If you have just started taking care of your digital privacy, you sure have a lot of questions to ask: “What’s VPN, how does it work? How do I use it, why do I need one?” In this comprehensive VPN connection guide, we will try to cover the main VPN-related topics so that you don’t miss anything important.
- 1 What Is a VPN?
- 2 How Does It Work?
- 3 Why Do You Need a VPN?
- 4 Is VPN Connection Safe?
- 5 Does VPN Require Internet Connection?
- 6 Which VPN Protocol Is the Best?
- 7 Can I Get a Free VPN?
- 8 I Want To Stay Safe Online. How Do I start?
- 9 My VPN Isn’t Working. Help!
- 10 How to Uninstall VPN Software?
- 11 Does VPN Slow Down Internet Connection?
What Is a VPN?
Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a technology that helps increase your privacy and security while you’re on the internet. It does so by creating a secure connection between your device and a remote server run by a VPN service provider, such as NordVPN.
When you connect to one of the VPN servers, all your internet traffic travels through an encrypted virtual tunnel, making it extremely difficult for snoopers to track you or take over your private data. What is more, your device is assigned the IP address of the remote VPN server, masking your true identity and allowing you to look like you’re browsing from a different country or a continent.
So, for example, if you are a journalist traveling to a country with high censorship and internet restrictions, you can connect to a server in the US. Your communications will then be encrypted and your IP address stays hidden, so you will be able to securely visit your intended site or send sensitive information to your colleagues.
How Does It Work?
Typically, when you try accessing a website, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) receives the request and redirects you to that particular site. This also allows your ISP to monitor the whole internet traffic that passes through their servers, meaning that nothing you do online is private.
VPN helps you to hide your communications and sensitive information from your ISP. Once you choose a remote VPN server to connect, your device is assigned a new IP address. All your internet traffic is then encrypted and sent to the selected server. When your data reaches the server, it gets decrypted and goes right to its intended destination (e.g., you open a web page).
With your IP hidden and data securely encrypted, your ISP won’t be able to monitor, log or control your internet activity. The only thing they will able to see is the IP of the remote VPN server.
Why Do You Need a VPN?
Even if you have nothing to hide, you probably don’t like the idea of being watched and tracked. So the main reason why internet users choose VPN services is digital privacy and general security.
When you browse the internet using a VPN, your communications are encrypted, so your ISP, government, hackers and other third parties are not able to see which websites you visit and cannot interfere with your online activities. In other words, VPN helps to enhance your security and stay private online.
Another great thing about using a VPN is that you can browse with no restrictions because your IP address is hidden. This is especially helpful when traveling abroad because the content you are used to accessing at home may be censored or not available in another country. VPN allows you to connect to hundreds of remote servers in different locations, this way bypassing geo-restrictions and censorship. A VPN can be an excellent traveling app that lets you access your favorite social media sites that may happen to be censored by the authorities in the country you’re visiting.
To put it briefly, the primary purposes of using a VPN are:
- Protection against cyber criminals
- Enhanced privacy
- Accessing geographically restricted services
- Bypassing internet censorship
- Using P2P sharing services safely
Need a VPN service but not sure which one works best for you? Here are the best VPN service apps for mobile and computer devices.
Is VPN Connection Safe?
Yes. By far, VPN is the most effective tool for securing online activities. With VPN your IP is hidden and connection strongly encrypted, meaning that:
- anyone trying to spy on your online activity will only trace it back to the VPN server
- even if a hacker can manage to access your data, they cannot decipher it
However, that’s only true when talking about reliable VPN service providers that are strongly committed to securing your data. NordVPN uses AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with 256 bit-keys, which is one of the most secure encryption algorithm available.
Another important feature when looking for VPN is a strict no-logs policy. Only those VPN service providers who are committed to protecting your privacy will be able to fulfill their promise. They do not log users’ internet activities, so there’s no way they can hand over your data because they simply don’t have it. So there’s no need to worry about your VPN connection being traced or hacked.
Does VPN Require Internet Connection?
Yes, VPN needs an internet connection to function. The primary purpose of the VPN is to help secure your internet activities, so it goes without saying that in order to achieve that you need to be online.
Another question that comes to mind when thinking about getting a VPN for your mobile is: “does VPN connection use data?”. And the answer is: VPN will use a few bits of data to do its job. In order to properly secure your communications, constant communication with a server is required; therefore a small amount of bandwidth will always be used. In addition, the encryption itself will also generate some data overhead. However, it’s a minor percentage, which shouldn’t be noticeable.
