VPN basics in a nutshell for the beginners

A virtual private network or VPN is a type of network technology that allows a web user to access a private network as well as transmit/receive data securely and anonymously via public networks. The aim of setting up and using a VPN account is to prevent unauthorized access of sensitive data by cyber criminals or to bypass government censorship and monitoring. Although you can set up your own VPN, this approach requires mastery of virtual network technology. As such, most people go for services offered by VPN companies. Here are VPN basics merging six top tips for selecting the right service provider from the many providers mentioned in various VPN reviews:

VPN Protocols

Before purchasing a VPN service, find out the data transmission protocols available to web users. This is important because there are several protocols that anchor the transmission/reception of data via virtual private networks. Some of these protocols have well known and easily exploitable vulnerabilities. Good examples of insecure protocols include Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP).

The problem with these two protocols is they do not encrypt data packets. They simply generate tunnels and encapsulate data packets. To avoid data sniffing by governments or hackers, the rule of thumb is to go for VPN services that use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Secure Shell (SSH), Transport Layer Security (TLS), or IP Security (IPSec) protocols.

Bandwidth Throttling

In an age when broadband data prices are quite affordable, it does not make sense to select a VPN service provider who has a bandwidth throttling policy. If you do, you may face difficulties downloading or transmitting huge files over the Internet. For instance, streaming video or audio content. For this reason, scrutinize VPN service provider’s policies carefully. Pay special attention to the fine print because most VPN companies hide bandwidth restrictions in sections that a consumer is likely to overlook when reading a VPN review.

Operating System and Device Support

Given the wide range of Internet-enabled devices available to web users, it is wise to select a VPN service that comes with support for multiple OS’s and devices. This means support for desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In addition, virtual private network service should offer support for Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, Blackberry, and Windows phone operating systems.

Log Retention Policy

Find out if the VPN service you are planning to use keeps logs of their client’s web activities. If a VPN company retains user activity logs, avoid it and get your hands on VPNs that don’t keep logs if your intention is to circumvent censorship in a country that restricts access to information. Such a company could surrender the log data willingly or unwillingly (to comply with a court order) exposing its clients to a hostile regimes. Additionally, some VPN firms keep user log data for a few hours for quality assurance purposes.

Geo Shifting Options

If you would like your web activities to appear as if they are originating from another country, go for a VPN service that comes with geo-shifting capability. The general rule of thumb is to use a VPN service that has multiple geo-shifting options or features. This makes it easy to change your virtual location from one country to another by selecting a suitable choice from a list.

Price

Choose a VPN service that you can afford. To do so, shop around and compare price quotes from various VPN companies. It is advisable to make your choice based on careful evaluation of the factors discussed above instead of simply selecting the cheapest VPN service.

Conclusion

To mask your web activities, sensitive data, and privacy from cybercriminals or overt government surveillance, use a virtual private network. With this in mind, consider criteria like cost, geo-shifting features, log retention policy, OS and device support, VPN protocols, and bandwidth throttling when shopping for a VPN service provider.

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VPN basics in a nutshell for the beginners

by Ali Qamar time to read: 3 min
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