A VPN, or virtual private network, is a gateway into an online world that you would otherwise be locked out of. It allows you to go online, anywhere in the world, and appear to be somewhere else. You can even appear to be someone else too, since your online identity is kept totally anonymous. What does all that get you?
Lots. A VPN can be used to offer security when connecting to potentially threatening Wi-Fi networks, accessing torrents on P2P networks, getting unlocked Netflix while abroad and even saving money on flights. We've taken a look at the best VPN services but that doesn't mean much unless you know what it can actually be used for. Here's everything you need to know about what a VPN service can do for you.
A VPN gives you security
Online safety can be important, especially with the amount of information about ourselves that's shared just by logging into a website using our phones. That's not just location but details about who you are and even what you like. It can mean potentially harmful entities can get access to your private data and even your banking details.
To make sure you stay anonymous and your information is kept safe, a VPN is ideal. This will give you an IP address on one of its servers, anywhere in the world, making you appear to be that ID and in that place. All that means your data can't be accessed and you're kept secure.
This is particularly useful when travelling and connecting to open Wi-Fi like at hotels and airports. These can be open to attack and leave you exposed, so by using a VPN you can ensure you can stay safe online. You can use a VPN on lots of devices including Android, Windows, Mac, iOS, routers, gaming consoles, and more.
A VPN lets you watch geo-restricted video
If you want to access US Netflix abroad, BBC iPlayer outside the UK or Hulu when travelling in Europe, you'll need a VPN. These services lock their content to the country they're in, meaning if you go outside of that place you won't get access. Since a VPN can make you appear somewhere else, it's easy to access that content.
Say you're away from the US on vacation in Europe where Hulu isn't available but you want to catch the latest episode of your favorite show. Fire up the VPN, select a server in the US then open Hulu and you're online – it's that simple.
Get cheap flights using a VPN
Granted this will probably only save you a small chunk but it could make a difference, especially if you fly regularly.
Use a VPN for torrenting
While torrenting on a P2P network isn't illegal, downloading copyright content using a torrent client is illegal. We don't condone this but we also understand that sometimes you may not be clear on the ownership rights of what you're downloading. Or perhaps you already own the rights but lost the digital copy and need to get it again. Either way you could be targeted by media companies to find your location and charge you.
By using a VPN that is torrent capable – as not all are – you are able to download torrents with anonymity safe in the knowledge you won't get into trouble. In this case we recommend a service with DNS leak protection to make sure you're truly safe and secure in a state of anonymity.
Our favorite VPN
We are big fans of ExpressVPN for several reasons, including its reliability, speed, and customer support. It's a bit more expensive than some of the competition, but you are also getting a much more well-rounded client that works when you need it the most. The price is well justified, so be sure to give it a shot today!
Be sure to check out our running list of the best VPN deals so that you can get the best price for yourself when signing up for a new VPN.
We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:
1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).
2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.
We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.
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