In a world where security and privacy are constantly under attack, Virtual Private Networks have many advantages. For example, VPNs allow employees to work securely anywhere. That's a huge benefit for modern businesses. The anonymity provided by VPNs also helps individuals browse privately and avoid surveillance. But those examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Let's explore the benefits of VPN protection in more detail.
What are the benefits of VPNs for personal use?
VPNs have benefits for gamers, travelers, remote workers, students, online shoppers, and even movie lovers. These benefits are reflected in steadily rising user numbers, with around 31% of global internet users employing VPN protection. That's no surprise, given the many advantages of a VPN for private users:
1. Avoid ISP throttling
Bandwidth throttling occurs when an Internet Service Provider (ISP) limits the connection speed of a particular user. Data throttling is usually targeted at users who download large volumes of data, although an ISP may limit users torrenting smaller files as well. Throttling may cut off downloads entirely, but it can also result in minor slowdown when gaming or streaming.
VPNs have the answer. When a VPN is engaged, ISPs struggle to apply bandwidth throttling. IP address anonymization hides the identity of data packets. ISPs cannot tell who is downloading files, and there is no way to detect when a user exceeds their available data threshold.
2. Enjoy geographical freedom
The content available to internet users varies across the world. Sometimes, travelers or remote workers encounter obstacles when accessing videos or articles located in another country. Data resources may also be hard to access via local servers, making it difficult to work abroad.
VPNs provide a potential solution. Server locations across the world give travelers complete freedom to define their digital location. IP anonymization allows users to work around obstacles to the content they need.
With a wide range of possible servers, workers can always find the best route to essential resources. Wherever they roam, workers are close to the office. Users are free to access documents, read news sites, or consult blogs. Nothing stands in their way, including government censorship and corporate filters.
3. Defeat surveillance
Nobody wants to be tracked online, whether that's by corporate cookies or authoritarian governments. In some cases, surveillance can lead to arrest and imprisonment. In others, it is a less-serious invasion of privacy – but it's still something to avoid.
VPNs are one of the most popular ways to beat online snoopers. Data packets passing through encrypted tunnels are hard to monitor and almost impossible to decode. Anonymous IP addresses also conceal the identities of users. Your ISP will not be able to record your browsing activity, and hackers will be left in the dark.
4. Get the best deals
VPNs can also help online shoppers. Many eCommerce sites target deals at buyers in specific locations. For instance, airline tickets in San Francisco may cost more than those purchased in New Orleans. Prices vary by location, as companies try to charge the maximum markets can support.
This marketing technique benefits corporate bottom lines but is bad for consumers. VPNs solve this problem by blocking the geo-filters that deliver deals to shoppers. Shoppers can change their location to different parts of the country or the world. They can hunt down the best bargains, often saving a lot of money.
5. Stronger data security
VPN encryption provides an extra layer of security for the data of individual internet users. Without encryption, exposed data is vulnerable to interception via man-in-the-middle attacks. Using public wi-fi is much more dangerous, especially when the network has no encryption of its own.
With 256-bit AES encryption and the latest tunneling protocols, you can shop online or send confidential messages safely. Enjoy peace of mind while traveling, browse social media while sipping a coffee, and find online bargains without leaking payment details.
What are the main VPN benefits for businesses?
VPNs were invented to allow safe connections between company locations. Since the early 1990s, they have evolved to become a critical aspect of cybersecurity for every type of business. Advantages of a VPN for business include:
1. Affordable security solutions
VPNs offer a low-cost security option compared with hardware firewalls and intrusion protection software. Hardware needs maintenance and firmware updates, while software tools must be licensed and updated. By contrast, VPNs are simple to manage, fall under a single license, and provide enough threat protection for most companies.
You may miss some features like active malware scanning. But encryption and IP anonymization still add extra security across the network. Company devices can create virtual identities on the other side of the planet, deceiving would-be intruders and making intrusions less likely.
2. Efficient data flows
Businesses can experience data throttling just like individuals. Corporate ISPs may limit connection speeds or ration bandwidth above a certain level. With a VPN in place, this is much less likely to happen. Your ISP cannot measure data use by employees, leaving them free to transfer high volumes of data without limitations. This is very helpful for data-intensive sectors like rendering images or software development.
