The term VPN is very common amongst the Internet community and it actually stands for virtual private network. In simple terms a VPN is exactly as its full name suggests – a private network that is created between two computers through the use of encryption technology. Due to the fact that this link has been created via the Internet it is not a real network in the traditional sense of the word because the two computers are not directly connected and in fact the communications that travel between them could take many different routes over the Internet. It is however and virtual link because the encryption method has been arranged between the two computers so that whichever way the data packets are sent between devices they are destined only for the intended recipient and cannot be accessed or interpreted by any other computer without the decryption algorithm.
So why do I need a VPN?
There are many different uses for a VPN link and whilst they used to revolve around very high tech operations and be reserved only for the most tech-savvy users among us, they are now becoming popular for solving many different types of problems and are being used by more and more Internet users – including those less savvy.
Using a VPN to remain anonymous
One of the most commonly understood uses for a VPN link is to remain anonymous whilst browsing on the Internet. Due to the nature of a VPN link and the fact that all communications sent over the link are encrypted coupled with the fact that you are connected through a remote location you can remain anonymous on the Internet whilst using a VPN and be reasonably well assured that no one at the end of your communication link will be able to determine who you are or indeed where you are browsing from.
Rather, with the VPN link in place, any websites that you browse to will give the impression that you are coming from wherever you are connected to via the VPN link and to determine any more information than that would be extremely difficult if not impossible.
This technique may sometimes be used by someone who really cannot afford to have their identity discovered, for whatever reason, but it is also often used by people who are simply very private and do not like the idea of anyone being able to trace them or what they are doing.
Using a VPN to reach restricted websites
One of the more common uses of a VPN amongst Internet users in general is to visit websites that are usually restricted for one reason or another. The most common reason for the restriction would be that only users from certain countries are allowed to access a particular website or service. The use of a VPN would enable the user to give the impression that they were indeed from a country on the allow list and would be much better at doing so than a proxy for example, which can sometimes still allow the website to detect the original location of the user.
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Using a VPN for secure communications
The third reason, and still a common one, is to communicate securely – this may be during the performance of many different types of Internet use including website browsing, email or instant messaging. Using a VPN link in this scenario would ensure that all communications were sent over a secure channel.
More information on VPNs including the various different types of services available – both free and commercial – as well as comparisons between then can be found here.