In the world of virtual private networks, things can get a bit confusing. With terminology flying around like “proxy”, “SSH”, and “tunneling”, how do you know what you need to get started with your very first VPN connection?
Well, fear not fellow privacy warrior, because here at VPN Creative we’re going to give you everything you need to know to get started protecting your identity on the web from anyone who might try to sniff you or your browsing activities out from hiding.
Choosing a VPN Provider
Of course, the first step to protecting you and your connection is finding the right provider that fits your needs.
Thankfully, we’ve already compiled a list of dozens of reputable, well-priced VPN providers that come with a range of available features, including the option to customize exactly the level of protection you need for you, your home network, or anyone else in your family. We’ve also made a list of our own recommended VPN services for different usage scenarios.
Using Your VPN
The method of actually using your VPN and getting a connection to go live can vary, depending on the provider’s software system and preferred method of getting linked up.
As an example, we’ll showcase the setup process for Express VPN.
To begin, you’ll need to login to your preferred VPN provider by creating an account and signing up for a yearly, monthly, or weekly plan.
Almost every VPN provider on the market requires you to have an account with them. Although this could be a deterrent for some users, we can assure you that the cost of going with an established company is more than worth the benefit you’ll get; opposed to searching for a shadier VPN that uses other methods to get monetary gains out of your usage (say, by selling your traffic data to third-party advertisers).
Once you’ve downloaded the program and installed it, you’ll be taken to the login screen. After you login, you’ll then be prompted to choose the server you want to connect to.
This selection varies wildly depending on the provider, with big companies in the space like HideMyAss! boasting thousands of server locations around the globe, while smaller options like ExpressVPN may only feature a few dozen.
If you live in a rural area or somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of major city centers surrounding you, you might want to opt for a more popular VPN provider that has a larger number of available locations to ensure you get the best connection with the fastest speeds possible.
In this case, we’re connecting to our ExpressVPN server from Portland, Oregon. As you can see in the screenshot above, the closest server we can hope for is Seattle, WA (about 300 miles away), which means we should choose this option as our primary provider.
Testing Your Connection
Once your VPN is installed and you’ve chosen your server, simply choose the option to “Connect”, and the connection should go live on its own. This is indicated both in the program itself, as well as in an icon shown on the task bar, highlighted by a green check mark in the screenshot below:
After you’ve verified that you’re up and running, you can use any number of tools to test the overall speed of your connection.
In this test specifically, we’ve opted to go with the tool made available by Ookla at Speakeasy.net for its light, HTML5-based implementation that makes sure no ads or extra downloads get in the way of you reading as accurate a result as possible.
By connecting to both a VPN server and a testing server located in Seattle, you can see there’s barely any noticeable speed loss between the VPN connection and the regular one. We do have the privilege of running these tests off a CenturyLink fiber optic line however, which means that our upload and download speeds won’t falter much even under the most stressful of network conditions.
As seen in the results above, ExpressVPN barely breaks a sweat when routing our traffic through an entirely separate server, a huge benefit if you like to maintain your privacy, but also want your YouTube videos to load in a breeze.
If for any reason you want to jump off your VPN connection (say, when Gmail or Facebook flags you for separate logins from two different IPs), simply click the “Disconnect” button in your VPN software, and you’re done.
Overall, which VPN and server location is right for you will come down to personal preference. If you value your privacy and want to be sure that your identity is protected at all costs, getting started with a VPN is easier than ever before thanks to our guide and the hundreds of different reliable, reputable providers from all around the globe.