Everyone should be aware that enterprises track your online activities to do their business. The pages you visit and the information you consume are a revenue stream for them. That’s where Virtual Private Network (VPN) comes in and encrypts the internet traffic, establishing a protected network connection. It disguises the online identity of the users, making it difficult for third parties to keep an eye on their activities. In simple terms, using VPN lets you surf the internet, i.e., send and receive data without worrying about being tracked.
If you wonder how VPN works, here it is. You send a request to a point in the VPN network, which gets encrypted and sent through the internet. It reaches another point in the VPN network and gets decrypted and forwarded to the internet resource you want to access. After it obtains the data from that resource, it encrypts it and sends it back, where it is decrypted and sent to you. Simply put, it creates a tunnel that bridges the gap between you and a resource on the Internet, hiding your identity and record of activities within. This was a brief overview of VPN, now let’s check its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of VPN
From hiding your online actions to getting the best deals, you can think of a lot of reasons for using a VPN. Here are the advantages of VPN.
The VPN allows the user to become nearly anonymous. Keep in mind that complete anonymity on the internet is close to impossible. But utilizing a VPN service keeps your public IP address hidden; instead of your IP address, the VPN server’s IP address will be logged. That way, third parties won’t know your real location or identity, allowing you to explore the internet in privacy. There are numerous free mobile VPN services that provide apps that can be used to protect your privacy without any charges.
As more and more things are switching to online mode, security and privacy are becoming a priority. VPN hides your online traffic in an encrypted tunnel, protecting you from cyberattacks. Without VPN, your IP address and your online activities can be monitored by your ISPs (Internet Service Providers), government, or cybercriminals. Sensitive data such as personal and financial information are loaded and stored on servers, and without a VPN, risk getting misused. VPN encryption protects your online traffic. Only two sides, you and the VPN server, have a decryption key. For everyone else, the data is gibberish.
3. No bandwidth throttling
ISPs limit their customer’s bandwidth for various reasons. Common causes include ensuring no one on the network experiences downtime or lagging, which can be a problem if users download large files, access certain websites, or dabble in streaming or gaming. Another is encouraging customers to move to pricier but faster internet plans. This is called bandwidth throttling and the result is slower internet speed. By using VPN, along with your online activities, you can hide the amount of bandwidth you consume. This way, the ISPs can neither monitor your bandwidth nor limit it. Since they can’t see what you do, you no longer fall prey to slower internet speed. So, either choose one of the best ISPs or a good VPN.
4. No geo-blocking
Some of you can relate to the frustration of finally finding that one series you have been looking for, but then you get a message that, “Unfortunately, the content is not available for your region”. The content providers impose restrictions on people from certain locations to comply with their Terms of Service, particularly streaming and licensing agreements. But remember, utilizing a VPN service conceals your IP address. Ergo, content providers won’t know your real location, and you can access content restricted to your location.
5. Saving money
6. Better gaming experience
Even though it is true that sometimes VPNs can slow down your gaming experience, considering other factors such as the IP address protection and security features, gaming on a VPN is still a good idea. At least, you can protect yourself from an angry gamer who cannot take a loss lightly. There have been numerous incidents where the other players reporting the better one or going even further without any prior provocation. Apart from that, in some very rare cases, if your ISP has some issues connecting to the gaming servers, routing traffic through a VPN can fix the problem. Be sure to choose a good gaming VPN to ensure the connection speed.
Disadvantages of VPN
The perks of the VPN shouldn’t blind you from its drawbacks. Let’s explore what lies on the opposite side. These are the disadvantages of VPN.
1. Slows the speed down
We discussed how VPN encrypts the connection, which is a continuous process done in one or even up to 20 rounds (ChaCha20 encryption being the example). Therefore, you’ll inevitably notice a reduction in internet speed. To sum it up, factors such as VPN server location, security protocol in use, and the encryption level impact the speed negatively. Although benefits can offset this to a degree, it can be a frustrating experience for some users.
2. Limited VPN support
VPN does not support every device and operating system, which is especially true for platforms that aren’t used widely. In these cases, VPN needs to be set manually, which can be a complicated process for beginners. It also must be done right so that users’ information does not leak.
3. Privacy concerns
VPN undoubtedly protects you online, but there are still privacy concerns associated with it. This is especially accurate with free VPN services. The service provider can collect your usage data and sell it to third parties, where it can be mistreated, such as sending you annoying but frighteningly accurate ads. In our article on advantages and disadvantages of internet banking, we talked about some security concerns which can be also applied to the VPNs.
4. Legal issues
The perception of each nation towards VPN is different. This is why some countries ban the use of VPN, whereas in others it is heavily regulated. Luckily, VPN use is allowed in most countries, although you should always double-check your nation’s legislation before opting for it. Even if VPNs aren’t explicitly illegal, you may still face consequences if you get caught breaking the law while it’s active. In an article, Norton explained why VPNs can be legal and illegal based on the circumstances.
5. Dropped connections
Waiting through the process of reconnection while using the Internet can be quite bothersome. The VPN shares the problem of connection drops, but they’re often more frequent. The worst part is that during these times, even for a split second, the connection is no longer encrypted, revealing real users’ IP addresses. This means that ISPs and other third parties can track their online activities, eventually defeating the purpose of using VPNs.
6. Not very cheap sometimes
Based on your needs and the features you need from a VPN, they can sometimes be pretty costly. Especially if you have a company which needs a large VPN network to protect the company network, things could get costly pretty quickly. For an average user who has around $10 to spend on a monthly basis, VPNs can be bought with pretty good security features. But when it comes to larger organizations, the pricing will be based on other factors such as the number of employees, the high-amount of bandwidth that might be required, extra protection features, etc.