It seems like we spend most of our lives online these days, sharing more personal information than ever before. To make sure our online activity is as safe and secure as possible, many people prefer to use a VPN when connecting to the internet, at home, at work, and on public Wi-Fi.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. In the simplest terms, a VPN creates a private network connection that you can access on your computer, laptop or mobile device. As the name suggests, they make accessing the internet more private, which can make sharing information online more secure.
How does a VPN work?
VPNs are a set of servers that you connect to through your broadband provider in a process known as tunnelling. These servers act as a ‘virtual home’ on the internet, in a sense moving your online experience into a more secure online network.
As you explore the internet from this secure space, the data that you send and receive is encrypted, which gives you more security and anonymity while online.
Whenever you click on a link or type an address into your browser, your computer sends out a series of communications through a number of computers. Your data travels across your local network, through a number computers on the internet, and through even more computers on the website’s servers, before following the same route back again to return the information to your computer.
When you use a VPN, those data packets are encrypted at the originating point, usually hiding both the data as well as the information about your originating IP address.
There are two types of VPN. The first is a corporate VPN, sometimes called an enterprise VPN, which is often used by companies in order to secure information transfer between two office local networks. A corporate VPN involves controlling both endpoints of the VPN
The second is a consumer VPN, which secures only one endpoint. and consumer VPNs, which are the type you would use when logging onto public Wi-Fi to secure your information. Consumer VPN services help ensure that your communications on applications such as social networks, email, online shopping and banking are protected.
Why use a VPN?
Security is the main reason to use a VPN since your data will be encrypted making it more difficult for others to access your browsing activity. This is especially important when entering personal information or payment details like credit card numbers. This is why using a VPN when connecting to public networks is a particularly good idea.
In much the same way, a VPN also protects your privacy. The encryption provided by a VPN means what you search for, what you say in comments or forums, and what you watch on streaming platforms is kept private and none of anyone else’s business.
However, it’s important to remember that a VPN protects the data you transmit from your computer, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent your information being tracked with cookies or other web trackers. A VPN ensures that your communications can’t be intercepted or accessed, but it doesn’t affect application features like cookies.
3. Virtual location
Another popular reason for using a VPN is to give you a virtual location. Accessing the internet via a VPN means you can appear to be browsing from another country. This allows you to access content that might be restricted where you are. This is especially useful when travelling. If you want to continue streaming a show you’re watching back home, or access online banking or personal records, you can use a VPN to access the internet as if you were back home.
How to set up a VPN
The majority of VPN apps will have an OpenVPN protocol, meaning it’s a simple matter of allowing the app to configure your settings for you. However there are a few small differences to be aware of when setting up a VPN on Windows, Mac, Chrome, Apple and Android devices.
How to set up a VPN on Windows
Once you’ve created a VPN profile, you might need to configure your Windows VPN settings.
- Go into Settings -> Network & Internet -> VPN.
- Click ‘Add a VPN connection’.
- Select Windows (built-in) for your VPN provider.
- Fill in the details for Connection name, server name or address, VPN type and the type of sign-in info.
- You have the option to add a username and password for added security, which we would recommend.
- At this point you also can select Advanced Options to edit the connection properties, clear your sign-in info, or set up a VPN proxy.
- Select ‘Connect’ and enter your password if you’ve set one.
How to set up a VPN on a Mac
- If you need to set up a VPN manually on a Mac, go to ‘System Preferences’ and then click ‘Network’.
- Click on the ‘+’ icon and select VPN from the drop-down menu.
- You’ll need the details from the VPN service you’ve signed up for to complete this sign up.
- Click ‘Create’ then fill in the server address, remote ID and local ID in the appropriate fields.
- Click ‘Authentication Settings’
- At this point you’ll need to enter the username and password for your VPN, which you can set through your VPN app.
- Click ‘OK’ and ‘Connect’.
How to set up a VPN on Chrome OS
The easiest way to set up a VPN on Chrome OS is to install a VPN extension. Visit the Chrome Web Store and search for your VPN of choice and simply add the extension to your browser from there.
