VPN Advantages and Disadvantages (Everything You Should Know)
VPNs are more popular than ever nowadays, but – despite that – there are still plenty of people who don’t know what such a service can offer them. Well, we’re going to be discussing the real benefits and disadvantages of VPN services in this article, so that you’ll have an easier time deciding if they are right for you or not.
We already have a more in-depth article focusing only on VPN advantages in case you’re only interested in that topic. In this one, like we already mentioned, we’ll just offer a short but clear overview of both VPN advantages and disadvantages.
First things first, though – let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what VPNs are and how they work.
What Is a VPN (Virtual Private Network)?
A VPN is an online service you can use to unblock geo-restricted/censored Internet content, and protect your online data from hackers and government surveillance by encrypting your online traffic and hiding your real IP address.
How Does a VPN Work?
A VPN relies on a VPN server and a VPN client to establish a secure connection for you. Basically, you install the client on your device, and use it to connect to the VPN server of your choice. When the connection is established, an encrypted tunnel is created between the client and the server.
Any connection requests you send through the client to the web are encrypted and sent to the server. Afterwards, the server decrypts the requests and forwards them to the Internet. Once the requested data is received, it is encrypted by the server, and then sent back to the client. In the last phase, the VPN client on your device decrypts the received information so that you can freely access it.
The 8 Advantages of VPN Services
When it comes to the advantages and disadvantages of VPN services, you’ll usually find that the pros significantly outweigh the cons:
1. A VPN Hides Your Online Identity
Since a VPN hides your IP address and encrypts your online traffic, it essentially makes sure your digital footprints can’t be tracked on the Internet. Online hackers won’t be able to use your real IP address to find out personal details about you, and government surveillance agencies and ISPs won’t get to monitor what you do online by snooping on your traffic.
Besides helping you elude government surveillance, that also helps keep your privacy safe from advertisers. Don’t forget – in the US, ISPs are free to sell user data to third-party advertisers. If you’re not in the US, that might not be a huge concern, but do keep in mind that you can’t 100% know that there are no shady deals going on behind your back between your ISP and other advertisers. Also, that can still happen to you if you visit the US as a tourist.
Even if you ignore the “ISP selling your data to advertisers bit,” there’s still the fact that platforms like Google can share your personal data with third-party advertisers. Also, advertisers can track your online movements to a certain degree through ads and other means.
2. VPNs Help You Bypass Geo-Blocks
Don’t know what geo-blocks are? Well, did you ever try to access a website only to be met with the following message (or a variation on it): “Sorry, the content you requested is not available in your area.”
That’s geo-restriction technology in action. It’s basically a way for content providers to control which geographic areas their websites, movies, music, and TV shows are available in. They normally do that because they need to comply with copyright regulations, licensing regulations, and various legal procedures too.
How does a VPN help with that issue? Here’s something you need to know first – websites can normally hide content behind geo-restrictions because they can see your geo-location when you’re online. Essentially, the platform you want to access sees the connection request your device sends – and also the IP address the request comes from. Once the website knows your real IP address, it can track your geo-location easily. If it’s blacklisted, you will be denied access or redirected to a different page.
Since a VPN can hide your real IP address, it can easily help you bypass geo-blocks since the platform you want to access will think you’re from the “right” geographical region.
For example, if you are from Bulgaria, and you connect to a UK-based server, you’ll be able to access platforms like BBC iPlayer and NOW TV.
So, a VPN can be very useful if you’re looking to unblock content from anywhere in the world, or if you travel or work abroad often.
3. VPN Services Secure Your Online Connections
WiFi is everywhere nowadays, and it’s extremely convenient to use – especially if you have a tight mobile data plan. The only problem with free WiFi is that it’s often unsecured, meaning you’re putting your personal data in danger whenever you use it. After all, cybercriminals can find out a lot about you – which can lead to them stealing your:
- Credit card details
- Bank account details
- Email login credentials
If you use a VPN, though, you won’t need to worry about those dangers. Why? Because a VPN uses encryption to secure your online communications, effectively making sure nobody can monitor them. Basically, if any hacker would try to look at your connection traffic, they’d just see gibberish.
This is also why VPNs are such a good choice for accessing work files remotely too. If you ever need to check a client file while you’re taking a break at a coffee shop and using their WiFi, your best option is to use a VPN to make sure no would-be hackers can compromise your connection and work data.
