Are VPNs Worth It?
Updated: March 29, 2016
Yes. They are. They really are!
You may think us biased, but the rapidly growing number of people using a VPN to connect to the internet, combined with the number of IT security experts who argue people not using VPNs are stupid rather makes the case for us.
A VPN offers you an encrypted online connection at all times, it offers you an anonymous presence online meaning no-one else can see what you are doing online, it offers an increased level of security over a regular connection, and it also allows you to watch geo-blocked content from almost any country around the world, use public Wi-Fi securely, the list just goes on and on. Definitely worth it.
Since the revelations by Edward Snowden of the extent of US Government surveillance over the internet activity of all their citizens, demand for VPN has increased exponentially, and not just in the USA, butall over the world.
The story has helped people to finally cotton onto the idea of how insecure they are online, and what risks they are taking by doing things like internet banking, and sending personal content without taking a few basic security precautions.
A VPN offers a simple, cost-effective solution to most of these concerns, but to take advantage there are of course one or two concessions you have to make.
What sort of concessions are we talking about here?
Well firstly, to take advantage of one of the best VPNs on the market, with all of the privacy and security functions that people are looking for from a VPN, there is a price to pay.
This price is typically no more than $5 or $6 a month, but of course for many people around the world that is a large amount of money to part with. Free VPNs are available, but they usually require users to sacrifice something in the service to make up for the cost-free offer.
Beyond financial costs, there is a connectivity sacirifice as well. The fastest VPN connections these days are pretty damn good, and they are getting better all the time, but the very process of rerouting your connection via another server is always going to lead to your connection being a bit slower than it is without the VPN being active. These differences are getting smaller all the time, but they are still there.
So, if I have to pay for a slower service, are VPNs really worth it?
The answer to this is an emphatic yes. Certainly there are small concessions you have to make to run your internet activity through a VPN, but there are also a huge number of significant advantages, and I shall outline just a few of the key ones briefly for you now!
a. Online Privacy: A VPN provides users with an encrypted connection to a third party server which in turn gives you a different IP Address to use online. This means that you can use the internet as if you were totally anonymous, and depending on the VPN provider you sign up with, there can be absolutely no record of your online activity available to be exploited by Government agencies or hackers.
b. Bypass Web Censorship: Sadly, as cheaper technology makes the internet available to more and more people around the world, so authoritarian and non-democratic regimes are taking increasingly desperate steps to censor free internet access to their citizens and control the information they can both give and receive online. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in China, the world’s most populous country, where the Communist regime sends billions of dollars each year on their great firewall project.
Fortunately, a VPN is a simple way to get around such state censorship, as all you have to do is to connect to a server in a country where internet access is not restricted, and you can visit all those sites your Government doesn’t want you to look at.
c. Watch streaming services anywhere in the world: Many live TV streams and dedicated streaming providers restrict access to their services depending on where in the world you are. This is known as geo-blocking and is common practice.
However, with a VPN you can fool geo-blocked service into thinking you are in their locality by connecting to a server in that country and therefore access all their content, no matter where in the world you are.
d. Use search engines without logging: Every search engine you are likely to use will routinely log every search that you make. This information is tied to your IP Address and then used to tailor advertising or even your future search results.
But if you are using a VPN, these searches are tied to another IP Address and therefore completely unconnectable to you, meaning any embarrassing or revealing bit of information about you that might be revealed is lost in the ether with everyone elses.
e. Cloak your VOIP Calls: If you like to use online services such as Skype to speak to friends or work colleagues then a VPN should be an essential part of your kit. It is worryingly easy for hackers, intelligence agencies, or anyone with a modicum of IT knowledge to listen into your calls with the most minimum of effort. With a VPN, this becomes a whole lot harder to do as you are adding in an encrypted connection.
f. Use Public Wi-Fi safely: Public Wi-Fi is extremely insecure and not recommended for doing many day-to-day online tasks such as checking confidential emails, online banking, and even private browsing. Even the most amateur of hackers can see your activity on public Wi-Fi, but connecting through a VPN makes the service encrypted and therefore secure to use just as if you were at home.
There are plenty more advantages to using a VPN which I could detail here, but I think even the most skeptical of readers will agree that these six reasons alone more than compensate for the expenditure of a few dollars a month and a slightly slower connection.
Are VPNs worth it? Categorically, yes!