VPN Guide – Everything a Beginner Needs to Know About VPN

What-is-a-VPN

If you are new to the word VPN and you know you need to use it, but perplexed about the term and curious to know more about VPNs then this guide is for you.

What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure and separate network, which let users connect to the internet through an encrypted tunnel bypassing their public network and securely transfers their internet data packets through it, VPN is just like a firewall in computers which protects you from the local area network (LAN) attacks, VPN works as an online firewall to protect your from all the cyber hazards and attackers, to use a VPN an active connection is mandatory. VPNs are a mix of various technologies which;

  • Gives you Anonymity over the internet
  • Hides your IP address and internet activities from your ISP and other snoopers like government surveillance and security agencies provide internet security and privacy
  • Let you bypass geo-restrictions and access all the blocked websites when you are outside your country
  • Gives you absolute protection from cyber attackers like hackers, spammers, etc.
  • Let you share files using P2P file sharing websites

Types of VPN

Technically there are two basic types of VPN;

Remote Access VPN

A Remote Access VPN let an individual user access a company’s or office network from a region located abroad of far from the actual network with absolute security. By using a remote access VPN users can create a secure connection from their device.

remote-access-vpn

Site-to-site VPN

A site-to-site VPN is used to connect whole networks to each other, for example connecting an office branch to its headquarter’s network, where the branch office or offices are hosts which don’t have a VPN connection they send and receive normal TCP/IP traffic through a VPN gateway.

Site-to-Site-VPN

Point to Note:
The concept of VPN was initially associated with the employees who need to access the corporate network from a remote far away location named as corporate VPN, we at Best VPN Analysis review and provide solutions for commercial VPN services which are referred to individual customers which use it to build their own private network for privacy, anonymity and to evade geo-restrictions, however both of the VPNs traditionally use the same basic technology and framework.

What is VPN for Mobile?

VPNs are also installed and used in all smartphones to protect them from cyber attacks and threats like hacking, spamming, snooping by NSA and government security and surveillance agencies etc. and provide them full anonymity while browsing the internet on their mobile devices. Not on the VPN provide the mobile user’s anonymity and privacy but also gives them power to access all the blocked content due to censorship laws and geo-restrictions in different countries. All the latest smartphones available in the market these days comes with the built-in VPN support interface, which makes them compatible with all the major VPN Apps for smartphones operating system like Android, iOS, etc.

Why You Need to Use a VPN?

VPNs have become popular these days and million of internet users use VPN service for different services, even if you know about it, you don’t use it and if you are reading this article; you need to know why must use a VPN or for which purposes people use VPN. Tech experts and many top rated technology websites are writing about the importance of using a VPN and saying it is as important as your internet connection, just like for your device the antivirus is mandatory to be secure and virus free, a VPN is necessary for your internet connection with all of your device for following reasons;

Security

Over Billion of people around the world use the internet all around the world, according to Wikipedia the largest number of internet users are in China with a total of 721,434,547 users till 2104 by now it must have been increased which ranked China the 1st in the list of countries by number of Internet users followed by the India, USA etc. these figures include the internet users from all the device like computers, PC, mobile phones etc. with this huge numbers of people using the internet from all around the world they are also exposed to the potential threats of cyber crimes like hacking, spamming etc. according to a report by Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) last year in 2015, 781 hacking incidents were recorded which resulted in data security breach which is very alarming. Hackers and spammers are also getting stronger by the enhancement in the technology as they are exploiting it to fulfil their evil intentions which harm many individuals and businesses as Identity theft, Financial accounts access, data theft etc. and all these are done for two reasons; for money and sometimes to steal highly confidential information, and the cyber criminals usually do it by snooping into the connection by finding any flaw in the security barrier from where they get the chance to exploit the user’s information and hack the information through the network. A VPN provides you protection against all such cyber attacks by providing you a secure and private connection which is away from all the snooping eyes on the network and enhance your security level so it is harder for any attacker to bypass it. However, not all VPN services are secure enough some VPNs can be another problem for you as they keep the log of users’ data which can be a death of the main purpose of using a VPN, that is security. Later in this VPN guide, we have discussed some important points to select the right VPN for you.

