What is a VPN?
Do you want to protect yourself from prying eyes whilst browsing on a public Wi-Fi network? Would you prefer that your internet activities went unmonitored and are hidden from thirsty advertisers? Are you concerned that your personal details will fall into the wrong hands? If your answer to any these questions is “yes”, then a VPN may be something you want to consider. Here, we’ll help you to decipher how this software works, how it can keep you safe from cyber threats and attacks, and whether or not you should get one.
In This Guide:
- VPNs explained
- What can a VPN be used for?
- Consumer VPN v Corporate VPN
- How do I add a VPN to my device?
- Free VPN v paid VPN
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. In short, it creates an encrypted internet connection by swapping out your IP address (which identifies your device) for another one. You can then browse online as an anonymous user and keep your identity and information private.
VPNs can be downloaded for free or they can be purchased. Once you have access to one, you simply switch it on before connecting to the internet. The result is a secure web experience where your search history and shared details cannot be traced.
What can a VPN be used for?
A VPN’s main purpose is to keep you secure, anonymous, and private whilst using the internet. No matter what websites you visit, forms you complete or what you purchase online, nothing can be seen by anyone.
To expand on our explanation on how beneficial a VPN can be, it might be helpful for you to know that it can assist with:
- Online Privacy – You can keep your identity and private information hidden by masking your ISP address. This way, no one will be able to track, store, or sell details.
- Streaming – You will have the ability to access streaming services that may not be directly available to your area.
- Accessing Restricted Sites – You’ll be able to access websites that have been restricted by certain governments.
- Securing Public WiFi – With a VPN, you can rest assured knowing that you can bank online or enter sensitive information on digital platforms when you’re using a public network.
- Research – You’ll be able to scrutinise your website and online marketing efforts without your previous browsing history interfering with results.
Consumer VPN v Corporate VPN
VPNs can differ depending on what they have been created for. For example, they can be used for business purposes or they can be used for personal security and advanced browsing.
But how do the two differ?
The main distinction between a consumer and a corporate VPN is in the motive of the technology. The intent of a corporate VPN is to securely connect employees to a company’s private network so that they can access or transfer information safely within this network. A consumer or personal VPN, on the other hand, will allow a user to safely surf the entire internet.
How do I add a VPN to my device?
To add a VPN to your device, you will need to approach a VPN provider. This provider will supply you with a VPN plan that will best suit your device and your requirements. In South Africa, there are many VPN suppliers – some offer free VPNs but most charge a monthly fee.
Once you have been supplied with the information you need, then you can either access the VPN via the provider's app or by entering the applicable settings directly onto your device.
Free VPN v paid VPN
A free VPN can help you to access services such as Hulu and Netflix without a hiccup. But if you need a secure network for online banking or to transfer confidential files, then a paid version will provide you with more protection and a quality service.
The advantage of a free VPN is that it’s, well, free! You can upgrade your online security without opening your wallet. Free VPN’s can, however, pose the following disadvantages:
- Slower speeds and an unstable connection
- Your information can be sold to third-party advertisers
- The terms may be that you agree to the adding of java or scripts to your device for advertising in exchange for the free service
- They can still ban HTTPS browsing
- The protocols are not always 100% secure
- No customer support is provided
A paid VPN can cost anywhere between R30 – R150 per month, but the advantages are that:
- You’ll receive a quality customer service
- There will be a larger number of servers in multiple locations
- You’ll have access to more bandwidth
- The VPN can be used on multiple devices
- You’ll receive high-level encryption
- You can enjoy faster and more stable connections