All You Need to Know About VPN: Beginner’s Guide

With the ever-rising security threat and erosion of online privacy in general, more and more people are turning to VPN services. If you are a beginner, you might be asking yourself many questions:

  • What is a VPN and its types?
  • What is the use of a VPN?
  • How can a VPN help me?
  • Is a VPN legal?
  • Will it provide privacy and security?

In this guide, we will try to answer all these questions and everything else you need to know about a VPN. So, let’s get started.

What Is a VPN and Its Types?

A VPN – or Virtual Private Network – is the ultimate tool that provides the needed security and privacy when using the Internet. Primarily, a VPN protects your device from unwanted intruders and people who want to track you without your knowledge. It also encrypts the information you send over the Internet.

The Internet presents a lot of security risks. Initially, the Internet was introduced mainly to help us send data in the most reliable way. But people soon realized that it isn’t as secure as they thought. For starters, the Internet allows you to connect to another computer’s internet connection rather than connecting directly through your own. In other words, a majority of core protocols of the Internet don’t meet the required data security standards.

In this age of information, we rely on applications to carry out most of our daily activities. Unfortunately, the Internet Protocols (IPs) of these applications vary. Some of them can send or receive information without adequate protection. So cybercriminals can take advantage of these lapses and exploit users’ data.

Fortunately, VPNs can help you protect your data. Using a VPN means your incoming and outgoing data is fully encrypted. With that said, VPNs also come with limitations. But don’t worry, we will cover them in subsequent sections.

First, let us look at different types of VPNs. There are two main categories of VPN services: Consumer and Corporate.

  • A corporate VPN encrypts data transmitted through a local area network (LAN). This private network is usually built in one physical location, for instance, a corporate establishment, a campus, or a home.
  • A consumer VPN protects information transmitted over a public network. It can come in handy if you are accessing web apps such as email clients and social media in hotels and coffee shops.

How Does a VPN Work?

The easiest way to understand how a VPN works is to see it as a secure tunnel that connects your computer and the website you visit on the Internet. Let’s take a visit to as an illustration. The first thing your computer will do is send out packets to initiate a request. These packets will pass through routers and switches within your LAN. From here, they will get to the internet. The packets will only reach the final destination if is translated to an actual IP address. So a separate request is sent to servers to do the translation.

The interpreted information will be relayed to your browser to take the packets to Facebook’s servers. Once they reach Facebook’s infrastructure, the packets will proceed to the web page that requested information. After that, you will get the inquired information.

All these transactions take milliseconds to complete. A VPN secures these packets at various interaction points to ensure information about your IP address and your online activities is safe.

What Is the Use of a VPN?

Generally, security is the main reason people use VPNs to connect to the Internet. Without a VPN, your Internet service providers and invisible hackers can easily monitor and, sometimes, exploit your online activities. They know the sites you visit, your social media interactions, the comments you make, and your preferences, among many other things. In short, you can use a VPN:

  1. To access a corporate network while on the road: If you are a business traveler, having a VPN is not an option. A VPN will help you get local network resources irrespective of where you are. The best part is that you are doing so without exposing them to the Internet.
  2. To browse privately: There is no way you can access the web through a public Wi-Fi without revealing your activities to everyone. A VPN is, therefore, necessary to protect your identity.
  3. To download files: You have probably tried downloading files via BitTorrent. Sometimes your ISP may slow down the site. Thankfully, you can overcome this challenge using a VPN.
  4. To bypass Internet restrictions: Some countries don’t permit their citizens to access specific websites – for instance, gambling websites. A VPN service can help you enter these websites without disclosing your identity.
  5. To stream videos: If you are traveling outside the US and you want to stream shows from a provider like Netflix, a VPN can help you disguise your exact location.

Do I Really Need a VPN at Home?

From the above, it is clear that a VPN is useful not only for accessing corporate networks and public Wi-Fi but also if you are accessing web services from home. In any case, a VPN service is required to protect data sent over a local area network.

Free vs Paid VPNs

There is nothing wrong with using a free VPN service, but it may come with risks. Operating a robust VPN service requires money. The provider must take care of various costs such as data transfer infrastructure, robust servers, staff, and so on. So if a VPN provider is offering the service for free, some compromises may have been made. Probably, advertisers are paying for those expenses.

Another risk of using a free VPN service is that some malware developers may use such avenues to collect information from innocent users.

How to Identify the Right VPN Provider?

If you have ever tried shopping for a VPN service, then you will agree with me that there are scores and scores of providers. But that shouldn’t worry you. Finding the right provider comes down to a few basic things:

1. Locations

If you are planning to access content from a particular region or country, then you should ensure that a VPN service you choose supports that country. So you should check out the countries where it operates.

2. Speed

With the Internet, speed is everything. So the speed of your potential VPN service can either make or break the entire deal. Spending money on an extremely slow VPN will not only ruin your experience but also waste your time and money. Make sure to ask about upload and download speeds when choosing a VPN provider.

3. Privacy and Logs

One of the key reasons for using a VPN is to protect your online privacy. So it only makes sense to work with a provider that guarantees privacy and security. If security is important to you, then you need a VPN service that doesn’t keep logs.

4. Cost

As in the case with many things, price plays an important role in choosing a VPN. Fortunately, there are different varieties of VPNs. Buy a quality VPN within your means. In most cases, VPN services that provide better security are relatively expensive.

