The Advantages & Disadvantages of a VPN
If you want to create a secure remote office environment, VPNs can be more useful now than ever. In this article, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a VPN, so you can determine if it is right for you.
Using the internet these days is more daunting than ever, with many types of cyberthreats. There is only one true way to use the internet privately, and that is with a VPN or Virtual Private Network. Whether you want to watch region-specific content or create a secure home office environment, VPNs can be more useful now than ever. In this article, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a VPN, so you can determine if it is right for you.
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How Do VPNs Work?
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is an encrypted private connection between two machines. When you use a VPN, your PC or other smart device connects to another computer called a server. Your device will then use that server's information to browse the internet rather than its true network information. Any site tracking user data would then see the VPN server's information rather than your device’s information.
Advantages of a VPN
The advantages of a VPN can apply to the workplace as well. VPNs are ideal for remote work setups, because employees can use them to have secure connections to their workplace PCs and company applications and files, no matter where they are. Using a VPN for business ensures that valuable customer and company data is as safe as it can be, even when working from home.
Here are some of the key advantages of a VPN for both home and professional use:
Bypass Geo-locked Content
Many popular entertainment websites have different content accessible in specific regions. This is done for many reasons, but the bottom line is that some content is only available in a particular location. By using a VPN to make your connection appear as if it is coming from the region where the content is available, you can easily enjoy your favorite entertainment no matter where you are.
Provide Safety Through Anonymity
When using a VPN, your network information appears as if it is coming from a location different than your own. This disguise for network data helps keep VPN users safe, because anyone looking to steal information would be getting the VPN server’s data instead. Using a VPN keeps the user's location and other valuable information secure and inaccessible by unwanted parties.
Secure Connection for Remote Work
Businesses today need to consider internet safety more than ever. With more people than ever working from home, sensitive company and customer information is at a higher risk of theft.
For example, say an employee connects to a work computer remotely on a public network without using a VPN. Theoretically, anyone on that public network could gain access to the internal company network, because the employee did nothing to hide their information.
Unfettered access to company files and customer information can be catastrophic to a business. Using a VPN to connect to business-based networks can help ensure that sensitive data is hidden behind the dummy information provided via the VPN.
Save Money on Region-Based eCommerce
When shopping online, websites like hotels or airlines track customers' network information to increase prices. Some eCommerce vendors will even charge different prices for services based on region. Using a VPN to hide your location allows you to see offers unaffected by shady pricing tactics such as those mentioned above. The money you could save on flights alone could be more than you spent on the VPN.
There are new "security solutions" every day, but the latest software and firewalls can be expensive and may end up causing more issues than they prevent. You can avoid steep licensing fees or monthly charges by using a VPN. While it might not scan for viruses or block intruders from trying to connect to your PC, a VPN prevents the need for those features by essentially making you invisible online. You do not need to block outside people trying to get into your network when they think your system is two thousand miles away in Jamaica.
If you have the bandwidth, using a VPN while gaming can have some advantages. The bonuses include protection from DDoS attacks or angry players trying to gain access to your home network. The region-free capabilities of using a VPN also means that you could choose which servers to use when playing a game, which could even improve your connection speeds in some situations. Some gaming titles may only be available in specific regions, and a VPN could give you access to those games as well.
Disadvantages of a VPN
Slow Connection Speeds
Due to the fact that a VPN is a virtual connection existing inside of a physical network, there is always going to be some slowdown in terms of internet speeds. Creating and maintaining the VPN will take a certain amount of bandwidth, which slows connection speeds. To put it plainly, using a VPN is taking resources from your internet, thus limiting how fast your connection through the VPN can be.
This is gradually becoming less of an issue though, because VPN services are getting better every day. Most large VPN providers boast a minimal loss of connection speeds.
VPN Blocking Software Exists
Those same companies that want to charge people more based on location found out about VPN use and recently have taken steps to combat it. Some eCommerce sites utilize software known as VPN blockers, which works to identify and prevent users from using VPNs.
A common way these programs work is with websites that require users to register accounts before use. The company that generally stores account information like username and email will now also store a list of your common IP addresses. If the website notices that you are using an IP from a different location than usual, they may restrict or block your access. VPN blockers are growing in popularity right alongside VPN use.
Complicated Set Up
While connecting to the internet may be easy, setting up a VPN is not. A VPN is essentially an encrypted tunnel that hides the information inside. Failing to set up the VPN correctly can result in leaks. Information leaks can occur when using a VPN that is not correctly configured. These leaks are significantly more dangerous than browsing the web without a VPN, because the leak shows that you are trying to use a VPN to hide information, thus drawing attention from unwanted parties. For this reason, it is crucial to ensure you understand your VPN provider’s operating procedures before implementing them.
Even the best VPN can sometimes drop the connection. When a VPN loses connectivity, it is not the same as merely losing Wi-Fi and being disconnected from the internet. A dropped connection over VPN means that your true network information is now on display for anyone. This also means that during a dropped connection, your ISP can see what sites you are visiting. If any site you visit violates an ISP's terms of service— like a torrent, for example — they could shut down your connection right then and there.
When gaming, your connection speed is critical. Having a slow connection to game servers can be incredibly frustrating, and adding a VPN could make playing some games impossible. Users with less bandwidth may find that gaming over VPN is simply not an option. But, as we mentioned earlier, VPNs are improving over time and consuming less bandwidth.
Things to Remember
Not all VPN providers are created equal. Many offer different connection speeds, among other features and services. When purchasing a VPN, make sure to thoroughly research the provider to protect yourself from potential scams and get the best deal. Watch out for "free" VPN services. Establishing virtual connections costs money, and places that offer free VPNs have been known to steal and sell your data instead of hiding it. Here are some other important factors to consider when shopping for a VPN:
- Privacy. Some VPN providers log user data, which defeats the purpose of having a VPN in the first place.
- Cost. VPN prices can vary widely based on location, speed, and length of service contract. Make sure you get a VPN service that can meet your specific needs, and don’t pay for unnecessary features.
- Legality. VPN use is illegal in some countries, so make sure you are not breaking the law by using one.
- Location. Where are the VPN provider's servers? Will these locations be able to provide you with the speeds you need?
- Access. How will your employees access your VPN? It can help to decide between hard and soft tokens.
VPN Pros & Cons Summary
Internet security is more important than ever. Every day, more people are working from home and need to have secure connections to their workplace machines. This increase in web traffic means an increase in malicious hackers and scam services as well. Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect against these growing online threats.
- VPN Advantages. VPNs allow users to hide their network information and safely browse the web no matter their location. While not always ideal, the use of a VPN is often the most affordable and secure way to protect oneself online.
- VPN Disadvantages. Specific activities that require high bandwidth, such as gaming, might not be able to function using a VPN, but they are easily enabled and disabled.
Before deciding on a VPN service, review the advantages and disadvantages, and consider important factors like cost and legality.
Have you decided that a VPN is right for your needs? Shop VPN solutions at CDW today!