A virtual private network (VPN) establishes a secure, private connection between your device and the internet, protecting your personal information online. If you want to browse the internet with greater safety, using a VPN is one of your best options.
Enhanced online security isn’t the only benefit of a VPN, though. To help you decide whether a VPN is the right choice for you, let’s explore some of the pros and cons of having a VPN.
The 10 biggest benefits of a VPN
There are many benefits to using a VPN, such as securing your internet connection from malicious third parties and preventing your internet service provider (ISP) from tracking your activity. Here are the ten biggest advantages of having a VPN.
1. Enhanced online privacy
The biggest benefit of using a VPN is improving your privacy and security while using the Internet. True anonymity is nearly impossible to achieve online these days, as third parties collecting personal data from consumers are pervasive. Using a VPN can help protect your data so you have greater security and privacy online.
A VPN routes your internet traffic through its own private server instead of through your ISP. It encrypts all of your data using VPN protocols, which are sets of rules or instructions for moving information, and sends that data through a VPN tunnel before it reaches the internet.
Due to this combination of encryption and rerouting, no one but the VPN service will be able to track exactly what you’re doing online or tie your internet activity back to you.
2. Secure and encrypted internet connection
Your internet connection may be less secure than you think. ISPs and other third parties can see your internet activity and use this information for their benefit.
One of the reasons VPNs are so popular is that they address this issue by creating an encrypted internet connection. No one can access your data while it passes through the VPN’s tunnel.
This added layer of security is even more important when conducting sensitive online activities, such as checking your bank account or making a purchase at an online storefront. Your VPN will encrypt your internet traffic so no third-parties other than the VPN provider can lay eyes on the transactions you complete.
3. Protection against hackers and cyber threats
There’s no shortage of cyber threats that can put you at risk by compromising your data. Many people don’t know how to address these dangers and protect themselves. Using a VPN is one solution.
The encryption from your VPN gives you a new internet protocol (IP) address to protect your internet data from cyber threats. Thanks to this new IP address, hackers won’t be able to intercept your internet connection and steal your data.
If you’re not sure whether you need a VPN, consider how often you are vulnerable to malicious third parties when using the Internet. Using public or shared Wi-Fi networks frequently, for example, constitutes a serious risk that could be easily mitigated thanks to a VPN.
4. Access to geo-restricted content and websites
Some online content is restricted to certain geographical areas, that is to say, you can only view said content if you’re in a designated region or country. For example, you won’t be able to access the U.S. Netflix platform anymore while traveling abroad, since that content is geo-restricted.
Using a VPN allows you to bypass these restrictions. With a VPN, you can change your location to anywhere in the world where your VPN provider has a server.
For instance, if something you want to read online is only available in Spain, you could change your VPN location to Spain and access that content. The VPN bypasses geo-blocking by making it seem like your internet traffic is coming from somewhere else.
Many VPN providers advertise the ability to access geo-restricted content as one of the benefits of using a VPN for streaming. Instead of having access only to a select streaming library that is available in your home country, a VPN can grant you access to the streaming service’s entire catalog.
5. Safe and private browsing on public Wi-Fi networks
As convenient as public Wi-Fi is in places like coffee shops, airports, malls and hotels, using it comes with some serious drawbacks. The chances that someone will access your private data are much higher when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network. In fact, any sensitive information you share over public Wi-Fi – passwords, your emails, personal identifiable information – could be at risk.
A VPN encrypts your data so it’s protected, even when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network. Make sure to connect to your VPN before browsing on the public network to keep any data from slipping through. Once connected, you can check your email or pay your bills confidently.
For additional security, only visit HTTPS websites while using public Wi-Fi. These websites are encrypted and will offer even more protection from hackers and bad actors. Identify them by the "https://" before the URL.
6. Anonymized torrenting and file sharing
File sharing and torrenting, which is the uploading and downloading of files over services like BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer (P2P) technology solution, has gotten more dangerous over the past few years. Without any protection in place, it’s easy for others to see your download history if they know your IP address.
A VPN can easily get around these potential hazards by encrypting your internet data. Although your ISP will still be able to tell that you are using a service like BitTorrent, a VPN makes it possible to torrent and file share without revealing the data that you are transferring. You won’t have to worry about other people reading your download or upload histories with a VPN.
If you’re interested in torrenting, make sure you choose a fast, secure VPN – you don’t want any data to leak through because your VPN connection dropped.
7. Secure remote access to business networks
VPNs aren’t just for personal use: They can also be useful in a business context, such as for remotely accessing a business network. A VPN allows you to securely connect to your shared business network, protecting the files and information you share over this connection. Your company may even require you to use a VPN in the workplace for connecting to the shared business network due to security concerns.