Anonymity

Anonymity is something all internet users have mixed opinions about, some people care about their internet data and implement ways to anonymize their internet connection and some people even after knowing about it, are careless towards it, but if we talk in general the tech and internet experts from all around the world are speaking about the search engines, apps, social networking platforms, websites use the users’ data which is obtained by tracking the user’s’ activities collecting their preferences, location, likes, dislikes etc. which is further shared with the third-party companies to gain ads for monetary benefits. After the revelations made by Snowden the internet users all around the world know of how the internet works and how companies leak their information and they now pay more attentions towards their data used by the websites they use. However, all the websites, apps, social platforms etc. propose the disclosure of their privacy and log policy which is shared with the users are mostly as a lengthy and full of words “User Agreement” most users accept it without reading the full details because on too much reading involved. In such scenario a VPN can protect your internet data you send or receive by encrypting it and channelizing it through a private tunnel which is created by the VPN service, this way the user’s data it hidden and not traceable by anyone and even if it is intercepted they person can’t get anything but a scrambled text due to encryption provided by the VPN. Anonymous connection is also important when downloading files from Torrenting or P2P file sharing websites, which make your login information hidden the eyes of all the other people on the network.

Privacy from Snooping

In this era of post-Snowden, who doesn’t know about the government and security agencies spying on the user’s’ internet activities and compel the ISPs to log the user’s’ data so it can be monitored and shared? This is done by most of the developed countries like the US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand etc. Security agencies claim this as an act of state security against terrorism and other cyber crimes, but people are reacting towards it in a very different manner and most of them think it violates user’s privacy laws, as the government and security agencies have been doing it for years without the consent of people, before it was leaked by Snowden. A VPN enhances your privacy by blocking these snooping by anyone either it is your ISP or the government and security agencies, it creates a virtual encrypted tunnel to route all your internet data in an unreadable form and connect you anonymously to the internet which saves you from the spying eyes.

To evade Geo-restrictions or geo-blockings

Geo-restriction or geo-blocking is an internet censorship in which some websites are being blocked in some countries due to various reasons. This is done using various technologies one of them is Internet Protocol (IP) banning, in which the IP address of the country is to be blocked from a website is checked as blacklisted and whenever any user from that country try to access the website, he or she sees an error message nothing else. This cause the internet users to restrict accessing certain websites from different countries where such some websites are blocked. To access such blocked websites from any region and to evade the geo-restriction and geo-blocking you need the IP address of the country from where the blocked website belongs, for instance, to unblock any of US website you need a US IP address. A VPN not only is popular due to the security and privacy it provides as mentioned above, but it also gives you power to unblock and access blocked content from anywhere in the world by changing your location virtually and getting IP address of the country you are trying to reach.

Who can use VPNs?

VPNs are used by different people for different purposes all around the world, here are major groups of VPN users.

VPN for Schools

Most of the school provide a VPN connection to all the students to access the school’s resource network, the VPN is usually free as provided by the school authorities to their students. School VPNs are a way which connects the students with the resource network even from a remote location like if they are away from the school premises or traveling they can get the access to schools’ resource pool and complete their assignments, project, etc.

VPN for Travellers

Whenever we travel out of the country, we face geo-blockings on our favorite website because as mentioned above, not all the websites are accessible from all countries of the world. In such scenario, people use VPN to connect to their home network or to access their favorite websites, etc.

VPN for Business

All the companies these days use a VPN to securely connect their remote employees or office branches to the office network on a public network like the internet. VPNs are very famous among corporate sector as it the most secure way to connect their remote employees sitting in different branches country wide or abroad, and the best thing is that it is not a rocket science for the employees to connect to their company’s network using VPN it is as simple as running any software on your laptop which requires the internet of course. Most of the commercial VPN services also provide corporate and business VPN service to serve the purpose.

VPN for Home Users

Home users use VPN to secure their information, to avoid snooping, to get the access to their favorite streaming channels or downloading websites, to unblock websites, etc.

