VPN usage is on the rise in the UK and throughout the developed world, with approximately 41% of people in Britain and the US known to use a virtual private network (VPN) at least once a week.
The sudden rise in VPN usage has numerous triggers, from the increased amount of time that we spend online (especially since the coronavirus pandemic) to the advancement of the technology that underpins private clients throughout the digital age.
But what exactly is the VPN meaning and definition, and how does this technology work? Let’s find out!
What is a VPN?
When addressing the question “what is a VPN?”, it’s important to note that this technology effectively creates a virtual and encrypted tunnel between your chosen device and remote server.
This ensures that your personal data and web traffic is masked, appearing as an indecipherable string of code to others on your network. This includes potential hackers, network managers (where applicable) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who often monitor activity of their users in order to identify traffic peaks and throttle bandwidth where appropriate.
As VPN clients also connect to remote servers in selected locations across the globe, they also mask your device’s IP address and can make it appear as though you’re in a completely different physical location.
This tackles issues involving geographical content restrictions, while creating an additional layer of network protection against malicious malware and the threat of DDoS attacks.
How Does a VPN Work?
In simple terms, an installed and active VPN actively hides your device’s IP address, while requesting the network to redirect the connection through a specially configured remote server that’s operated by a private client.
It’s this that creates the encrypted tunnel between your device and server, while deciding to access the Internet with your VPN connected will ensure that the server in question becomes the source of your data.
This is why your ISP and other third parties are unable to track or see which websites you visit or the data that you send (or receive) online. Ultimately, all web traffic and data are presented as indecipherable code and ‘gibberish’, rendering it completely useless to hackers or those who would want to monetise your information or use it to throttle your bandwidth.
Ultimately, having access to a large number of server locations is crucial to what a VPN does, particularly if you’re travelling and want to maintain optimal coverage and protection online.
What are the Benefits of Using a VPN?
Now that we understand the functionality of a VPN, the next step is to consider the benefits of using this type of technology. We’ve explained these in a little more detail below:
#1. Use Secure Public Connections: VPNs create an additional layer of network security, which is particularly important when accessing public and unsecured connections. After all, hackers can create rogue access points to target users through public networks, while your data may also be visible to network managers and ISPs. With the help of a VPN, however, you can optimise your security wherever you connect online and ensure that your data is only readable with an encryption key.
#2. Disguise Your Physical Location: As we’ve already touched on, VPNs mask your IP address and physical location while leveraging remote servers to act as proxies when online. This enables you to access geographically restricted content through streaming platforms like Netflix, which boasts a different library depending on the precise jurisdiction in which you live. Paid and market leading VPNs don’t track or log your activities either, creating an additional dimension of privacy and further minimising the risk of malware attacks.
#3. Access Secure Data Transfers: If you work as a freelancer or on a remote basis for your company, you’ll often have to access important or sensitive files on a public network. This demands a secure connection, however, and using a VPN enables you to access secure data transfers in any location and in real-time. The encryption methods used by VPNs certainly reduce the risk of data leakage and breaches, providing peace of mind to both employees and employers alike.
So, there you have it, a brief breakdown of how VPNs work and the benefits that they provide to users.
With this information in mind, it’s easy to see why VPNs have seen such a significant uptick in demand in recent years, particularly paid and market leading clients that offer the most capacious network coverage.