You might have heard the term thrown around by one of your tech-savvy friends, but you were never entirely sure what it meant. VPN? Virtual Private Network? Like much of the other tech jargon you encounter, it’s hard to parse what it means by name alone. And, like a lot of the other services and software you hear about, you aren’t sure whether you need it. 

Luckily, VPNs are neither complicated to understand nor difficult to use. And getting a VPN can have a wide range of benefits for the home user. 

Let’s elaborate. This post will offer answers to all your burning questions about VPNs: what they are, why they’re important, and how to find the best one.

What Is A VPN? 

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is an annual service you can sign up for that serves as a digital middleman between you and the internet. VPNs lend you a temporary IP address (the unique address that identifies your device or network on the internet) so that your traffic remains encrypted. 

Still a little unclear? Put it in even simpler terms, a VPN protects your online privacy by keeping you anonymous. 

Why Use A VPN? 

Now that you know what a VPN is, you may be wondering why do people use them on their personal devices. 

Because VPNs hide your identity and online activity, they make it very difficult for hackers, annoying advertisers, nosey companies, and repressive governments to track you. This safeguards you against identity theft, aggressive marketing, and surveillance, wherever you are in the world. 

And since VPNs also hide your location, they allow you to bypass internet censorship and access streaming content from other countries. This is especially useful for frequent travelers and people living in countries with high degrees of censorship. 

How Do You Find A Quality VPN?

You know what a VPN is and why it’s essential. You’re convinced. The next logical question becomes: which one should you choose? How do you tell the best from the rest? 

Here’s a shortlist of criteria you can keep handy when looking for the right VPN: 

  • Look for a VPN with ‘256-bit encryption. This refers to the length of the encryption key. A hacker would need 2,256 unique combinations to hack 256-bit encryption, which is nearly impossible. 
  • The more servers, the better. Look for a VPN service that offers hundreds of servers in dozens of countries. This will make it easy to find a fast server for your needs. 
  • Find a VPN that values your privacy. If you’re using a VPN for privacy, the last thing you want is a service that retains your data. It defeats the whole purpose! Make sure your chosen VPN doesn’t retain or log any data related to web traffic, DNS requests, bandwidth, IP addresses, or network connections.
  • Finally, get a VPN that doesn’t slow down your connection. A quality VPN service will advertise this capability. 

If a VPN service fills the above criteria, you know you’ve got a good one. Next time your tech-savvy friend brings up VPNs, you can confidently say you know what they are, why they’re useful and how to pick the best one. 

Also Read: As Net Neutrality Dies, Long Live The Virtual Private Network (VPN)