have the ability to “relocate” themselves and access the internet from nearly anywhere. Encryption adds an extra layer of security, particularly for businesses that are frequently utilizing remote access. It can also be a helpful tool for travel, gaming and streaming.

Why Do You Need a VPN?

Now that you know what a VPN is, here’s a closer look at why you might need a VPN:

1. Security on Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is convenient but comes at the expense of security. When you’re answering emails at a local coffee shop or absent-mindedly scrolling through social media at the airport, someone may be tracking your online activity.

Using a VPN protects your data while you are on other networks, hiding your browsing history, banking information, account passwords and more from ill-intentioned internet strangers.

2. Data Privacy From Your Internet Service Provider

While connected to your home Wi-Fi, you are less likely to be attacked by strangers than on a public connection. However, your data is still vulnerable.

Your ISP or internet service provider—Comcast, Spectrum, Verizon or other company who you pay for Wi-Fi each month—can access all your internet data. Your ISP can see when, where and how you browse.

This data can be collected and sold to advertisers even if you’re using the “private” browsing function, and it can be dangerous in the wrong hands in the case of a data breach. A VPN can help obscure your IP address from your own ISP.

3. Data Privacy From the Apps and Services You Use

Your ISP isn’t the only potential liability that you’ve brought into your own home. Unfortunately, many of our favorite apps and internet services—most notably Facebook—have been called out for the way they’ve used the data of their users.

A VPN will prevent apps and websites from attributing your behavior to your computer’s IP address. It can also limit the collection of your location and browser history.

4. Data Privacy From Your Government

While many ISPs, apps and internet data hubs suggest they don’t sell your browsing data to governments, the information nonetheless finds its ways into their hands—even in the U.S.

Since 2013, when Edward Snowden first revealed that Verizon had been selling users’ internet and phone data to the NSA, Americans have become more aware of the different ways the government surveils and collects their data. Following the Snowden leaks, and subsequent outrage, several laws were enacted to curb government surveillance.

However, as recently as January of this year, the Defense Intelligence Agency bypassed a law demanding that government agencies produce warrants before compelling phone companies for their user data by paying third-party data brokers for that same data, according to the New York Times.

If you have qualms about governmental overreach, a VPN is a good investment in protecting your data.

5. Access to Any Content in Any Place

While Hulu may frown upon your use of a VPN to stream the latest Criminal Minds episode in a country where the content isn’t offered, this VPN usage is not illegal (in the U.S. and in most countries), and it helps provide a useful workaround to content restrictions.

VPNs spoof your location, making it seem as if you are browsing from another place. That means you can get your Criminal Minds fix even if it’s not available locally.

6. Security When Working Remotely

One benefit of a VPN is its data encryption features. Encryption, or putting data into a coded format so its meaning is obscured, allows you to keep confidential information safe.

If you are an individual thinking about investing in a VPN for your company, one benefit is that workers can connect to your office network and look at sensitive materials on their own devices while away from the office. As remote work seems a possibility even after the pandemic ends, a VPN is a helpful investment to keep confidential material safe off-site.

8. Adaptable to Numerous Smart Devices

While many of us may first try a VPN on a company-loaned laptop, many VPN services also protect other smart devices such as your phones, tablets and desktop computers. Each VPN company may offer slightly different protection plans and have different capacities to protect different devices, but many providers offer plans that help keep you safe on multiple devices.

7. Smart Savings

If you are willing to put in a little research, a VPN can help you save money via its location spoofing capabilities. Many types of businesses, such as subscription services and airlines, offer the same amenities or products for different prices. If you change the appearance of your location to a place where services are offered cheaper, you can end up with big savings.

What Is A VPN Used For?

