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Internet and Networking

What Is a VPN? A Detailed Guide to Understanding Its Benefits

What is a VPN? That’s a question that many have asked, and perhaps, are slightly familiar with it; however, aren’t fully acquainted with the entire VPN concept.

A VPN, short for Virtual Private Network aims to primarily serve the following 4 goals (which many argue how the internet should be anyway):

  1. To grant more anonymization, privacy & security, even when you’re connected to an unsecured network, and also from your own ISP.
  2. To remove site speed and throttling restrictions.
  3. To enable global web & content accessibility by allowing you to access any content, anywhere in the world.
  4. To provide the best opportunities to get the best price when shopping online. For instance, say you want to buy item X that sells at $100 in the U.S.A. However, chances are, the exact item is available for $20 in another country. With a VPN, all you have to do is choose a server in that country, and buy it for a much lower price. I personally haven’t done shopping this way as I believe it’s unfair, but people rave about the huge discounts they’re able to get this way.

This post will essentially talk about these 4 goals. Although, before we dive into the details, here’s a layman’s explanatory video from ExpressVPN — on what a VPN is. If you’d rather not navigate to another website, the same video is embedded below.

VPN Goal 1: Anonymization, Privacy & Security

VPN allows for IP masking, which in other words, translates into hiding your real IP address. Not only can you mask your IP, but you can mask your geographic location as well.

On a VPN connection, generally speaking, you can get the following benefits:

  1. Your online activity is hidden from hackers, governments, and your own ISP.
  2. You can browse anonymously.
  3. You get an additional layer of security through encryption (even on an unsecured connection), say a public Wi-Fi with lackluster security measures.

Technically speaking, VPN is a very contorted concept to grasp, and there is so much more you can do with it if you’re pronounced in networking and internet security. Although, to a layman, knowing that a VPN supports the endeavors of browsing the internet more freely and privately — without the prying eyes, is enough.

Personally, I use ExpressVPN, if you hadn’t guessed already. The reason I chose them is because they have a strict policy to not store any connection or activity logs. So even if someone were to reach out to them to ask for that information about you (say they get subpoenaed), they can’t, as they don’t have that information available in the first place. Combine that with their extra 256-bit encryption, and you’re golden.

expressvpn not logging any activity
^Image Source: https://www.expressvpn.com/what-is-vpn/policy-towards-logs (I’d highly suggest you read everything mentioned in the link). It really speaks to how much seriously they take a user’s concern with privacy, and anonymity.

Moreover, they have over 3k servers across 94 countries. So on top of the masking, realize that you’re also sharing that IP address with other users too — which in turn, grants you the extra inconspicuousness you’re looking for.

Lastly, they’re based in the British Virgin Islands, a British overseas territory located in The Caribbean, where privacy and anonymity laws can be enforced more freely than U.S.A or Europe.

Being headquartered offshore gives ExpressVPN an edge over the competitors, and honestly, not much can be done by other countries seeking information about their users. It’s similar to trying to get access to Swiss Bank accounts. Chances are you won’t, because the secrecy protections & layers offered by Swiss Bank is the primary reason customers choose them.

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Goal 2: Removing Site Speed and Throttling Restrictions

Throttling on your home internet is akin to throttling on your cell phone data plans. They both serve to one purpose: Restricting your internet speed.

Coming back to your home internet, the way your ISP knows to throttle your speed is by recognizing your data packets. Think of data packets as a way to communicate online. By using a VPN, you’re by nature encrypting your traffic, and thereby, taking away your ISP’s capability to read your packets. So, if your ISP is not able to decipher them, they won’t know to throttle your bandwidth.

Further, ISPs are often involved in what is called peering. Without going into the nerdy details of it, peering is basically a mutually beneficial agreement between different ISPs where they agree to carry each other’s network traffic. This way, rather than paying a third party to carry the traffic further, they both do it for each other. Peering contracts can exist between more than just 2 ISPs.

The point to be taken is that peering usually occurs in internet traffic congestion scenarios, or potential bandwidth issues. A VPN can rescue you from peering nightmares (although you wouldn’t even know if one occurred for you; but, the fact it exists bothers me), by creating your own private network. Think of it as a highway with minimal traffic where you’re cruising your way through.

Removing Site Speed and Throttling Restrictions Through VPN
A VPN can release you from the clutches of your ISP’s internet speed throttling.

Goal 3: Enabling Global Web & Content Accessibility

VPNs open the doors to all restricted content, such as, a video that’s only accessible in a specific country, or a form that’s only allowed to be filled in a specific geographic region.

By choosing an already established VPN server — in the region where content and web restrictions are, you can experience the real freedom of the Internet with unfettered access to everything it has to offer.

remove web and content restrictions through a VPN
With a VPN, you can experience the real power of the global accessibility that “The Internet” can provide.

Note: While not illegal to use a VPN in the U.S.A, you may be in a breach of contract with your streaming service provider if videos are accessed on a VPN under certain situations. Always remember to read the fine line.

Goal 4: Provide Best Online Shopping Opportunities

When it comes to online shopping, be it online courses, amazon, clothes, airline tickets, shoes, subscriptions, etc., people typically try to find coupons. And while helpful, what if I told you there is a better and much faster way to get instant discounts?

With a VPN, you can switch geographic locations to see if there are price differences. Lots of online retailers, and businesses have price dissimilarities from one country to another.

VPN can help you find better online deals
Travel more, on the same budget. VPNs can help you find better online deals.

Conclusion

In the world of “The Internet,” there is constant data collection, hacking attempts, and legal battles as it relates to privacy laws. And while all of that awaits the future, in the meantime, right now, you can immediately choose to take the matter into your own hands by utilizing a VPN.

And along with all the privacy protections you can get, a great added bonus of a VPN is simply its prowess to empower you to fully experience the freedom and unrestrained access to the world wide web.

Note: When I say goals, I say that in an unofficial capacity. No one has come out and declared what the VPN goals are. It’s more of my arbitrary prerogative.

Note 2: For all intents and purposes, this blog discusses VPNs for personal home internet connections — as opposed to commercial VPNs.

Note 3: If you’re leaning on using ExpressVPN, feel free to use my referral link here–>https://www.expressrefer.com/refer-friend?referrer_id=54402179&utm_campaign=referrals&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=referral_dashboard
This is not an affiliate link (I won’t get paid for it). Just good old referral. We both will get 30 days of free VPN.

Note 4: VPNs are illegal in a few countries. Always check! Although, in the U.S.A, it is perfectly legal.