4. A VPN Can Prevent Bandwidth Throttling
Haven’t heard of bandwidth throttling, yet? It’s basically when your ISP limits your bandwidth, effectively lowering your online speeds. They might do that regularly, or just once a week or month. Usually, ISPs do that to improve their services by getting rid of network congestion and making sure there’s enough bandwidth for all users.
However, they most often engage in bandwidth throttling as a way to “convince” users (like you) to purchase more expensive subscriptions and data plans.
Well, the good news is that since a VPN encrypts all your Internet traffic, your ISP won’t be able to see what you’re doing online. They won’t know if you’re using up “too much” bandwidth to play online games, download files, or stream TV shows. So, they won’t be able to throttle your bandwidth for doing any of those things.
5. VPNs Can Bypass Firewalls
When you’re at work, school, the airport, or even in a hotel, you might have to deal with annoying network firewalls that prevent you from accessing certain websites. Network admins do that because they often need to comply with various regulations, but that doesn’t make it fair for you.
Luckily, you can easily bypass any firewall you encounter with a VPN since it hides your IP address – the address the firewall restrictions have been applied to.
And yes, a VPN would even let you bypass government-enforced firewalls (like the Great Firewall of China, for example), so you won’t have to deal with any government censorship while browsing the Internet.
6. VPNs Offer Secure Torrenting
Torrenting isn’t really dangerous if you know what you’re doing, but it can endanger your privacy if you’re not using a VPN. You see, all the members of the Swarm (all the people downloading and uploading a torrent) can actually see your real IP address. That means you’ve got unwanted strangers being able to see what country and city you are from, and potentially finding out what your ZIP code and who your ISP are.
What’s more, don’t forget that torrenting can be illegal depending on your country’s laws. Using a VPN is a smart way to ensure you don’t end up in legal trouble, get DMCA notices, or have your ISP terminate your contract just for downloading a simple torrent.
DISCLAIMER: CactusVPN doesn’t encourage illegal copyright infringement and torrenting. However, we are aware that, for some people, file-sharing is the only way they can get access to the files they need – be them for entertainment, school, or work purposes.
7. VPNs Make Online Gaming Better
Because a VPN encrypts your connections and hides your IP address, there are plenty of reasons to use such a service to improve your gaming experience. You’ll be able to play in any geographical regions you’ll want, you’ll get to play banned games, you’ll keep yourself safe from DDoS attacks, and you’ll even manage to avoid unfair IP bans.
In case you’d like to learn more about VPNs and gaming, check out our in-depth article on that topic.
8. VPNs Might Help You Avoid Online Price Discrimination
Online retailers and airline companies sometimes like to display different prices to their website visitors based on which geographical region they are from. They usually do that to better segment their markets, and also to drive more profit. Of course, having to pay more money for the same product/service just because you’re from a different part of the world is hardly fair.
Since a VPN hides your IP address, it masks your real geo-location too. So, if you’re from a more developed country (like the US, for instance), you could try making it seem like you’re from a less developed area of the world to get a better price.
Need a VPN Service That’s 110% Reliable?
CactusVPN is just what you need. Our VPN service comes with military-grade encryption (AES), 30+ servers with 1 Gbps connections, unlimited bandwidth, and multiple protocols to choose from: PPTP, SoftEther, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2/IPSec and SSTP.
Also, we provide access to additional features to make sure you’ll enjoy a secure online experience, such as DNS leak protection and a Killswitch. That, and we protect your privacy by not keeping any logs about your online activities.
Plus, we also offer access to a Smart DNS service alongside our VPN services if you only want to bypass geo-blocks and enjoy your original ISP speeds. Right now, our Smart DNS can help you access 300+ geo-restricted websites.
We developed user-friendly apps for our VPN service that work on the most popular platforms (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV).
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And once you do become a CactusVPN customer, we’ll still have your back with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The 4 Disadvantages of VPN Services
There really aren’t that many disadvantages of VPN services that wouldn’t make this type of service a good option. Still, it’s worth mentioning the following things you might consider issues:
1. VPNs Can Sometimes Slow Down Your Online Speeds
Depending on various factors (how far you are from the VPN server, how powerful the encryption is, what kind of VPN protocol you use, etc.), your Internet connection speeds might take a hit when you use a VPN. The slowdown might not always be too noticeable, and – sometimes – it might not happen at all, especially if you have a very strong CPU and powerful bandwidth.
