Op-Ed: Benefits of using a personal VPN

  • Release time:2014-08-25

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  • In a time of increased cybercrimes, online security breaches, and censorship tools to ban access or rights to certain websites, simply browsing the internet has become a danger, and hassle, in and of itself.

    A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) is a group of networked computers, extending public internet network service onto private servers. Anyone can have a VPN, and there are multiple benefits to setting up a personal VPN. A few of these benefits include increased security when browsing the web, the ability to access unavailable or banned content, or bypass regional restrictions, and the ability to increase your own streaming speed on particular sites.

    According to an article published on Digital Trends, “Geoblocking” is a fairly common practice that allows sites or companies to restrict or limit access to users for a variety of reasons. By setting up a VPN though, you have the ability to bypass regional restrictions imposed by certain websites. The way this works is that you can change countries by simply establishing a foreign IP address. For example, BBC only allows access to their media player if live in the UK, and Netflix only allows access to residents of the U.S. But, if you have a VPN with an IP address from say the UK, you will able to access the content of the BBC media player from anywhere.

    Safety is another obvious concern, for really anyone accessing the internet. First, the biggest danger lies in accessing public Wi-Fi to search the web. 

    Using a VPN will help you stay safe on public Wi-Fi as it’s one of the best ways to “keep your browsing under wraps.” The way a VPN does this is by encrypting, or scrambling, your data and anything you access between that of your device and the VPN server. So basically any data sent from your computer to private servers is completely safe. Your information is hidden from hackers and even various surveillance sites. Essentially, you are searching the web “anonymously” so no one can search your browsing history or access your data, no matter where you are.

    Another reason many people set up their own personal VPN is to increase streaming speed, which is especially helpful if you stream media from sites like Netflix or Hulu. Now, this is not always the case, but some users with VPNs experience faster download speeds by evading “traffic shapers,” or “packet shaping,” which is the practice of regulating network data transfer as a way to manage computer network traffic. Similar to customized firewall settings, to optimize your VPN, you can actually create traffic shaping policies or rules that will allow you to reduce bandwidth for certain applications while prioritizing and maximizing bandwidth for other applications, depending on your use. The ability to make these customizations to your network can help increase your download speed. You can also bypass your ISP’s throttling of particular sites, like Netflix, or other video streaming sites.

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