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A no BS guide to using a VPN

What is a VPN & why do I need it?

A VPN offers anonymity to online users. VPN creates an encryption tunnel for your internet traffic to travel through it. Anyone watching is unable to see which website you’re visiting. Your online activity becomes invisible.

A VPN has servers that render your IP appear from a different region or a country. So if you’re located in the US, with a VPN connection, you’ll appear elsewhere in the world to the ISP. Say, France.

Paid VPNs offer a multitude of servers/locations. Free VPNs have a limited number of servers. You would have to upgrade to avail them all. Free VPNs also have restricted bandwidth, unlike paid ones. Paid VPNs have unlimited bandwidth.

Configuring a VPN is easy-peasy. Select the location of your choice, or let the VPN provider choose the best location for you. Remember, the server with the least ping (ms) is the nearest. It is more likely to deliver speed and a stable VPN connection.

How do I get a VPN

You can select from several VPN clients. ExpressVPN and Nord VPN are topmost. Both are pricey as they offer some of the best services in the VPN industry. That is not to say others are any less. The level of trust isn’t established yet.

Are you tracked if you use a VPN

That is exactly what a VPN service offers. Protection from tracking. It blocks trackers from spying on you. It can be your ISP, government surveillance, or website cookies. 

That’s an invasion of your privacy, and nobody wants that.

Is a VPN safe?

Of course, a VPN can be your safest best in the world of privacy and data leaks. VPNs have ads and malware blockers in them. Not all, mind you, provide such a level of safety. Free VPNs aren’t safe. If you’re on a limited budget, you can rely on a free VPN (for the time being).

Windscribe (not a paid review, rather from personal experience) is an exception to this. Windscribe offers (for its free version) a few servers, but marvelous speed! Additionally, different protocols, kill switch, and 10 GB bandwidth.

You can’t say the same for others out there.

Windscribe also provides you with an ad blocker, aka ROBERT. A feature that protects your devices from ads, malware, phishing attempts, and trackers. R.O.B.E.R.T. ranks right up with Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin. It comes bundled with Windscribe’s browser extension. Works great for:

  • Eliminating all kinds of ads
  • Enhancing page loading speeds.
  • Blocking DNS requests from a list of known domains
  • Creating custom blocklists

The free version gets you malware and ad blocking on only three devices. The paid plan lets you access R.O.B.E.R.T.’s blocking powers on many devices. 

Although, you must check any service provider’s review. Read through their privacy policy. For example, they may be keeping logs of your browsing activity. These are things you should be mindful of.

While I stand by what I said about Windscribe. Ever since my interest in open source apps in the latter half of 2021, I’ve tried both ProtonVPN and Mullvad VPN. And you can bank on their open-source code for reliability and privacy.

You can use the free version of ProtonVPN but for torrents or P2P sharing, you’d have to upgrade to their paid plan. And a higher plan for unblocking geo-restricted content such as Netflix US. Mullvad doesn’t offer a free plan, instead asks you to sign up and assigns you a number which is your account ID. Same as Sessions Messenger.

I noticed Mullvad’s website has zero trackers. uBlock Origin shows a “0” badge, which is uncommon for a website. As mentioned, the level of anonymity it offers is astounding. No need for a name, email, or the typical signup process.

Both Proton and Mullvad VPNs accept Bitcoin, besides usual payment methods. ProtonVPN has NetGuard which blocks trackers, ads, and malware. Mullvad doesn’t have a name for it, but it does too.

Should I use VPN all the time?

Yes. But it isn’t practical if you’re on your home network that you know to be safe. You must use the VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks because, in reality, they’re “honey traps”.

Who doesn’t enjoy free Wi-Fi? That’s exactly what hackers prey upon. When you connect to it without using a quality VPN service, you risk your data.

To prevent it, enable the option to connect to a VPN service when you detect an unidentified network. That way, you won’t have to connect every time you’re at a coffee shop or in a mall.

Should I have a VPN at home?

People do have VPNs at home. They use it to unblock websites such as access Netflix US or Spotify due to geo-restrictions.

Privacy geeks use it to configure it on their VPN compatible routers. So that everything connected to it is secure, but that’s a more advanced level of security.

It’s a good practice. I won’t argue against it. Many does it to shop for cheaper airline tickets when they connect to a different country. Or buy games online (because anticipated games can release earlier in a region on Steam or Origin).

How much does a VPN cost?

For this, you’ll have to check out an individual VPN provider’s pricing page. ExpressVPN costs $12.95 per month, while Nord VPN would cost you $ 11.95/mo. When buying, you should check their pricing page for the mode and method of payment.

Do I need a VPN on my phone?

With advances in technology, you must not leave a device unprotected. VPNs are available for a range of devices. Android VPN is only the tip of the iceberg. You can get a VPN for iOS, compatible routers, consoles (PS4, Xbox), Smart TVs, Kodi, Mac, Roku, Apple TV, etc.

Do you need it on your phone? Of course, especially in public places when connecting to open Wi-Fi networks.

Do Windows 10 have a built-in VPN?

Windows has a built-in functionality called the point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP). It’s a very basic service. If you’re looking to boost your internet speed (for P2P file-sharing). Or want to surf the web in anonymity, it is a suitable option to bank on.

Does a VPN hide your IP

If you’ve read anything I’ve said, you already have your answer. Still, let me reiterate.

A VPN service directs your internet traffic to pass through a secure server. That hides your IP address. VPN obfuscation technology masks your IP. Making it impossible for prying eyes to identify you.

Can you use a VPN to unblock apps?

Certain app ban (Telegram, TikTok, Truecaller) is always trending in some parts of the world. And so the question is, can you use a VPN to unblock it? The short answer, VPN does work with different apps. It’s recommended to use a paid VPN, but you can unblock it with a free VPN too. Remember, a subscription gets you unlimited downloads and fast speeds.

Any good VPN will let your data stay encrypted, so your ISP won’t know or anyone who snoops won’t intercept it. With a VPN, your app receives the IP address of the VPN server you’re connected to instead of your home IP.

There are a few complaints where apps don’t function even with a VPN. It is because you register on the app from your home IP address. A workaround to this is to reinstall the app with a VPN connection. Make sure to reboot first and turn the location service off. This ought to do it.

Ask me anything VPN-related, and I’ll answer.

UsamaA

Technical and SEO Writing | B2B, SaaS | Blogger, Documentation Specialist, Website Copywriter

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