Is a VPN right for you to use in 2021?
Staff Writer | On 17, Nov 2021
One question we get asked a lot is whether someone should be using a VPN or not. A virtual private network can be a useful tool for your online browsing experience. From increasing your privacy to unlocking geo-locked content, a VPN serves several purposes by making your device think that it’s in a different location to where you are based. But are they right for you to use?
VPNs are legal in many countries, but not all of them, with countries such as China, the UAE and Russia having strict rules on the usage of them or requiring users to only use certain approved VPNs. So why would anyone consider using a VPN in 2021?
One common use of VPNs for many people is unlocking geo-locked content. After all, a lot of content on the web is not available for everyone. Regional locks allow service providers to make specific content available only for specific countries and locations. For instance, Netflix users in the UK have access to a different library than users in Australia or the US. It’s the same for most of the major streaming providers.
A VPN lets your change your IP location. You can change your browsing location on a VPN app and access any content available on the web in other countries. You can do this anonymously.
Using a VPN to bypass such rights restrictions will mean that you are certainly going against a streaming provider’s terms and conditions – and also taking business away from another company that may have paid for the rights to a title in your own country. Streaming services all reserve the right to cancel your account with them if you are found to be doing this. Whether they actually will is something anyone considering a VPN will have to weigh up, along with any other moral dilemmas about the idea.
There are, however, other factors in using a VPN that are quite separate to the question of streaming films and TV.
Privacy and data security
Using the internet nowadays can be like reading a book out loud. Your online activities are open for others to see. From your ISP to the government, your browsing activities can be monitored.
There are also thousands of hackers and stalkers out there, who want to invade your privacy and steal your personal information – especially on public networks, such as restaurant Wi-Fi hotspots, where network security can be close to none.
A VPN can safeguard you from these issues. It hides your IP address and provides end-to-end data encryption, so anything you do on the web is hidden and protected from others. Any information your send and receive while using a VPN is secure and anonymous. Some VPNs also offer 256-bit military-grade encryption to your data.
Imagine you’re watching a movie and suddenly the quality drops or it starts to buffer. Or maybe you’re downloading something and you see the speed drop down to kbps. This doesn’t happen magically; as well as any technical difficulties you might be having with your home network set-up, it could also be your ISP intentionally slowing down your connection speed.
This is called internet throttling and it is a common practice. During peak usage hours, ISPs can reduce the speed of everyone connected to the network to avoid their bandwidth being overloaded, thereby minimising network congestion. It can also occur when a user has reached their data cap. ISPs will throttle connections or cap data based on a user’s IP address. A VPN can protect you from this by hiding your IP address and masking your presence on the network, which means you can experience a stable connection speed without any interruption or disruption.
If you’re into online gaming, a stable connection is important. Most modern online games don’t require a very high-end internet connection. As long as you have a decent connection speed, you’re good to go. However, you still might experience lags in your game, even though you have a good connection. This is because of your ping – the time it takes for a signal to be sent from your device to the gaming server and then returned back to your device.
So, if your computer is located far from the gaming server, your ping time will increase and you’ll experience lags or shuttering. A VPN’s location-changing feature allows you to route your connection through a local server that’s nearer to the gaming server, which can reduce potential lag.
In most online games, you should be able to see a server list. It lists all the available servers for the games. For example, if the game is using a server in Singapore, you can change to a Singapore IP through your VPN and get a lower ping.
Some online services can be cheaper in different countries, regions or territories. For instance, a premium Netflix subscription in Argentina will cost $7.87, compared to $17.99 in the US. This kind of variation is because of the different exchange rates and taxation rules in different countries. If you have an international credit card, you can change your location with a VPN and purchase services at different prices that may turn out to be more affordable.
Is a VPN right for you to use in 2021? That’s ultimately your decision. Using a VPN for online browsing has become more widespread in recent years, thanks to the proliferation of VPN services and the technology developing to the point where VPNs are simpler to understand and use: whether you want to maintain a stable connection or minimise the risk of getting hacked or stalked, as long as you know what is a VPN and how it works, you can often download the app for your chosen VPN and choose a location to start browsing.