What Is a VPN & How Does It Work?

The primary purpose of Virtual Private Network or VPN is to help protect a user's identity and data over public networks including wireless hotspots and the Internet. By creating an encrypted tunnel that is then responsible for transporting data most securely. VPN services are also useful for users to gain access to websites that may only be accessed by users in certain countries.

How Does A VPN Work?

A VPN functions by routing your particular device's online connection through a private server instead of the one provided by your ISP (Internet service provider). That means that as your data gets transmitted online, it comes from that VPN server instead of your computer. The VPN acts as a kind of intermediary when you're connected online. Anytime you connect, you have an IP address, which is that string of numbers that your ISP gives your device. A VPN hides your IP address, which protects your identity. Also, if your data does somehow get intercepted, it's going to be unreadable before it gets to where it's supposed to be going.

A VPN is like a private tunnel connecting your device and the Internet. It uses encryption to hide your virtual data from prying eyes.


VPN Encryption: The Basics

Encryption is a term for describing how your data stays private whenever you use a VPN. It's the process of encryption that hides your information in a way that makes it look like gibberish unless someone has the key.

The key is a strong password, which breaks the complex code your data is converted into for transmission. The only ones that know the key are the VPN server and your computer or device. Decryption is the process of decoding the data so that applying the key makes the encrypted information once again readable and useful.

You might not even know, but this happens anytime you input your credit or debit card details into e-commerce or shopping websites. When you do this, your information should be encrypted, rendering it unreadable until it reaches its final destination.

Various VPN services apply different types of encryption processes. However, most of them follow the same basic pattern.

Anytime you form a connection to your VPN, it happens through a secure tunnel, which is where your data gets encoded. This turns your data into an unreadable code as it moves from your device or computer to the VPN server.

During this time, your device will be seen as part of the VPNs local network. That means your IP address is the IP address of one of the VPN servers.

You can browse and use the Internet as you like, with the peace of mind that your VPN is a protective barrier for your personal information. The level of effectiveness and safety your VPN offers you relies on the specific encryption mechanisms and protocols the VPN uses.

Compare Different Kinds Of VPNs

How little or how much your VPN impacts your device is mainly based on the specific type of software you choose. Quite a few VPNs work directly with operating system settings, be it Windows, Android, iOS, or Mac OS. The advantage of this is that every single app that uses an online connection is protected. This includes not only Internet browsers but also social media apps and banking apps.

Standalone VPN Service Providers

This kind of VPN is the one most frequently used by small businesses and homes. These applications create encrypted connections to their respective private networks so you can use them to connect to the broader Internet.

Browser Extensions

A number of VPNs work instead as add-ons to browsers. You can find add-ons to install to Firefox or Chrome, although Opera has a VPN in-built already. These are sometimes easier to use, but the disadvantage is how your data only get protected if you are using that particular browser at the time. Other apps outside the browser don't get protection. Also, browser-based VPNs have a tendency to be a bit more vulnerable, meaning IP leaks are more likely to happen. Always look carefully into browser-based VPN extensions, and stick with reliable names that also do other VPN services. Unfortunately, there are quite a few dirty players in this field. Read the fine print and customer reviews so you can avoid getting scammed by a data harvester.

Router VPN Services

Using a VPN-enabled router is one more way to utilize a VPN. If you have multiple devices that you'd like to protect, then this is an effective way to go. Instead of doing individual VPN installations, a router VPN will protect every single device that is connected to your router. Also, you only have to sign in just once, because, after that, your router is going to be forever connected to the VPN you logged into.

Connecting a router to your VPN isn't nearly as hard as you might assume. First off, you need a VPN service and a router. It's easiest if you get a router that's already designed for supporting VPNs, so you don't have to do anything technical except putting in your VPN details. Such routers typically cost a little more than regular routers, although the sheer convenience is often worth it.

Corporate-Level VPN Services

Businesses, organizations, and other establishments commonly use remote-access VPN services for any staff working outside of the office. These VPN services can allow employees to secure access to the private intranet of the company, usually just through an app and a password. This custom-designed solution often involves personalized development and heavy use of IT resources.

VPN Protocols for Different Use Cases

VPN services use various protocols. The list includes PPTP, IPsec, SSL/TLS and SSTP. Corporate users are more likely to use SSL or IPSec VPN protocols. Since the requirements of an average user are not complicated, the PPTP VPN protocol may be adequate.

The most significant advantage of PPTP protocols is its availability or compatibility with major operating systems. It can also be used on smartphones.

The Benefits of Secure VPN Service & Why You Should Use One

When you use a VPN, your device automatically connects to a server. Traffic can be routed through that server. Although this may sound similar to a proxy, there is a distinct difference. Proxies are only capable of redirecting traffic requests. VPNs can route traffic and anonymize it. Better yet, traffic is encrypted when it's sent through a VPN. This prevents cybercriminals from accessing sensitive information.

Read more about the differences between Proxy and VPN

VPNs can encrypt and anonymize all of your traffic on the web. This makes a VPN an excellent choice. VPNs offer many other benefits as well, such as:

Remote access: It's possible to access a VPN network remotely. Because of this, it's becoming increasingly common for businesses to use VPNs. With a VPN, workers can do more from home.

Secure file sharing: You can do more than visit websites with a VPN. It's also possible to share files. Since VPNs encrypt data, this can be a way to send files securely.

Excellent performance: Surprisingly, a VPN can improve bandwidth and overall efficiency. With a VPN, you may be able to access content faster and accomplish more.

VPNs offer numerous advantages, so people are interested in using them for personal and professional purposes. However, VPNs do have some drawbacks that you should be aware of, such as:

VPNs may be blocked: If you're hoping to use a VPN to access content on a streaming site like Netflix, you may not have that option. There are a number of content providers that block access to VPNs.

Not all VPNs are equal: If you do choose to use a VPN, it's important to find the right one. VPNs can often deliver a performance boost, but the wrong VPN could slow down your traffic. You should avoid free VPNs and look at paid options.

Free versus Paid VPN

These VPN protocols may be obtained for free or for a fee. Free VPN services are not always the best choice. Some risks come with it. For one, there is a possibility of being scammed. Two, the security level offered by free VPN is rather low. Paid VPN services on the other hand, offer much higher security levels.

Three, while support is available to paying VPN clients, a user cannot expect help from a free service. Fourth, users who want to avoid annoying ads should opt for a paid VPN. As with other free services, public VPNs are swarming with advertisements. This is an inconvenience for users who prefer efficient connection.

The essential criterion in selecting a good VPN provider is integrity. If a user's main aim is to protect his identity and personal data from online threats, he must find a provider capable of providing security, safety and protection.

Read more: Free versus Paid VPNs compared