What is a VPN ?
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. As its name suggests, a vpn is a virtual version of a physical and secure network ( a web of computers linked together to share files and other resources).
Now that we gave the technical definition of a vpn we can give you a more robust description on the real use of a vpn. Let us suppose that we have a world that is composed of several islands which are divided by the sea. We want to connect to another island and to connect to that island we can use a ferry, this resembles the internet. The problem with that is that if we decide to use the ferry, we will get to our destination, but everyone which is on it will be able to see us and we can do nothing about that.
If we were to have a small plane however, everything would be different. We could have the anonymity that we wanted and still be able to fulfill our needs. The plane resembles a vpn service.
When are VPNs used ?
- Companies use vpns when their employees want to connect to the company’s server. This way all the files and information that they get can be retrieved safely.
- People use vpns when they connect to public, airport or coffee networks. Since the information which is sent over the network is not encrypted, other people on the network can steal your sensitive data. If you are connected to a vpn, the information is sent to the tunnel endpoint first. After that the information is sent to the network which then completes our request.
- A vpn is used also to bypass geoblocking which are regional restrictions on certain websites. Journalists and political dissidents use VPNs to get around state-sponsored censorship all the time, but you can also use a VPN for recreational purposes.
Taking note of the third point I can give you a real example. Let us suppose that right now I am in Germany, and I have bought a Netflix subscription. For some unfortunate reason which is true btw, Germany has only about 30% of all the movies and the tv shows which I could get if I were leaving in the USA. We all pay the same amount of money, but they get more while I get less. Netflix separates the user by geoblocking movies and tv shows corresponding to the regions. One way to get over this and to enjoy all of what Netflix has to offer as if you were an us resident, would be to use a vpn.
(As Netflix recently has taken measures against customers who use proxies and vpns, finding a free vpn provider with the purpose of watching Netflix would be a hassle. Not considering the speed limitations problems which might occur in some free vpn providers).
More information regarding the different VPN network protocols for the Tech savvy
Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the least secure VPN method, but it’s a great starting point for your first VPN because almost every operating system supports it, including Windows, Mac OS, and even mobile OSs.
Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) and Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) are more secure than PPTP and are almost as widely supported, but they are also more complicated to set up and are susceptible to the same connection issues as PPTP is.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPN systems provide the same level of security that you trust when you log on to banking sites and other sensitive domains. Most SSL VPNs are referred to as "clientless," since you don't need to be running a dedicated VPN client to connect to one of them. They're my favorite kind of VPN because the connection happens via a Web browser and thus is easier and more reliable to use than PPTP, L2TP, or IPsec.
OpenVPN is exactly what it sounds like: an open-source VPN system that's based on SSL code. It's free and secure, and it doesn't suffer from connection issues, but using OpenVPN does require you to install a client since Windows, Mac OS X, and mobile devices don't natively support it.
In short: When in doubt, try to use SSL or OpenVPN. Keep in mind that some of the services highlighted in the next section don’t use these protocols. Instead, they use their own proprietary VPN technology.
Now, let's talk about how to create and connect to your own VPN. If you want simple remote access to a single computer, consider using the VPN software built into Windows. If you’d like to network multiple computers together quickly through a VPN, consider installing stand-alone VPN server software.
If you need a more reliable and robust arrangement (one that also supports site-to-site connections), consider using a dedicated VPN router. And if you just want to use a VPN to secure your Internet traffic while you're on public Wi-Fi hotspots and other untrusted networks—or to access regionally restricted sites—consider subscribing to a third-party hosted VPN provider.
A Short Recap
If you think of a firewall as a defense measure which provides a shield against attacks from the outside to the inside, a vpn is a tool which provides protection, anonymity and encryption while working as an “ antivirus “ while you are outside on the world wide web.