Plenty of people are still on the fence regarding VPNs and often wonder if they really need one. To help you decide whether they should pull the trigger and get a VPN, we go through the advantages and disadvantages of VPNs.
Advantages of VPNs
- VPNs improve your privacy
- VPNs can protect you from cyber attacks
- They bypass online censorship
- ISPs can’t throttle your bandwidth
- Torrenting is much safer
- VPNs help you save money online
- No more geo-restrictions
- Excellent for businesses
VPNs don’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money. And with so many real-world advantages to having a VPN at home and at work, a couple of dollars per month is a worthwhile investment. Let’s see what the (main) advantages of having a VPN installed on your mobile phone, computer, or router are.
1. VPNs improve your privacy
What VPN does is it encrypts and routes your internet connection through servers that you select, and that can be on the other side of the world if you want.
By connecting to the internet through this intermediary, your internet service provider can’t see what you do online, what apps you’re using, or any other activities online that you’re doing.
Because no one will know your real IP address, they won’t know vital information about you that can be easily identifiable otherwise. Your city and country (if you choose a server outside of it), your ISP, and other information will stay hidden from prying eyes.
Using a VPN has the advantage of keeping your data private from ISPs, governments, and of course, advertisers. Although we’re used to it by now that we get targeted ads on whatever website we visit, it’s still very creepy.
2. VPNs can protect you from cyber attacks
Cybercriminal is on the rise, and there isn’t a week that news of major data breaches or large scale cyber-attacks breaks out. But corporations aren’t the only ones under attack. Everyday people like you and me are vulnerable and are the target of hacks and scams.
It’s our duty to protect ourselves and our loved ones as much as we can. By making others aware of these attacks and showing them how to protect themselves, we’re doing our civic duty.
Even those that aren’t fans of VPNs have to admit that using a VPN while we’re connected to a public WiFi or hotspot will keep our data secure as the encryption will make it impossible for attackers to read the data (if they can even intercept it).
You just have to remember to enable the auto-on feature that will turn on VPN whenever you connect to an unfamiliar WiFi network.
VPNs also have many security features that prevent or block trackers, malware, and ads or that prevent malicious apps from snatching your phone’s screen.
3. They bypass online censorship
There are many countries around the world that ban their citizens from going to social media, western and non-government endorsed media, and anything else that they deem as “not safe” for the country.
China comes to mind as their communist party still keeps much of the internet censored. Here are some examples of websites that are blocked in China:
- Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, but not Bing
- Netflix, Vimeo, BBC, YouTube
- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok
- Wikipedia, Medium, western news media
- Adult entertainment websites
- Major VPN providers
A VPN can effectively bypass all online censorship and let people browse and see ALL of the internet without worrying if they’ll get caught. You see, whoever is prying on you won’t know that you’re on a banned website, they can only see that you’re connected to a VPN server.
This same goes for institutions or companies that are blocking specific websites so that their employees or students can’t visit them.
4. ISPs can’t throttle your bandwidth
Some internet service providers frown upon video streaming, playing online games, and torrenting and are actively throttling people’s bandwidth, aka speed. That’s no bueno and not fair on their part. After all, you’re paying for their services.
If you’re using a VPN, your ISP can’t tell what you’re doing online and, therefore, won’t have the grounds to throttle your speed.
5. Torrenting is much safer
Frequent torrenters wouldn’t dare download files without using a VPN. They know that anyone downloading the same torrent as they are, which could be thousands of people, can see their IP address.
The real IP address that can reveal so much information and even make them liable to penalties and lawsuits.
VPN, as we know, hides your IP address and no one can see what you’re doing online. Not the IPS, not the lawyers, and not the institutions.
6. VPNs help you save money online
Companies are sneaky. They will sell their services and products at varying (higher) prices to people of different countries. Airlines are especially famous for doing this.
I don’t know about you but I don’t like paying more for the same product or service just because of where I live. It’s just the way it is, unfortunately. Or is it?
A VPN hides your real location. For that reason, you might want to connect to a server in a less developed country than yours as that might drive the price down. You also have to clear your browser cache to remove any cookies that websites use to track you. Try it!
7. No more geo-restrictions
Geo-restrictions and streaming services go hand in hand. By now, most people know that Netflix has different libraries in different countries. Some have more content than others. If not, the content is often different because of the streaming rights.
PlayStation Network is the same, but for games (although it does TV shows and movies as well).
8. Excellent for businesses
Businesses worldwide are more vulnerable than ever to threats from cybercriminals. A VPN can add a layer of protection, a tunnel, between the organization’s resources and sensitive data and employees that are accessing them.
With a huge uptake in remote work, you can never be sure from where your employee is accessing your online systems. Even with all the training, workers might be trying to access your resources from unprotected or public WiFi.
By encrypting all the information exchanged, the data is unreadable to outside individuals or organizations.
The best thing about using VPNs for businesses is that it’s easily integrated into existing corporate networks and it won’t cost a fortune and weeks of time to do it.
