Connecting your computer or device with a VPN essentially connects you with the local network with which the VPN is associated. Thus, all of your activity is securely sent to the VPN. Not only that, your computer is now able to access any of that local network’s resources no matter where you are in the world. Using a VPN means you gain access to the internet just as you would if you were there at the location of the VPN, which is beneficial if you’re trying to access any blocked sites or if you’re on public Wi-Fi.
Say you’re surfing the web using a VPN connection. When you make a request to enter a website, the contact is encrypted into the VPN connection, meaning your request is forwarded by the VPN to the website and then forwards the website’s response back to you. For instance, if you were to access Netflix from outside the US through a US based VPN, Netflix will perceive the connection as one coming from within the country.
VPNs are pretty straightforward in their setup, their utility however, varies greatly:
1. Access your business’ network from the road
VPNs get a lot of use among those who travel for business. VPNs are especially useful when you need to access your business’ network, and all of its resources, from across the country. Connecting with those resources with a VPN also keeps them secure, as their use doesn’t require any direct internet exposure.
2. Access a home network while away
Similar to the above use, creating a VPN with your home network allows you to access the network while you’re traveling. This is especially useful if you’re hoping to get remote access to a desktop, share files locally, or play online games as you would from your home LAN (local area network).
3. Keep browsing activity concealed
When you use public Wi-Fi, all of your activity is visible to those who are near enough and knowledgeable enough to access it. If you’re looking for some privacy, you can hide your activity by connecting to a VPN.
Now, to your local network, all that’s visible will be a single connection and all of your traffic will travel through the secure VPN connection. This is useful if you’re looking to get around any connection-monitoring from your Internet provider, however, be aware that the providers of the VPN may choose to monitor the traffic from their side.
4. Bypass geo-blocks
Certain popular media sites, such as Pandora, Hulu and Netflix, are only available to networks within the US. Connecting to a VPN that is based in the US, however, can bypass these region restrictions. So whether you’re from another country or just visiting, a VPN will allow you access to these and other typically geo-blocked sites.
5. Get around censorship
If censorship is an issue, such as it is for people living in China, a VPN can bypass the government’s hefty firewalls and allow you access to the Internet in its entirety. (Recently though, the Great Firewall appears to be beginning to interfere with VPNs.)
6. Downloading (questionable) files
Let’s not kid ourselves, a lot of people find use for VPNs when downloading torrents such as from BitTorrent. However, a VPN can prove useful even when your downloads are on the up and up. VPNs can be pretty effective at increasing the speed of your downloading, particularly when the lag is due to your service provider.
A VPN lets you access the strength and speed of a different network, from the comfort of your own. The same rule applies to any other traffic that your ISP might be interfering with (barring interference with a VPN itself).