Other solutions for protecting remote access to a shared network, such as using a secure leased line from your internet service provider, are often more expensive and difficult to manage. Using a VPN is a simple, easy-to-implement solution for businesses, especially those with remote workers.
8. Prevention of ISP tracking and data logging
Cybercriminals aren’t the only third parties you have to worry about while using the internet. Your own internet service provider – the company that provides your internet access – can also track your activity because all your internet traffic flows through your ISP’s servers.
One of the benefits of a VPN for personal use is shielding your internet activity from your ISP. Because your VPN reroutes and encrypts your data, your ISP will no longer be able to see what you’re up to online. In fact, the data becomes unreadable, so your ISP may not even be able to immediately tell you’re using a VPN.
9. Ability to bypass censorship and internet restrictions
Some countries censor content online and prevent access to certain websites, social media platforms or email services. Without a VPN, you simply wouldn’t have access to this restricted content while staying in those places.
A VPN will allow you to bypass censorship and internet restrictions wherever you are. However, keep in mind that using a VPN may be illegal in some countries. Check local laws before traveling to determine whether VPN use is legal at your destination.
10. Peace of mind knowing your data is protected
Data privacy and security is a major concern for many people these days. The fallout from events such as the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data scandal have left consumers concerned about whether their personal information is truly safe.
Nothing can guarantee that your data is 100% safe. After all, data breaches are the result of server issues, not a user mistake. However, a VPN can keep some of your information inaccessible to websites and online apps that would otherwise collect it without your knowledge.
The disadvantages of using a VPN
Despite the benefits of a VPN, there are also some disadvantages you should keep in mind, including the cost of VPN services and a potential decrease in your internet speeds.
1. A potential decrease in internet speed
VPNs encrypt your internet traffic and route it through remote servers all over the world. This process enhances your privacy online but can also result in slower internet speeds. If your activity only involves smaller amounts of data, such as browsing web pages, the drop probably won’t be too disruptive. For demanding activities, such as streaming video or downloading video games, the slower speeds will be much more noticeable.
Your internet speed while using a VPN will depend on several factors, including your VPN provider’s server network and the number of people currently using the same server as you. VPN users can experience speed reductions of up to 50% or more, but premium VPNs generally don’t cause such significant speed reductions. You may not even notice the drop in speed with a fast VPN.
Pay close attention to their speed ratings when comparing different VPNs. You can compare speeds by looking at results from reputable third-party tests, like this 2022 VPN Comparative Test from independent IT and security institute AV-TEST. You can also take advantage of free trials and money-back guarantees from VPN providers to personally test out their software before making a final decision.
2. The costs associated with premium VPN services
While there are some free VPN services, these often come with monthly data caps or other restrictions, such as limited servers. Most premium VPN services require a paid subscription.
VPN prices typically fall between $3 and $10 per month, depending on the VPN provider you choose and the length of your contract. Generally, the longer your plan term with the VPN provider, the less your VPN will cost per month — you’ll just have to pay upfront.
Weigh the costs of premium VPN services against the benefits these VPNs provide. Consider how many servers and which server locations are available to the VPN users. Also consider any additional features offered by the VPN, and if satisfaction with customer support is high or low.
3. Reliance on a VPN provider’s trustworthiness and security measures
When you use a VPN, you rely on the trustworthiness and security measures of your VPN provider. Reliable VPN companies will clearly state in their terms and conditions what information they do (and do not) log from customers.
The most trustworthy VPNs only collect basic details like your email address and payment information. These are known as no-log VPNs, or VPNs that don’t collect or sell any identifiable information about their users.
Keep in mind that some VPNs have been found to keep user data while claiming not to do so. An independent audit from one of the Big Four auditing firms (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PwC) can confirm that a VPN provider sticks to their no-logs policy. Moreover, any data that leaks due to lapses in your VPN provider’s security measures — for example, as a result of a data breach — will compromise your online security.
The privacy and security features your VPN uses should also be as dependable as possible. For example, your VPN should have an automatic kill switch. This is a feature that ensures your device disconnects from the internet if the VPN connection drops or is interrupted, preventing data leakage.
Summary of Money’s benefits of a VPN
In sum, there are many advantages of VPNs, including:
- Enhanced online privacy
- Secure and encrypted internet connection
- Protection against hackers and cyber threats
- Access to geo-restricted content and websites
- Safe and private browsing on public Wi-Fi networks
- Anonymized torrenting and file sharing
- Secure remote access to business networks
- Prevention of ISP tracking and data logging
- Ability to bypass censorship and internet restrictions
- Peace of mind knowing your data is protected
However, when considering whether to use a VPN and which provider to choose, consider the following disadvantages of VPNs:
- A potential decrease in internet speed
- Costs of premium VPN services
- Reliance on a VPN provider's trustworthiness and security measures