Before figuring out if getting a VPN tool installed on your computer is worth the trouble, you should get a clear understanding of how VPN works and what are are the VPN pros and cons.
Without further ado, we put together a list with the main points we think you should equip your computer with a reliable VPN application. Since there are two sides to every story, you can also check out some of the negative aspects which may surface when using a VPN. However, we don’t want to see you sad, so we are also sharing some quick workarounds to the downsides of using virtual private network applications.
Why you should get a VPN service
The big picture is that applications capable of creating virtual private networks help improve security and protect privacy of personal information when using the internet. They can get access to exclusive digital content that’s not normally available to you due to geographical restrictions, connect to the workplace no matter where you are, and even give you an edge when playing multiplayer games.
For privacy: hide your tracks when going online
As you know, your internet browser monitors your activity while you are surfing the web. This way, it saves browsing history to let you easily recall it later, cookies to be able to sign you into most websites, along with cached images and other files to be able to load content faster the next time you access those sites.
If you do not want to leave traces behind for other people to see, you can simply start an incognito / private browsing session. However, your browser activity can still be seen by your ISP, and most web browsers inform you of this. To completely hide your online tracks, including from your ISP, you can use a VPN. The ISP can tell that you are connected to the web through a virtual private network but cannot see what you are actually doing while connected. One of the VPN pros is that data remains encrypted throughout the entire session.
For privacy: get rid of personalized ads and other tracking-based content
Another disadvantage of exploring the internet in normal mode is the fact that marketing services create personalized ads after analyzing your browsing activity to identify your likes and dislikes. This has benefits for people who are actually interested in purchasing goods or employing services over the web.
However, if you want to plan a surprise for your special someone who happens to have access to your computer, a surprise that involves looking for gifts on the web, there’s a huge chance that your web browser will show the ads with gifts to your spouse.
Unfortunately, these services are becoming more and more difficult to disable, even when using incognito/private browsing mode. Earlier, it was necessary to just have the “Do Not Track” request enabled in the browser settings. Now you also have to deactivate WebRTC.
Some ad-blockers are powerful enough to disable personalized ads but, if you want to put another layer of security on top of it, you can use a reliable VPN service. More importantly, one of the VPN pros is that it can prevent existing cookies and history from affecting ads by connecting to another IP address that cannot be traced back to you.
For data protection: keep your data safe when using public wifi
Whether you are traveling to a foreign country or just going out, it’s sometimes necessary to get your notebook out of the bag to quickly check your inbox, send an email or even make a payment using a public wireless network. But if the hotspot is unprotected, it becomes a security issue because anyone can connect to your device and get hold of your information (it’s really not that difficult to pull off).
Needless to say, you might end up giving away the details to your email account or credit card without even realizing it. With the aid of a VPN tool, though, this disastrous scenario can be avoided. Hackers might be able to intercept your sent and received data but at least it will be scrambled, thanks to VPN pros: encryption features provided by virtual private network utilities.
For device protection: keep your computer safe from malware
In addition to hackers and Man-In-The-Middle attacks targeting your private information, you are exposing your computer to any kind of malware that can be spread over the internet. An example for this are ransomware agents designed to hijack your PC, encrypt personal files, and leave a message behind with details on where to send money to get your files back.
Having a VPN application installed on your computer is just as important as having an antivirus program installed. In fact, some anti-malware companies now offer built-in VPN features due to the high risk of data interception and theft when using public networks. This is another one of the VPN pros.
For movies and TV shows: get access to locked online content
Unfortunately, some online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and BBC iPlayer are not equally available to everyone in the world. Therefore, if you want to get passed the “Sorry, content is not available in your country” message, you can connect to the internet through a VPN and pick a country that is acceptable for the online service. This perk does not only apply to websites but also files that cannot be downloaded unless you are located in greenlit region.
Perhaps this side of VPN pros to unblock websites which are not normally open to specific regions can be best put in perspective when taking into consideration that the governments of some countries are completely unreasonable when it comes to filtering internet sources. People living in a country with such severe limitations (like North Korea) can gain access to blocked webpages with the aid of a VPN application.
For copyright material: hide your identity when downloading illegal torrents
You may have noticed that some websites which host free torrents for download recommend you to use virtual private network tools in order to conceal your identity from any party interested in calling the authorities to turn you in, like your ISP. Torrenting and torrent clients are not illegal since they only represent the means to an action. The illegal action, in this case, is downloading copyrighted material.
