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What Is a VPN and Do You Need One?

Jalesa Campbell
Updated Mar 4, 2021
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With the increasing need to work from home during the pandemic and use the internet for transmitting customer or client information, it’s highly recommended to make sure we use a secure home network. 

 However, even with secured networks, local internet service providers (and even hackers) may still be able to access our data as well as browsing history. Here’s where a VPN service can help.

For some, a VPN is just another software-related acronym that's often overlooked, so we’re going to demystify this term and talk about the benefits of a VPN, as well as whether or not you should consider purchasing a subscription.

What does a VPN do?

In a nutshell, a VPN (or virtual private network) allows you to browse privately over the internet through a secure connection. This helps to protect your information and browsing history from hackers or eavesdroppers. Your location will also be different from your home network. A VPN can assign you an IP from wherever any of the company’s servers are located. Your information is also encrypted for your protection.

Without a VPN, for example, if you were to browse the internet over a public, unsecured Wi-Fi network, your personal information could be compromised by hackers.

Will a VPN make my connection faster?

A VPN won’t necessarily make your internet connection faster; however, it can help keep your internet speeds from being throttled by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Some ISPs throttle or have slow internet speeds, for instance, in the case of streaming certain services. With a VPN, your ISP may not be able to see your IP address, allowing you to avoid throttling.

Ultimately, your internet connection speed depends on several factors, including your service plan, router, server location, and even physical factors of interference in your home. You may need to look into each of these factors if internet speed is an issue you’re concerned about.

Will my information be protected?

Yes, your browsing will be protected with a VPN through encryption. This prevents your ISP from seeing your IP address and browsing activity, and hackers from intercepting information. However, this security does not mean that you are hack-proof — a VPN just provides an additional shield.

Can a VPN protect multiple devices?

Yes, a number of VPN providers offer protection for multiple devices. ExpressVPNSurfsharkNordVPN, and IPVanish are several that provide their service for multiple devices. Both Surfshark and IPVanish cover an unlimited number of devices for less than $13/mo., and both brands have thousands of servers. If you want to protect multiple devices like a desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone, go with a VPN service that offers protection for various devices.

Do I really need a VPN?

This question will boil down to what you’re seeking. Do you want to keep your browsing history protected? Do you want to potentially prevent throttling? If your answer is yes to both of these questions, a VPN may be right for you. All in all, you’ll be getting additional security for your home internet browsing, which is a plus given today’s cyber climate.

Photos by da-kuk / Prykhodov / GettyImages


Jalesa Campbell avatar

Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.

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