VPN for Public Wi-Fi Users

We all love to get free Wi-Fi connection while sitting in the restaurant, roaming in a shopping mall, or waiting at the airport or subway etc. who doesn’t love something free to use when boredom hits in public places or if you use it to access your company’s network to get work done and enter your sensitive data which can be hacked by any attacker and put your job and company’s network in risk, so all free things are not free but everything has a price to pay and using public Wi-Fi can be expensive as it can attract hackers and other cyber attacker who mostly are hidden and prying on such open network and just by any ill-equipped user they can hack your sensitive data, so either avoid using such networks or if you can’t avoid, then use a VPN which adds a security layer to your smartphone hard to crack by any attacker.

How a VPN Works?

As it is a beginners guide for VPN, I won’t go into many technical details so to keep it simple and understandable for many readers. Virtual Private Network (VPN) uses mix of various technologies like dedicated connection and encryption protocols to create virtual Point-to-point connections and connects you to the internet through an encrypted tunnel and transmits all your internet data through this tunnel and the data transmitter is so secure that even if intercepted, the snooper cannot read the data because of the encryption. This way VPNs can provide you security and anonymity over the internet which is required when you are torrenting or using P2P file sharing platforms etc. or to avoid hacking, spamming, snooping by the government and surveillance agencies and other cyber attacks. VPNs also let you change your geographical location without being physically moving to any other country you can show the internet you are in that country, how? The answer is simple, VPN alters your IP address and let you choose any country’s server provided by it and changes your IP address to that country’s IP address. This way you can access all the blocked websites of any country you wish to, so you may live in UAE, but internet displays you are in New York city, magic? No, the technology of a VPN. So what you need to do to use a VPN for all the aforementioned reasons, first you need to decide why you want to use a VPN? For which device, you want to use VPN? Then once you know the answers, choose the right VPN according to your purpose, device etc. and it is not difficult at all. For instance, you want to access any streaming channel blocked in your country, so you need a VPN. Select a VPN that is best for this purpose by searching your query on Google, get a little research, read some VPN reviews.

VPN Encryption

Encryption means to hide something in an unreadable form to protect the data from unauthorized access usually protected by an encryption key or password. A VPN encryption follows the same basic rule, but the encryption key is not a simple password here it is done by the VPN protocols. A VPN encrypts the data from one end the time it enters the VPN tunnel, and at the other end it is decrypted and the level of encryption level is determined by the protocol offered and used by a VPN, usually all commercial VPN software offer different VPN protocols for the users to select which varies in terms of level of security. A VPN uses different protocols to encapsulate the data packets traveling in the tunnel. The more secure the protocol, the less is the speed and vice versa. To understand more about VPN protocols we have discussed each of them briefly here.

VPN Protocols

There are different VPN protocols used by VPN service providers to determine the security and encryption level of a VPN which we have discussed briefly below;

Point-to-point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)

Point-to-point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the most commonly used VPN protocol and the oldest one used in millions of machines and operating system since it was first launched in early 90’s. However, this protocol doesn’t do encryption it tunnels the data packets and encapsulate them and the secondary protocols GRE or TCP is used for encryption. The security level provided by PPTP is overshadowed by the other stronger protocols making it a not recommendable VPN as compared to other VPN protocols discussed here.

Internet Protocol security (IPSec)

Internet Protocol security (IPSec) is the most widely used protocol across the internet for secure communications and it functions in two modes; transport mode and tunneling mode. Transport mode is used to encrypt the message within the data packet and tunneling mode is used to encrypt the entire data packet traveling through the tunnel. IPSec is usually combined with other protocols to enhance and strengthen the level of security.

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)/IPsec

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is the tunneling protocol and can only generate the data tunnel, therefore it is combined with IPSec for the strong level of security and IPSec manages the encryption, handles the security and check the data integrity while monitoring the tunnel security.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS)

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) are broadly used for the security of service providers like banks etc. and retailers. These protocols use handshake method to function. An HTTP-based SSL connection is established when a client enters the URL using https:// instead of with HTTP://. When the SSL session is started the handshake method is used in the beginning of the SSL section which starts the cryptographic parameters across the connection. These parameters contain typically digital certificates are the ways by which two systems share and exchange encryption keys, authenticate the session, and establish the secure connection.

