A VPN provides many services but it is important to know its limits. These are not necessarily obvious but this guide is here to give you the keys!
You have probably heard of VPNs. Very popular in recent years, these services allow you to enjoy a completely anonymous and secure connection, by hiding your IP address or your geolocation.
You can browse the Internet without leaving any traces and without your ISP being able to track your activity. You can also bypass content restrictions such as media chronology or content restricted to certain countries.
How is this possible? By connecting to a network of secure servers in many countries. Some VPNs have servers in more than 90 countries, most of which are optimized for a fast connection. However, VPNs can be very convenient, but they still have their limitations and drawbacks, and it is important to know what these are in order to know if a VPN is right for you.
VPN: many advantages… But no disadvantages?
The advantages of a VPN are well known. By connecting to a VPN service, you can encrypt your connection to the Internet with a single click. Your computer connects to a server and the server creates a secure and anonymous tunnel that allows you to browse the Internet in complete confidentiality.
Thanks to this tunnel, it becomes possible to hide your IP address and choose your geolocation, which can have interesting consequences, for example on reservation sites that vary prices according to the country. If a movie or a series is not available on the French version of Netflix, you just have to connect to a server located in another country to enjoy its catalog.
When you are in a train station or a shopping mall, you don’t necessarily trust the security of the public networks available. A VPN ensures that you have a secure connection at all times.
That said, VPNs also come with drawbacks and limitations:
- The connection to the Internet can be slowed down
- A VPN can be used for malicious or even illegal purposes
- The best VPNs are often not free
Using a VPN can sometimes slow down your connection
A VPN involves connecting to a server that connects to the Internet. Adding this intermediary has a drawback: it slows down your connection, since the path is no longer direct and VPN protocols and their encryption have their impact.
This is especially true if you connect to a VPN to watch the international catalog of a service like Netflix.
If you want to watch a movie available on American Netflix, you have to go through a server located in the United States. The much greater distance between your computer and this server will inevitably slow down the connection.
However, this is not always the case: most VPN services have reliable and fast protocols like Wireguard and its variations (NordLynx…). And of course, if you use a VPN to anonymize your traffic and you go through the server closest to you, the impact will be less.
Nevertheless, for these reasons, it is not recommended to use a VPN for activities that require very low latency such as online video gaming.
Don’t use a VPN to do anything illegal!
In itself, there is nothing illegal about a VPN. It is perfectly allowed to use an encrypted server to go on the Internet and you can browse the web without showing your IP address or making a site believe you are connecting from the US, Japan or Germany.
On the other hand, you should keep in mind that a VPN does not give you the right to engage in illegal activities that you could hide from the eyes of your ISP. There are many perfectly good uses for a VPN: protecting yourself from data theft on a public Wi-Fi network, accessing a TV catch-up service while on vacation abroad, hiding your IP address and other information from sites or services known for their lack of privacy..
It is important to keep in mind not to use these services to cause harm to an individual or a group of people.
Good VPNs are often not free
A VPN, most often, is distributed in the form of a subscription. And inevitably, in addition to one or more streaming services, a cloud storage service, subscriptions for game consoles and why not an antivirus or an office suite, it starts to be a lot.
Unfortunately, this is how the VPN market is made, and we have to admit that if you want a powerful VPN with many features and a robust service, you have to pay.
Of course, there are alternatives, but be careful what you install in this case. Free VPNs are a reality, but they can be much more limited in their functionality, in the number of available servers and the speed of their connection, and even in the size of the weekly or daily traffic.
A free VPN can be useful for very occasional use, but a paid VPN covers many more cases.
Free VPN can use and resell your data
You know the phrase: “When it’s free, you’re the product!”. Free services need to finance themselves, and sometimes this means using and reselling personal data.
Be careful, we are not saying that this is the case for all the paid VPNs on the market. Some free VPNs are simply financed by paid subscriptions, and offer a restricted version of their services without necessarily selling data.
Does it use independent audits, the findings of which can be consulted? These are points that should not be overlooked, which is why it is recommended to turn to the leading paid VPN services with a proven track record.