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The Pros and Cons of VPNs: Should I Use One?

Updated: January 3, 2022 By Dean Chester

The Pros and Cons of VPNs

Image source - Shutterstock

A VPN is your go-to service when you want to protect and safeguard your online privacy and security. But besides the fundamentals, a VPN also lets you enjoy the internet free of online injustices, and access certain services that would otherwise have been unavailable

But there’s no rose without a thorn; using a VPN also has its downsides, although they may not weigh up when compared to the benefits. If you want to know whether using a VPN is worth it, we’ll help you make a decision by looking at the benefits and downsides of using one.

Pros – 9 Reasons Why You Should Use a VPN

A VPN comes with lots of benefits. Most of them stem from how the VPN operates by default, but others are extra functionalities offered by the best VPNs.

1. Impeccable Internet Security

When your data traverses across the internet, various entities such as your ISP, the government, network admins, and other prying eyes such as cybercriminals can be able to intercept it and gain access to your private content.

A VPN provides an excellent solution for securing your internet connection, it’s a must-have when using public hotspots. When connected to a VPN, your traffic will be encrypted and securely tunneled such that it will not be vulnerable to any third parties.

How VPN works

Image source – pixabay.com

For the best security, opt for a VPN that uses AES-256 to encrypt traffic. The VPN should also provide secure protocols such as OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard.

2. Safeguarding your Online Privacy

Besides security, a VPN also protects your online privacy. These two concepts go hand in hand as they are brough about by encryption. When the connection is encrypted, your ISP and any snooping third parties won’t be able to tell what you are accessing online.

In addition to encryption, a VPN safeguards your online privacy by hiding your IP address, which makes you anonymous while on the internet. This is made possible by the fact that the VPN connects you to a remote server, which then accesses the internet on your behalf. As a result, internet entities on the other end will see the VPN’s server IP address.

Activities you do on the internet will be tied to this IP address and not yours. Various third parties such as trackers, advertisers, cookies, cybercriminals, and even surveillance agencies will also only target the VPN’s IP address. As result, your online privacy, including your digital identity, will be safe.

3. Unblock Geo-restricted Content and Services

Streaming services commonly use geo-restriction techniques to localize content or block users in an unauthorized region. This is mostly done to comply with licensing agreements, but it can be quite annoying when you can’t access a particular title on Netflix or even stream on Disney Plus if it’s not available in your region.

To avoid these restrictions, you can use a VPN and connect to the country where a title/ service you’d like to access is available. The VPN will bypass the restrictions as it will change your IP address to make you appear as if you are where the server is. For example, if you connect to a US server, you will get a US IP address and a US geo-location.

iPlayer and VyprVPN

However, you will need to use a streaming VPN as most VPNs are blocked by the likes of Netflix, iPlayer, Disney+, and Hulu. Some of these VPNs will even throw in a Smart DNS service to help bypass streaming restrictions on devices that don’t support VPNs.

4. Bypass Censorship and VPN Blocks

Some governments control what their citizens can access on the internet. To do this, they block various websites that are either illegal or do not support the government’s religious, moral, or economic views. The result? Lack of internet freedom and inability to access desired content.

VPNs help bypass these restrictions by connecting users to servers in unrestricted countries. Once connected, the user will then access the internet as if they are in the location of the server, and they will bypass all restrictions implemented by their government/ ISP.

However, in countries that have high levels of censorships, you will need a VPN that provides obfuscation or scrambling of traffic. This is because such countries use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to block VPNs. VPNs that offer obfuscation can bypass these blocks by disguising their VPN traffic as regular HTTPS traffic.

5. Avoid ISP throttling

Although throttling helps ease network congestion, some Internet service providers do it in such a way that it becomes an injustice. For instance, most ISPs will throttle your internet connection if you torrent or perform bandwidth-intensive tasks. If an ISP offers streaming services, you may also experience throttling if you stream content from competitors.

For whatever reason throttling is implemented, it is annoying, and you can use a VPN to prevent it. When the ISP can’t tell what you are doing on the internet, they can’t throttle you.

