What Is a VPN and When Is It Helpful?

When online, do you ever have the feeling that someone is watching you? Are you aware that you are supplying your ISP with data on the sites you visit and your online browsing habits? Does it bother you? If so, you need a VPN, or Virtual Private Network.

VPNs are excellent for achieving a level of privacy that is otherwise unavailable on the modern internet. But, they do much more than this. VPNs make it much easier for businesses and private users to operate online. If this sounds interesting, take a look at our short guide to VPNs in which we’ll discuss what they are, how they work, and how they can benefit you as an online user.

What Is a VPN and How Does It Work?

As mentioned, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. And, as the name suggests, a VPN is a network that is simulated and completely private. It essentially allows your computer to connect to another network, often in another country, which then acts as a sort of middle-man. This new network, the virtual private network, then appears to be the network to which you are connected, and your location points to that network. So, while you are sitting at your desk in London, anyone tracking your online behaviour might think you are connected to a network in Japan, for example.

So, how do VPNs work?

In order to use a VPN it is necessary to have downloaded and installed VPN client software. This essentially manages the connection and makes sure it is secure.

So, when you want to use the internet under the VPN, you need to first connect to the internet as you normally would, meaning that your connection is public. Next, you need to open your VPN client and connect to the VPN. The server now creates a secure connection and gives you access to its internal network. Your connection to the server is encrypted, meaning that no one can see what you are doing online, and your computer appears to be accessing the network from the location of the server.

While this is relatively easy, you might still think that it is a lot of trouble to go to just to get online, which you can do without the help of a VPN. But, firstly, it isn’t much trouble and simply requires connecting to the VPN when you first turn on your computer, which takes next to no time at all. Secondly, it opens up a world of benefits for business users, which we will now discuss.

The Benefits of Using a VPN as a Business

1. Use Public Wi-Fi
While we all love getting something for nothing, there’s usually a catch. And this is certainly the case with public Wi-Fi. The compromise in this case is security, in that public networks don’t have any. Because of the purpose that Wi-Fi hotspots serve, it is very easy for even the most inexperienced hackers to steal personal information from users on a public network.

This, of course, makes them dangerous to use for business purposes, as hackers could gain access to company data. However, a VPN’s encryption process makes it much safer to use public networks as the user’s data is not readily accessible.

2. Avoid Countrywide Censorship when Travelling
If your business requires travelling abroad, a business VPN is an absolute necessity. The reason for this is that some countries censor their content, thereby limiting the ability of their users to access various parts of the internet. If you or your employees need some of these censored sites in order to work effectively whilst abroad, a VPN will give you the access you need.

Some of the countries that censor their internet access are China, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba. So, if you have any clients at these locations, or want to visit them for business, you’ll need a good VPN.

3. Ensure Privacy on VoIP Calls
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services are relatively easy to hack, and could potentially give eavesdroppers a hefty amount of valuable company information. So, if you use Skype or other VoIP services, doing so over your unencrypted network could place your company in jeopardy.

VPNs, however, encrypt the data that you share online, essentially concealing your VoIP calls. VPNs do run slightly slower than your unencrypted network might, but the security is well worth the compromise on speed.

4. Ensure You Aren’t Tracked Based on Your Research
Internet monitoring means that data on your search topics is seen and stored, which could make you a target for surveillance. If your company needs to research delicate subjects such as terrorism, domestic abuse, or hacking techniques, you might be inadvertently placing yourself on a watch-list. A VPN allows you to avoid this completely by ensuring that your company’s browsing is kept private.

5. More Security on Remote Access
If you have remote workers, your company’s network is being accessed from a variety of locations on unencrypted connections. This is very risky, particularly in today’s hacking-rich online environment. The use of a VPN, however, makes it far more secure for your employees to work remotely. A VPN even allows them to safely access network-connected equipment, like printers, from a remote location without the threat of a data breach.

Your Business Needs a VPN

VPNs are commonly associated with downloaders who want to retrieve copyrighted content from file sharing sites without having to pay for it. But, this is far from the purpose of VPNs. Virtual private networks exist to offer security and ease with regards to network use. The benefits mentioned above are just some of the ways in which a VPN can enrich your business’s online activities.

If you want to promote the safety of your business’s network and ensure that your employees can still function effectively while abroad, your business definitely needs a VPN. For more on these, and for the IT services required to install and maintain one, be sure to contact Northern Star today.

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