If you need to set up a VPN manually Chrome has native support for L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN. To install a VPN that works with one of these formats:
- Go to Settings and in the ‘Network’ section click ‘Add connection’ -> ‘OpenVPN / L2TP
- You’ll need to include all the information you have from your VPN service including things like server hostname, service name, provider type, pre-shared key, username and password.
- Save your identity and password
- Click ‘Connect’.
### How to set up a VPN on an Apple device
Setting up a VPN on an iPhone or iPad is fairly straightforward, and if you download an app from the App Store it will automatically configure your settings for you. However, if you need to adjust anything or set up a VPN manually on an Apple device, here’s what you need to do:
- Go to ‘Settings’ -> ‘General’.
- Scroll down and select VPN, tap ‘Add VPN Configuration’.
- Select a security protocol from ‘Type’ following the instructions given by your VPN service.
- Return to the ‘Add Configuration’ screen and enter the VPN description, server, remote ID and local ID.
- Enter your username and password as well as a proxy if you want to.
- Tap ‘Done’.
- Finally, toggle the ‘Status’ switch to on.
How to set up a VPN on an Android device
- Go to Settings -> Network & Internet -> Advanced -> VPN.
- Tap the ‘+’ icon
- Fill in the VPN name, type, and Server address.
- Tap ‘Save’.
- From the VPN screen, tap on your newly created VPN, enter your name and password, then tap ‘Connect’.
- At this point you can also choose to save your account information, and you can make the VPN always on.
How to use VPN on Xbox One
Gaming devices are more connected than ever, and a VPN can help make online gaming more secure as well as unlocking restrictions and even potentially making gameplay faster.
Typically, the main reason for using a VPN on an Xbox One is to access restricted regional content, but a VPN can also help your console achieve lower multiplayer gaming latency in some cases. A VPN can even overcome bandwidth throttling if your ISP is limiting your speed on selected sites.
How to set up and use a VPN on Xbox One
Xbox One doesn’t have native VPN support or any formal VPN apps, so the easiest way to access one is to connect to a VPN-enabled Windows PC via an ethernet cable.
- Connect your Xbox One to your PC with an ethernet cable and enable your VPN.
- Go to Settings -> Network & Internet -> VPN
- In the ‘Related settings’ section on the right, click ‘Change adapter option.
- Right-click on your VPN icon and select ‘Properties’.
- In the ‘Sharing’ tab, check ‘Allow other network users to connect through this computer's internet connection’ and select your ethernet connection from the drop down menu and click ‘OK’.
- On your Xbox One, go to the Network settings and select the ‘Test network connection’ tile and your console should connect to the internet via your VPN.
Just remember to keep your console connected to your PC at all times.
Are VPNs legal?
In most countries, the use of a VPN is legal, but there are a few countries in which it is not, like the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Restrictions and penalties vary in each of these countries. For example, China allows only certain approved VPNs, while in the UAE you could potentially go to jail or face a fine of $100,000 if you get caught.
Can I use a VPN to stream TV from other regions?
A VPN allows you to access the content of streaming platforms in other countries since each territory has a slightly different catalogue of TV shows and movies in its library. For example, if you’re a Netflix subscriber you’ll likely notice a different list of available programs when you log on while overseas. So in order to keep binge-watching your favourite shows while you travel you’ll need to access Netflix through a VPN.
However, Netflix and other streaming services are aware of subscribers using VPNs to access geo-restricted content and regularly block access. If a platform like Netflix registers traffic coming from a particular IP address that belongs to a VPN it will block it and you’ll see the following proxy error message:
“Whoops, something went wrong. Streaming error. You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again.”
How to watch Netflix with VPN
Once you’ve set up your VPN on your device as instructed above, you’ll be able to access that region’s version of Netflix automatically (you might need to clear your cache on your browser if you run into problems on your computer).
To watch Netflix with a VPN –– or any streaming service for that matter –– you’ll need a VPN service that’s fast, reliable and with enough data allowance to accommodate streaming video files.