What is a VPN – and why do I need one?

What is a VPN – and why do I need one?

What is a VPN and why do you need one?

What is a VPN?

Whenever you use the internet, you’re leaving behind a digital footprint or ‘digital shadow’. Your online activities are traceable by companies and individuals. This includes those who may want to cause you harm, such as cyber criminals. You’re particularly vulnerable when you’re using public internet networks, for example if you’re using the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, on public transport, or whilst you’re waiting at the airport. You’re also vulnerable if your data is ‘travelling’ distances, for example, if you’re a business communicating with staff, clients and customers abroad.

One way of protecting yourself online is with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your digital data by redirecting it through the VPN provider’s secure system, which scrambles the data as it passes through. This masks your Internet Protocol (IP), and does several things that improve security and customer experience. The most important factor is that it helps you stay anonymous on the internet and can protect you from some basic online threats. When using a VPN, your data goes through a ‘tunnel’ hidden away from prying eyes. That way, no one can keep track of it when your data comes out the other end. This all happens near-instantaneously, so you shouldn’t experience any delays when using the internet.

It also provides you with a way to access websites that are geographically restricted by masking your location. So, if you’ve exhausted the entirety of British Netflix, you could use a VPN to access more content on USA Netflix, or vice versa.

Why do I need a VPN?

You wouldn’t want someone snooping around your home or peering over your shoulder when you’re reading a book or scrolling through your emails. So why would it be any different when you’re online? If you’re not using a VPN, your digital footprint is visible to those who are looking for it, and you are thus trackable. This means they can see your online behaviour, monitor or steal your data, and can even see where you are accessing the internet from. This last point is very important. If you’re using the internet at home, and you’re not using a VPN, people might be able see your exact location.

A VPN gives you that added security and protection from snoopers and cyber criminals. Not only that, it prevents companies from using your data for their marketing or monitoring your digital habits. Using a VPN gives you peace of mind for you and your family.

VPNs also provide you with a lot of freedom when using the internet. A VPN allows you to access streaming sites and content that was previously inaccessible or use public digital spaces without the worry of someone tracing your location.

Unfortunately, this potentially includes your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If you’re reading this from the United States, Congress have approved a bill that allows your ISP to sell your anonymised data. Worrying. A VPN would help prevent ISPs monitoring and selling your private data. Countries that are keen to control the flow of digital information and monitor the online behaviour of their citizens are banning the use of a VPN because of the reasons listed above. A VPN doesn’t offer complete protection from those with the right tools and resources – nation-states, security agencies, and cybercriminals have methods to track users behaviours whether they’re using a VPN or not.

VPNs are important for businesses too. It’s a great way of ensuring your digital communication (with clients, staff or suppliers) are safer and securer, especially if you’re conducting business abroad. By not using a VPN at work, you and your co-workers are potentially putting your business data at risk. There are people out there who target vulnerable businesses, and those who aren’t using a VPN fall into that category.

How to choose a VPN provider

When choosing a VPN provider, you need to consider a few factors beyond cost. Firstly, does the VPN provider respect your privacy? VPNs protect you from other companies using your digital data for their marketing, but you’re trusting the VPN provider to not sell your data that goes through their systems. A good VPN provider won’t track your online behaviour.
Secondly, you need to consider how many devices you will be using (phone, laptop, tablet, desktop PCs, etc) and your data allowance. Like a mobile phone contract, some providers limit your data use. Make sure you understand all the features provided by the VPN. If you want to use a VPN on your mobile, you need to ensure that your provider supports mobiles and other devices.
Thirdly, you need to consider the location of the VPN servers. Often, providers have several servers in several countries, which offers flexibility. If you have specific requirements for locations, make sure that location is included in your package.

Fourthly, you should look at the security features providers by the VPN service. Does the VPN include basic or advanced cyber security features, if any?
Make sure you read up about VPN providers and customer reviews, so that you can find a service that suits your needs.

BCNS works with a range of companies that offer top-quality cyber security services and tools to protect businesses and organisations. When providing you with a VPN, we consider your organisation’s needs and resources, so that we match you with the best provider for you.

So, do I really need a VPN?

Yes. If you’re using the internet, you should be using a VPN no matter what. Even if you don’t want to access foreign websites, a VPN provides you with essential online security. And with VPN prices being surprisingly affordable, there’s no reason not to be using one. At the end of the day, a VPN offers security for everyday users. VPNs great for individuals and businesses alike, but they’re not invincible. If you are wondering whether purchasing a VPN subscription is right for you, it is definitely worth reading the finer details of the contract so that you know exactly what services you’re receiving. A VPN works best when paired with reliable anti-virus software.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you use a VPN, you will need to use it across all your devices for maximum effectiveness. Whenever you access the internet, ensure you’re using one. Otherwise, it’s like locking your front door but leaving all the windows open. BCNS helps businesses and organisations, small and large, stay safe on the internet. This includes providing the latest and most effective VPNs that can help secure and protect your business. If you would like help choosing a VPN for business-use, please contact us at www.bcns.co.uk/contact-us/ or give us a call at 01752 547150.