Pros and Cons of Using a VPN
Over the past couple of years, commercial VPN services have become a very popular topic in the digital world. We’ve heard a lot about how governments invade privacy and how social media is taking advantage of us. We have all been sacrificing our personal privacy in order to use online services that, at a seemingly high cost, may provide some comfort to your daily life. However, there is a solution to preserve your privacy – and this solution comes in the form of VPN apps. However, do not forget that it is still just software and there is no such thing as a perfect privacy protection shield. That’s why it’s important to understand the pros and cons of using VPN apps.
Before we start researching the pros and cons of VPNs, let’s be clear about one thing. The only effective way to be anonymous on the internet is to use trustworthy VPN services, as they enhance your security and privacy. However, we want you to have clear expectations before setting out to find the best VPN. So, let’s get to know VPN services a little better by checking out the types of benefits they bring, as well as the types of restrictions they impose (as well as how to solve some of those restrictions).
Advantages of using VPN services
As you will soon see, there are many benefits to using a VPN service. For ease of navigation and to give you an overview of what to expect, here are the top VPNs pros:
1. VPNs keep you safe and protected online
A VPN is by far the most secure privacy protection tool available to users of the public internet. Because you choose a high-quality service, you will have strong protection against Internet spying, information interception, as well as detection of your identity and location.
VPNs provide a triple layer of security technologies. They hide the origin and destination of your data packets from snooping, hide your IP address behind a VPN server address and can encrypt your data. This means that even governments will not have the resources to open the locks. In fact, the best VPNs use 256-bit encryption which can usually be found in large financial institutions. You can see how strong this type of encryption is, making your personal data inaccessible to anyone else – as long as you are connected to a secure server.
2. VPNs are cross-platform compatible
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While there are other types of services that can provide some of what a VPN does, none of these options are widely compatible with both devices and Internet services such as VPNs. When it comes to the pros and cons of using a VPN, this is definitely one of the biggest advantages that can convince you to use this technology.
In principle, anything will work with a VPN, because from the perspective of the software client, the network works as usual. The system receives and delivers data as expected at both ends of the data transaction. In other words, VPN providers have done their best to provide many flexible options for various devices and settings. Which means that there is usually client software for a desktop operating system of your choice. There are also mobile apps, router interface services, and more.
3. VPNs help you unblock websites and new types of content
You have definitely encountered geo-restricted websites and online services. Since these methods use different methods to verify your location, it may be impossible to use these services from outside of supported regions. Of course, this is another benefit of using VPNs, as it is the most effective tool for unblocking restricted websites. Therefore, this is perhaps one of the most important professionals and directly affects your freedom to get the information you need, from wherever you want.
With a VPN, you can watch the US version of Netflix, or you can access streaming platforms like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO GO, PlayStation Vue, and more. Of course, this does not apply to services located only in the United States. You can unblock NRK, Globosat Play, TVNZ, Global TV and many other services that come from different countries.
4. VPNs help you fight government censorship
Unfortunately, there are countries in the world that have governments that strictly control the flow of information. In some of these locations, using globally popular services and websites such as Facebook, Twitter or Wikipedia is practically impossible. However, one thing that can help you bypass these restrictions is a VPN – which comes with sophisticated encryption and anti-blocking mechanisms.
We have a series of articles devoted to the use of VPNs in countries with a high level of censorship. You can read about how to use a VPN in China without violating the law. There are also overviews of the best VPNs for China as well as the best VPNs for Turkey. Additionally, you’ll want to read about the countries that have made VPN illegal. And of course, don’t forget to check out our guide that answers the question of legality of VPN services.
5. VPNs let you download P2P files anonymously
Enjoy downloading P2P files? Well, you definitely know that many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can throttle your web connection if they see that you are visiting torrent sites. The truth is that torrenting is legal, as there are many legal torrent repositories. So, to avoid any kind of throttling, we recommend using a VPN and connecting a P2P compatible server. This will hide your torrenting activities while making sure you can download files in a fast way – which is definitely one of the best VPNs for pros (but remember to stick to only legal files, though).
To learn more about this type of VPN app, we have our constantly updated guide to the best VPNs for torrenting. You will also want to read how to check torrent IP address and hide your identity while downloading P2P files.
6. VPNs speed up stifling web connections
VPNs and net neutrality issues go hand in hand. It is the often mentioned practice of ISPs to throttle certain types of internet data that has angered internet users, but it can be neatly avoided thanks to the way the technology works.
