What are the VPN advantages and disadvantages?
You may have heard of VPNs by now, or even used one in a business context. But did you know that, besides allowing you to connect to your work network while outside the office, a VPN may be a useful, smart bonus to your personal endeavors? In other words, if you haven’t already, you might want to try using a VPN at home, too, since VPN advantages surpass by far its disadvantages when it comes to Internet browsing and sensitive data protection.
A VPN might not be the obvious choice when you’re considering strengthening the privacy of the personal information stored on your gadgets and enhancing your online security. Yet, a Virtual Private Network may do just that for you – and much more.
What is a VPN?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a tunnel by means of which you may access the Internet in a more private, secure way. How? By channeling all your network traffic into its network and replacing your IP address with a new one which then translates to anonymity, increased privacy, and access to blocked (be it geo-restricted or otherwise) websites, among others.
So, what are VPN advantages and disadvantages, if you’re considering using one? We’ve come up with a compelling list of pros and cons that will help you find the right answer to that pesky question: “Should I use a VPN?”
A VPN connection may come in handy when considering the following:
- It allows you to access a public connection safely – If you want to use a Wi-Fi connection in a public space, you may want to do so through a VPN in order to protect your privacy. The reason? If you skip the VPN, your online activity will be accessible to prying eyes who know what to look for.
- It increases online security – Speaking of online safety, browsing through the internet via a VPN, regardless of the connection you use, is a great way to protect your web data. In other words, besides a strong antivirus and the standard firewall, a VPN adds another welcome layer of protection against online security threats, as it acts more efficiently than a proxy, for instance, protecting all online traffic.
- It allows you to watch your favorite shows from all corners of the world – Geo-restriction is annoying, yet ever present. A VPN may help you access geo-blocked websites – those that you may enjoy solely if you’re in the USA, for instance; or it may allow you to keep watching your favorite local shows even when travelling outside your home country’s borders.
- It allows for anonymous downloads – We are not talking about piracy, but about useful, legal online file downloads which may not be accessible if you lack a VPN connection – in case your internet service provider is throttling with your speed connection or the files you try to download are geo-restricted, a VPN will turn out to be a very useful solution.
- It may improve internet speed – It isn’t as uncommon as you might think for providers to play tricks on your internet speed. If you’re having trouble watching your favorite series or shows on online video streaming platforms, a VPN may be of great use – since it hides your online activity, it helps you bypass whatever restrictions imposed by your internet provider which might actually mean you get to watch yet another episode of your beloved show instead of waiting forever for it to load.
As useful as it may be, a VPN is not fail-proof. Therefore, let’s take a look at VPN disadvantages as well:
- Most reliable VPNs are not free of charge – You may subscribe to a free Virtual Private Network, but for safety reasons, you may want to opt for a paid monthly subscription. Take the following into account – no online service is actually “free”, which might mean that a free-of-charge VPN may come with a hidden bonus – i.e. it might sell data from your online activity to ad-providers, among other nasty surprises.
- You will have to do some research to ensure good connection speed – That is to say that a VPN, by encrypting all your network traffic for anonymity reasons, usually takes a lot of resources which means that it might become annoyingly slow. It isn’t always the case though, but for good speed connection, you may have to opt for a paid VPN.
- Not all VPNs can be trusted – To expand on previous points, you should be also aware of the fact that VPN IPs aren’t unique, but shared by various people, which may lead to several unsavory scenarios, such as IP address blacklisting and IP spoofing, to name a few. Therefore, it is very important to subscribe only to reputable, trustworthy VPNs that you’ve researched thoroughly beforehand.
- You may find VPNs to be more complex than you’d like – A complex, secure VPN is something to look for, but that might actually translate to a number of unwanted problems. An intricate mix of protocols, network topologies and hardware equipment, and service providers makes up a VPN channel – and you may discover that not all its components “play” well together. That may entail more stress and even money setting up a good, well-functioning VPN connection.
All in all, should I use a VPN?
Taking into account all these VPN advantages and disadvantages, you may conclude that, though a VPN is a great and definitely useful idea, it isn’t always very easy to set up or understand. But since knowledge is power, all you need is to do your VPN research properly, compare VPN providers, ask for advice from people already using VPNs, and then make an informed decision. A VPN is not something you should give up on very easily, despite its few setbacks. Try it for yourself and let us know how it went!