If you have spent any time at all on the internet, you will almost certainly have come across a VPN. A virtual private network, or VPN, is a type of software that allows you to access the sites, services, and networks you want to while shielding your personal data and identity. Essentially, a VPN creates a secure tunnel through which you can send and receive data, all while retaining full control and ownership of your personal device and activities.
But how can you tell if you actually have a VPN installed on your computer? And does it even matter? We explain here the different ways in which you can check whether or not you have a VPN, and why you might want to.
Checking The User Interface
One of the first things you will probably notice about a VPN is how user-friendly and minimalist it is. For instance, NordVPN, a well-known and highly-rated VPN, allows you to connect quickly and easily, while providing you with an exceptional user experience. In addition to this, many VPNs offer a small portable version that you can use to easily connect to your WiFi even when you are away from your home network. This effectively means that whenever you use a VPN, regardless of whether you are at home or work, you will experience minimal downtime.
The Difference In Speed
Another important thing to look out for when checking the speed of a VPN is potential slowdown versus speed improvements. For example, when you connect to a VPN with the intention of browsing the web, you will initially see your browsing speed reduce as data is transferred through an encrypted tunnel. However, some VPNs, such as NordVPN, have been known to improve the speed of your internet connection rather than reduce it. This is particularly beneficial for those who stream or download content frequently, as it means everything you do is encrypted, preserving the speed of your internet connection as much as possible.
The type of encryption used by a VPN is just as important as the software itself, as it can determine how well your personal data is protected when transmitted. The two most common types of VPN encryption are PPTP and L2TP. While L2TP is a more advanced form of encryption and is present in most modern laptops, the majority of home routers still use and rely on PPTP. If you are connecting to a VPN through a router, make sure that it is set up to use the latest and most secure protocol available, or else you leave yourself open to potential threats. In addition, many routers have a firewall feature that can block harmful connections to your computer or other devices on your home network – ensuring that your other computers, tablets, and smart phones are also protected while connected to the internet through your home router.
Another important factor to consider when checking the speed and stability of a VPN is its bandwidth usage. Nowadays, the internet is a place where everyone can connect and share information easily and freely. However, this also means that it is an area that is highly prone to attacks from outside sources. When you connect to a VPN, you are essentially inviting others to illegally access your personal data. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, the bandwidth used by a VPN needs to be kept to a minimum, otherwise you leave yourself open to potential security threats. Fortunately, most reputable VPNs limit their bandwidth usage to an absolute minimum, ensuring that your personal data stays secure even when used by more than one person or device at a time.
Free vs. Paid
Whether or not you should pay for a VPN service depends on how you plan to use it. If you are looking for a VPN to simply use when you are online, and don’t require any additional features or tools, then a free VPN is the perfect choice. These types of VPNs are generally lightweight, easy to use, and feature simple, straightforward user interfaces. There is no telling how many free VPNs are out there, but you will almost certainly have to search diligently to find one that meets your specific needs. If you can find one, it will make encrypting your data and remaining anonymous online a whole lot easier.
Most people have enough trouble just finding the right TV show or movie to watch when they get home – let alone figuring out what network to join when streaming online. Making the process even more complicated is the fact that most streaming websites and apps are geo-restricted, requiring you to be in the right place to use them. If you want to be able to use these websites and apps when you get home, you will need to have the right software in the first place.
VPNs are great at connecting you to the sites you want, but they can’t do anything about the software or networks you are using at the time. To truly benefit from a VPN, you will need to ensure that it is as compatible as possible with the devices and networks you use. For example, if your internet connection is down, you can’t really use a VPN anyway can you? Checking for compatibility before purchasing a VPN is therefore a must. In addition to this, some VPNs will allow you to connect to a variety of networks and devices, while others are solely focused on desktop use. Knowing this, you will be able to choose a VPN that meets your exact needs. In particular, be sure to check whether or not the VPN you are considering using is compatible with PlayStation 4 and other current-gen consoles, as many premium VPNs are.
When you connect to a VPN, your internet connection is automatically rerouted through the encrypted tunnel to prevent other people from seeing your activity. However, this also means that when you use public Wi-Fi in the vicinity of the VPN service provider’s server, your personal data can be easily monitored by others. If you really want to ensure that nobody is seeing your activity while online, you should avoid using public Wi-Fi, as you will not be able to maintain your privacy when all your data is visible to everyone around you.
Rerouting is generally an important part of using a VPN, as you will not be able to access certain websites and services that are geo-restricted if your internet connection is not rerouted correctly. However, some VPNs let you choose which types of sites and content you would like to allow through, while hiding the rest. This is a great safety net for those who are just testing out the service or wish to protect certain parts of their personal data. In particular, make sure to check whether or not the VPN allows you to choose which sites you would like to see through and which you would like to hide, as this will make rerouting a whole lot easier and more convenient.
Last but not least, we want to discuss the importance of encryption and safety when using a VPN. Let’s start with the basics – all internet-related transmissions whether online or offline are encrypted, using different types of encryption for different services and protocols. This makes it harder for hackers and other online predators to intercept and read your data. However, just because everything is encrypted, this does not necessarily mean that your data is secure. To truly keep your personal data safe, you will need to use a VPN that is as strong as possible, and ideally suited for the specific platform you use.
For example, if you use a MacBook Pro, you will need a VPN that is designed for Macs – otherwise you leave yourself open to potential threats. In addition to this, many VPNs offer military-grade encryption, meaning that even they can’t read your data when it is transmitted (unless they have been specifically instructed to do so by the authorities).
Now that you know the basics of how to tell if you have a VPN installed on your computer or device, you should consider a few additional points before deciding whether or not to purchase one.
First of all, make sure that you are actually getting what you pay for. Although most reputable VPNs offer free trials, these trials often have limited functionality or come with severe restrictions. In particular, make sure to avoid any free VPN services that limit the amount of data you can transfer or protect to limited degrees. In most cases, these limitations are not mentioned in the small print – meaning that you have no idea you are actually being restricted until it’s too late. In addition, make sure to read reviews before purchasing a product, as this will help you find out what other people think about their services. Here are some more tips:
– Always install the latest version of the VPN software. This will make sure that you have the best chance of keeping your device or laptop secure and that you don’t have any compatibility issues when connecting to a VPN. In addition, make sure to download and run the latest updater as soon as it is available. This will help ensure that your device is always up-to-date and that you can always count on it offering you the best experience possible.