Top 5 Reasons to use a VPN

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 6, 2016

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) extends a private network allowing users to connect to remote data centers, network resources, and to encrypt their communication.

A simple way of thinking about VPNs is as a node sitting between your computer and another resource, the Internet for example. If you want additional details, check out the main Wikipedia article on the topic.

Traffic between your computer and the VPN is encrypted which is good for privacy and security, but more about that later.

This guide looks at the top five reasons for using a VPN. There are more and you could probably divide some into multiple points, but for the sake of simplicity, we have decided to pick the five core ones.

Top 5 Reasons to use a VPN


The list is slightly different for business uses. Probably the top reason for businesses to use VPNs is to connect to company networks while traveling.

The following list concentrates on private use cases but many of those apply to business use as well.

1. Privacy

Your own IP address is not leaked to the Internet, only the VPN's IP is. Websites, services and others communicate only with the VPN IP address and not the one you are actually using.

It needs to be noted though that your IP may leak through other means, WebRTC for instance if enabled in the application you are using and if checked by services you are connecting to.

The IP address alone may reveal important information about you, for instance your geographical region, language, Internet provider that is being used and it also provides others with options to get your name and address, for instance by requesting the ISP to hand the data over in court.

2. Security

A VPN encrypts traffic between your device and the VPN Provider. This is especially useful when you are using wireless networks to connect to the Internet to prevent eavesdropping.

Since traffic is encrypted, other users connecting from the same local network and even your ISP won't be able to tap into the traffic to find out what you are doing on the Internet.

3. Geo-restrictions

While the Internet is global, services provided on the Internet are not necessarily available to all users connected to it.

This is especially apparent for streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu which are only available to users connecting from specified geographical regions of the world.

For instance, you may not access Hulu from Germany or Japan directly as you will receive a notification that Hulu is not available to you.

That's even the case if you are a resident of a country where a service is offered but abroad currently.

Streaming services are but one of the applications on the Internet that are often restricted geographically.

The same may be true for shopping sites and other Internet services. Some companies provide regional stores that users can access, but there may be no way to switch stores to take advantage of special offers in the store.

Another example are virtual game sales. Games may be a lot cheaper in certain countries even though they are offered by the same company. Steam is a good example for this as the price of games may differ widely between different regional stores.

How a VPN helps: Most VPN providers offer different exit nodes located in countries all around the world. Since you can pick one from a list of available nodes, you appear to be coming from a country supported by the service.

For Hulu, you would pick a VPN node in the United States to gain access to the service.

4. Throttling, shaping and censorship

Another interesting use for VPNs is to bypass ISP throttling or traffic shaping, and censorship. Internet Service Providers may throttle certain types of traffic, for instance P2P traffic, automatically for all users connect to their networks.

Censorship on the other hand means the blocking of Internet resources by the state, something that seems to have become common even in countries that supposedly value "free speech".

If you take the UK for instance, you may have heard about the "adult filter" that is either already active for Internet users or to be enabled in the future. While you can request unfiltered Internet directly by contacting the ISP, it can be quite embarrassing to do so considering that the filter is called the "porn filter" commonly.

How a VPN helps:Filters set up on the ISP level don't apply if you are connecting to a VPN. While the ISP could block the VPN from being accessed, this is usually not the case which means that you can access blocked sites. In addition, traffic throttling and shaping does not work either because of this.

5. P2P / File Downloads

VPNs that support P2P or file downloads have seen a rise in popularity in recent time. Many advertise the fact that they have a strict no-logging policy and don't throttle or block P2P traffic on their networks.

You are probably wondering why these providers are not swarmed with court orders, and the main reason why this is not happening is that laws are different. It is not illegal to download using P2P in some countries, and if VPN providers place servers in those countries and allow P2P use, there is little that can be done about it from a legal perspective.

While anonymity is without doubt the core reason for using a VPN when downloading files via P2P on the Internet, it also helps bypass ISP throttling of these activities (for instance for legitimate reasons).

Now Read: VPN Deals on Ghacks Deals

Top 5 Reasons to use a VPN
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Top 5 Reasons to use a VPN
The guide lists the five top reasons to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN): privacy, security, geo-restrictions, censorship and P2P.
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  1. PeterBrown said on August 4, 2017 at 10:48 am

    The main reason is of course to protect personal data. I do not feel comfortable to share my personal data with 3rd parties. you can not go wrong with Privatoria VPN, easy and fast in use

  2. David J Salmon said on January 14, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    I love this article on VPN. A lot of interesting and useful information both in article and within comment section. I think that VPN has its pros and cons, and we should always watch out using it. However, I think it i really useful thing nowadays.