5. Customer Service

No matter how technically savvy you are, there will be times you will need support – for example, when sorting out billing issues. So you should ensure the provider you choose offers quality customer service. How it treats its customers speaks volumes about its reliability.

6. Server Locations

VPN providers with a wide range of servers that spread across the world usually offer more value. Checking out the countries or regions where they operate can be helpful. It gives you a clue on the distributions of their servers. If you are planning to stream content from a specific place, choose a VPN that has servers in that region.

7. Number of Servers

It is worth mentioning that a lot of users may use the same server at any given time. So you should choose a provider that has enough servers. You don’t want to be crammed into an overcrowded server because that would mean more load.

8. Device Support

In an ideal case, your VPN provider should let you use a single VPN account on all your devices. You may want to connect your smartphone, laptop, tablet, and desktop computer simultaneously. For this case, you want a provider that allows you to connect multiple devices at the same time.

9. User-Friendly Interface

You should also find VPN software that is easy to operate. While you may only use the app occasionally, you need something that will not pose challenges when the need arises. Check how easy or hard it is to switch from one location to the other. You should also establish if it is easy to activate and deactivate the VPN.

10. IP Sharing

Another effective way to evaluate a potential VPN provider is to check if it gives out the same IP address to many users. Usually, it is hard to pinpoint a user if there are multiple people surfing from the same IP address. Technically speaking, IP sharing offers some level of protection.

Can a VPN Make You 100 Percent Anonymous?

A VPN encrypts traffic to make it tough for anyone to trace you. But this alone is not enough to guarantee complete privacy. You see, your IP address is not the only thing that identifies you. While a VPN may help you guard your privacy when you visit a specific site or application, the website itself can choose to violate your privacy.

These scenarios can help paint a clear picture. Sometimes websites solicit for personal information, such as your name and email address, with the intention to sell the data to other businesses. Likewise, a site you visit may have a tracking cookie that captures your activities within the site.

Will a VPN Service Affect the Speed of Your Computer?

The answer can be both yes and no, depending on your situation. Initially, the process of encrypting data would severely affect the performance of a CPU. But today’s computers come with faster CPUs that are capable of running multiple processes without any deterioration in their performance.

Is a VPN Legal?

For the most part, VPN services are legal. There are only a few countries where VPN services are still prohibited. These countries include China, Russia, Turkey, North Korea, Oman, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Iran, and Turkmenistan. Before buying a VPN, make sure to check whether the service is allowed in your country. You can ask local authorities about laws governing the use of VPNs. This way, you will know the consequences of using such a service. Some countries who restrict VPNs can be harsh on those who go against the law. For example, anyone caught using a VPN in the UAE will pay a fine of not less than $100,000.

Are There Limits on VPN Use?

Some providers may limit your use of VPN services, while others will give you full freedom. You should check your provider’s policy regarding usage limits to establish whether it limits data transfer speeds or just the amount of data you can send and receive during a connecting session. To get the full details, read the entire agreement. Some providers may claim that they offer unlimited data transmission, but only if you adhere to their terms of service.

Do VPNs Offer Full Security?

A majority of reliable VPNs are secure, but some may not let you browse privately. As we mentioned earlier, you should stay away from VPN providers that log your online activities. Such providers can register your DNS request, IP, and even traffic. They can store information such as your current location, the websites your visit, and the information you’re sending. Basically, what this means is that they will have full access to the same data you are trying to protect. While most of them will give an assurance that they will keep your information safe, you don’t know what they will actually do with it.

Do You Need a VPN Subscription for Your Phones and Tablets?

Most smartphones – both Android and iOS – come with a built-in VPN feature that lets you connect to a corporate network with no risk. This situation is only relevant if you are on a private connection. So if you want to connect to the same network using public Wi-Fi, you need a VPN subscription. That is the only way you can protect your organization’s data from hackers connected to the public network. Even if you are visiting reliable sites like Google or Facebook, you still need a VPN subscription.

What Is a ‘Kill Switch’?

Most VPN services offer a concept called a kill switch, which cuts your connection whenever a VPN server fails. There are two main types of kill switches. The first kill switch is an app that operates on your computer. The second kill switch operates at the operating-system level.

For the first case, the computer will turn off if a VPN connection fails. This way, your IP and data will not leak onto the web. Since the second type works at the operating-system level, it means that it is active whether the VPN software is running or not. Overall, this kill switch provides better protection.

What Are the Drawbacks of Using a VPN Service?

If you are considering signing up for a VPN subscription, there are few drawbacks you should know.

First, a VPN can spoof your address, which is usually useful if you want to access content and services in another country. But this can also create some inconveniences. For example, if you live in the US but want to appear to be in the UK, you will have to adopt a UK address. If you decide to shop, the prices will display in pounds, instead of dollars. Similarly, if you are registering for a service like Bitcoin, the system will assume that you are in the UK and, consequently, set your address to that area, a place you don’t live in. You will most likely encounter problems when you want to change your information.

Second, working from a remote site may mean you will experience browsing speed slowdowns. In most cases, this issue is barely noticeable, but sometimes it may get worse. The explanation behind this is that your data still passes through different cables before it ends up on the web.


The world we live in today is full of threats and vulnerabilities. For this reason, keeping your online activities hidden is no longer a consideration but a norm. This assertion is especially true for public networks. Many savvy net users rely on VPN services to protect their identity. While we cannot deny that VPNs have their issues, the pros still outweigh the cons.

If you are considering using a VPN service to boost your online security, we highly recommend that you check this detailed review of the top VPNs. Stay safe and have no regrets.