3. Secure connectivity for Remote Work
Remote work soared during the Covid pandemic and will remain a significant part of working life. But remote access can pose security risks. Relocating to home offices or a public wi fi network extends the threat surface, and home internet connections used by workers may expose data to external attackers.
VPNs solve these problems. They create a secure connection between on-premises servers and remote devices. Encryption and anonymity make workers invisible to outsiders whether they use public wi fi in cafes or at home.
Workers are free to be as productive as possible, whatever wi fi network they need to use. They can upload and download critical files in airport lounges or on public transport. And they can stay in touch when they travel without security concerns.
4. Robust data privacy
Virtual Private Networks are an essential privacy tool for all businesses. Without encryption and anonymization, sensitive information is constantly at risk. Your Internet Service Provider can log and read traffic at will. Individual apps can harvest user data for marketing purposes (or cybercrime). SaaS services and search engines also log user activity.
Data logging may not be a problem for casual browsers. But companies regularly communicate confidential information about strategy, projects, and clients. Company data is extremely valuable to criminals and competitors and must always be secured. Using a VPN solves this problem. IP address anonymization makes logging or tracking very difficult.
5. Flexible security for every device and setting
Flexibility is one of the great strengths of Virtual Private Network protection. Companies can add VPN coverage to new devices in seconds. When workstations come online or managers add new users, VPNs instantly kick into gear, protecting network assets from external threats. Network security shifts naturally as the perimeter changes.
Companies can add VPNs to multiple devices when needed. Workers can enjoy the same security protection on laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Teams working away from the office can link all devices under the same Virtual Private Network service, while router VPNs secure office environments. With VPN protection, security adapts to meet every situation.
6. Easy support and maintenance
Hardware-based security solutions require constant monitoring and updates. This consumes the time of security teams that could be spent fine-tuning other security issues. With VPNs, server management is outsourced to third-party providers. VPN services maintain servers and ensure security – a more time-efficient option for smaller companies. Third-party management will also reduce support costs relative to in-house alternatives.
7. VPNs work well with legacy systems
VPNs offer a security solution for companies that currently lack the resources to stage a digital transformation to the cloud. VPN encryption overlays existing applications. There is no need to change their code or configuration. As long as users can access apps via the internet, VPN security will make them safer to use. VPN coverage also cuts the cost of replacing outdated software until the right moment.
What are the drawbacks of VPNs?
Virtual Private Networks are a valuable security tool for individuals and businesses, but they aren't perfect. VPNs lack some critical features when used alone. Companies may need additional software to maximize security. Some cyber threats also evade VPNs and will require other mitigation strategies.
Here are some of the core VPN drawbacks to keep in mind when choosing the right security solution:
1. VPNs do not stop all monitoring
VPNs are good at blocking surveillance and ISP logging. However, they are less effective at blocking tracking on social media. Sites like Instagram and Facebook will still be able to track your activity using your login credentials. They store the profiles you visit and the ads you engage with, alongside private messages to other users.
VPNs may fail to block tracking cookies, another common way to track user activity. And they can do little to stop browser fingerprinting. Fingerprinting refers to the collection of information about individuals based on data delivered by their browsers. It can only be prevented by using genuinely secure private browsers.
2. Reduced connection speeds
In some cases, VPN usage can result in slower connection speeds and poor network performance. Most VPNs have an effect on network speeds due to the need to apply and decode encrypted data. But not all VPNs are the same. Providers with faster and more numerous servers tend to deliver better speeds. And the protocols they use also matter.
3. Problems accessing content
Another problem arises when VPN users try to access certain websites. Some sites actively block VPN connections. For instance, Netflix seeks to block IP addresses associated with VPNs in order to protect their intellectual property. Some states also block VPNs en masse to censor news websites or social media. Be aware of local restrictions, as they may make a VPN connection less valuable.
4. Weak internal security controls
VPNs are good at protecting the network perimeter. They block external attacks via content inspection and tracking. And they can help counter DDoS attacks as well. But VPNs won't be as useful when attackers breach the perimeter. Inside the network, companies will need different security solutions such as segmentation and active threat monitoring.