Without connecting to the internet through a virtual private network, you are in danger of being tracked by authorities if someone tips them off. This rarely happens since you should normally receive a warning letter from your ISP first, followed by connection throttling, but it is still a possibility. To make it impossible to tell where the torrent downloading is originating from, you should turn on a VPN app and keep it running while the torrent content is being fetched from the web – another one of the VPN pros.
For blocked downloads: get files from domains blocked to your IP address
Some websites, including those based on BitTorrent, block downloads to certain countries for various reasons, like known history of too many connection attempts (flooding) that were probably caused by hackers. The ban is usually temporary but there is no way of knowing when it will be lifted by the admin.
Instead of looking for the same file to download on another website and likely waste a lot of time in the process, you can get assigned with another IP address by your VPN service, an address that’s not on the site’s blacklist. This is another part of the VPN pros. In some cases, it is only necessary to trigger the download while you are connected to the VPN, followed by an immediate disconnect if your subscription plan has limited bandwidth. If the download is interrupted by your web browser, try to resume and pick up where it left off. If this does not work, you have to remain connected to the VPN during the entire downloading process.
For faster downloads: normalize or even increase downloading speed
Continuing the list of VPN pros, some software developers may experience issues with their host provider, leading to limited bandwidth and painfully slow downloads. The bandwidth limitation may only apply to certain countries and this usually depends on the distance to the host’s location. Not everyone can afford to host files on different servers available to all continents.
When this happens, most PC users drop the download manager built into their web browsers and switch to more serious download managers. But if the connection speed does not improve in this scenario either, you should consider using a VPN tool to connect to a country closer to the host. In certain cases, you can significantly increase the downloading speed.
For work: connect to the headquarters of a business that has branches spread all over the world
This is actually the main reason VPN services were created in the first place. The system administrator from your office can configure VPN settings in order to allow remote employees to connect to their work computer and conduct business as usual. It’s one of the VPN pros great for people who work from home or who are currently traveling to another country since the problem of distance is completely eliminated.
When reaching the office’s intranet, you can access all resources that are normally available to the local network, perform file transfers, and so on (depending on the permissions set by the administrator). Also, if your VPN application is equipped with split tunneling, you can specify which applications can use the VPN and which have direct access to the internet.
For web developers: optimize websites to see how well they behave in other countries
While we are on the subject of work, if you happen to be a website developer, then you already know the importance of a VPN program. It’s no longer enough to create a good-looking website to be able to attract attention. It should have good performance not only on desktops but also mobiles and other platforms. This means that you have to resort to various tools to test your website’s performance on various devices and operating systems.
Furthermore, if you have pages that load automatically in a targeted language, depending on where the user is accessing it from, then you need a VPN tool to switch through multiple countries and check results. This part of VPN pros also comes in handy for product prices displayed in many currencies by region, as well as for landing pages with offers aimed at only a select number of countries.
For gaming: improve the ping time when playing multiplayer games
Anyone who has played a multiplayer game at least once in their life just for the fun of sharing the experience with friends has probably noticed the “ping time” status right next to a game room’s name. The ping time indicates the connectivity strength between you and the remote computer where the server was created. Unless your internet connection has serious issues, this should not be a concern for friends playing a game across from each other in the same physical room.
But this becomes a real problem for hardcore gamers who regularly hit game rooms from all over the world. The general rule is: the farther the server, the lower the response time. To make matters worse, some ISPs can throttle the internet connection if they feel that the bandwidth has been exceeded.
In some cases, it is practically impossible to join a server and perform the most basic actions like moving since you might likely end up immediately killed during death matches. Fortunately, this issue can be solved by firing up a VPN and picking the same country as the server. Another one of the VPN pros is that it helps with joining global servers when traveling to other regions.
For gaming: get access to the latest game releases, including country exclusives
A lot of developers set different release dates for their games, allowing earlier access to some regions and later to others. This can be frustrating for die-hard fans who have waited a long time to be able to play something they have built a lot of excitement and anticipation for. Things can grow worse as days pass by since certain YouTube channels or other websites might give you unwanted spoilers. Unless you are so dedicated to playing a game that you are willing to cut off the internet for a while, it can become really difficult to avoid said spoilers.
