Virtual private network services transmit data over a secure tunnel when using the internet, adding a layer of security in case information gets illegally acquired by a hacker – the data you send and receive cannot be deciphered in readable form without getting hold of the encryption key.
However, VPN offers a broader range of advantages besides the security aspect, giving you the possibility to access online content that cannot be normally viewed, enhance your gaming experience on multiplayer mode, improve search engine results when doing research, get better price deals when shopping for online products or services, and so on. All of these perks which are seemingly unrelated have one essential feature in common: your IP address. By making websites think you have a different IP address than in reality, you can open up new areas of the web in ways you may not have imagined.
For this article, we’re breaking down the top 14 reasons (in no particular order) why you should get equipped with a reliable VPN application. These software products vary in features, so it’s important to identify your wishes and figure out why you really need a virtual private network tool, unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money buying and trying out different premium products until you find out what’s suitable for you. Before doing so, you might want to check out our article about how VPN works.
1. Chat with people over a secure channel
People risk exposing confidential data to unauthorized third parties when exchanging messages through online media channels if they are unprotected. WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption a while back, which cannot be deactivated no matter what you try to do. Viber has end-to-end encryption, too. On the other hand, Facebook Messenger has secret conversations disabled by default, and you have to go through some steps to turn on this feature.
But if you want to add an extra layer of security when chatting with a friend, family member or client, you cannot go wrong with a virtual private network application. Even when having a digital conversation with someone using non-encrypted channels, the VPN resorts to encryption to exchange your messages, making sure that data cannot be deciphered even if it’s intercepted by someone.
2. Connect to the office from any location
Since the VPN system was originally intended to help people connect to their workplace’s intranet even when they are physically home or somewhere else (even in another country), it goes without saying that one of the main reasons people use VPN is to stay in touch with the office. In most cases, your company’s administrator is in charge with setting up the VPN connection and providing you with all the necessary instructions.
But if you have the possibility of choosing a preferred VPN client, it’s better to go with one that has split tunneling, a feature that can separate LAN traffic from the global internet. Also, if there’s another person in the same LAN as you who wants to connect to the same office, make sure that the application of your choice offers a VPN protocol that supports multiple devices with identical VPN configuration.
3. Protect your connection on public wireless networks
When you go out town or travel to a foreign country, you probably have to depend on a public, insecure hotspot to reach the workplace, check your inbox, chat with a friend on Facebook, or access your banking account to make a payment. Besides, it doesn’t cost any money, compared to turning on data services on your smartphone. But public wireless networks are a favorite place for hackers, too, especially when talking about a network without password protection that anyone can sign into. In fact, anyone with minimal hacking skills can infiltrate your personal computer if there is no key to get passed. Even password-protected networks are vulnerable if the security level is low.
Once hackers gets through the firewall of your computer, you become susceptible to malware infections, wireless sniffing and man-in-the-middle attacks. For instance, they can steal your login credentials to personal and work accounts, credit card info, sent photos, saved passwords, and any other sensitive information you have lying around on the computer and used during online browsing sessions. Some of these people go to great lengths, like creating rogue hotspots to trick you into connecting to their fake network by adopting a name which appears to be legitimate. After, they can hack into your device without any barriers. However, when a VPN tool is used to connect to the public, insecure hotspot, all data becomes encrypted, so there’s no risk of exposing important information even if it’s acquired by an unauthorized third party.
4. Make sure VoIP calls cannot be decoded
If you want to have an audio conversation with someone over the internet, it means that you have to resort to a VoIP tool like Skype or Viber. Unfortunately, VoIP services are just other web-based applications which may also be subjected to various restrictions imposed by places of work, schools, hotels, telecom, governments and ISPs. Furthermore, it’s possible to get hold of batches of VoIP calls in order to analyze and decrypt them.
Thanks to the fact that the VoIP system transfers digital voice as data streams, in the same way data is transmitted over the internet, it can be easily integrated with a VPN software solution for sending data streams through a secure channel and for getting around IP-based restrictions. Another important aspect is that VoIP uses a protocol called SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), which utilizes random ports to connect to firewalls, making it difficult to get passed them. Luckily, this can be avoided with a VPN.