Secure Shell (SSH)

Secure Shell (SSH) is the most dynamic type of VPN which performs both creates the VPN tunnel and so the encryption. When the user transfers unsecured data through this SSH tunnel the data packets are not encrypted and only the tunnel via the data packets are traveling is encrypted. The SSH client creates SSH connection which routes the data traffic from a local port one on the remote server and entire data travels between these two end points of the encrypted tunnel.

OpenVPN

OpenVPN is an open source software application to implement VPN technique to build point-to-point connection and high level of encryption, It uses a custom security protocol that uses SSL/TLS for key exchange.

VPN and its Privacy Policy

When you use a VPN service to secure your data from snoopers and other cyber attackers you must be sure that the VPN service provider you choose is trustable and reliable because you trust that VPN company with your confidential and sensitive data you want to protect from snoopers and intruders, but what if the VPN keep logs of your data and can share if asked to do so? The purpose of using and trusting a VPN company is killed then, so it is highly recommended to check the privacy and log policy of a VPN provider before buying it and use the service. All the commercial VPN service providers are compelled to share their log keeping and privacy policy with their users so it is presented on the official website of the all the providers. The logging policy of the company is independent of its location, but as a general belief we can say the VPN providers which are based in the countries where mass surveillance and data retention laws are implemented for instance the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc. are compelled to keep user’s log and can share when asked to do so. However, the privacy policy depends entirely on the provider, most of the provider needs certain user information to log which is a normal and general practice and harmless to the VPN user.

How to Select a Right VPN?

Selecting a right VPN means signing up for a VPN service is as per your need and purpose but you must consider the following factors before buying a VPN service;

Protocols & Encryption

When selecting a VPN service you must make sure it provides all the major protocols to choose from like PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP etc. and it must offer a good encryption level like AES 128-bit or AES 256-bit of encryption is considered as the most secure and high-end level of security is provided by using such kind of encryption.

Server Locations

It is very important to check that a VPN provider must offer servers in at least all major countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan, Singapore etc. the more the server locations the more connectivity options of a VPN provider.

Price

Obviously price is very important, choosing an affordable VPN can save you save dollars but can definitely not provide you with the full features that might you need, to get exclusive features you may need to spend dollars, as quality has its cost.

Anonymous Payment Method

If you don’t want your confidential data to enter on the website, many VPN companies offer Anonymous Payment method by which you can purchase a VPN without disclosing your identity.

Speed

The connection speed after installing a VPN is usually decreased, but that decrease must not be so much so you want to shut your device down in anger, so a little drop in connection speed is normal when using a VPN.

Customer Support

The Customer support staff of a VPN provider must be 24/7 available so any query, problem in connection or issues can be reported and resolved

Simultaneous Connection Option

By this option, with just one VPN account you can use VPN on multiple devices you own and can enhance the level of protection. Most of the VPNs provides 3 to 5 simultaneous connection option.
Compatibility- A VPN service must be compatible with all the major operating system and devices like Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone/iPad, Linux etc. many VPN companies are also compatible with other platforms like VPN routers, smart TVs, etc.

Trial & Money-Back Guarantee

Free Trials and Money-Back guarantee provided by the VPNs is a good way to decide and test the performance of a VPN service without the worry of wasting your money.

VPN by Purposes

The above-mentioned points are the features you must look for in a VPN before buying it. However, we have also discussed points about the important and recommended features necessary for major VPN purposes below.

VPN for Privacy & Anonymity

When the sole purpose of using a VPN is security and privacy of your confidential and sensitive data and keep your connection private and away from cyber attacks and eavesdropping by the government and security agencies, then you must select a VPN which offers high-end military-grade encryption like AES 256-bit and offer secure protocol like SSTP, OpenVPN client, IKEv2 etc. and it must be based in a country free from the jurisdiction of countries which have laws for mass surveillance and data retention laws so it never keep logs, a zero-log VPN is important for the absolute security and privacy.

