What is a VPN and what do you use it for? VPN explained

What is a VPN and what do you use it for? VPN explained

More and more people use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This is because more and more value is being attached to online privacy. A VPN connection is a very good way to protect your privacy and security on the internet. On this page we explain what a VPN is and how you can use it. We also discuss the options that a VPN offers.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a secure connection between your computer and the internet. If you go on the internet, you do this with a unique IP address. You can compare this address with your telephone number. The IP address is, as it were, the personal identification code of your internet connection. It is in your name and address. You are recognizable and traceable with everything you do when you go online – unless you use a VPN.

The abbreviation VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This ‘virtual private network’ enables you to send your data traffic via an encrypted , secure connection to an external server. From there the data traffic is sent back onto the internet. This changes the IP address that the rest of the internet will see.

A VPN connection offers you three very essential things: security, anonymity and freedom on the internet.

  • Security : a VPN encrypts and secures all internet traffic against parties trying to intercept data, such as hackers and governments.
  • Anonymity : your IP address is hidden as soon as you connect to a VPN server. As a user you assume the IP address of this server. This means that other parties on the internet can no longer find out your location and identity.
  • Freedom : a VPN provider allows you to connect to servers around the world. By connecting to a VPN server in a certain country, you go on the internet as if you were in that country yourself. The internet is not freely accessible anywhere in the world. You can think of online censorship, restrictions on social media and restrictions on online streaming services. As a Dutch person you also have to deal with this: many Dutch websites and streaming services do not work outside the Netherlands. You can solve this with a VPN. You can also get access from the Netherlands to sites and services that are not normally available in the Netherlands, such as the US version of Netflix .

Would you like to start using a VPN yourself, then our overview with all our reviews is interesting for you:

Compare all VPNs

How do you easily use a VPN yourself?

It is very easy to use a VPN yourself. To start, you take out a subscription with a reliable VPN provider . You can do this easily and quickly online, after which you can immediately download and install the required software (or apps). You now have access to the provider’s server network. With a few clicks you then connect to a VPN server. These can be servers all over the world. From that moment on, all your internet traffic runs via the secure VPN connection and you can use the internet safely, freely and anonymously.

Encrypted VPN connection

Most VPN providers offer software for all your devices and operating systems (Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android). It is also possible in some cases to set the VPN on the router . This automatically protects all devices that are connected to the network.

How does a VPN work?

In practice, a VPN works very easily. You choose a provider, take out a subscription and download the software. Then you set which server you want to connect to.

This is how the VPN works:

  1. The VPN software encrypts internet traffic and sends your data via a secure connection to the server.
  2. The VPN server receives your encrypted internet traffic and decrypts the internet traffic so that it becomes legible again.
  3. The server then sends the encrypted internet traffic to the internet. After that the same server receives sent back internet traffic that is meant for you.
  4. The internet traffic that the VPN server receives is then encrypted and sent back to you via the secure connection.
  5. The software on your device decrypts internet traffic, so you can view it.
How Does a VPN Illustration Work

The VPN connection protects your internet traffic , so that hackers can no longer intercept your data. In addition, a VPN offers anonymity , because your internet traffic is redirected via an external server. This allows the rest of the internet to register the IP address and location of the VPN server, while your real IP address and location remain hidden. Normally you will be recognized online via this IP address, but this is no longer possible. You have become anonymous on the internet.

The VPN application runs on the background of your computer, tablet or smartphone. Here you hardly notice it yourself and you can use your computer and the internet as usual. For more information about the precise operation of a VPN we refer to the article: How does a VPN connection work.

What is a VPN used for?

There are various reasons why people use a VPN. The most common reasons are anonymity, safety and blockade’s:

Anonymity and privacy with VPN:

  • Anonymity on the internet : A VPN connection Hides your IP address and location . As a user, you assume the IP address of the VPN server. It now seems as if you are at the location of the server. Because of this, websites cannot find out your real location. Also other parties on the internet can no longer identify you through your IP address, because they only see the meaningless IP address of the server to which you are connected.
  • Anonymous downloading (and uploading) : Downloaders (eg via Torrents or Usenet / newsgroups) are increasingly being followed . Many people prefer not to let others know what they have downloaded and therefore choose to download anonymously . A VPN connection is ideally suited for this.
  • Preventing a digital personal file : Advertising networks such as Facebook, Google and Twitter try to build the best possible private file about everyone. This information can then be sold to advertisers or governments. The use of an anonymous VPN connection prevents the creation of such a file.

Protection against hackers:

  • Protection against hackers and governments : Increasingly it is known how much is being intercepted on the internet. Without a VPN connection you send all your data onto the internet without being secured. Your internet connection is therefore very easy to listen to. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic, so eavesdropping does not make sense.
  • Secure internet on public networks : The use of public networks is risky. Other users of public networks (for example hackers) can easily monitor or redirect all your internet traffic. The chance that you for example lose the login details of your e-mail or your credit card details in this way is very high. By using a VPN you encrypt all data that you send to the network. Because of this, a hacker has no use for the bugged internet data. The hacker only sees an encrypted jumble of characters (encrypted data) instead of your important data and passwords.
  • Access to company networks: More and more companies offer their employees the option of logging in to their network at home. In this way you can work safely from home. VPN connections are also used for this.

To bypass censorship and blockade’s with a VPN:

  • Preventing censorship and government blockades: The internet is censored in various countries (for example in China, Turkey and Arab countries). Those countries block access to certain internet services and websites (such as Whatsapp , Skype and  Facebook ). And in the Netherlands, for example, The Pirate Bay is blocked . A VPN changes your geographical location and encrypts your data so that you can bypass such blockages.
  • Circumventing geographic blockades: not only do governments sometimes block internet services and websites. The services themselves also display certain content only in certain regions. For example, you cannot normally watch Dutch TV abroad. You can also watch significantly fewer films and series with Netflix in the Netherlands than with Netflix in America. A VPN helps you bypass these geographic blockades.

Also read our more extensive article about why people use a VPN.

Use a VPN connection

You need a VPN account to use a VPN network  . You can often close a good account for a few euros per month. After registering, the provider gives you the login details for their program and servers. You can then use this login data to connect to the provider’s servers. Most (large) providers offer special (free) programs or apps with which you can easily set up a connection. In these programs you can often choose which protocol you want to use and with which servers in which country or city you want to connect.

Two good providers

We have tested all major VPN providers at this time. A more detailed description of good providers can be found in our overview of the best VPN providers.  If you want to get started with an easy, user-friendly and reliable VPN, we can recommend PureVPN and ExpressVPN.

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