To make matters worse, developers may not even plan to release their games in the country you are hoping for, such as the case of Xbox Live and PSN exclusives. Some people might even go the extra mile and ask a friend to buy the game, if they are currently within a region without embargo. But this does not work if the game requires an active internet connection to work. Thankfully, all of these issues can be avoided by using a VPN. When it comes to this aspect of VPN pros, connect to a country where the game can be downloaded and/or purchased, and enjoy.
For gaming: protect hosted game rooms from DDoS attacks
We are switching roles to see what it means to host a game room. If it’s big enough to welcome thousands of users in Minecraft, League of Legends, World of Warcaft and other MMORPGs, then it is likely open to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Sadly, DDoS attacks are very common. The goal is to keep players from joining a room by sending an abundance of requests to the server until it is flooded, performance is hampered, and players are forced to leave since it is no longer possible to enjoy a smooth gaming experience.
By using a VPN application, developers can conceal the real IP address of the hosted server, making it increasingly difficult for hackers to launch DDoS attacks. Some VPN tools even have dedicated IP addresses for DDoS protection – another side of VPN pros. However, an app capable of offering DDoS protection should be able to cover not only for game developers but also casual users and businesses with websites (like online banking).
For deals: compare prices of airplane tickets, car renting and hotel booking websites
If you’ve ever visited another city or country by plane and if you were in charge with buying your own ticket online, you have probably noticed how bad airplane companies are with ticket pricing. More specifically, prices go up in an alarming rate due to simple mouse clicks. If you are the type of cautious person who does a bit of research and visits several websites with deals before picking the cheapest ticket, then you are likely punished with a higher price for the same ticket, to the same destination, at the same time, on the same website.
All of this happened only because you did not accept the first deal, visited other websites with other offers, refreshed the page or left it inactive for too long. Regrettably, this is an unhealthy practice for airplane companies to spike up their prices and make you remember to take the first offer the next time you need a flight. The same applies for some car renting and hotel booking websites.
But there’s a secret that not everyone knows about this kind of websites. They operate based on your location, so this information allows them to know that you are the same person who visited a particular page, leading to a higher price. Another point in the list of VPN pros is that it can be fixed by connecting to another country with a VPN tool. Some companies might even give you better than original deals if they think there is a slim-to-none chance for someone across the planet to take a local flight the next day. Feel free to explore this using VPN servers from diverse countries.
What are the downsides of using VPN
To get an honest perspective of what it means to connect to the internet through a virtual private network service, it is necessary to understand not only VPN pros but also what can go wrong. Most of these unfortunate events occur due to the improper use or faulty development of a VPN application. It only adds more emphasis to the importance of doing a proper research into multiple tools before choosing one.
Slower internet connections
When starting the list of VPN pros, we mentioned that an online connection can be sped up by reaching a VPN server closer to the host’s location. But if not properly configured, it can backfire. For instance, if you want to get the best security possible when using a virtual private network tool, then the logical thing to do would have to be picking the strongest encryption it has to offer.
The downside of super encryption is that it makes room for lagging due to the fact that it needs a lot of power for processing data. Therefore, it becomes a matter of choosing an optimal VPN configuration that perfectly balances encryption and speed. Some VPN applications can automatically detect your network type and set an optimal configuration if you wish, which can be considered another part of VPN pros.
How to fix slow VPN connections
As earlier mentioned, speed is affected by the distance from the remote IP address you are connecting to via VPN to the location of the server you want to reach once the connection is made: the longer the distance, the slower the connection. Unless you really have to connect to a specific country, it’s best to go with the nearest point to your real location. This is why many VPN applications have recommendations or default countries lined up. Considered by many as VPN pros, these features help detect your real location and guide you toward the nearest server to maximize speed.
Another aspect to take into account is that the connection will be also slowed down if too many users are linked to the same VPN server. Aside from the fact that you can select another server, there is nothing much you can do about it since it falls in the hands of the company behind the VPN service. Nevertheless, reliable service providers should immediately alert you when too many connections are made to one server and offer alternatives.
If you want to take advantage of the VPN pros and use an app for work or for connecting to public wireless networks, then what you are mostly interested in is security. Even at the risk of decreasing the internet connection speed, you want to make sure that data you send and receive cannot be intercepted, whether we are talking about confidential office documents or credit card information when making online payments at a public, unprotected hotspot.
When this is your main concern, it becomes mandatory to do your research about VPN pros found within tools to figure out which one provides the best security. Without dedicated features for data integrity and privacy, your VPN server may put you at risk of leaks.