5. Defeat government censorship and unlock the public web
Although the internet was intended to be free for everyone, this hasn’t stopped certain countries from restricting access to specific websites, social media channels and online services. A famous example for this is North Korea, where the government dominates all media outlets, including the internet. It provides access to a controlled intranet only to few, elite citizens, while access to the global internet is available only for a select number of high-level officials.
To get around government restrictions, you can connect to another IP address from another country using a VPN application. Before doing so, you should make sure that you’re not breaking any laws if you’re living in a harsh country like North Korea. Rules may apply differently for locals and tourists.
6. Get rid of content filters on restricted networks
Internet networks may have restrictions imposed by the local administrators, which may create filters with whitelists or blacklists. This is applicable to some schools and workplaces, to name a couple of examples. On the plus side, it protects children from adult-oriented content, phishing websites and pages infected with various types of malware.
Network restrictions are also designed to prevent people from accessing social media websites or other distracting channels when they’re supposed to focus on work. However, this ban can be lifted by choosing a new IP address facilitated by a virtual private network application. By escaping the intranet and reaching the public web, you become just another face in the crowd, so it’s impossible for the administrator to pinpoint your real online identity.
7. Protect your online privacy when doing research
In most cases, you just want to keep your personal activity private when going online, like checking out the competition while working at a company. When you’re using a virtual private network application, you don’t risk exposing your IP address and tipping off the other company about who is actually watching. It also comes in handy if you’re a reporter, journalist or just a curious person who is using the internet to research content-sensitive topics that might otherwise trigger the local authorities in charge with monitoring network traffic. But you would have to make a pretty impressive search history to be able to draw that level of attention and create probable cause.
8. Eliminate personalized ads that spoil surprises
This partially falls in the same category as before – protecting your online privacy. Ads and banners you see on the web are customized by marketing websites, based on your search history and clicks, in order to become more relevant and attractive. The minor issues are the fact that targeted ads follow you everywhere you go, and that they remain active even after you already purchased the product or service in question, which is really annoying and somebody should probably fix the second part.
But it becomes problematic in other cases, like when you want to look up information about a medical issue or AA groups, especially if other people have access to your computer. Another realistic scenario is when you want to surprise your special someone with an engagement ring researched on the web. Google Ads or Facebook Ads might reveal the same ads to other person, thus spoiling the whole surprise. This can happen even if you don’t physically use the same device but are connected on social media channels.
Private/incognito browsing sessions are sometimes not enough to protect your privacy. Having an ad/content blocker like Adblock Plus only makes the ads invisible and doesn’t prevent the data mining tool from running in the background. No matter what info you want to keep private when using your computer or smartphone, it’s better to launch a VPN tool before starting to browse the web. Besides, your mobile devices are already listening to what you speak out loud in order to deliver targeted ads as quickly and accurately as possible, so you should do everything you can to minimize security leaks.
9. Improve online gaming and get access to exclusives
Without a doubt, you have experienced lagging with multiplayer games at least once in your life. Fortunately, gaming delays and other similar problems like bandwidth throttling imposed by your ISP can be resolved with a VPN application. By connecting to a new IP address from the same country as the one hosting the gaming session, you can minimize ping time as well as get around your ISP to benefit from the full bandwidth and, subsequently, best speed available.
Another cool perk of using a VPN for online gaming is that you can enjoy playing new titles which are exclusive to particular countries or which are first released in certain regions before being shipped to the rest of the world, including your own country. Besides making it possible to access exclusive gaming servers to play with friends and gamers from all over the world (including PSN and Xbox Live exclusives), VPN services ensure protection against DDoS attacks.
10. Access Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, banned YouTube clips, and others
Netflix is now open in most countries, apart from China, Crimea, North Korea and Syria. However, the content it chooses to stream to its clients varies by country. This means that not all movies and TV series are freely available to anyone due to various reasons.
For example, British producers may consider than their shows are not interesting enough for Americans, so it wouldn’t be profitable to stream them to the US. It’s also a matter of copyrights since it’s possible to easily record streaming movies and then upload them on torrenting websites for anyone to download without having to pay any money.
