Beginner's guide to Virtual Private Network services

Ruth C. | January 13, 2020

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service making the internet safer and more accessible. It works as a remedy against common invasions of privacy, location tracking, price discrimination, and censorship. 

Essentially, Virtual Private Networks give you a disguise, like making web entities believe you live in a completely different region. Additionally, a true VPN meaning could never manage without the values of the free and open internet. 

You can establish a VPN connection without any technical how-to. It is a seamless product that guards you in the shadows during gaming or financial transactions. So, let’s dissect a VPN further and see its definition, capacities, and benefits to daily activities. 

beginner vpn guide

What happens if you do not use a Virtual Private Network

This section discusses the biggest threats or inconveniences users experience without a Virtual Private Network. They include the following: 

  • Data harvested by companies, including your ISP. 
  • Data sold to random partners and third parties. 
  • Browsing habits directly influencing personalized ads. 
  • IP addresses and locations exposed online.
  • Geo-restrictions making certain content unavailable. 
  • Price discrimination based on users’ locations. 

Tracking from companies, including your ISP

Advertisers, data brokers, and even government institutions come in hot to gather various insights about users. A Virtual Private Network is a tool that helps you keep your online data to yourself. 

Your traffic always passes through your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to reach websites or other online services. Your ISP can see your queries and, at times, can sell this information to the highest bidder. All ISPs have the power to harvest a lot of details, like your location, browsing histories, and metadata. 

Even if you do not have anything to hide, being watched continuously is far from appealing. As mentioned, your ISP can sell your data to data mining companies or marketing agencies. Ever seen too many personalized ads? Yes, it might be because your data has been handed over to a third party.

According to our statistics from 2020, such data-selling activities happen in one out of ten businesses. So, many services you use can participate in such exchanges. And without reading privacy policies carefully, you might not even know that such data sharing happens.

Location tracking and its consequences 

At the same time, your IP address gets exposed to all websites and services you use. You may already know that your IP reveals your physical location. Due to geographical restrictions, you might have trouble entering some websites. 

You might pay more for certain goods online because of your location. Price discrimination is a common strategy implemented by online providers. It means that businesses can judge you according to your whereabouts, relating to purchasing powers. 

Just because you live in one country and not the other should not mean you must pay higher prices. However, online shops or flight companies might adjust prices according to your country and increase them as they like.

Virtual Private Network definition and how it works

Let’s investigate the VPN meaning through the following facts: 

  • Once you turn the Virtual Private Network on, your data becomes encrypted. Usually, VPNs use sophisticated encryption protocols like AES-256 to perform this procedure. After data gets encrypted, ISPs, government institutions, and other nosy third parties can no longer look at your actions online. Your internet provider will know that you use a VPN, but they won’t be able to see the websites you browse or the files you download. 
  • You no longer reveal accurate location details via IP addresses. Virtual Private Networks help you conceal them and change your IP to an address of a VPN. Say you are physically in Chicago and connect to a server in Australia. Then, it looks like you are connecting from Australia in the online world.
  • You receive immunity to many dangers lurking on public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi networks are convenient, but the way they handle users’ data is questionable. For instance, such networks might lack encryption, meaning there are occasions when your data travels online unencrypted. If you enable a VPN, your information becomes encrypted and unreadable to anyone who tries to steal it.

Wait, VPN encryption? What is that? 

A Virtual Private Network would be nothing without its encryption routine. It means turning plaintext data, like comprehensible words, into gibberish. Once information gets encrypted, no one can read it without a decryption key.

Once you enable a VPN, everything you do gets encrypted, be it browser, torrent, or messaging app traffic. You can always consider enabling split tunneling if you wish to decide which traffic gets rerouted and encrypted. 

What is a VPN server? 

Servers are a crucial component of a VPN definition. It refers to physical or virtual servers enabled to host and deliver VPN services. They include a blend of hardware and software, allowing VPN users to connect to the internet through them. 

When it comes to Virtual Private Network servers, rerouting is an important concept. Let’s illustrate this via this example: 

  1. You connect to a VPN server. 
  2. You decide to visit websites via preferred browsers. 
  3. Instead of reaching the web entity directly, your connection takes a detour to the VPN server. 
  4. The server makes a request on your behalf. The web entity sees the VPN server as the one making the request, not you. 
  5. The web server responds with the requested information and sends it to the VPN server, which it delivers to you. 

The most common VPN use cases 

Virtual Private Networks make you more anonymous and private. However, let’s put this aim in context through clear-cut use cases.

  • Protect data and hide activities. Each online action you make leaves a mark online. It might affect the ads you see or can even lead to more infuriating situations. A VPN helps you conceal more details about your online behavior and location. 
  • Access more content online. Traveling can bring unexpected burdens when you cannot access local services back home. A Virtual Private Network lets you manipulate your IP address and access content anywhere, whenever you need it. 
  • Fight against censorship. Governments frequently exercise control over the digital space by initiating permanent or temporary blocks. Thus, citizens might find it difficult to reach objective media outlets or private messaging tools. Virtual Private Networks fight for equal rights online, regardless of where users live. 
  • Boosting streaming and gaming. ISPs are not the kindest when it comes to bandwidth-heavy activities. If they slow down certain types of traffic, a VPN can resolve this. ISPs won’t be able to determine what you do online after traffic gets encrypted and rerouted through VPN servers. 
  • Ability to safely connect to any network. You can join any hotspot as long as you connect to a Virtual Private Network beforehand. It encrypts your traffic, meaning network managers or other potential snoops won’t have the chance to spy on you. 

The easiest VPN setup process

Now that you’ve learned the Virtual Private Network basics, it is time to set up a VPN connection. 

  1. Click the button below to check out our budget-friendly subscription deals.
  2. Finish the necessary procedures, download Atlas VPN apps, and connect to preferred VPN servers. 
  3. Just to be sure your VPN connection is all set up, check your IP address.
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Ruth C.

Ruth C.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.

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