Long reserved for strictly professional use, VPNs are now one of the indispensable tools for everyone to browse anonymously and exchange data securely on the Internet.
What is a VPN?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a “software device” for establishing a “private” connection between computers via the Internet. If we put aside some particular techniques, it is, most of the time, a connection between a computer called “client” and another acting as “server”. The link is encrypted, we often speak of “tunnel”, the data transiting between the machines being as “invisible” from the outside.
In practice, things are relatively simple. To use a VPN, you need to install on your computer – or on your smartphone, which is a handheld – software “client” developed by an editor that has the appropriate servers. Once the software is launched – and provided you are already connected to the Internet, of course – you choose a server from a list of proposals to activate the VPN. Once the connection is activated, all your exchanges will pass through the server, which acts as relay between your computer and Internet. And because the data is encrypted, no one, in theory, can intercept what’s going on between the server and your computer.
Why use a VPN?
The first interest of a VPN is precisely the confidentiality of the exchanges. A criterion that could have been paranoid a few years ago, but which now seems essential at a time when we are seeing more and more attacks on privacy and where personal data, whether stolen or data, are worth gold. It is this feature that has contributed to the success of VPNs in enterprises because they allow for secure connections between an external computer – that of a remote collaborator, for example – and the local network of the company. And it is this feature that makes the VPN almost indispensable when connecting to the Internet in a public place – airport, station, hotel, and bar, train, etc. – to prevent malicious hackers from spying on hackers and hacking data.
Choose a VPN
All of these reasons explain the growing success of VPNs, which have grown exponentially in recent years. There are dozens today, but as not all are equal, the choice is more delicate than it seems.
The first criteria to consider are obviously compatible operating systems. Some VPNs only work on Windows while others also run on macOS and Linux. Ditto for smartphones, between Android and iOS, for example. This criterion is all the more important because there are VPNs that can run simultaneously on multiple machines with one license – and therefore with one account. Very handy when you have multiple computers and smartphones! Here is the best secure VPN offer for VPN black Friday sale 2018.
Second essential criterion, the price. Because if there are some VPN totally free, most are paid. And not once since it is usually subscriptions. Admittedly, the rates are generally measured and many offer promotions to a few euros per month. But in the long run, over one or more years, this represents a sum that may not be negligible. Fortunately, many VPNs offer free trial periods ranging from a few days to a few weeks. Essential to get an idea before committing. Be careful though, because, most often, you have to register and give your bank details to be able to taste the evaluation version! Beware of those who forget to cancel before the end of the trial period … Fortunately, some offer simply limited versions (see below), which avoid these pitfalls.
Third criterion to analyze, performances. Indeed, the processing and the servers of the VPN are translated on the one hand, by a latency – a delay between the “command” and its effective action -, which can be more or less big, and thus more or less troublesome, and on the other hand, by altered bit rates , which remain below the “pure” rate of the Internet connection used. Clearly, a VPN slows more or less substantially trade. With the best, it is barely noticeable – especially when you have natively a connection to very high speed, optical fiber type. But with some, we can sometimes think themselves back to the time of very low speed RTC modems … This aspect is unfortunately quite difficult to evaluate in a single test, because the performance of a VPN may vary depending on the time of day. Use, and the chosen relay-server. So we cannot make an opinion after several days or weeks of use in real life