What is VPN – The Complete VPN Guide for Beginners

what-is-vpn

VPN is a modern term that is taking the online communities by storm. Every internet user is becoming curious about what it is, what it does, and how they can use it to their advantage.

With online privacy being invaded day by day by various websites, advertisers, trackers, and so on, having a good way to protect your online activities and browsing history has become the number one online priority.

So, to make things easier, this complete guide will lift the veil off VPN and explain it in details, so that every online user clearly understands what it is and how to use it. While it may sound like something complicated and challenging, it actually isn’t.

What does VPN Stand for?

VPN stands for a Virtual Private Network that helps you browse the internet privately and safely by hiding your IP address.

What is a VPN?

Virtual private network technology creates encrypted connection over the internet. It also hides your IP address for you to keep your online privacy secure. It’s a technology that allows you to access the internet privately and securely by routing your internet connection through a virtual server.

By doing so, VPN hides your online activity from anyone who might be watching or tracking it. It provides safe access to the internet, which other online users can’t track or invade to steal your data or track your online activity.

Another great benefit a good VPN provides you with is that it enables you to access restricted or blocked content by allowing you to choose your geo-location. Other useful benefits of using a VPN are:

  • Getting around all forms of censorship
  • Hiding your online activities
  • Switching between geolocations
  • Sharing and downloading files safely
  • Using public WiFi securely

What is a VPN service?

A VPN service is a service that takes your internet connection and makes it secure while helping you stay anonymous while online. It also allows you to access censored websites while making the internet more private, secure, and safer for you. It gives you three good benefits that keep your data safe while you’re online:

  • More privacy and anonymity – you can do whatever you want online without letting your ISP know your location and no connections can be traced back to you or your computer. A VPN keeps your IP address hidden by constantly switching it between different IP addresses, which makes you pretty much unidentifiable online. A VPN can make it look like you’re in a different part of the globe. While doing all this, your VPN service leaves everything else regarding your internet experience virtually intact.
  • More security – the entire point of using a VPN is getting a secure connection. This means that no hacker can hack your virtual private network and steal your data or track any of your online activity. It’s because a VPN encrypts your data such as online and browsing activity and history.
  • More access – VPNs unlock restricted and blocked websites, giving you more access. Most online access blocking is based on your IP address, and VPN goes around it by hiding your IP address. This results in more online freedom.

How does a VPN work?

Before you can use a VPN, you must first find a good and trustworthy VPN provider. Once you sign up for a VPN service, you need to download a VPN app, a special type of software that connects to your devices such as a smartphone, laptop, or a PC.

VPN uses virtual servers located all across the globe which are untraceable. Once a VPN app is connected, the data that travels between the VPN server and your device is encrypted to ensure it’s safe and protected.

Therefore, the server that VPN uses is practically a gateway, your internet backdoor that keeps your data safe. This gateway routes your data in the most private way. It’s a simple but very useful setup that keeps your online privacy protected.

The biggest trick with VPN is that it makes the internet think that your data is coming from the VPN server instead of your location and computer. That way, no one can identify your computer or you as a source of your wanted data. This means that no one can track your online activity.

How to use a VPN?

You can use your VPN with these simple steps:

Step 1 – Download your VPN app

Select your wanted VPN service and download the VPN app for your mobile device or computer.

Step 2 – Set up your VPN service

Follow the instructions to set up your VPN service. These instructions are usually very quick and easy to follow so you’ll set up your VPN in no time.

Step 3 – Connect to a VPN server

There are many locations to choose from, so pick one and connect to it so that you can enjoy all the online privacy that you possibly can.

Why should I use a VPN?

Well, you should use a VPN for many reasons, including:

For privacy

As it was already mentioned, a good VPN encrypts your data to conceal it from your ISP or your internet service provider. This keeps your ISP from tracking your online activities. You can visit any website you want without your ISP ever knowing, which ensures that your privacy is secured.

Some countries use mass surveillance systems for monitoring everything their citizens do. These governments force ISPs to hand over data such as your online activities. Thus, the only way to avoid that is by using a VPN since a VPN will prevent any third parties from collecting data about you.

Since your IP address is nothing more than a unique number that your ISP assigns to you, websites can also track your online activities and then suggest various advertisements based on your online behavior. You can get rid of them easily by using a good VPN.