  3. Jason Turning said on January 9, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    A VPN allows you to disguise your location and make it more difficult for many sites to track you, protect you on open wifi, prevent your ISP from spying on you…. but the government big data collectors can still follow you. So I suggest people check out Tor if you want to really escape the view of everyone and enable yourself to be safe on public wifi. Tor usually uses a 3 hop circuit going through different countries but I find it to be good on normal web viewing/reading. You can use Orbot and OrFox on Android as well. I’ve been so taken with Tor I started running some Tor relays to help out. If you don’t understand what is going on over the internet take a minute to digest the Wikipedia page on Edward Snowden and/or watch CitizenFour (great documentary).

  4. Dwight Stegall said on January 7, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    When I had AT&T DSL they used to block a lot of sites. I fixed that by using Dnsjumper and switched to Google Public DNS. Their default DNS was Open DNS.

  5. juju said on January 6, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    the only reason to use VPN is if you’re some sort of clandestine CIA officer or some sort of outlaw that should be on sex offenders registry (concept that is probably interchangeable with CIA part).

    1. Alex Ron said on March 16, 2017 at 3:32 am

      Not really. I use vpn for my business allowing my few employees to work with the same server even if we are on different places. I also use it for speed.

    2. duhduh said on January 7, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Whatever you say juju.I see you put more time into writing dumb statements than you do researching, so that brings me to my dumb statement You are an idiot! Oh yeah and the only reason to use addons like norwell is to spy on other peoples history like a cia officer or a sex offender

  6. John said on January 6, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    There are downsides to be found:

    Its not end-to-end encrypted, meaning that in-between sniffing still can happen.

    Its often abused by people that are not interested in being honest. This would then result you being associated with those accounts that where abusive to the service you try to use, and might get you banned from said service due to that. That would also mean you become associated with those.

    Any information you provide to the websites/services will still pinpoint to you. (Think facebook, payment information like paypal gives your address, Credit Cards are known geographically, shipping address, whatever you provide to the services and language you use will also point to where you live, for instance if I see in typing color or colour, that would indicate to the USA or the UK etc.)

    Various VPN services have been set up by intelligence agencies I have read in a report somewhere years ago. Even if not, as a VPN service is quite cheap, its easy to set up, and can be easily abused by the VPN provider to do nefarious actions, from sniffing your traffic to replacing/rerouting traffic for their own gains like moving all the advertising to their own sponsored advertising, replace that to hijacking. It basically means you have to check the service out, but that isn’t easy.

    By just analysing traffic on the VPN, they can find out way more about you then when you are on your normal ISP connection.

    If you use a VPN, use it only sparingly, for only those purposes you really need it for. It should not be your day to day driver, for then it will fail the purpose for you.

    For instance, the same goes up with TOR, use it continually, and just by setting up enough entry/exit points they can find out all kinds of things about the users of it.

    People keep using that continually, which won’t give them protection. They only should use it on those occasions they actually need it for.

    1. Jason said on January 7, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      John, your response goes into so many directions that I don’t know where to begin. The general point of your comment seems to be that VPNs are only for criminals, and that VPN companies are pushing an unneeded service on everyone else. I vehemently disagree – as do most tech people (just do a little internet search). I understand that VPN does not offer end-to-end encryption. This is irrelevant if you are trying to keep your ISP from looking at your web browsing habits; or you don’t want a corporate entity following you across the internet (all the browser fingerprinting obfuscation in the world won’t help you if you just give away your IP address to Google); or you want to escape from your “democratic” government’s mass surveillance program; or you are simply signing into your email at a public wifi hotspot and don’t want the traffic sniffer in the building next door to get your data.

      You have written a couple of long commentaries essentially slandering everyone who uses a VPN as either an ignorant fool or a criminal, yet there are *SO* many good, legitimate, effective uses for a VPN. Oh well, there will always be differences of opinion.

    2. Jason said on January 6, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      I disagree with your advice to use VPNs sparingly. I actually believe that people should make VPN use a matter of normal daily habit.

      In the first place, if large numbers of people use VPNs regularly, everyone benefits from hiding in a larger crowd. There will be more people associated with each VPN-issued IP address, and it becomes more difficult for someone to pick out an individual user. (Especially since the IP address will change frequently.)