Which VPN Protocol Is the Best?
There are a number of VPN protocols that are used to secure data traffic over public networks. If you are interested which protocol your connection is using, the most likely answer is OpenVPN. At the moment it is considered the most secure protocol, and the majority of VPN service providers use OpenVPN as their default protocol.
OpenVPN is a universal protocol and can be used on both TCP and UDP ports. While the TCP port is a more reliable option for surfing the web, UDP is faster and is used for seamless online gaming and live streaming experience.
The IKEv2/IPsec security protocol is also highly recommended for privacy-conscious users as it works with military-grade encryption standards and ensures stability and high-performance speed.
Can I Get a Free VPN?
Sure. There are many VPN providers out there: while many offer high-quality paid services, others claim to secure your connections for free. But you know the saying: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. It’s the same with VPN services.
The biggest disadvantage that comes with choosing a free VPN provider is that most of them cannot guarantee you actual privacy. In order to make a profit, such VPN providers track your browsing habits and trade your personal data to third parties, e.g., advertisers.
Moreover, most, if not all, free VPNs place a monthly cap on network bandwidth, meaning that you can download only a limited amount of data. Free VPN services may also have fewer server options, fewer security protocols and offer slower connection speeds.
By contrast, subscription VPN services are more reliable and are committed to protecting their users’ privacy. For example, NordVPN doesn’t put any bandwidth or speed limits and allows you to connect up to 6 devices under one paid subscription. What’s the most important – NordVPN doesn’t track or log your online activities, so your data will never be sold to anyone.
I Want To Stay Safe Online. How Do I start?
NordVPN offers a safe, fast, easy and reliable VPN service for all main operating systems: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS. So all you have to do is download the app, install, set it up and you’re ready to go.
To create and use a VPN connection on your PC, laptop or smartphone, simply open the NordVPN app and choose a server you want to connect to. You can do this by selecting the desired destination from the map or a detailed server list. If you don’t have any specific requirements, just tap or click the Quick Connect button, and we will connect you to the best server available at the moment. Once you are connected, your IP is hidden and all your internet traffic is safely encrypted.
P.S. If you have any trouble setting up NordVPN on your device, our guide will walk you through the steps on how to do that. Check out the tutorials page to set up NordVPN on Windows 7, 8, 10, macOS, iPhone, Android phone and other devices.
My VPN Isn’t Working. Help!
If you are unable to connect with your VPN application or experience connection drops, there are quite a few possible reasons and solutions for you to try.
1. If you are in a country where the internet is censored, a VPN connection may be difficult to establish. However, there are several alternative connection methods that you can use to enjoy a private and unrestricted internet access. 2. The server you are currently using may simply be overloaded. So if your VPN connection keeps dropping, try connecting to a different server.
3. Log out of your account and log back in. Now connect to a server. If this doesn’t help, uninstall the application, restart your device and install the application once again.
4. Sometimes an antivirus and firewall software may interfere with VPN connection. So disable them and try to connect to a VPN.
5. Try a different device. NordVPN allows you to connect up to 6 devices under one account, so, for example, if you are using VPN on your laptop, try connecting from your smartphone. This way you’ll know if it’s a network or a device problem.
If none of these methods help, go directly to your VPN provider’s customer support. They are there to help you solve any problem you experience.
How to Uninstall VPN Software?
VPN can usually be uninstalled from your device the same way most software is removed in your operating system. Here’s how to delete VPN connection from your macOS, Windows, Android, and iPhone/iPad.
Other connections that do not use a VPN app may require different steps in removing them. Usually, all you have to do is remove all the settings you entered when establishing the VPN connection. If you still can’t delete your VPN, simply contact our customer support, and they will help you to resolve this issue.
Does VPN Slow Down Internet Connection?
It depends on your VPN service provider. While some of them put speed or bandwidth limits to their users, NordVPN doesn’t. However, it’s true that the added layer of security may slow down your internet.
The connection speed itself depends on a lot of different factors, e.g., server distance, loads, security protocol you are using, etc. So if you wish to increase your VPN speed, you may want to try these techniques:
- Check your internet speed without VPN. If your internet connection is still slow, that means your VPN is not to blame.
- Change protocol settings. For example, switch from default UDP to TCP port.
- Switch to a closer server. When you choose a server that is far from your location, it could slow down your connection speed.
- Temporarily turn off firewall and antivirus. They may be the ones slowing down your VPN connection.
- Restart your device. While this is an obvious advice, it can actually help increase VPN speed.