How to maximize security when using VPN
What you’re looking for is an application powered by strong VPN protocols, authentication and encryption methods. It should have advanced settings to let you take control over each security aspect, as well as a solid default configuration that you can depend on for quick connections. Some notable features include a VPN kill switch capable of instantly blocking internet traffic if the connection fails out of the blue, together with a no-data logging policy. Both are considered VPN pros by all specialists.
It also doesn’t hurt to run a background check on the application and company to find not only history of exploit risks, but also how quickly the issues were resolved. It’s normal for any piece of software to be prone to faults. What matters more is how responsive the VPN service provider is when it comes to finding a solution. While we’re on the subject, you should also get in touch with the tech support behind the VPN provider to see how professional it truly is – the quality of the help desk can be also considered one of the VPN pros.
Settings that are difficult to configure
Advanced configuration settings are excellent for skilled users who like tinkering with every aspect of a VPN application. But this can leave casual users scratching their heads. A perfect example for this is OpenVPN, a name you probably already heard about. Many VPN protocols pale in comparison to OpenVPN, which puts emphasis on security, speed and customization options. Sadly, it’s not for the faint-hearted, although it can be mastered with a bit of time and interest.
On the other side of the spectrum are ultra-simplistic VPN applications with little-to-no configuration settings. We’re talking about the sort of tools that have a few VPN servers lined up in a menu, along with a couple of buttons for turning on and off.
How to deal with advanced VPN settings
There’s no workaround for this: you have to learn what the buttons, menus and settings represent in the graphical interface of a VPN program. On the bright side, most VPN service providers make sure to include help documentation that’s as intuitive as possible. There are also plenty of online resources that you can check out. And if you ever end up against the wall, you can always contact your VPN company to request assistance.
High-demanding on system resources on older computers
As software applications become bigger and better, they start taking a heavier toll on system resources consumption (CPU and RAM). It may not be a huge concern for users with high-end computers, but it certainly affects those with weaker hardware configurations and older operating systems. Not everyone can afford upgrading to better devices, so it’s important to go with a VPN tool that doesn’t bring the computer to a crippling state, at least.
How to optimize VPN to improve PC performance
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to find a VPN application that’s optimized for your exact needs from the start (we’re not sure such a thing exists). But if it has plenty of configuration settings, these can be tweaked to deliver better performance results for your older computer.
For instance, you can connect to the VPN server using a protocol with medium security and medium speed like L2TP/IPsec, or low security but great speed like PPTP. If the program automatically uploads crash reports, speed tests and other details made to help the company improve features, you might consider disabling this option since it’s a background service.
Expensive subscription plans
Free-to-use and freemium VPN apps are usually poorly constructed from the start. On top of that, they show you ads during runtime or offer third-party applications that you might end up accidentally installing. The goal here is to give you a glimpse into a premium product, and it’s surprise that a top-notch VPN application may be costly.
Maintaining an internal database of numerous VPN servers, quickly responding to help tickets submitted by users, live chatting, continuous and rapid implementation of new features, changes and bug fixes – they all imply having a solid development team behind the premium VPN company, and the members of this team have to be paid.
How to get better deals for premium VPN
Firstly, you should know that most VPN service providers offer multiple payment plans, like monthly or yearly subscriptions, or even a one-time payment for a lifetime license, so you can explore multiple pricing options suited for your needs. However, if you’re not pleased with the costs, you can personally contact the company to see if it’s willing to drop a few bucks. Otherwise, it might be willing to give you a better deal on the number of supported devices, bandwidth limitation, or other perks.
If you have writing skills, you can also consider testing and reviewing the company’s VPN, then publish it on your blog or guest-post on another website. In this case, contact the VPN company to share your intentions and request a premium subscription – you might be in for a surprise.
Another simpler way is to monitor the company’s social channels like Twitter, Facebook and official blog to keep an eye out for special promotions that involve significant discounts or even product giveaways. Pro tip: many software companies do this around the holidays (and there’s always Black Friday or Cyber Monday lurking about). To speed things up a little, contact the company and simply ask when the next sale or giveaway event is.
Hopefully, this list of VPN pros and cons can give you a better idea of what to expect when purchasing a premium VPN service. What we can draw out from all this is that, no matter what the problem is, there’s always a solution to it. We’d also love to hear your thoughts on VPN advantages and disadvantages, along with workarounds from your own experience.