[Quick Summary: VPN (virtual private networking) is a technology service you can use to better secure your connection to the Internet. The service creates a “pipeline” from your device (computer, smartphone, tablet) to your target on the Internet where all the information you send and receive is encrypted (so that it can’t be read by your Internet Provider, hackers, etc.).  Read on to learn more about it and how to get the service…]

In thWhat is VPN?is new age of “always being connected“, the Internet has become a communication backbone that most people depend upon every day.

And let’s face it, it’s great that we can look up information, check our bank accounts, send emails, get the news and weather, watch movies, read books, etc. from just about any place we might be, using our laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Getting information and communicating has never been easier, and with smartphones and tablets we now use the Internet on many different devices in many different places (not just at home).

But along with this impressive and powerful “internet highway” we’re now traveling on, comes a dark side… the constant possibility of our communications being hijacked or intercepted by those who would just love to have our private information and exploit it.

For this reason, anyone who is connected to the Internet needs to keep themselves protected.

I’ve already talked about the basics of staying safe in another article (CLICK HERE to read My 2017 Internet Safety Suggestions).

But there’s one technology that you might not know about that can add another layer of protection as you use the Internet, especially when you are out and about.

It’s called VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Networking.

What is VPN?

When you are connected to the Internet, your signal can travel from your device (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.) to the destination (web site, cloud service, email system, etc.) through many different servers (internet computers) spread all over the world.  On any one of these servers, your signal can be intercepted and spied on by the bad guyWhat is VPNs (which might include certain governments).  The bad guys can see what web sites you’re visiting, what information you’re looking at, and for the most part, see everything you do.

It’s really pretty scary!

 

VPN technology creates a “private pipeline or tunnel” between your device and where your signal is heading. For example, when you type in a web address (such as www.discoverskills.com), a special piece of VPN client software on your device (an app) encrypts your request and then sends it to a special VPN server on the Internet.

The VPN server then requests the information you’re trying to get from the web site, and encrypts that information before sending it back to your device.

On your device, the information is decrypted by the app, and you can see it.

All of this happens in the background, and other than maybe a slight reduction in speed, you don’t even know it’s happening.

But because your information is traveling through this pipeline, hackers, governments, and even your own Internet Provider can’t see what you are doing.

Why Use VPN?

At this point it must be pretty obvious why you might want to start using a VPN service, but in case you’re not yet sure, here are some important suggestions…

  • Use it while you’re on Public WiFi – This is most common place that most people use a VPN service. As you use Public WiFi in places such as coffee shops, hotels, etc., hackers who are using the same network can potentially see and steal anything that travels from your device. That’s why it’s a great idea NOT to visit financial web sites as you use Public WiFi.  But if you use a VPN service, Public WiFi becomes private (and safe).
  • Use it while you’re traveling in other countries – In some foreign countries, you’re restricted from using certain web sites such as YouTube, Netflix, etc.  Using a VPN service gets you past those restrictions.
  • Use it to keep advertisers from seeing where you are – Whenever you’re on the Internet, the sites you are visiting can “see” your location because of your IP Adress (your devices special address on the Internet). When you use VPN, the sites you visit only see the IP address of the VPN server, and not yours.
  • Use it to keep Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) from harvesting your information – With the repeal of the FCC rule that blocked your ISP from selling your browsing data, and with online companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook using your online behavior to target you for advertising and marketing, you can use VPN to shield your behavors from thsoe services. (Note that you can’t completely hide what you’re doing from many sites, since they often use cookies (small data files) to help track you, and VPN won’t help with this).

The bottom-line is, VPN can be used in any situation where you don’t want where you’re going or what you’re doing on the Internet tracked.

I know people who have VPN turned on all the time (even when they are at home), and I know others who just use it when they access the Internet using Public WiFi.

The choice is up to you.

Choosing a VPN Service

Getting setup with VPN is pretty straight forward.  Here are the typical steps…

  • You sign-up for a VPN service and setup an account with a username and a password.
  • You download to your device (computer, tablet, smartphone) an app from that particular service.
  • You start the app, and type in your VPN credentials (your username and password).
  • In the background, the app intercepts all your Internet traffic and routes it through the VPN servers (as I discussed above).

That’s really how simple it is to use.

With regards to WHICH service, there are LOTS of them.

Here are a few key considerations when making your VPN service choice

  • Is the service free or pay-for? There are some  decent free VPN services, but most either cut down on your connection speed or advertise at you.
  • Does the service offer a free trial so that you can check it out before purchasing?
  • Does the service have enough servers to give you good internet access speed?
  • Is the service easy to use?
  • Can you use one subscription on multiple devices?

VPN ServicesTo get you started, here are a few that I have read good things about…

NordVPN (nordvpn.com) – $11.95/mo (monthly), $7.00/mo (6 month plan), $5.75/mo (1 year plan)

VPN Unlimted (www.vpnunlimitedapp.com) – $6.99/mo (monthly plan), $3.33/mo (yearly plan), $149 (lifetime special)

PureVPN (www.purevpn.com) – $10.05/mo (monthly plan), $8.95/mo (6 month plan), $2.95/mo (2 year plan)

IPVanish (www.ipvanish.com) – $10.00/mo (monthly plan), $8.99/mo (3 month play), $6.49/mo (1 year plan)

PrivateInternetAccess (www.privateinternetaccess.com) – $6.95/mo (monthly), $5.99/mo (6 month plan), $3.33/mo (1 year plan)

With regards to free VPN services, there are some out there, but in all my research I just couldn’t come up with one that I would recommend. Not so much because they didn’t work, but because most of them relied on either cutting down your speed or advertising at you.

Ok, so finally you might be wondering which of these services I personally use.  I’ve used VPN Unlimited for the past 7 months, and I purchased the Lifetime special (at even a better rate that what I have listed above), so that I didn’t have to worry about renewals.

In fact, on a regular basis I get technology specials that will list certain VPN services on sale.  When that happens, I’ll be sure to send out a Tweet (on Twitter), which you can see over on the left margin of the DiscoverSkills site.

I would LOVE to hear what you have to say about this VPN stuff.  Scroll down and leave your comment below!