VPNs are used in many different ways. Let’s take a look at how many businesses, gamers, and streamers use VPN:

VPN Uses for Business

Here are some of the most common things VPNs are used for in a business setting:

  • Work From Home Without Worry. It looks like returning to the office may not happen for many people, at least not anytime soon. Utilizing a VPN allows everyone working remotely to securely log into the shared company network, while also providing data protection for projects and files.
  • Keep Your Shared Network Secure. Using a VPN across your shared network will help ensure that business communications remain secure. It will also make your company less susceptible to cyber attacks.
  • Control Access. VPNs also offer access control options, so that confidential information is not accessible by every employee. Users will need to log in and verify that they have authorization before access is granted.
  • Browse Safely on Any Device. Securely connect to your business cloud, no matter what device you are using. Since a VPN is encrypted and remotely hosted, you can log in from anywhere without the risk of a security breach.
  • Bypass Geo-Blocking. When traveling for business, you may encounter locations that block or censor parts of the internet. This can potentially be a huge hindrance, especially if you are not able to access work-related websites. Using a VPN with your home location will help bypass any blocked content.
  • Protect Financial Transactions. It’s essential to know that every transaction is protected. A VPN anonymizes your outgoing traffic and encrypts your connection, ensuring unauthorized tracking of your business transactions or transfers.
  • Connect to Public Wi-Fi Confidently. Nearly everyone connects to the free airport Wi-Fi during a layover or delay, but doing so leaves you wide open to potential theft. Using a VPN before you open that email or check an account balance will help keep your data secure.
  • Avoid Social Media Blocks. Some parts of the world have blocked social media channels such as Facebook. If you are traveling to China or Iran and can’t survive without your network, a VPN can help work around the ban.
  • Maintain Account Access. Banks are on high alert for fraudulent activity, and logging into your account from a foreign country may raise a red flag. Using a VPN that shows you are still at your regular address will help avoid possible account freezes due to suspicious activity.

VPN Uses for Gaming

Outside of the business world, VPNs are also popular with gamers. Here are some of the most common gaming VPN uses:

  • Access a Wider Library of Games. Since using a VPN means your internet connection is re-routed, you have more options when it comes to gaming access, especially regarding cloud gaming services such as Stadia. Depending on the provider, certain VPNs can help you access games available outside your region. Likewise, some countries ban games due to graphic content. With a VPN, you can get around those restrictions by connecting through a server in a different country.
  • Play In Public Without the Worry. It’s great to take advantage of free public Wi-Fi when you’re ready to play, but using an unsecured network carries risks. Keep your gaming devices safe by using a VPN.
  • Protect Yourself From the Trolls. The stakes can get high in multi-player games and occasionally people overreact. Having a VPN protects your identity and IP address, so that if you inadvertently upset someone, they are not able to track your location.
  • Sidestep ISP Slowdowns. Some internet service providers knowingly slow down their network for one reason or another. With a VPN, you can avoid unnecessary ISP lag.

VPN Uses For Streaming

You can also use a VPN when streaming your favorite movies or TV shows:

  • Watch Your Favorite Foreign Films. Some paid subscription streaming services implement “geo-blocking” technology. This means in some geographical locations, you’ll have restricted access to certain content. Using a VPN bypasses this issue and allows you to stream nearly anything you want to watch, no matter where you are.
  • Improve Buffering Issues. Since streaming services are so popular, it’s not unusual for the bandwidth to get overloaded and cause buffering issues. A VPN can help circumvent this, ensuring a smoother viewing experience.

Limitations of VPNs

While a VPN is a great tool to help separate your location (and in many ways, you) from your data, it doesn’t obscure everything about you. If you take a Facebook quiz or like a post on Instagram, the app you are using while connected to the VPN is still able to use your behavior to tailor in-app ads and content. They might not know where you are browsing from, but they will still know what you are doing on their apps.

Similarly, if cookies are enabled on your computer, companies can follow you while you are on their site—and after. Your full data isn’t obscured with a VPN alone. Combining a VPN’s protection with Tor, an open-source tool that allows you to browse the web anonymously, and other security measures are necessary for a fuller security.

VPNs aren’t perfect tools. Like any computer program, they are susceptible to malware and online attacks. If infected, a VPN’s security benefits are nullified.

The likelihood of attacks and security breaches is increased by using a free VPN service. To recoup their business costs, “free” VPN services may sell user data or run ads that could be infected with malware. If your goal is to increase your data privacy, then investing in a paid VPN is your best bet.

Global Legality Concerns

Beyond questions of security are questions of legality. If you happen to be based in or visiting a wide list of countries including Russia and China, VPNs are banned or highly regulated.

It’s important to know the laws of your country and any country you are visiting before using a VPN as well as to understand whether your VPN usage is being monitored by a government, thus nullifying its privacy benefits.


Source: https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/software/why-use-a-vpn/