To ensure protection when using public WiFi

You can never be sure if a public WiFi hotspot is secure. When you use an unsecured WiFi connection, it’s a bit similar to inviting hackers to invade your online privacy and steal your data. Most online users trust public WiFis, which is a big mistake since hackers use tactics such as evil twin hotspots to track these users and use their data for criminal purposes or to make a profit.

You are mostly required to use your real email address to sign-in and hackers can snatch your email address and sell that data to advertisers and the like. By using a VPN, your data is always encrypted and secure.

To access blocked content

Saying no to censorship makes you feel special, and a good VPN will allow you to access any restricted or blocked content. All you need to do is find a location that doesn’t block the particular content you’re trying to access and enjoy your uncensored online experience to the maximum. For example, if you want to use a free TV streaming service available only in the UK, use your VPN to bypass that and access it anytime you want.

For file sharing

With a good VPN, your file sharing will be private and secure because the peers downloading the same torrents won’t be able to track your real IP address. It hides both your IP address and your content from your ISP.

When should I use a VPN?

You can use a VPN for many different reasons:

  1. It encrypts your data, which keeps your online activity hidden from any third party that might want to steal your data, track your web activity and browsing history, or advertise their products to you based on your online behavior.
  2. It keeps your IP address hidden as well, which means that you can use it when you want to hide your location.
  3. You can use it to access any geo-blocked or restricted content.
  4. When you want to increase your anonymity on the web.
  5. You can use a VPN when you want to use a public WiFi and stay protected.

So, put simply, you can use a VPN when you want to keep your web anonymity, security, and privacy fully protected.

Most of the time, if you value your online privacy and security, there’s no reason not to use a VPN, as it’s an immensely useful and effective tool that acts as a secondary layer of security. On top of that, it offers protection from shady software, has a good antivirus program, and disables data sharing on social media.

It’s all the only precaution you’ll ever need to use the internet more consciously. The only downside to VPNs is that they can cause your connection to slow down a bit due to the data routing through an extra server, but that’s more or less it.

Is it legal to use a VPN?

While the answer is usually “yes”, this isn’t always true. The VPN as a concept is still relatively new, which means that regulations are still catching up.

Things get especially confusing when it comes to jurisdictions, as VPNs can make a user from one country seem like they’re from another one. There are rules, but they’re still murky and free to interpret as one may please.

While most countries such as Western Europe, the UK, Canada, and the US don’t have any problems with VPNs, countries such as Turkmenistan, North Korea, Iran, Russia, Oman, Belarus, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Turkey, and China don’t allow the use of VPNs.

What about online anonymity?

A VPN makes you anonymous online to a certain extent but not completely. Without it, anyone can access your data, track your online activity, and steal your personal information for whatever purposes. That means that a WiFi router in your local cafe, your ISP, and every other third party with the right tools can have access to your data. Since VPN encrypts your data, it protects you from all the risks mentioned above.

A VPN makes it appear as if it’s not you or your IP address that’s making a connection but your VPN server. Still, there are a lot of VPNs out there, each with different features and properties and it also much depends on your geolocation and jurisdiction that goes with it.

Some countries legally force VPNs to keep records and track all users. Different VPNs cover different forms of protection. The more research you do, the easier it will be for you to choose the right VPN for your needs. Still, it’s good to know that a VPN isn’t actually providing anonymity as such but rather privacy, only on a much higher level.

The best VPNs see everything that your ISP sees but the difference is that they don’t log such information. Because of that, they provide a higher level of privacy that you have each time you go online.

How to start using your VPN?

To those who are new to the concept of VPN, the installation process might seem complicated at first. However, setting up a VPN service is rather straightforward. Especially if you choose to go with the leaders in the VPN market, as the most popular service providers work hard to ensure the ease of use. Moreover, with the highest quality VPNs, there are always plenty of strategies, tricks, and tips you find online and use to get connected.

With most well-respected VPN service providers, the procedure comes in three simple steps:

  1. Launch the app
  2. Log in
  3. Connect

Nowadays, the best VPN providers offer already configured VPNs to spare you any trouble.

If you want to be protected from the moment you run your device, set your VPN to start with your platform and connect automatically for full-time protection.

Once your VPN is running, you can be sure to prevent your ISP, as well as any website, from tracking your real IP address.

Will a VPN slow down my internet?

