What is VPN?

06/21/2016
What is VPN?

VPN is an abbreviation of the English word Virtual Private Network. This is an encrypted tunnel through which all traffic between two devices goes through the intermediation of the public network (which in most cases is the Internet). Data that is sent through such a tunnel can be encrypted and compressed, which greatly enhances the security of transmission.

  1. What is VPN?
  2. What is a VPN? Basic applications
    1. Security and privacy
    2. Changing the IP address
    3. Censorship and content block
    4. Access to streaming and VOD services
  3. Disadvantages of VPN
  4. Summary

What is VPN?

Virtual Private Network - The virtual name VPN refers to the fact that it is a network that physically does not exist. It only functions as a logical representation of the connection between two points in the public network. The tunnel that connects two points is the easiest to imagine. This gives us the ability to send data as if the devices connected via the VPN were also physically connected, using a regular network. This assumption is based on the operation of VPN services, both commercial and those that we configure ourselves, for example, on our own server.

The VPN connection can be illustrated using the following illustration:

VPN workflow

The user connects via an encrypted connection to the VPN server and only through the Internet. So: VPN allows you to create a secure tunnel from our computer, which will pass all the data we send over the Internet. VPN connections can be configured not only on your computer, but also on your smartphone, tablet or router . This latter option is especially useful because then all connections from our network will pass through the VPN server before reaching specific network resources.

When connecting to the Internet using a VPN server, on the network we are seen as a server by which we connect at a time. All network services will identify us based on their IP address and physical location. So if we connect to a German VPN server , we will have a German IP address, and all services and websites on the Internet will think we are physically located in Germany.

VPN connections can be based on several different VPN protocols . They vary in speed , encryption level, security level, and technical solutions. The most used and most popular VPN protocols are PPTP , L2TP / IPSec, IKEv2, SSTP, OpenVPN and relatively new SoftEther . The OpenVPN open source protocol is currently considered the best in terms of security and privacy. You can read more about this in our comparison of VPN protocols .

You can configure the VPN manually on your own server (just for this VPS) or purchase from a commercial vendor. Both one and two options have their advantages and disadvantages.

What is a VPN? Basic applications

Now that we know what a VPN is, it's still worth to explain what this type of service can do for us. VPNs are commonly used for different purposes, both by individuals and by companies.

The most important VPN implementations are:

  • Encrypt network connection and thus increase security
  • Privacy and anonymity on the web
  • Secure access to your corporate network, for example, when you work remotely
  • change the IP address
  • Access to blocked sites - Avoid censorship in the country and during travel (eg to China)
  • Avoid regional blocks - eg streaming American VOD services, watching free TV abroad

Security and privacy

VPN increases our security and increases privacy on the Internet. When using a VPN over the Internet, cybercriminals or service providers will not see the content that we browse. They will only see a string of encrypted, meaningless data. Our activity on the web, visited sites, and transmitted data will be protected. They will not be able to monitor what we do, write and what we are interested in. We should seriously consider using VPNs when we use public WiFi networks - eavesdropping on our public Wi-Fi connection will not be a problem for people with major problems. Without encryption our activity, passwords, message content, transferred files can be captured by unauthorized persons and used for bad purposes.

VPN is also used in business . Some companies, both large and small, use VPNs to give employees secure access to corporate network resources from anywhere in the world where they work. This makes it possible to work remotely from home, on a delegation in another country, or directly from the client, without having to go through all the resources of the company.

Changing the IP address

VPN is also a simple way to change your IP address . If you choose a commercial service provider, we have the choice of IP addresses from all countries in which it has servers. This allows us to change the address to foreign (American, German, French, etc.) or free if we are abroad. You can point to the undoubted advantage of VPN providers, as they usually have the ability to connect to servers located in many countries. In the case of self-configuring VPNs, getting a large range of IP addresses from which we can use them is more problematic and expensive.

Censorship and content block

Censorship

Censorship and blocking access to content is a serious restriction on the freedom of speech in the network. With VPN, we can effectively fight it. If our ISP or state government blocks some of the Internet resources, VPN will allow us to bypass censorship. Just connect to the Internet through a server located in another country where there is freedom on the Internet or content is not censored. For many users, unrestricted access to network resources is the main argument for the decision to buy a VPN.

People who live or travel frequently to countries where Internet censorship is common, and access to various services and content is limited, should consider buying a VPN if they want to have free access to the network. This is particularly true in the PRC, where we have to circumvent the Chinese Internet censorship if we want to have access to content that is inaccessible in the country.

Access to streaming and VOD services

In addition to circumventing censorship, connecting via a foreign VPN server will allow us to access content that is covered by regional blocks. Unfortunately, the physical boundaries of the states are also spreading across the border and looking to see the materials being offered in the US by Netflix from your country , the BBC Player and many other foreign VOD sites we will have to change the IP address accordingly.

free people living abroad, wanting to use free VOD services will receive an error message and information about location restrictions. With a VPN, this problem can be solved. More about this topic in our guide to watching TVP and free VOD abroad .

Circumvention of geolocation is based on the fact that we can choose which country we want to connect to the Internet. The server can be located in your country , United Kingdom , USA , Germany or any other country of interest. Let's just make sure before you buy a service that the VPN provider has a server in a particular country. Your connection to a particular network resource (such as VOD or YouTube) will be through it - so we will get an IP address assigned to that country and will bypass the content block.

Disadvantages of VPN

VPN is not an ideal service. In addition to its many advantages and uses, it also has some disadvantages to be aware of.

The main disadvantage of VPN is the possible decrease in the speed of our connection and the increase in the average ping . This is related to the access of the proxy server through which we will be connecting our connection. An additional path to travel can affect the connection speed and ping. Moreover, if the server we are connecting is heavily loaded (many users are using it at the same time), we can also feel the drop. Connecting to your country via server in Australia do not expect miracles. But by connecting to servers located in Europe we will not feel the difference in connection quality.

Encryption and decryption can also have a slight impact on speed. The stronger the encryption, the greater the decline. However, this is usually less noticeable and the speed drop is up to 5%.

Summary

We hope that this brief guide will help you understand what VPN is and how to use it and its advantages and disadvantages. We encourage you to use our comparator equipped with numerous filters, so that finding the perfect VPN should be simpler.

Nowadays, more and more aspects of our lives are on the Internet. With that, the level of cybercrime is on the rise. VPN is one way to significantly increase our network security.

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