VPNs are well known and trusted tools for protecting users’ privacy when browsing the Internet. But if you think this is the only thing they are capable of, you are wrong. From getting cheaper flight tickets to streaming your favorite TV series – there are dozens of everyday situations where you could enjoy the benefits of virtual private networks.
What a VPN does, it routes your Internet traffic via a remote VPN server and hides your actual IP address. That means no one, not even your ISP (internet service provider), can see what you do and where you go on the Internet. The only thing visible to anyone trying to snoop on your activities will be the fact that you are using a VPN, and the address of the VPN server you are connected.
On top of that, all the data sent and received is strongly encrypted, so even if someone manages to intercept your connection, they won’t be able to read it. While this setup makes VPN a reliable tool to secure your online activities, it also allows you to bypass geographical restrictions, avoid bandwidth throttling, and do a bunch of other awesome things that you probably didn’t know were possible. Let’s take a look at what you can do with your VPN once you get one.
7 cool ways to use your VPN
1. AVOID BANDWIDTH THROTTLING
Can you think of anything more annoying than constant buffering when watching funny Youtube videos or streaming your favorite TV series? Unfortunately, bandwidth throttling can happen to anyone trying to access streaming services, file sharing platforms, and online gaming websites. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s your ISP.
Bandwidth throttling happens when your ISP attempts to reduce bandwidth congestion and regulate network traffic, and it has a direct impact on how fast you can stream and download content online.
A VPN helps you avoid bandwidth throttling and slow connection speeds.
VPN encrypts your Internet traffic so that your ISP can no longer see it. And if they can’t see it, they can’t control it, right? So now that the secret is out, the solution is as easy as this: open your VPN app, pick a server, and enjoy the Internet without your ISP slowing you down.
2. ACCESS YOUR FAVORITE WEBSITES WHEN ABROAD
Let’s keep this straight – a VPN helps you access websites and services that may be blocked outside your country or region. But why are they blocked in the first place?
Actually, there may be several reasons why you have trouble accessing the same streaming sites you are used to visiting at home, or can’t log in to your Facebook account when traveling abroad. It mostly depends on where in the world you are right now.
You’d be surprised how many countries are known for heavy censorship and restrictions. So if you happen to be in any of them, chances are you won’t be able to access popular social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., online streaming services and many other websites that are normally available in your country.
If that’s not the case, the content you are trying to access may be blocked due to copyright agreements that are issued on country-by-country basis. To put it simply, you may not be able to use the service you are paying for while on vacation or a business trip abroad.
A VPN helps you securely bypass content restrictions and censorship by allowing to virtually change your location. If, for example, you are exploring the world but don’t want to miss that TV episode everyone is talking about, simply pick a server that is located in your home country. This way, you will get the services and content available there.
3. SAVE MONEY ON FLIGHT TICKETS, HOTELS, AND CAR RENTALS
Did you know that a VPN can help you to book a cheaper vacation? This is only a matter of leveraging currencies and points of sale to your advantage.
You may know that clearing your browser cookies or, better still, browsing in an incognito mode can help you avoid flight rates increasing based on your searches. However, this method is often not enough, because prices may vary in different countries.
Thus, the trick of saving some money is to make it appear as if you are browsing from a country where the prices are lower. Since your IP address quite precisely reveals your geographical location, what you need to do is hide it. This can be easily done with a VPN. When you connect to a VPN server, your IP is replaced with the IP address of the preferred location.
So, for example, if the tickets to your desired destination cost less when booked via a French website rather than in the U.K, simply pick a server that is located in France. That’s it – the website will think you are browsing from France, while you will be comfortably planning your vacation at home in the U.K.
4. DOWNLOAD AND UPLOAD FILES SECURELY
P2P (Peer-to-Peer) file sharing has a number of legitimate reasons, such as distributing open-source software, public domain videos, or simply sharing large sets of data across the network. However, many ISPs are not that excited about their customers engaging in P2P activities, which results in much slower connection speeds, bandwidth limits, or even restricted access to file-sharing websites.
But your ISP may not be the only bad guy here. The thing is that all the users participating in the same network can see each other’s IP addresses. This could impose a serious security threat, opening a door to cybercriminals. You sure don’t want that.
So the good news here is that with a VPN turned on, you can use P2P without your ISP slowing you down and stay safe at the same time. With a VPN, your IP stays hidden and all your Internet traffic is encrypted so that no one can see or intercept it.
5. DON’T WORRY ABOUT PUBLIC WI-FI SECURITY
How many times have you heard and ignored the warning: “Think twice before using public Wi-Fi?” Well, you know what? With a VPN protecting your Internet traffic, you can confidently connect to any public Wi-Fi hotspot provided at a hotel, train, airport or your favorite coffee shop.
It’s true that public Wi-Fi networks are often poorly secured, or they don’t offer any protection at all. So basically even a junior hacker could intercept an unencrypted Wi-Fi connection by using a simple and well known “Evil Wi-Fi Twin Hotspot” technique. The risk is even greater if you partake in risky behaviors, such as shopping online, checking your work inbox, making financial transactions, etc.
So to stay on the safe side, you’ll need a reliable VPN. Its encrypted connections will ensure your data remains safe, and even if a hacker manages to intercept it, they won’t be able to use it for nefarious purposes.
6. AVOID PRICE DISCRIMINATION WHEN SHOPPING ONLINE
So you get off the plane and go directly to the closest Starbucks to grab that long-awaited cup of coffee. At the counter, you discover you are charged five dollars, while the guy in front of you has just paid four for the same coffee, only because he’s local. Sounds unfair? Even though it does, online this happens all the time.
Many online stores display different prices for the same items based on the location a user is browsing from. So, for example, the price for the same handbag could be lower for a German IP address than for a Swedish IP.
But how do they even know this information? Again – it’s your IP address. It reveals the country where you are located, giving the freedom for businesses to decide what search results to show you and what prices to offer.
So if you are about to buy those amazing shoes online or order that sci-fi book, don’t just yet. First, clear your browser cookies. This will make websites forget you have visited them before. Then launch your VPN app and choose a country you want to make it look like you are browsing from. Try switching between different locations to see if the prices there are different.
7. KEEP YOUR CONVERSATIONS SECURE AND PRIVATE
It doesn’t matter whether you call your mom or organize a teleconference with your business partners – the fact that someone may be secretly listening to your private conversations doesn’t sound right.
Even though VoIP services are getting more secure and more difficult to break in, unfortunately, no one can say they are bulletproof. In fact, most of them are quite easy to eavesdrop.
What’s more, services like Skype are often blocked in highly-censored countries, so combining VoIP with a VPN is a must, especially if you are traveling or temporarily residing abroad.
Not only does a VPN help you bypass these blocks and call your friends and family from anywhere in the world, it also secures your Internet traffic with strong encryption, preventing snoopers from monitoring it.
SO, GO AHEAD, GET YOURSELF A VPN
By now you may have a pretty good idea why you may need a VPN. Not only are VPNs used for protecting users’ privacy, they also help bypass censorship and geo-restrictions, get more from online services, and even save some money.