What are the advantages and disadvantages of a VPN? What should you watch out for when using a VPN? The demand for VPNs is increasing significantly. And a VPN doesn’t just improve your privacy in public WiFi. At home, too, the virtual private network ensures that your Internet provider has no idea which pages you are visiting on the Internet.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is not entirely anonymous. Your Internet provider sees that data from your connection is being transmitted over the Internet. However, since this data is encrypted and redirected via a server of the VPN provider, the Internet provider cannot see the content and the origin of the data.
Advantages and Disadvantages Of A VPN
A VPN not only encrypts your data but VPN also bypasses geographical restrictions. Many VPN providers offer a selection of servers in different countries.
If you visit a website via a VPN server in the same country as the website, the website thinks your request comes from the same country. The website does not recognize your actual location because the VPN server between you and the website handles the requests. However, more and more websites are blocking VPNs.
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A VPN also bypasses censorship. However, repressive states are increasingly blocking VPN traffic via their Internet providers.
With a VPN, your provider no longer recognizes which data and websites you are visiting on the Internet. This applies to public WLANs, the Internet provider at home, but also cell phone providers.
Benefits Of A VPN
- A VPN improves privacy and security in public networks: The advantage of a VPN is the encrypted data traffic in the network. The VPN software encrypts all requests from your computer, smartphone or tablet and sends them to the VPN server. This decrypts the request and sends it to the website you requested. Neither the Internet provider nor other people in the network can view or evaluate the data.
- A VPN changes the country of origin: Good VPN providers have numerous servers in different countries. If you connect to one of these servers, your requests look like requests from the country of origin of the VPN server. If a website limits its offer to this country of origin, you can also use the offer. The VPN server bypasses the geographic restriction.
- A VPN prevents evaluations of the traffic data: Internet providers can evaluate the total data traffic and all inquiries from their customers. For example, this is required for traffic management, but it can also be misused for advertising purposes. Traffic for specific services can also be de-prioritized or even deliberately slowed down. For the provider, data over a VPN is encrypted data. The content and origin remain unknown to the provider.
Cons Of a VPN
- A VPN slows down the speed: the additional encryption and decryption can reduce the latency time. The response time is also reduced when using VPN servers that are geographically further away. A request-response via an Australian server takes significantly longer than a server from Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
- A VPN provider sees your data: When using a VPN, the Internet provider no longer sees the data, but the VPN provider sees the requests. Most VPN providers promise not to store any data, but this is difficult to verify. As a customer, you have to put a certain amount of trust in the VPN provider.
- VPN bandwidth costs money: A VPN usually hurts your bandwidth. Modern fibre optic connections, in particular, have significantly more bandwidth than a VPN provider can deliver. Good providers cost money, but they also deliver 80 to 150 Mbits via the VPN server.
What a VPN Can’t Do!
A VPN doesn’t make you invisible. A VPN encrypts your data and disguises your origin. With a VPN, you are not 100% anonymous because the VPN provider knows your IP and the data transfer.
In the meantime, websites know the servers of many VPN providers and can at least assess whether a request comes through a VPN server or not. THEREFORE, a VPN is part of the better protection of privacy but should never be the sole component.
In addition, you should make sure that websites always encrypt using HTTPS. This means that entries between the website and you are transmitted in encrypted form. The VPN provider cannot read the content of the request.
Another option can be the Tor browser. This means that you also move anonymously and with significantly fewer traces on the Internet. But also, the private mode in the browser reduces the tracking possibilities of websites and advertising networks.
VPNs change the country of origin of your traffic, but a VPN cannot always bypass censorship. Depending on how aggressive a country is, all VPN traffic is blocked. Many streaming providers recognize and block VPNs
Free VPN Providers
Can a good VPN be free? That depends on the desired use. If only the data traffic on the smartphone or laptop for the hotel visit is encrypted so that emails and WhatsApp are secure, there is no reason to pay for a VPN.
The free options listed below offer reduced bandwidth, hardly any choice of server or reduced data volume, but they encrypt the data traffic reliably and securely. Streaming is only possible to a limited extent, but emails, WhatsApp and Instagram are safe.
ProtonVPN: The ProtonVPN offer comes from Switzerland. The VPN provider offers a free option that can be used permanently for free. You have three servers to choose from. However, a maximum of one device can use the VPN service at the same time. The speed is reported as low without specifying precisely what low means precisely.
Windscribe: The provider from Canada provides all users with 10 GB of free traffic every month. The free VPN offer does not contain all servers, but this is sufficient for moderate surfing from the hotel or holiday home.
Opera Browser: Opera’s free VPN has been discontinued and integrated into the browser. An exact selection of countries is not available, but there are no restrictions on use. Opera can only encrypt traffic from the browser. Data sent to the Internet outside of Opera, for example, via an email program, is still not encrypted.