Since your ISP cannot know what kind of data you are sending and receiving using a VPN server, they have no way to implement selective throttling. So, their only option is to choke off all or nothing. In general, they choose the last option and you can say goodbye to the shady choke forever. Be sure to learn more about how a VPN bypasses ISP restrictions.
7. VPNs help you save money
Have you ever heard of price discrimination? Did you know that you can buy some goods and services at different prices and in different regions? Did you know that websites track your location, and show you “custom” rates if you’re coming from a bigger city or even a higher income area? Why pay a higher price, and why not stop doing price discrimination? Well, with a reliable VPN, you can do just that.
With a VPN, you get a chain of servers located in different countries. While you are connected to a different country, you get an IP address associated with that country. This means that websites will not be able to track your “real” location and give you a higher price. In fact, this is how you can save a lot of money in the long run. Just imagine how much money you can save the next time you book a flight and a hotel room for your next trip.
8. VPNs are the most expensive privacy protection tools
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It is true that VPNs are subscription based services. However, compared to other tools designed to keep you safe on the Internet, VPNs are not only affordable but also the easiest way to protect your privacy. In addition, they usually come with different pricing schemes and a number of subscription models, allowing you to choose the one that suits you the most.
We recommend investing in a VPN by getting long-term subscriptions. Although this requires some investment up front, you can save a lot this way. Generally, annual plans come with huge discounts, bringing the price of their monthly plan up to 50%. We have a very useful article on the best VPN deals, so be sure to check it out.
Cons of using VPN services
It is true that VPNs are as close to a perfect privacy protection tool as possible. However, they do not come without any downsides. So, here are the main cons of using VPN services:
1. VPNs are not comprehensive security solutions
One of the biggest drawbacks of using a VPN is that it can give you a false sense of security. While a VPN is a powerful tool, there are plenty of internet threats that they can’t do anything about. Therefore, it is important to understand the limitations of VPN services and make sure you apply common sense to everything you do online.
For example, a VPN does nothing to prevent your online accounts from being hacked because you used a weak password, which includes using a weak password for the VPN itself! Likewise, you still need to stay away from websites that can provide you with malware or other dodgy software. A VPN cannot protect you from your bad habits. That’s why we always recommend that you use an antivirus while browsing the web.
What you can do: The perfect way to use a VPN and to be safe online, as usual, is to learn good security and privacy habits. Think carefully before giving out your real email address and use a clone account if you must. Do not open email attachments without a virus scan. These and other basic rules for safe browsing should remain in full force, even if you have this VPN protection. In fact, you can only increase your safety by integrating VPN technology with smart security habits.
2. VPNs cannot unblock every single website
There is nothing wrong or unethical about using a VPN. But many people use their VPN’s geolocation capabilities to circumvent geo-blocking of content. So some services and providers have issued blanket bans on VPNs. One of the main reasons is Netflix, which started blocking VPN use with its service soon after it was launched internationally.
With most VPNs, you will get a proxy error message from Netflix telling you to turn off the VPN if you want to watch it. The main way to achieve this is to block the IP addresses of the VPN servers, which is why it can be an endless game of cat and mouse as IP addresses change. This is why it is always a good idea to take a look at specialized VPNs that promise to unblock certain web services such as DirecTV Now, SlingTV, and FuboTV.
What you can do: While some VPNs can still get around VPN blocking, the simplest solution is to selectively exclude some of these services. Alternatively, you can choose to run your VPN on a per device basis rather than router level. To learn more, we have our guide on how to bypass VPN blocks, so be sure to read it.
3. VPNs are illegal in some countries
The next point in our list of the pros and cons of using a VPN – we have the issue of legality. Depending on where in the world you live or what internet services you use, you may have trouble using a VPN or your service may be terminated. Countries like China and Russia, for example, block VPN use and can legally prosecute you for using it.
There is a less serious problem when an online service has a usage policy that prohibits the use of a VPN. For example, gaming platform Steam has a policy that states that using a VPN to perform geo-navigation can result in a ban. In practice, many of these services don’t actually enforce these policies effectively, but if you get caught, you won’t have a foot to stand on.
What you can do: In the case of a legal VPN ban rather than just a technical blocking issue, you should really decide if what you want to achieve with a VPN is worth going to jail for. In the case of services that say VPNs go against their policies, you can use an approach similar to…