Is a VPN Worth It?
Updated · Jun 03, 2022
In a world that’s becoming increasingly privacy-conscious, VPN usage is rising to the mainstream, even among non-techies. Still, because this service usually costs a fee, some internet users are left wondering, “is a VPN worth it”? Follow along as I address this valid question.
Most people know that connecting to public Wi-Fi sources without any form of protection is probably not the best idea ever. The internet is awash with bad actors looking to take advantage of something like that. You’d get away with it most of the time.
But it only takes once, doesn’t it?
Say you are using a VPN at home instead. Do you still need VPN protection? Or would paying for one be an unnecessary expense?
If you are a regular on this website, then you probably already know what a VPN is. But here’s a recap anyway:
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a tool that creates a secure, encrypted tunnel between your device and a remote server run by the VPN. While masking your IP address and location, your online traffic remains shielded from snooping and interception. Additionally, you can evade censorship and geo-restrictions.
Well, at least in theory.
VPN services are not all on the same level and have different capabilities.
Now that you’re clear on what a VPN is, let’s examine whether (or not) getting a VPN is a good idea.
Why Is It Worth Getting a VPN?
The truth is, a VPN is not a one-size-fits-all solution to every internet security problem. Despite many vendors marketing themselves as such, you will undoubtedly encounter risks each time you go online, even if choosing a top VPN service.
In light of that, and if you're stuck asking yourself, “should I use a VPN?”, the short answer is yes, you should.
For a longer answer, I will touch on the benefits that come from hopping on a reliable VPN service. These VPN facts will show you why many users consider this service essential.
Improved Privacy and Security
Online privacy posts, discussions, and resources have since transcended obscure forums and subreddits. These days, advocates of online anonymity are no longer considered wearers of tin foil hats.
And yet, many internet users think they have nothing to hide. Hmm? There’s actually plenty of reasons to believe that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
When left exposed, numerous entities can potentially exploit your traffic or identity. This is exactly what a VPN protects you against - often considered the highest priority among VPN users.
Taking advantage of the privacy cloak a VPN provides shouldn’t be automatically associated with underhanded activities. Common applications include staying safe while connected to public Wi-Fi networks or torrenting. Additionally, you can effectively hide from companies and websites that track your online activities and collect data for targeted ads.
VPNs offer a variety of privacy and security features to help safeguard your traffic.
For instance, when using one on an unsecured public Wi-Fi, you connect through a remote server that masks your online activities.
A kill switch steps in when your VPN’s connection drops. And you can rest assured that any sensitive information will not leak with DNS protection.
When it comes to security, data encryption is the underlying difference between a VPN and a proxy. Many providers offer bank-level encryption that scrambles your traffic, rendering it unintelligible to any prying eyes. Getting a VPN means that your information will be safe behind encryption.
VPN services, especially the top-rated ones, may offer several other advanced features. These include ad and malware protection, Double VPN, and Tor Over VPN.
Gain Access to Geo-Blocked Content
Have you tried to watch a video on YouTube only to get bounced along with this message:
“This video is not available in your country”
I bet you have. The beauty of the internet is that it allows users to connect to services and each other from all over the world. However, there is a restriction to that freedom when it comes to accessing content across borders.
This is what is known as geo-blocking.
In plain terms, a geo-block is a technology that limits access to the internet based on location. It is used by websites and streaming services, like Netflix, to restrict the content in their libraries to different countries. This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as copyright license agreements and price discrimination.
One of the primary reasons to get a VPN is that it helps users bypass these geographical restrictions. When you use a VPN, the tool masks your actual IP address. It routes your connection through a server in another location and assigns you an IP address that matches that location.
This neat little move tricks the geoblocking technology into thinking you are currently where the server is.
Well, that last part depends on two factors — the VPN’s unblocking capability and the level of the geo-blocking technology. Services like Netflix and Prime Video are constantly upgrading their tech to beat VPNs at this game of cat and mouse.
VPN providers however, are not letting off their steam either. Several of the best VPNs will help you unblock any website or service.
Evade Internet Censorship
What do the Government of China and your workplace have in common?
They both don’t want you on Facebook. And a bunch of other websites, for that matter.
While both entities place restrictions for vastly different reasons, it boils down to one word — censorship.
Internet censorship is the control of what can be accessed or published on the internet. Some governments place restrictions on what their citizens can view or post online to consolidate control.
On the other hand, schools and workplaces censor some websites to suppress distractions and increase productivity.
Is a VPN worth it for bypassing internet censorship?
The censors employed differ in scope and complexity. A school may use a firewall that you can easily get around using a proxy server. In contrast, the Great Firewall of China is a whole nother story.
If you live in or visit countries like China, Iran, Bahrain, Cuba, Vietnam, or Syria - you should certainly consider getting a premium VPN that can bypass their internet-restricting technologies. With features like obfuscated servers, these services evade the blockades to open up the internet and let you access blocked content.
Avoid Bandwidth Throttling
A slow connection can be very frustrating. It’s even more so when triggered by your internet service provider (ISP).
Your ISP can throttle your bandwidth for different reasons. These include regulating traffic and reducing bandwidth congestion.
If you regularly binge-watch TV shows on a streaming service in high definition quality, most likely, your ISP is going to take notice and throttle your internet speed.
In the same vein, if you have used up a certain amount of your limited data, your ISP may decide to slow down your connection speed.
In fact, sometimes these changes are so drastic, they can grind down your internet connection to a snail’s pace.
If switching ISP providers is not viable, buying a VPN service presents a solution. Because a VPN encrypts your traffic, your ISP cannot see the internet activities carried out on your device. As a result, they will not throttle your bandwidth.