However, you still need to be prepared for a potential drop in speed (usually just a few Mbps) if you use a VPN.
We’ve already got an in-depth guide explaining how the use of a VPN affects your online speeds if you’d like to learn more.
2. Using the Wrong VPN Can Put Your Privacy in Danger
VPNs are meant to protect your online data, but if you don’t do your research you might end up picking a service that does the complete opposite.
Usually, that’s the case with very inexperienced providers (usual signs include buggy applications, lack of tutorials and support, and no clear details about the kind of security they offer) and free VPN providers. The latter are usually the most likely to get you in trouble since free VPNs normally don’t offer properly configured encryption or they might even expose you to malware.
Also, if you choose a VPN provider (paid or free) that keeps logs about your online activities, that will endanger your privacy too – not to mention it will defeat the purpose of using a VPN in the first place.
Fortunately, this issue can easily be avoided if you choose a paid VPN service that keeps no logs and which offers high-end security (VPN protocols like SoftEther and OpenVPN, military-grade encryption, DNS leak protection, access to a Killswitch, and so on).
3. Quality VPNs Will Cost Money
Since free VPNs are clearly not a reliable option, you’ll definitely need to pick a paid VPN provider. If you’re short on cash, that can be a problem – especially since some providers might charge up to $9-12/month, which adds up in the long run.
It’s not all bad news, though. There are VPN providers (like CactusVPN, for example) that offer pretty affordable pricing through segmented subscriptions, and that also run discounts and promotions quite often too.
4. Not All Devices Natively Support VPNs
While VPN services generally work on the most popular platforms (Windows, iOS, macOS, Android), there are still some operating systems and devices (Linux, Chromebook, Boxee Box) that don’t really support VPN applications, or platforms for which VPN apps aren’t developed because they’re not that widely used. In such a situation, you’ll have to manually set up VPN connections on the device/operating system you want to use.
Besides that, there are also platforms that don’t have native support for VPN applications (gaming consoles, some smart devices, set top boxes). In that case, you’re going to have to set up a VPN connection on your router (which must run compatible firmware), and those devices will use the configured VPN connection once they access the web through the router.
So, Is a VPN the Right Choice for You?
Considering all the VPN advantages and disadvantages we’ve just discussed, it’s pretty obvious that a VPN is the perfect choice if you want to enjoy a secure online connections and freely access censored or blocked content.
Even if you’re only interested in accessing geo-blocked TV shows and movies, and are worried a VPN will lower your online speeds too much, you could put your concerns to rest by looking for a VPN provider who provides high-speed connections, fast VPN protocols (like SoftEther), and unlimited bandwidth. Alternatively, a VPN provider who also offers a Smart DNS service could come in handy too since that service doesn’t interfere with your online connections.
VPN Advantages and Disadvantages – The Bottom Line
Overall, there are way more advantages than there are disadvantages of using VPN services. Whether or not such a service would be useful to you depends on what you want to do on the web. But – simply put – if you want to enjoy a safe online experience and bypass online censorship and geo-blocks, a VPN is the right choice.
- A VPN service hides your real IP address, effectively masking your online identity and allowing you to bypass geo-blocks.
- Since a VPN masks your IP address, it also helps you bypass firewalls.
- A VPN encrypts your online connections, protecting your data from hackers and ISP/government surveillance.
- By encrypting your online traffic, a VPN ensures your ISP can’t throttle your bandwidth.
- A VPN offers you a better online gaming experience by keeping you safe from IP bans, DDoS attacks, and by giving you access to geo-blocked/banned video games.
- With a VPN, you are much safer when downloading torrents since your ISP can’t see what you’re doing, and other people who are downloading/uploading the same torrent can’t see your real IP address.
- A VPN can potentially help you avoid online price discrimination (like when airline companies charge more for the same ticket if you’re from a different geographical area) since it hides your IP address.
- VPN services will usually cost money, as free VPNs aren’t an option since they don’t work right and endanger your data.
- Not all devices and operating systems natively support VPN applications, so you might have to manually set up a connection sometimes.
- Using a VPN will usually lower your online speeds to a certain extent because of various factors (distance from the server, type of encryption that’s used, what VPN protocol you use, etc.).
- Some VPN providers log user data, which can put your privacy in danger.