Modern businesses use more than computers nowadays. That’s why it’s wonderful that a business VPN can secure all devices no matter if they’re phones, tablets, laptops, etc.
Disadvantages of VPNs
- Your VPN provider can see your data
- They can be blocked
- Some smart TVs and game consoles don’t support them
- VPNs might slow down your internet connection
1. Your VPN provider could see your data
This is usually the main talking point for people that don’t think VPNs are useful or protect your privacy. When you connect to a VPN, you’re basically moving your internet traffic information from the hands of ISPs and into the hands of VPN providers.
This can certainly be problematic if you don’t pick the right VPN. You see, a shady VPN provider can put your privacy and even security in danger. There are still many VPNs out there that keep your logs, aka your user data – what you’re browsing, buying, reading, watching, etc.
Make sure to choose a VPN that’s audited by a third-party auditing company. That will ensure that they walk the walk, and don’t talk the talk. A VPN website can say that they have a no-logs policy, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be true.
Free VPNs, and there are thousands of them already, are notorious for sharing (selling) your data with advertisers and other players. What’s the point in using a VPN if they’re unscrupulous and greedy?
You have to decide if you’re comfortable with your internet service provider seeing your data, your personal information, and ALL your internet traffic. If you aren’t, choosing a trusted VPN with a strict (and proven) no-logs policy will make you anonymous and more secure online.
Every website about VPNs will tell you that free VPNs are no good. Is it because they love their affiliate commissions so much? Well, some of them for sure. Others also know that free VPNs can be unscrupulous, as I’ve already mentioned.
They keep logs (although saying that they don’t) and sell them to third parties for presumably a lot of money.
So, free VPNs are out of the picture, but what about free plans from premium VPNs? Well, they are far and between and often have many restrictions in terms of the number of servers, bandwidth, or data.
They have limitations in place to incentivize you to get a premium plan. But some of them can be a good short-term solution, though.
Although paid plans can cost a lot of money if you pay on a month-by-month basis, they can be incredibly cheap if you get a multi-year contract. This way, you’ll be paying only a couple of bucks each month.
The only downside is that you’ll be forced to pay a lump sum straight away. If you’re on a budget, that might not be the best thing in the world.
READ ALSO: Why Do VPNs Cost Money (Explained)
3. They can be blocked
As you’ve probably noticed by now, there are stark differences between VPN providers. Although more money doesn’t mean better service, free isn’t good at all.
It’s arguably best to stick to big-name VPNs with thousands of reviews from credible outlets and customers that use them every day.
Popular VPNs also have more resources to fight the battle with governments and especially streaming services that are trying to block VPN access to their websites or services.
Smaller VPNs often get blocked by some third parties and you’re effectively stuck with a service that doesn’t do what you paid for. Besides being a big inconvenience, you could also be losing a fair amount of money if you signed up for a longer term.
4. Some smart TVs and game consoles don’t support them
VPNs have rolled out many native apps for major operating systems, effectively covering most devices out there.
However, there are still some holdbacks. Mainly game consoles, smart TVs, and set-top boxes. I mean, I have all three of these, and many people have them as well.
In that case, you’re best option is to configure your router with a VPN connection that will encompass not only your home entertainment system but also any other devices that are connected to your WiFI – smartphone, laptop, desktop computer, etc. That’s much better than having a VPN app on all of your devices and remembering to turn it on every time (if you don’t have auto-connect enabled).
The major drawback is that setting up a VPN on a router is no child’s play. YouTube will be your best friend for a couple of hours (days?). Also, not all routers support VPNs. Luckily, there are some out-of-the-box solutions that you can buy.
RELATED: Best DNS for PS4 & PS5
5. VPNs might slow down your internet connection
This point is also very often repeated, and some people still believe that a VPN will make your internet connection extremely slow. The truth is, major VPNs that have fast speeds, will only slightly slow down your connection.
Mozilla VPN test speeds
As you can see above, the drop is noticeable but is often only a few Mbps. Smart TVs are often more affected than devices with more CPU like computers or smartphones.
However, the drop in speed isn’t noticeable at all for the vast majority of folks that are using VPNs on a daily basis.
As with everything in life, VPNs also have their pros and cons. Nothing is black and white and there are nuances. VPNs offer many advantages that can make your life much easier. They help improve your privacy and security.
They also bypass online censorship in restrictive countries and regimes. Worldwide, VPNs stop ISPs from slowing down your speed and seeing your IP address when torrenting.
If you want to watch content from different countries, you can do that as well as there are no more geo-restrictions. They can also save you money by making you appear in another country that has cheaper prices.
And finally, businesses can take advantage of many benefits that VPNs bring to the table making them more secure and less vulnerable to attacks.
There are some drawbacks as well, the main one being that you’re putting your trust in the hands of a VPN and not in the hands of an ISP. Luckily, websites like ours can help you find the best VPNs for every use case.