The hand types on the laptop with dark lighting to denote the use of a VPN

What is a VPN

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are commonly used by businesses when employees connect remotely to the office network. This allows them to access files, printers and intranets as if they was on an office PC. More recently, privacy and security has become a greater concern for the general public leading to more people to seek secure, private internet connections.

 

VPNs Becoming Increasingly Popular

According to Statista, the VPN market was worth US $45 billion in 2014 with this expected to rise to $70 in 2019.

As well as an increasing number of VPN providers, anti-virus companies are jumping on the bandwagon too, including Secureline, Phantom and Secure Connection. If this wasn’t enough, in April 2016, Opera announced it too was bringing a free VPN to its desktop web browser.

The saturated market makes it very difficult to choose which VPN to go for, with the following heavily influencing the purchasers decision:

  • The country where the provider is based

Privacy experts recommended staying away from VPNs based in the “Fourteen Eyes”, as the country’s government can demand to access customer data.

  • Number of servers

VPN providers can offer hundreds of server locations across the globe. This is useful for users who wish to get around censorship or speed related issues.

  • Speed

It’s not unheard of for VPN servers VPN servers may speed up the user’s internet speed due to bypassing local ISP bandwidth management and offering the possibility of traffic being routed more efficiently.

  • Logging

It can bother users that the VPN provider is logging your data, so many promote the fact that they don’t log anything so even they can’t see what their customers are up to.

  • Security

Many VPNs follow a minimum of 256-bit encryption and SSL. This is often branded with fancy words such as ‘Chameleon’ or ‘DoubleVPN’.

  • Mobile Apps

It’s not just PC users who wish to use a VPN. iOS, Android and other mobile platforms are often supported by VPN providers meaning a user’s whole fleet of tech can be protected.

  • Pricing

If features don’t distinguish a VPN provider, pricing will. Free ones can be found but it’s often best to pay if the user is serious about using a VPN.

  • The cost of a VPN

Free VPN services are not uncommon however they restrict the amount of data that can pass through the VPN, for example TunnelBear. Or they can go further by restricting the speed, number of server locations and the number of simultaneous connections as seen with TotalVPN.

It’s useful to point out that when using a free service it often means that the user is the product, meaning that providers may not take privacy as seriously as if they were a paying customer. They are more likely to log the activities and serve ads relating to the content they’ve been looking at.

Premium services typically start around $6 a month, however for all the benefits, for some of the more popular providers you are looking at $12 a month.

For those who are highly privacy conscious, many services such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN and PureVPN offer payment via Bitcoin.

 

Moving Forward

As awareness grows around the security of data on top of changes in law across the globe that allow for governments to monitor and act on internet usage, we should expect to see more growth in the VPN sector.

Upon Trump winning the US Election, Canadian based Tunnelbear said it saw “25-40% increase in new downloads” from the US. Other free and paid VPN providers reported similar statistics, although it’s worth mentioning that European providers didn’t report the increase either.

Similarly, “We saw a boom in Australia last year correlated to when its data retention law went into effect”, Jodi Myers of NordVPN told the BBC.

Jack Schofield, Computer Editor at The Guardian writes “VPNs are – or soon will be – normal enough not to attract undue attention. There are already plenty of reasons for using a VPN, to protect yourself in a world of hostile Wi-Fi hotspots and other online threats. […] The fact that they may also shield you from some state snooping is just a bonus.”

 

The Rise of VPN
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