If you’re new to the world of VPNs and are completely confused by the entire concept, don’t worry – you’re not alone! Just take 10 minutes and read our Ultimate VPN FAQ – you’ll be an expert by the last paragraph!
What Does VPN Stand For?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. People use them to make their online activities secure and private, two very important things when you consider how companies like Google and Facebook use your data.
In its simplest form, a VPN acts a cloak on your IP address when you’re accessing the web through public connections like mobile data or your home WiFi network.
For instance, say you’re out and about using mobile data. Your network provider, Three or EE, for example, can monitor and track what you’re doing – and so too can Google via search. With a VPN installed on your phone, your digital presence is cloaked and encrypted, so your browsing sessions are totally private and cannot be logged and/or tracked.
How Do VPNs Work?
The actual process and mechanics of a VPN connection are very complex, however, in its simplest form, a VPN simply relocates your internet access point (say your home computer) to a totally different location.
Without a VPN, your internet IP address is easy to find – both by your ISP and hackers. It will tell whoever’s watching where you are, what you’re looking at, and on what device you’re doing it on.
But as soon as you install a VPN, either on your PC or phone, this data disappears. To an outside party, your activities will become anonymous and your location will be unclear – you could be living in the UK but using servers in Hong Kong, or vice versa.
Using a VPN is a bit like having an invisibility cloak (only here, we’re talking about making yourself invisible online and not in real life). This is the #1 reason why millions of people use VPNs; it removes you from targeted ads, tracking by search engines, and removes barriers to entry on foreign content like US Netflix and Hulu, which can both be accessed from the UK via a VPN.
What About VPN Apps For iPhone & Android?
Back in the day, VPNs were complex applications that required advanced knowledge to set up. In 2020, a two-year-old could set up and run a VPN network on your iPhone or Android phone.
All you have to do is download a VPN application – I use and highly recommend NordVPN –, install it on your phone, log in, and put it live. And that’s literally it; you’re now connected to a VPN network and all your activity is encrypted, 100% anonymous, and safe.
If you sign up for a VPN service, you can usually install it on a variety of your devices – your tablet, phone, and PC, for instance. Our #1 recommended VPN, NordVPN, allows for up to six installs per account, so you’ll have plenty left over for extended family and friends.
How VPN Encryption Works
Encryption online is super-important. Hackers and scammers have a range of tools and exploits that can get around even the savviest of people, so it always pays to have the second layer of insurance (in this case, A VPN, running on your phone and PC).
VPN encryption is a complex process whereby your data is encrypted en-route to the VPN server, where it is then decrypted, and then re-encrypted again before it leaves the VPN server – that’s two layers of encryption. This is a basic explanation of how encryption works on VPNs – there’s actually a lot more to it!
The main thing to remember here is this: encryption on VPNs is key. If you go with a free VPN, chances are it will use loose or unstable encryption, and you do not want that. It ALWAYS pays to go with an established, no-logs VPN provider that invests in solid, state of the art encryption. Again, this is why we always recommend 100% no logs VPNs (and nothing else).
Are VPNs Illegal?
No, VPNs are not illegal. However, some of the activities you can perform while using a VPN are – things like downloading illegal content, sharing illegal content, downloading and watched pirated films and music.
Basically, if you can’t do something on a normal connection, you shouldn’t be doing it on a VPN either! All good VPNs do not keep logs, so you can do things like access PirateBay and download torrents, but you always run the risk of regulations changing and getting found out.
As always, proceed with caution if you’re using a VPN for this kind of thing…
Logging vs No Logging VPNs
There are two types of VPN providers: free and paid – or, more specifically, log and no log providers. Free VPNs are not secure and they will, in most cases, keep logs of your data which can then be sold off to advertisers or the highest bidder. This isn’t good. It’s your data they’re selling. VPNs are all about privacy, so make sure you 100% AVOID free VPNs – even if they claim to be no-logs.
Premium VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, my two #1 picks for 2020, are 100% no-log VPN services. This means none of your data through their servers is tracked, it’s completely anonymous which ensures all your personal data and activities remain totally encrypted.
NordVPN also invests heavily in its servers and the technology that powers them. Every month, a new press release from NordVPN lands on my desk, informing me about new encryption protocols it has started using or some new server technology that has been implemented to improve download speeds.
Bottom line? If you’re going to use a VPN, there are two things you should care about: 1) privacy, meaning no-logging of your data, and 2) speeds, meaning how fast your internet connection runs when the VPN is active. In both cases, NordVPN is by far and away the best option currently on the market. And the reason for this? It’s constantly investing in its product and server technologies.
Things You Can Do with A VPN
- Keep Your Browsing Activities 100% Private & Secure
- Access Foreign Content (US Netflix From The UK, For Instance)
- Keep Your Data Safe on Public WiFi Networks (Coffee Shops & Airports)
- Avoid ISP Throttling
- Block Your ISP From Seeing What You’re Doing
- Bypass Government Censorship
- Bypass Office/School/College Internet Restrictions
- Stop Google/Facebook From Tracking You
Why I Use A VPN (And You Should Too)
The main reason I use a VPN is that I believe privacy (and my data) is a fundamental right, not a privilege. I don’t like marketeers, Google, Facebook, or anybody else for that matter harvesting my data and selling it on for profit. I’m also fairly well aware of just how easy it is for hackers and scammers to gain access to your phone and/or PC using your IP address and some basic exploits.
Basically, I view VPNs like I view seatbelts, a necessary safety precaution that is required when doing certain activities. If you knew just how easy it was for anybody – literally ANYBODY – to spy on you, using just your IP address and some clever software, you too would feel the same and never leave home without a good, reliable VPN running on your internet-connected device.
On top of this, using a VPN allows me to view region-specific content in my home like Hulu and Netflix, as well as some US sites that now block European traffic (thanks, GDPR!) Mostly, though, I use it because half of my life is stored on my phone and my PC and I don’t want it getting into the wrong hands just because I couldn’t be bothered to take 10 seconds to set up and install a VPN.
Recommended VPNs For Android & iOS
As noted earlier, out of all the VPNs we have tested in over the past few years, only two are really worth a look. The one I use is NordVPN – it’s inexpensive, has market-leading encryption, and you can run it on up to 6 different devices.
I also really like ExpressVPN too; again, it’s fast, secure, and works brilliantly in practice. Both are no log VPNs too, so if you want the best possible speed performance, stability, and encryption, either of these two VPNs will do you proud.
Again, please DO NOT use free VPNs – they’re a scam. If you want proper encryption, strict no-logging policies, and decent speed performance, you have to pay for it – it’s that simple. If something is free, in this case, a VPN, they’re making money some other way. And nine times out of ten it is with your data…