Use on Multiple Devices
Most VPNs offer multi-platform support. This means that you can use them on different platforms and devices, such as Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, routers, and even game consoles. If you own several devices, you probably want to protect them without paying multiple subscription fees.
This is why a lot of VPN providers offer simultaneous connections on multiple devices. That way, you can install or configure the VPN on a number of them with a single account. A true money saver.
The number of simultaneous connections offered by VPN providers differs from company to company. For example, NordVPN allows users to connect up to 6 devices at the same time. On the better hand, IPVanish does not limit the number of simultaneous connections you can make with its VPN service.
Dodge Price Discrimination
“Should I use a VPN,” you still consider? Well, here’s one more reason why a VPN is worth the bucks: it can actually save you money.
Suppose you pay half a dollar more on something you really want instead of wasting time looking for a better deal. Fine, not such a big deal. But when the difference is $50 or more, then there’s a problem.
Price discrimination is the manipulation of pricing by retailers and companies for different market segments. Usually, this is not directly related to their costs.
Companies apply this sales strategy in several different areas, such as airline flight costs, hotel booking prices, and discounts.
By tracking and analyzing your online activities, companies form the basis of their varying prices of goods or services. When you clear cookies and activate your VPN, it makes it almost impossible for websites to track you.
A VPN may even trick a company into giving you discounts.
How To Assess if a VPN Service Is Worth It
The saturated VPN market is evident when initiating your search for the best service. With so many options, how do you know which VPNs are worth it?
The answer lies in the criteria I’ll share with you. The ideal personalized VPN service should tick as many of these boxes as possible.
- Security: Many VPN providers offer the highest level of encryption available: 256-bit AES encryption. As a rule, you should never go lower than this. Your VPN should also offer a range of other security features.
- Speed: Because of the way it operates, a VPN will inevitably slow down your connection speed. The best providers make sure that this drop in performance is hardly noticeable.
- No-log policy: A VPN’s primary job is to keep your online activities private. If a VPN vendor retains logs of your activities, that purpose is clearly defeated. VPN providers are notoriously dishonest about how well they stick to this policy, so make sure you initially do some research.
- Server size and distribution: The more servers a VPN has, the higher the chances of providing a better overall experience than its competitors. A diverse geographic distribution of servers can be just as important.
- Good customer care: Even with access to robust online resources, you may still find yourself in need of direct client support. Keep an eye out for poor or non-existent customer service - a red flag for sure.
- Streaming: A VPN that supports streaming is vital in today’s world. To qualify, your VPN must offer unlimited bandwidth and have sufficient speeds. As icing on the cake, it should be excellent at bypassing geoblocks.
- Compatibility: There’s no use downloading the best VPN for iOS if you use an Android smartphone. Your choice of VPN should work on the gadgets you own.
- Torrent friendliness: Some VPN services are more tolerant of P2P activities than others. If you are an avid torrenter, look for a VPN that offers features like dedicated servers and a kill switch.
Watch out for red flags when choosing a VPN. These include:
- Shadow VPN ownership
- Weak encryption
- Slow connection speeds
- Poor or non-existing customer service
- History of keeping logs
- Standalone free VPNs
- Lifetime or unreasonably good offers
Should You Pay for a VPN or Use a Free One?
There’s certainly an allure that comes with not having to pay for something. And if it happens to be a service that will protect your information, help you access blocked content, and even save you money, all the better.
What could go wrong?
Well, the saying, “there’s no such thing as free lunch,” rings true for free VPNs.
Operating a VPN service does not come cheap. There’s a ton of costs involved, from maintaining a global network of servers and infrastructure to developing software and paying for staff. Why would a VPN provider suck up all these costs and still let you use their services for free?
There are two cases to consider here.
Some VPNs offer both free and paid services. In this scenario, limited, free service is a subtle nudge toward a robust premium subscription.
However, in the case of standalone free VPNs, it’s not always so harmless. These providers make money in a variety of ways, including:
- Inserting cookies and showing ads
- Giving away contact details to partners
- Selling your tracked data to third parties
In light of this, buying a VPN service is almost always the better option. If the fee is a deciding factor, there are cheap services like Surfshark that are pocket-friendly without compromising quality.
Some free VPNs can do a decent job when used lightly. Just ensure that you keep away from providers offering complete, unlimited free VPN services.
A VPN is a powerful tool that routes your internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel it creates between your device and its servers. More or less, this keeps your online activities away from prying eyes and interception.
This article provided a run-down of the benefits associated with using a VPN and highlighted the reasons that make a VPN worth having for all levels of internet users. Additionally, I presented potential pitfalls to watch out for when picking the right VPN service for you.
Should I pay for a VPN?
If it comes down to choosing a free VPN or a reliable premium one, you should always go for the paid service. Generally, paid VPNs offer better services and are safer to use than free ones.
Does a VPN protect you from hackers?
VPNs do not protect from every type of cyber threat. However, they are effective against hacking threats that involve your IP address. A VPN will also protect you from man-in-the-middle, DDoS, and remote hacking attacks.
Is getting a VPN worth it?
Yes. For internet users who value their privacy, a VPN is worth it. VPNs come with many benefits, including increased privacy and security, unblocking geo-restrictions, and evading censorship.
Daniel is an Economics grad who fell in love with tech. His love for books and reading pushed him into picking up the pen - and keyboard. Also a data analyst, he's taking that leap into data science and machine learning. When not writing or studying, chances are that you'll catch him watching football or face-deep in an epic fantasy novel.
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