VPNs do slow down your internet connection but not too much. It’s just because your VPN needs processing power to constantly encrypt and decrypt your data. Once you start using a VPN, your data goes through an extra server which is a somewhat longer route. And all this takes some extra time.

For example, if you want to connect to a server on a different side of the world, no matter how good your VPN is, it takes a few moments for your data to get there. But just to be clear here, we’re talking about an almost unnoticeable slowing down effect. If you go with the best VPN service, you get the fastest VPN service. And that slow down is worth it when you consider that it guarantees your online privacy and secure private data.

What is VPN kill switch?

If your safe and encrypted connection drops for any reason, a kill switch kills your internet access to protect you from any damage. It’s a useful feature that blocks all your online activities until the secure connection is restored. Once it identifies any connectivity issue, the kill switch automatically triggers and protects your data by shutting off your online connection.

Most devices without a kill switch feature attempt to restore the unprotected, standard connection when connectivity issues arise. This means that your device leaves you exposed to any third parties that might be tracking your online activity. Even a few moments can be enough to steal your data.

Is my ISP necessary if I use a VPN?

Yes, you need your ISP as a VPN doesn’t replace your internet provider. Your ISP makes sure you get the internet access, but it’s your VPN that makes sure the access is safe and secure.

Is it possible to run a VPN on multiple devices?

With the best VPN service, it is, as most providers allow this. You can use the same account to run your VPN on all the devices that you’re using. It’s called a simultaneous connection. While such a connection used to be limited to only three devices in the past, today’s VPN providers allow more simultaneous connections.

How do I install a VPN on my router?

The best way to make sure your connection is safe is by installing a VPN on your router. The trick is to put everything that’s connected to your router through a safe VPN connection, as a way to be sure that your online privacy is protected. Once you do, you won’t need to install any individual apps on your laptops, computers, smart TVs, mobile devices, or any other device with web access.

To install a VPN on your router, you first need to make sure your router is VPN compatible. You can easily find this information on the router manufacturer’s website. Many routers are compatible with VPNs today.

The installation process differs from a provider to a provider, but you can always find a thorough explanation on their websites.

How to use Tor and VPN together

Despite their fundamental differences, Tor and VPN together ensure that you get maximum online privacy and security. While a VPN allows access to one server at a time and encrypts your connection, Tor provides additional encryption and routes your connection through a number of random nodes. Tor is free of charge, and you can use it with no limitations, despite it being a free version. Some VPN providers contain a special VPN through Tor function, too.

What are the best VPN services?

It’s hard to say which VPN service is the best when there are so many of them, and online users’ needs vary from person to person. Still, the best VPN service is the service that encompasses all considerations regarding privacy, speed, server, features, customer service, and value.

So, based on this, you can assume that the best VPN for you will depend solely on your personal requirements or, shall we say, use case. Here is how to determine which VPN service is the best for you.

Privacy – improved privacy is the primary function of every VPN so you should check their privacy policy before you decide.

Encryption check what technologies are used to provide encryption and whether you can set up any protocols manually. It’s a great advantage if a VPN provider can ensure double encryption.

Speed – fast VPNs are preferred by gamers, streamers, and torrenters since VPNs are known to cause drops in speed. If your daily needs and requirements include data-intensive tasks like sharing and downloading, you’ll need a fast server network.

Server – while privacy is the main concern of every online user, there are others who are more bothered by blocked content. Therefore, to them, the best VPN is the one that provides access to that blocked content. The more locations your VPN covers, the more servers it has, which means more unblocked content. These types of VPNs are preferred by streamers most of the time.

Features – this is particularly interesting not only to online users living in censored countries but also to torrenters since a VPN offers you a benefit of hiding your IP address. This allows you to reach content that is otherwise blocked and censored in your country. The best features to look for are a smart DNS, stealth servers, a kill switch, and so on.

Customer service – you can never have enough using streaming services, and the possibilities are endless. Still, if you’re a streamer, you’ll need advice on unlocking streaming sites and up-to-date support so look for such services.

Value – while you shouldn’t be spending tons of cash on your VPN services, investing a bit is recommended. The best thing you can do is use a free trial and go with a provider with a money-back guarantee to make sure that the chosen VPN service suits your needs.

It’s also beneficial for the user if a VPN provider keeps a no-logs policy. This feature guarantees that the VPN provider won’t share your personal online and browsing data with any third party whatsoever.