Picture this: You are the owner of a large company. Your business includes managing private client information, and you can not risk this information finding its way into the wrong hands.
You also want to give your employees the opportunity to work at home on occasion, if necessary, and provide them with company-owned laptop computers so they can do so.
But what happens if one of your employees fires up their laptop at home, connects to their personal wireless internet, and gets to work. What system do you have in place to ensure that the private information on those computers doesn’t accidentally make its way
onto the deep, dark world wide web?
Here is another scenario, one that pertains to anyone who has ever sat down in a coffee shop, connected to the free wireless internet, then shared data – whether they realized they were doing so or not Yes, they selected the shop’s wifi – at least they thought they did. But what they did not know was that a hacker had created their own wifi connection and named it so it resembled that of the coffee shop. Any data shared online during that time is now in the hands of a criminal.
One final scenario is this: Maybe you just do not want anyone to be able to see what you are browsing on your personal computer.
How can you prevent all of these things from happening? The answer is a virtual private network or VPN. When connecting to the internet via the public wireless internet, data can be easily stolen. A virtual private network remotely creates a secure connection within a public internet connection.
As we all know, a secure connection is vital to online privacy, and a VPN is one of the best ways to protect a user’s privacy online and maintain data security. Just like a firewall protects data on a computer, a virtual private network keeps it safe online.
Think of it like this: A public wireless internet connection is like a large, wide open tunnel connecting two destinations. Imagine a smaller tunnel inside the larger one – this second tunnel is a virtual private network. Both tunnels connect to the same places on each end, but when a car drives inside the smaller tunnel, it is hidden and protected from the atmosphere outside.
Essentially, a VPN is an encrypted barrier between data that needs protecting and the rest of the world. When computers and other devices are connected to the VPN, data is securely transferred through the tunnels. If an outsider were to intercept the data, it would be gibberish and unreadable, which makes it useless in the virtual hands of a hacker.
How to choose a virtual private network provider
So, now you know you need a virtual private network. But with so many companies offering this service, how do you know which one is best for your needs? It can be overwhelming.
There are plenty of websites to help with the search, like https://www.fastestvpnguide.com/how-to-choose-a-vpn-provider/. Tech experts suggest considering the following when making your decision: What kind of software do you use (Firefox, Chrome, Windows?) How many connections are needed at one time? How many servers can connect at one time? What is the cost? Which providers offer the best security and anonymity? Does the company offer customer support? Which service is the fastest? Does the provider offer a mobile app? Is it a good value for the money? Is the connection consistently reliable?
Popular companies include NordVPN, Cyber Ghost VPN, Pure VPN, Golden Frog VyprVPN, and TunnelBear VPN, among many, many others. These range in price from a few dollars a month if you sign up for a year of service to around $15 if you elect to pay one month at a time.
Some VPN providers offer their services free of charge, which can seem like a good deal at first. But here are some potential problems you could encounter when choosing such a service:
- Just like Mom said, nothing in life is ever really free. Check the speed of these services; some are reported as being a fraction of the bandwidth required to stream a Netflix movie.
- Mom also said that you get what you pay for. With a free provider, the features offered may be extremely limited. Then, they try to upsell you to a better, paid service.
- A company that offers their service for free must be making money somewhere, so you most likely will encounter pop-up ads or the installation of adware on your system.
- If you are not paying for it, the service may secure your browser only, not your entire internet connection.
- If you are not paying in cash, you may be paying in data. VPN providers that offer services free of charge may keep extensive logs about your activity, including websites you visit and files you download. There is no reason for a VPN provider to do this. The VPN should never log your activity.
As stated earlier, VPN service is not expensive, and when considering the potential risks of opting for a free provider, a paid plan is a wise investment. There is a price to be paid for keeping private information private, and a service that is trustworthy, secure and reliable is well worth the cost.
Here are a few tips for choosing a VPN provider:
- Never choose a company solely because it tops a list of search results for “best VPN provider.” Companies can pay to get their name in this spot and consumers have no way of knowing if they offer quality service or not. Instead, research companies you are interested in and seek out reviews online.
- Select a company that is based in the United States, the reason being that the country has strong consumer protection laws, which keeps businesses from taking advantage of consumers. When a customer is trusting a company not to monitor their activity, such accountability is vital.
- Ask if the companies you are considering have full-time support staff. Around-the-clock help is even better.
Choosing a provider to protect your personal data can be daunting, but these tips will point you in the right direction.