6. Torrent safely and privately

Torrents are the best way to get online content of any kind. However, they are also the most scrutinized files by copyright agencies and are well-hated by ISPs. This is because they are synonymous with sharing pirated content, and they are also bandwidth intensive.

To avoid copyright infringement, ISPs in various countries block torrenting sites and their mirrors. In such a case, you won’t be able to access a blocked torrent site, and the ISP won’t even tell you that the site is blocked. Your torrents will also not load even if you are not torrenting copyrighted material.

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There is also the issue of privacy. When connected to the P2P network, all your connected peers will see your actual IP address. Copyright trolls can therefore use your actual IP address to track you down and report you to copyright agencies.

If you use a VPN, your IP address will be masked, and your connection and data will be encrypted. You will avoid ISP throttling, and your activities will be anonymous. However, not all VPNs are good for torrenting. Some will ban your account if you access copyrighted content, and others outright block the traffic. If you wish to torrent, we suggest you go for a reliable torrenting VPN.

7. Avoid Price Discrimination

Just like streaming services, the e-commerce sector also uses geo-location to price various services and goods. The geo-location may depend on various factors, but in the end, some places may have goods and services with high prices, while others have low prices. Others may even have lucrative discounts. This is common in airlines, car rentals, online subscriptions, and various booking services.

To save money and get the best prices, you will need to change your geo-location. This can be done by connecting to a VPN server in the corresponding location. For best results, clear your cookies and turn off location services before using a VPN.

8. Improved Online Gaming

Some VPNs are tailored to provide a better gaming experience. These VPNs offer port forwarding, dedicated IP addresses, and they also have DDoS attack protection.  Also, by using a VPN, you will access games in various locations and avoid IP bans.

9. Value for Your Money

When you get a VPN, you can enhance your privacy and security, bypass geo-restrictions, circumvent censorships, get better prices, and avoids ISP throttling. All these functionalities help improve your online experience, and they make VPNs a worthy investment

Cons – 4 Downsides of Using a VPN

1. Subscription Cost

Free VPNs are not reliable and have many limitations. To get a reputable VPN that will serve you well, you have to spend some cash. Although some VPN providers can be expensive, other reputable providers have budget-friendly offers.

With a paid VPN, you can be assured that you will get excellent service. You can also try the 30-day money-back guarantee before committing to a particular VPN subscription plan.

2. Slower Internet Connection Speeds

The encryption overhead on VPNs will results in a slight drop in your internet speed. Nearby servers will be lenient, but distant servers can result in a significant drop in speeds.

However, some VPNs are fast enough such that your speeds won’t take a significant hit. You can also play with factors that influence speeds such as the VPN protocol in use and the server load. Nonetheless, if you have a high-speed internet connection, the drop in speed won’t impact your daily online activities.

3. Dangers of Untrustworthy VPNs

You will open up yourself to various cons if you use a bad VPN or a free some free VPNs. Some VPNs keep logs, and this can compromise your online privacy. Others may bombard you with intrusive ads, malware or sell your data to interested third parties.

Some VPNs may also not be able to bypass geo-restrictions or blocks. Others may also have a large pool of their IP addresses blacklisted. This will also prevent you from bypassing restrictions or accessing online services like banks and organizations’ portals.

The most common inconvenience of unreputable VPNs is that services will perceive your connection as coming from a bot. Hence, you will be required to prove that you are not a robot through CAPTCHAs each time you access some services. This might be as a result of too many users sharing the IP address you are using.

4. Manual Configurations

Not all devices support the installation of native VPN apps. These devices include some Smart TVs, gaming consoles, and even Linux OS. To protect your privacy and security on these devices, you will be required to configure some setups, especially on your router, manually. This can be a problem if you are not tech-savvy.

Wrap Up

VPNs have become quite popular, and rightly so. When you get a top VPN, you will enjoy the various benefits that it provides, from streaming geo-restricted titles on Netflix to access games early. Sure, VPNs also come with their downs, but these are reduced to non-issues when you choose the right VPN.

Senior Researcher
Dean Chester
Cybersecurity and online privacy expert and researcher. He's been published on OpenVPN, EC-Council Blog, DevSecOps, AT-T Business, SAP Community, etc. Dean has been testing VPNs for 8 years.

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