What is a VPN?

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In this guide, I will explain what a VPN is and what it does in a non-technical way.


Before we talk about what a VPN does, it might be helpful to explain what problem a VPN cures. We live in an ‘always connected’ world. Everyone seems to need the internet all of the time. Have you ever walked into a restaurant and everyone is just sat on their phones?


Because of the reliance on internet, lots of places offering free WiFi.


Let’s look at the example of Starbucks. You’ll go into Starbuck’s and order a cappuccino. You’ll then sit down and connect to the free Starbuck’s WiFi. All you are really doing is connecting to a wireless access point in the Starbuck’s coffee shop.


The problem with this is, you don’t know who else is connected to the same wireless. You could be sat opposite someone who is trying to hack into your computer.


Any WiFi offered in a public place is called Public WiFi and it’s not secure.


Let’s compare this to our home. I connect to my WiFi at home and access the internet. Again, all I am doing is connecting to a wireless access point in my home. Nobody else is connected to it. It requires a password to connect and nobody knows that password outside of my house, so my internet browsing is safe.


So what is the answer? The answer is something called a VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network.


To understand how a VPN works, let’s go back to our Starbucks example. We would grab our coffee and connect to the Starbuck’s WiFi as normal, but then we would click on another button on our laptop/smart phone which then connected us to a secure VPN server. Once we connected to the secure VPN server, our internet traffic would be encrypted and therefore we’d be safe.


To use a VPN, we still need that initial internet connection. We piggyback the internet connection to connect to a secure place.


Does that make sense?


Another time you might use a VPN is to access your place of work. Perhaps you have files and folders or applications that you use when you’re sat at work. You wouldn’t be able to access these by connecting to your home WiFi. But you could use your work VPN to securely connect you to your place of work. It’s the same principal.


With the rise of Cyber Attacks, the use of VPN’s are becoming a bigger need. A good VPN provider that we recommend is NordVPN.

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