What is a VPN: The Comprehensive guide – All you need to know (2020 Update)

Newbies will always ask the question, what is a VPN? You’ve just landed on a comprehensive guide and all you need to know. Trust me, I’ve got you covered.

VPN has helped a lot of people including me to enjoy protected and comfortable internet service.

In this article, we will learn and look into VPN, How it works, what can it do for you, and the question ‘what is a VPN’ will be answered.

Now let’s dive in.

Post Overview.

VPN is a term you might have heard, especially when you talk of online security, privacy, as well as geolocation.

But what is a VPN? I will be discussing this in details under the following sub-headings.

  1. What is a VPN?
  2. How Does a VPN Work?
  3. Why Use A VPN?
  4. How Secure is a VPN
  5. Is it Legal to Use a VPN?
  6. VPN Logging Policies
  7. Free VPN versus Paid VPN
  8. Can I Use a VPN for Torrenting
  9. Can I Use a VPN to Watch Netflix and Hulu
  10. Does a VPN Work on Android and iOS
  11. How Do I Install a VPN on My Router
  12. What Should I Look For in a VPN?
  13. IP Leaks and Kill Switches
  14. Pros and Cons of VPN
  15. Which VPN is the best
  16. Conclusion

You can click on any of the subheadings above to jump to that section otherwise, scroll down to read as ordered above.

1. What is a VPN?

what is a vpn

A Virtual Private Network, also known as VPN, is a piece of software that conceal your online activities by changing your IP address and encrypting all of your internet traffic.

This helps in improving online privacy, security, and also helps users to bypass online censorship imposed by the government, ISPs or any other organization or person blocking websites.

2. How Does a VPN Work?

What is a VPN?

Let me tell you a little bit about how the internet works now before we dive into how it works.

At your comfort zone, you might have some router or modem from your telephone company or your internet service provider (ISP).

That is connected to your desktop, maybe by an Ethernet cable or to your smartphone and laptop over Wi-Fi.

Inside your house when you do a laptop/PC/Phone talk, that is part of your private network, and that does not go out onto the internet.

But, once you open a web page somewhere out on the internet, that information passes through your modem down into your local phone company or ISP and then out across the internet.

It travels across the internet until it gets to the server. The server will then reply with some information that will come back through the internet into your local telecommunications provider or ISP down through to your modem and then back onto your PC or your Android smartphone, following the same route as it left your PC, phone or tablet.

The modem or your router has probably been assigned an IP address from your ISP so that when your data goes through the internet, it touches every router.

This makes your IP address known to every server it touches. It is not as if they are spying on you but because they need to collect data and keep information on the number of people that clicked into their website.

A VPN protects your privacy by creating a secure “tunnel” that act as a passage way between you and your Internet destination.

The connection is encrypted, and then when you access something on the Internet, it goes through that tunnel and then it arrived at that other server and then it goes on to the Internet, and it will finally arrive at the webserver or the service.

Your IP address will no longer be your IP address. The IP address of the VPN server protects your IP.

3. Why Use A VPN?

I. Protecting your personal information:

With VPN all of your Internet traffic is encrypted, which makes it much harder for hackers to steal your information.

II. Unlocking international Netflix (or other streaming services).

Some VPN providers gives users the opportunity to spoof their physical location. They do that in order to access the geo-restricted content on video streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu and BT sports.

III. Online Ads

A VPN connection helps to anonymize your activities, making it much harder for advertisers to track you online.

4. How Secure is a VPN?

There are factors that determine the answer to this particular question which are:

  • Strong security protocols
  • Private DNS server
  • Internet-friendly jurisdiction

Let’s take a closer look at these factors.

Strong security protocols.

The most basic feature of good VPN is that it keeps your data encrypted and secure.

The first thing you should check is what protocol it is using to “tunnel” you to their server.

Though there are many protocols to use, (Click on VPN protocol to get more knowledge) OpenVPN is generally regarded as the best. It makes use of strong encryption and is open source, which implies there are no backdoors for governments or other entities to exploit, hence, prevents data leakage L2TP, IKEv2, and SSTP are all decent standards.

Generally speaking, most VPNs allow you to select the protocol you use.

The more secure the protocol you connect through (OpenVPN, IKEv2), the more secure your whole session will be.

Private DNS servers.

Make sure your it uses private DNS servers or has some sort of anti-leak protection built into their service.

Even better, change the DNS server on your computer or router to a more secure alternative, like OpenDNS. It’s more private, and reliable than your ISP anyway.

Internet-friendly jurisdiction

Governments with restrictive or intrusive information policies are actively spying on VPN traffic and could be directly monitoring their jurisdiction.

They can (and have) ordered so many VPN services out there to provide unencrypted access to user information.

Though any government could be doing this on its own, the main threat is the Orwellian-sounding “Fourteen Eyes.”

Choosing a VPN outside of the five eyes and Fourteen Eyes isn’t vital to your security or privacy, but it provides a little peace of mind knowing your provider cannot be subjected to providing unencrypted access to user information.

5. Is it Legal to Use a VPN?

What is a VPN

In some countries, such as China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, it is illegal to use a VPN, but in most western territories (including the US and UK) it’s perfectly legal.

Its are often used by businesses, schools, and universities to give people access to their resources when they’re not on the premises.

However, the purpose for which you use your VPN determine it’s legality That is, using a VPN is perfectly legal, but using it for some certain purposes is not. The same applies to the use of the internet in general.