VPN for Streaming

Streaming requires a high speed of connection for streaming HD videos online, so it is usually recommended to use PPTP or L2TP/IPSec as they are less influenced by the speed of the connection and provide good streaming speed, however, it is not as secure as SSTP and other secure protocols, but for streaming it is recommended. The server location of a VPN must be in the countries which streaming channels you want to access.

VPN to Evade Geo-restrictions

There are millions of people all around the world using VPN services to unblock the websites inaccessible in their countries due to censorship policies and complex content licensing agreement. Such VPN needs special technology to bypass geo-restriction and provide access to the blocked websites, usually obfsproxy technology, dedicated IP address are provided and many other specialized technologies are used to unblock the websites and evade the geo-restrictions.

What a VPN doesn’t Do?

After all the discussion about the anonymity and security which surely a VPN capable of providing, but we want to clear that two things that a VPN can’t help you with; number one if a government security or surveillance agency like NSA want to track your data and internet activities no one on the Earth can stop them and second it can’t help you with website tracking by marketing and analytical companies a VPN prevent it up to some extent but not full protection especially if these websites use cookies and browser fingerprinting for tracking.

SOME General FAQs ABOUT VPNs

There are many questions people ask about VPNs over the internet from all around the world, to accommodate all of them in this article is impossible, however, I have picked top FAQs below and answered them as as I can.

Does VPN make me Anonymous?

The straightforward answer to this question is NO, VPN provides you privacy rather than anonymity because the VPN provider can see your login details, your online activities and everything you do, the best and most anonymous VPN service providers protects their users privacy but even how can you be 100% anonymous when the VPN provider know your login details, your data, and online activities? So there is nothing like perfection exists.

Is using VPN Legal?

Yes, using VPN in most of the countries is legal and not restricted by law. Even the most censored internet countries like China and Iran which restrict and monitors its people over the internet, they only ban the use of VPN but by law, it is not illegal there.

Can I Do Safe Torrenting using a VPN?

Yes, if your choose a VPN which is not based in the countries which have data retention laws, like the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc. they can provide you anonymity for safe and anonymous torrenting which help you keep your IP address hidden from the others when on these P2P file sharing networks.

Am I safe while using a Free VPN service?

No, free VPN usually keeps logs, slowdowns your internet connection and share your user’s data. It is famous saying, ‘’It’s nothing like free lunch.’’ so the first thing is that there are few frees VPN providers out there and most of them are not safe to use as they generate money by selling your data to the third parties for ads so they can sponsor the so-called Free VPN service for you.

Can a VPN slow down internet speed?

Mostly all the VPNs use encryption to provide you privacy and security, which is an added layer for the data to travel and it take more out of a CPU to process which can take time especially if you are using an old system, then you can notice a slow connection speed. Very negligible reduction of speed is observed while using a VPN, but in no way a VPN can enhance your connection speed and if anyone claims, then they are lying.

Conclusion of VPN Guide

VPN is a useful and effective tool and worth paying a few dollars for. It boosts your internet experience, provides you security and privacy from hackers, spammers, and other cyber attackers. It also prevents you from unwelcome snooping by government security and surveillance agencies. We have created this guide to in-depth research and personal experience and we are sure it will be of a great use for all the VPN noobs.

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Sandy Roberts

Sandy Roberts is technology admirer and a computer specialist who is always curious for new technological advancements in the IT industry. With her extensive experience and apprehension of IT industry and technology, she writes after concrete research and analysis with the intention to aid the reader the content full of factual information. Being so ambitious to facilitate the readers, she intermittently tries her hand on the tech-gadgets and services popping frequently in the industry to reduce any ambiguity in her mind related to the project on she works, that a huge sign of dedication to her work.

Sandy Roberts

Sandy Roberts is technology admirer and a computer specialist who is always curious for new technological advancements in the IT industry. With her extensive experience and apprehension of IT industry and technology, she writes after concrete research and analysis with the intention to aid the reader the content full of factual information. Being so ambitious to facilitate the readers, she intermittently tries her hand on the tech-gadgets and services popping frequently in the industry to reduce any ambiguity in her mind related to the project on she works, that a huge sign of dedication to her work.

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