      Secondly, the benefits of VPNs really do outweigh the risks you have mentioned. You point out that some sites already “know” us (e.g. Facebook), so the VPN would not protect our anonymity. True, but the VPN would continue to protect our data transmission through encryption. That’s a good thing. You also mention how malicious VPNs could be set up to gobble user data. True again. But what are they gobbling up? If it’s sensitive data from some financial service, for example, the service provider is already encrypting the data separately from the VPN. If the VPN admin makes a copy of the data, it’s still encypted. Unless you’re dealing with an adversary that can decrypt data in real time, you’re probably ok. (And if they CAN do it in real time, then we’re talking about the NSA. Well, the NSA is getting your communications anyway. At least with a VPN there is a CHANCE that they are not.) And don’t forget that those really concerned with data security can sign up for two VPN services at the same time. VPNs are so inexpensive that many people do exactly that.

      Finally, there is a social/political angle here. Privacy is under attack from seemingly every direction, the most worrying of which is government. The widespread use of VPNs by the general public will send a signal to governments that we care about privacy. How governments act on this knowledge is a separate issue, of course, but I’d rather exercise a right than let it disappear from neglect.

      I concede that there are cases where a VPN may not be a good idea. People have to put some thought into that. Just don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater. ^_^

      1. John said on January 7, 2016 at 3:19 am

        The encryption is only “useful” at your internet connection exit. It was my first point above, that VPN is NOT end-to-end encryption. Your connection merely “moves” from your home router connection to the location of the VPN exit point.

        A VPN is a valid point if you distrust your ISP/Country with spying on you, or when showing your real IP to whatever service is a problem. But there are plenty of ways for websites to still pinpoint your real location, so that is not a real “solution”. So its not for the sites people regularly use.

        VPN’s are often displayed as some “security” feature which I don’t think they really are. This is mostly because companies use VPN’s to have end-to-end encryption of their data between locations etc. There is a vested interest there for having their communication encrypted against spying on their communications. This is however moot when its NOT end-to-end.

        You don’t get a VPN connection to Facebook, or whatever site you are using.

        So real usage scenario’s:
        – Want to hide your real location for whatever reason for a service you are using.
        – Are distrusting (or doing (illegal) stuff in) the country you reside in that you don’t want exposed.
        In most western countries, you don’t really need that. Unless you’re promoting the use of such to do illegal activities.

        Privacy is under attack, yes. But that battle is fought at so many levels that its hard to even start a discussion about privacy regarding those issues. Everybody has their own set of “privacy” wants. Most people use Facebook… and have their security settings there extremely lacking on it. Advertizing companies spend a lot of their budget on tracking people. Not only by their browser (persistent/flash) cookies, but by identifying the browser and its capabilities. The more settings you put in the browser and/or addons, the more unique your browser will be.

        Your privacy is mostly under attack by advertising companies, hackers and “free” software that are ad-supported. Not the government. If the government is interested in your doings, you get some mail from a “friend” with malware that will install some surveillance software etc.

        And I “hear” you thinking on the “mass collecting” of “big data” of everybody. Hmm? Ever thought on the search-ability of such and relevance of the results? Those programs are mainly used to have some data “after” the fact to retrace what/whom a connection used. Whom are targetted? Angela Merkel? oh, wait, thats right, they target political figures, controversial ppl, etc.

        I’m not against the usage of VPN’s. But it doesn’t work to hype them, and the usage scenario is pretty limited for things that are needed. Examples above are mainly to circumvent limitations of services not offered outside certain countries due that copyrights do not allow those to be done outside those countries unless separate contracts are been signed for those etc. In fact, of the 5 examples of reasons to use VPN’s are a mayority to evade copyrights:

        1. Privacy: only if the home connection is monitored. Any other form of monitoring/attack won’t be fooled.
        2. Security: not end-to-end. And really not a full solution to that.
        3. Geo-restrictions: Evade copyright restrictions.
        4. Throttling, shaping and censorship: Main example: P2P traffic shaping/monitoring, what is P2P mostly used for? oh, wait.
        5. P2P / File downloads: a partial repeat of #4.

        All those articles over time I read have simular non-reasons for using the VPN’s. Its like a too much repeated record of exactly the same thing that someone gets droned into them and need to repeat.

        As I said, I’m not against VPN’s but having it for the right reasons would be far more informative then those mentioned in the article. As I’m analyzing user behavior near daily, those whom actually have the VPN’s are far more likely to be having harmful intent then those who don’t. I often have to decide to ban based on certain parameters, and user/connection matching is a huge part of that. Does that mean I need to ban innocent users? Yes. But the mayority isn’t. We estimate that on less then a couple %, especially when we pull the information on those other users been busy in harmful ways.

        This also does mean, that advising normal users to use VPN’s, are also going to experience downsides of using it, in the short or long run, depending on policies at what they use.

