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What is a VPN and do you need one?

Our helpful guide explains what a VPN is and whether it's something you should get.

Last updated: 07 April 2021

What is a VPN and do you need one?
Internet security is growing more and more important. Those who would steal personal data and sensitive information use increasingly sophisticated means to do so, which means you need to take extra precautions. 
 
One way to protect yourself is a Virtual Private Network or VPN. But what exactly is a VPN, how do they work and, more importantly, do you need to get on? As always we’re here to give you the answers.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, in a nutshell, anonymises your online browsing by encrypting any data that you might enter as well as shielding your location and IP address from view. This means that in theory your actions are completely untraceable and it prevents any prying eyes from having access to information you would rather keep to yourself. You can use a VPN on a laptop, desktop or mobile and it doesn't matter who your broadband provider is or if you have a wi-fi connection.

How does a VPN work?

When you log onto the internet via a VPN, your connection is routed through multiple different servers. Any information shared as a result of your browsing is then hidden from view from anyone who might be watching, including your service provider. If somebody was trying to snoop on you when you were looking at their website they would only be able to see the IP address of the VPN provider rather than your own as you are using the secure network that the VPN provides.

Why should I get a VPN?

The main reason that people are drawn to a VPN is, as you’ve probably guessed, privacy. There are growing concerns around internet security and a VPN offers an additional level of safety on top of any spyware or antivirus software you may have.

A VPN is especially useful if you are someone who connects to public wi-fi. These hotspots are far less secure than home networks which means that it’s far more important to make sure your data is encrypted.

The anonymity of a VPN also prevents any targeted ads and stops your data being harvested and sold on for profit.

Are there any downsides to getting a VPN?

If you decide to opt for one of the more secure VPNs then you will have to pay, but they are rarely more than £10 a month, so depending on how much you need one it shouldn't break the bank.

The noticeable downside when you're using it will be your internet speed. As the VPN diverts your connection through their own servers, the increased output slows down the connection speed. Different VPNs will be able offer different speeds, so it’s worthwhile checking the specs before you buy one.

Where can I get a VPN?

Fortunately, there is no shortage of options available online. There are a couple of free options to try and some even come with money back guarantees so you can make sure it is right for you before committing to any long-term plans. We've even put together a quick rundown of our top VPN picks for you to choose from.

Michael Quinn

Author: Michael Quinn

Michael is a dedicated author helping usave to write guides, blogs and news for the last four years. When not writing articles, you can usually find him at wine tasting events or having a political debate on the night tube.

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