6. VPN Logging Policies

A VPN that keeps logs can significantly affects the level of anonymity and privacy you have with their service.

The logs a provider may keep include:

  • user activity
  • IP addresses
  • connection/disconnection timestamps
  • devices used
  • payment logs

Any of the above logs can make you a tiny bit less anonymous since your IP can be connected to a given browsing session that you had.

Overall, the fewer logs your provider keeps the better, with “no logs” the ideal.

Try ExpressVPN and NordVPN (VoidSec’s test results concluded that ExpressVPN and NordVPN have no WebRTC leaks.)

7. Free VPN versus Paid VPN.

There are so many VPN services available out, and some are free to use. Check our article on Best Free VPN to use

A free VPN might be fine, but for most people, they are too limited because they offer a tiny selection of servers (probably not in the countries you want) and only give you a small data allowance that’s rarely enough for streaming videos, but this all depends on what you want to do with a VPN

In rare cases, a free service might sell your email address and browsing habits to cover the cost of you using its service, which negates the whole point of using a VPN for some people.

To enjoy a good VPN service it might cost you serious money robust servers, data transfer, infrastructure, employees, and so on.

There are so many advantages of paying for a VPN and the monthly cost is low it makes more sense to subscribe to one.

Paid VPN typically offer hundreds or thousands of servers in locations around the world, improving speed and give you unlimited data so you can stream as much video as you want.

8. Can I Use a VPN for Torrenting

Torrenting, which is also known as peer-to-peer networking, happens to be one of the most popular methods of sharing files with larger groups of people, making the file-sharing process much simpler and faster.

Not all VPNs tolerate torrenting. you can torrent with all popular VPNs NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Surfshark, with fast speeds and a focus on privacy.

When we look at the security aspect of torrenting, it all comes down to the VPN’s policies regarding things like logging or sharing your user data.

In general, once a VPN does not keep logs overall, they also will not keep them for your torrent activity.

9. Can I Use a VPN to Watch Netflix and Hulu?

Yes, but it all depends on the type of VPN that you are using.

The way Netflix and Hulu block some of their content in parts of the world is based on location filters, this means that if you’re in a country that’s banned, you’re banned.

It makes this easier by hiding your real location and make it look like you’re connecting to Netflix from a different country.

They do this by masking your real IP address. This means that you can watch your favorite Netflix shows from any country in the world with a VPN.

There are some VPNs that work with Netflix, the vast majority do not work well, even if they claim to be good “Netflix VPNs”. This is because:

i. Most VPNs are actively blocked by Netflix (the infamous proxy error), or

ii. Many VPNs are too slow to work well with streaming, which results in buffering, interruptions, and videos timing out.

Here are our best VPNs for Netflix and Hulu: NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

10. Does a VPN Work on Android and iOS

The answer is yes.

So many top VPN services out there also allows you download their mobile apps for either Android or iOS.

Here are our best VPNs for Android: NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

Both platforms let you set up their connection rather easily.

11. How Do I Install a VPN on My Router

What is a VPN

First, make sure that your router is compatible with VPNs.

Once you’ve set up a router, every single device connected to your router will have its traffic sent through the encrypted tunnel.

12. What You Should look For in a VPN?

What is a VPN

So many factors are considered to determine a good VPN This includes Where the VPN company resides, Security, Support, Free trials/money-back guarantee, Server numbers, Speed, Simultaneous connections and Price.

You can also check our post on Why you should download a VPN service.

13. IP Leaks and Kill Switches

Kill Switch is a feature that instantly turns off your internet connection if it detects any disruptions or failures of a VPN connection.

This protects your real IP and location from accidental exposure in the result of dropped connection with a VPN server or other similar issues.

If your Kill Switch if not enabled, you may not even notice that you are no longer under VPN protection, and will continue browsing via simple ISP-provided connection.

IP leaks are a known vulnerability having some setups people use to access the web. It’s may not entirely be a VPN problem at its peak.

An IP leak is basically caused by a VPN provider that does not have the technology to provide sufficient protection against general leaks and does not provide a Kill Switch for the “dropped connection” leak.

14. VPN Pros and Cons

Pros:

  1. Access Blocked Content from Anywhere.
  2. VPNs can keep you safe from hackers.
  3. A VPN can help you save money by masking your IP address and saves cash when booking a flight.
  4. They are affordable.
  5. You can bypass the geo-blocks on any website.
  6. You can combat censorship

Cons:

  1. A VPN can slow down speed connections.
  2. Your VPN connection can suddenly drop.
  3. Configuration can be difficult if you don’t understand it.


Hence, while some VPNs have their downsides, it’s safe to say that the pros far outweigh the cons.

Not only can you access the content you want whenever you want, but you can also count on your private information staying really private.

15. Which VPNs Are The Best?


If you’d like to see the best services currently on the market, take a look at our top picks below:

NordVPN

ExpressVPN

CyberGhost VPN

PrivateVPN

Want to get a great deal on some of the best VPNs around? Look no further we’ve made a list of the hottest VPN bargains happening right now!

16. Conclusion

Virtual Private Network is one of the most used emerging technology in the information technology field.

VPN helps the organization to provide secure data communication within the network.

This is where I will wrap up the post for today.

I hope this guide answered all your question ‘What is a VPN’

Now tell me, What do you think?

Are you convinced of the idea of a VPN and thinking about getting one?

Feel free to tell me in the comment section below.

Cheers.

Maryjane Ibeabuchi
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