5. Not all VPN providers are trustworthy
When you use a VPN, your data is only as secure as the protections used by the VPN provider. Some providers maintain zero-logging policies and collect virtually no data about users beyond payment details. Others log extensively and profit by selling customer data. Some only disclose client data to law enforcement as a last resort, while others are weak and easily influenced. Make sure your provider avoids logging and is serious about online privacy.
6. VPNs can increase data costs
VPNs are generally an affordable security option. However, they can have hidden data costs that customers need to consider. Data transferred via VPNs consumes more bandwidth due to the burden of encryption. Well-managed VPNs keep this burden low. As a result, data costs will rise by 5% or less. But in some cases, costs can rise by 20% - a significant overhead for smaller companies.
7. Some threats escape VPN security entirely
Users need to remember that VPNs only apply encryption and anonymize internet traffic. They do not scan for malware or viruses. And they do not actively filter emails for phishing content or deliver alerts about exploits and suspicious websites. So even if you are using a VPN, you will still need separate malware and virus protection. Remote workers will need thorough anti-phishing training. And measures like 2FA and active threat monitoring are also advisable.
8. Promises don't always match reality
VPNs are businesses, and businesses can be deceptive. Providers regularly make big promises about their ability to unlock blocked content and ensure online privacy. But many of those promises are not backed up by VPN performance. Sites may remain off-limits, and providers may log user activity. Companies and individuals always need to check the credentials of VPNs and pick a partner that delivers on its commitments.
VPN evaluation checklist: Finding the right security partner
The drawbacks listed above are important, but they don't cancel the many benefits of VPNs for businesses and personal users. However, not all VPNs deliver. Picking the right VPN provider remains a critical part of the purchasing process. Here are some key points to keep in mind when choosing a provider:
Understand privacy issues. As mentioned earlier, some VPNs keep logs of user activity, including websites visited and file downloads. But others are extremely strict regarding logging and take online privacy seriously. Check provider websites for a zero logs promise. Read through the provider's privacy statement for detailed information about the extent of their data recording. Many people expecting truly anonymous browsing are surprised by what they find.
Client or router security?
Individuals seeking a security solution for remote work or personal use may prefer client-based VPNs. These VPNs use software on remote devices that applies encryption and routes traffic via private servers. But companies may benefit from router VPNs or site-to-site VPN
coverage. These VPN types
link branches and offices under a single VPN.
Performance matters. VPNs differ dramatically where speed and general performance are concerned. Check reliable speed rating websites to assess potential partners. Be aware that VPN speeds can vary by server location. So if you need to connect in Asia and North America, check server speeds in both regions. If possible, check for any downtime issues as well. Fast VPNs can sometimes deliver unreliable coverage, and companies need consistent security protection.
What encryption is available?
Encryption is the core part of any good VPN. Look for AES-256-bit encryption as standard, with dependable tunneling protocols like OpenVPN
. Better yet, look for products like NordLynx
that add extra speed and functionality to the Wireguard architecture. NordLynx combines the speed of Wireguard with measures to maximize user privacy. This offers a robust security setup when combined with military-grade encryption.
What other security features are included? Anonymity and encryption are the heart of VPN products, but add-ons can make VPNs even more useful. For instance, good business VPN providers offer private DNS that anonymizes web queries. Double VPN conceals the fact that users are running a VPN, while split tunneling lets you divide encrypted traffic for different purposes. A Kill Switch should also be present. This shuts off network connectivity when VPN coverage drops. It's a good fail-safe to guarantee constant protection.
Find the best value solution. VPN prices vary from provider to provider. Don't overpay for the services you need, but don't opt for a cheap provider that lacks core features or isn't reliable. Look for providers that offer specialist business VPN packages and can tailor their products to each client. It's also a good idea to contact support teams before buying. That way, you can ensure they are responsive and able to help when issues arise.
Find a VPN solution that works for you
Using a VPN has many important benefits. As we've seen, VPN pros include enhanced privacy, easier access to overseas content, data encryption, and protection against ISP data throttling. Companies can create secure connections between remote workers and central offices. And VPN usage is also both cheap and flexible. VPNs have some flaws. But when used as part of a comprehensive security setup, they are a very valuable security tool.