        So the privacy and the Security for this is pretty limited. The rest is mostly illegal activities and trying to evade repercussions.

        While the real usages can be to evade totalitarian or less free countries like Turkey, Russia, China, etc. (Well, in Turkey it will suffice to use Google DNS or OpenDNS most of the time…). But such VPN traffic has to be hidden between “normal” traffic, for if ALL traffic from a connection is to the VPN, that will stand out like a sore thumb.

        So, the reason to use a VPN for a normal user is pretty limited. Hell, even for me its pretty limited. I use a VPN mainly to have my connection to a location encrypted, as that is a security requirement. But outside that, I don’t see the need.

        If the emphasis is on the illegal uses of the VPN’s here, I’m all for it to discuss them, and I encounter them near daily. But being aware of those issues, I would be very careful with VPN’s and being associated with those “users” that are really using those for nefarious uses. But I went from the viewpoint of HONEST reasonable uses of them, but that is pretty limited and has a lot of other arguments then are brought forward by the article.

        Another point.. as the writer is making articles here on his own site… wouldn’t he be pro-copyrights? Why promote circumventing copyright issues/problems/laws with this?

    3. Pants said on January 6, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      in one word … OpSec

  7. Jason said on January 6, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Good summary of reasons, Martin. Now, I hope you don’t mind some small corrections/adjustments to your text. :) I’m only doing this because people using a VPN may get a false sense of security, and it’s important that they understand e.x.a.c.t.l.y what is going on.

    > “Your own IP address is not leaked to the Internet”

    I know what you mean to say, but this statement is not strictly true. Your IP address continues to be known by the company that assigned you the IP in the first place (the internet service provider). An organization with a big enough reach (and I’m not just talking about state spy agencies) *could* link this IP to the VPN IP that the destination websites are “seeing”. Not easy to do, but possible.

    > “Another interesting use for VPNs is to bypass ISP throttling or traffic shaping, and censorship.”

    Just don’t try this from a really authoritarian country. They will know you are using a VPN, and this may flag you as an undesirable person to the authorities.

    > “it also helps bypass ISP throttling of these activities (for instance for legitimate reasons).”

    In my experience, the VPN provider *itself* is likely to throttle you when you are making P2P connections. It costs a lot of money to handle the large bandwidth from file sharing, and VPN providers obviously want to reduce this impact.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 6, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      Jason those are valid points, thanks for the comment!

  8. RottenScoundrel said on January 6, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Martin, this is borderline click-bait and very likely a damage to your impartiality and credibility with that link at the bottom.

    I know you need to make money to keep the site going, but NoScript had to temporarily allow 20 (18 of them data scraping) sites for the GHacksDeals page.

  9. Fena said on January 6, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    too bad this story is just a commercial

    1. JohnMWhite said on January 6, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      No, it is not. It is a good overview of the basic functionality and reasoning for using VPNs. What did you think you would accomplish by posting something not true?

    2. cdr said on January 6, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Even if it were, lifetime VPN access sold here is an amazing bargain. I would never have bought mine if they weren’t priced this low here. There’s several vendors to pick from. Anyway, OpenVPN through your home router is free and it’s easy to find out how to do it. Google will send you to lots of informative sites

    3. Martin Brinkmann said on January 6, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      It is not.

  10. cdr said on January 6, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I use three different types of VPN and consider each essential. The first is one is lifetime VPN access I purchased here for practically nothing. I like the anonymity. The 2nd and 3rd are OpenVPN based from my home router. I use pfSense. It supports multiple OpenVPN servers simultaneously. One allows pass through from public wifi to home to the internet. It’s useful for when I want others to see my home IP address but still be secure. Checking email is a good example. The other is bridged so I can get to my home network securely. I also block port 3389 and use remote desktop internally after entering via the bridged network. Thus I can securely access my home network and remote desktop only via an encrypted OpenVPN bridge.

  11. ITT said on January 6, 2016 at 10:41 am

    While there may not be much of a difference for home users but business users will definitely need to know which VPN is the safest. Normally the easiest and the most vulnerable of all is the PPTP while I prefer IPSec for my business needs as well as home usage. Is there anything better than IPSec?

    1. Rita Ann Leblanc said on January 6, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      If anyone is using Windows 10 then the VPN service needs to confirm that it has the VPN technology to plug Windows 10 DNS leaks.

      This is because Windows 10 uses a different approach to selecting the DNS servers for resolving URL names.

      You can search Google for “DNS leak test” for a service that will show if your VPN service is revealing your location.

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