Seeing new shows when traveling to other nations is not possible either because your account is already linked to a unique country. But all of this mess can be avoided by picking a VPN application. Don’t rush into buying anything just yet since few tools work with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and others, so make sure to do your research. You should also keep in mind that these popular streaming services are continuously looking for ways to effectively block VPN, so the app you choose should continuously look for ways to get around the block. When it comes to geo-restricted YouTube clips, you just have to switch to a country that’s accepted by the video sharing website.
11. Download torrents quickly and anonymously
We’re aware of the fact that the internet is filled with illegal torrents protected by copyright claims, which get downloaded by numerous people on a daily basis. But there’s also perfectly legal content out there that cannot be obtained by those using a network with BitTorrent clients which are banned or restricted by their ISP (or the entire region). Fortunately, this can be fixed with the help of a VPN tool that can help you get access to forbidden torrents and sometimes improve downloading speed on networks with bandwidth throttled by the ISP.
At the same time, a VPN tool helps you remain anonymous, which particularly comes in handy when you’re not sure whether or not torrents are protected by copyright. Your ISP will be able to tell that you’re using VPN but it cannot see what you’re doing, thanks to the fact that your connection is encrypted. When looking for a VPN application, do your homework and make sure it has torrent support. For more info, check out our article about how and why you need to hide your browsing history from ISPs.
12. Avoid price discrimination based on location and other factors
Not all companies practice fair charges for all its clients. Those which rely on online marketing websites may apply differences in prices for the same products or services with identical conditions. For instance, an airline is likely to show a varying price for the same route, same ticket class, in the same day, and at the same time. It depends on how much time you needed to look up ticket prices, how many websites with airline tickets you’ve visited, how many clicks you made before deciding which price is better for you, and so on. In some cases, it even depends on your shopping history, since it can determine if you’re an eager or cautious buyer (the cautious ones get better deals). This applies not only to airlines but also hotels, car renting companies, and others.
Since this entire system revolves around your online identity, you can beat it by connecting to a new IP address provided by a virtual private networking tool. You should try experimenting with various countries to check for prices of products and services, as well as use multiple platforms like desktop and mobile.
13. Prevent apps from tracking your location
Although Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil”, it can be difficult to draw the line between how much user data is gathered by the company to improve personalized services and how much you can be affected by this data collection tool. Users are particularly affected when this information is sold by Google to third parties who are interested in making better marketing pitches.
However, there’s no guarantee that your data will be strictly used for safe activities. The marketing company which now legally owns your data after buying it from Google can be hacked and further used to track your location and history of visited places. From this point on, it becomes child’s play to establish a pattern and figure out when you’re not home, to name a terrifying but realistic example.
Google is just one example since others do it too – it’s a bit redundant to give some names since most major companies do this. This is why it’s best to always use a VPN when connecting to the internet and to try avoiding logging into Google accounts as much as possible, preventing the company from collecting too much data on you.
14. Force YouTube to play true recommendations
There’s an issue with YouTube and we’re not sure if this is a marketing strategy from Google to lure people into purchasing subscriptions to YouTube Premium, or just bad development – we’re leaning toward the first option since Google is no amateur. You may have noticed that YouTube tends to keep you wrapped in a bubble of music if you leave autoplay turned on. No matter what music you listen to, you always end up listening to the same tracks, based on your history, favorites, likes and playlists.
As far as we are concerned, this takes out of the fun of YouTube since there’s no element of surprise anymore. The so-called YouTube recommendations are actually made up of recycled songs that you already listened to or which exist on the channels you are already subscribed to. Meanwhile, your homepage is filled with the same music. All of this adds to the fact that YouTube is no longer a set-it-and-forget-it instrument like it used to be (before it was purchased by Google and bombarded with ads during video playback).
Unless you’re willing to put in the time necessary to looking up new music each time you log into your Google account, you can connect to a VPN to force a hard reset on YouTube and show you true music recommendations. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can connect to another country to check out the popular clips there.
From protecting your online privacy and securing your network connection to boosting multiplayer games and finding best prices while shopping on the web, there’s always a good reason why you should use a VPN every time you connect to the internet. However, to keep things nice and fair, you should learn not only the upsides of using virtual private network tools, but also downsides and quick fixes by checking out our VPN pros and cons article. We’d also love to hear your thoughts on this, especially your favorite reason for using VPN and favorite VPN app, so please feel free to leave us a comment in the section below.