Here are the Cool Things You Can Do
You can bypass regional limitations
Let’s say you’re on vacation in Germany and you want to watch a few episodes of your favorite show on Netflix. Unfortunately, the network recognizes that you’re in another country and informs you it’s not available in your region. By using a VPN, it’ll look like you’re still at home. Oh, and it can also let you stream sporting events in your own language.
Netflix does use VPN blocking, but it’s relatively easy to circumvent (No, we don’t recommend doing anything illegal, and do bear in mind you may be violating the terms of service).
Some ISPs may also prevent you from accessing your account, including webmail, while outside the country for security reasons.
You can order that gift you forgot
You’re in London on a business trip and you realize that if you don’t order your spouse’s birthday gift right now, it will be late.
When you try to go to Amazon, though, you end up on amazon.co.uk and can’t get stuff delivered to the US. (Or vice versa, for that matter). The VPN server, again, will make it look like you’re still at home.
Retrieve files from your desktop
Let’s say you were working on a report at home over the weekend and then forgot to upload it to the cloud when you left. Of course, you can set up remote access, but that gives a route that hackers can use. Using a VPN makes it much safer.
Protect your data when traveling overseas
If you’re in the US, you probably know all about the way customs loves to take laptops and check them for child pornography. Of course, this may violate NDAs and other work agreements you have.
The workaround is to leave the files at home or in the cloud, but then you have to download them over spotty and likely unsafe hotel internet. A VPN will help keep the data safe.
Potentially evade online censorship
China is particularly tough, and you may need to make special arrangements ahead of that trip to Beijing or Shanghai. A VPN can also help you avoid things like porn age verification in the UK (and thus having your, ahem, viewing habits linked to your identity).
Literally save money on plane tickets and hotel prices
You can actually use a VPN to pretend to be in a different location, which can sometimes give you a better deal.
Just be sure to contact your credit card company first, as they may think your card is stolen. Even some online stores may do this.
With net neutrality gone (for now) in the US and shaky at best in other countries, if you find that certain sites are constantly buffering, try accessing them through a VPN. If it solves the problem, your ISP is throttling you.
Access VoIP from anywhere in the world
If you’re visiting one of those highly-censored countries, you may find you can’t Skype your boss or your mother without using a VPN to disguise the traffic.
Use that hotel WiFi without needing to worry
Public WiFi is hideously insecure, and most of us by now know better than to do anything sensitive over it. However, if you have to work on the road. Good employers will even require that you use a VPN.
Protect yourself when researching the competition
You can make sure that they don’t know you’re checking up on their website or blog.
How Do You Get the Most Out of your VPN?
To get the most out of all of these, not to mention the improved security a VPN automatically provides, you do need to use your VPN correctly.
Consider the following:
- Avoid free VPNs. If you are not the customer, you are the product. Free VPNs and proxy services make their money by… tracking your activity and selling the data to advertisers.
- Make sure you have your VPN set up and configured correctly. You will need a VPN client on every device on which you are using your VPN. Your provider will be able to help with this. Always choose a VPN provider that has apps for your phone and tablet as well as your desktop and laptop. Having to use two different VPNs is far too much of a pain.
- Learn how to use the VPN software. You need to know what server you are connected to. If you are getting around geo restrictions or trying to order from an online shopping site, you need a server in that country. Otherwise, choose the closest server you can to your current location to improve speed.
- Pay annually. Most VPN services will give a discount to customers who pay every year.
- Sometimes VPNs simply won’t work on that shoddy hotel internet. Unfortunately, there may be times when you have to give up and do only low-security stuff, or go read a book instead.
- Talking about that shoddy hotel internet, if it drops you, make sure the VPN reconnects as well as the internet. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Using a VPN is the best way to protect your privacy. But it can also let you do some really cool and useful stuff on the internet.
In some cases, it can even save you money. Remember, if you do something illegal, it is at your own risk (and your VPN provider will turn you over to the authorities if they have to).
But using a VPN to send flowers to your mother when you’re spending Mother’s Day overseas? Always cool.