Worried about internet privacy, want to watch television programmes only broadcast in your home country or keep your company documents safe? You might want to consider using a VPN or ‘virtual private network’.
One side effect of the coronavirus pandemic, which has confined more people to their homes, is growth in the use of VPNs, and it is now estimated that 30% of internet users worldwide will use one.
Given that so many people are now working remotely, using a VPN makes sense to safeguard online and internet security, says Abel Baas, of VPNdiensten.nl. ‘A VPN encrypts your internet connection, so any personal data but also sensitive work data is safe from hackers and other malicious agents.’
In effect, a VPN is a piece of software that makes the user more anonymous online by encrypting their internet use and tricks your computer or phone to thinking it is actually in another location.
‘This also means that international workers can watch TV and/or streaming services from their home country,’ says Baas. ‘Because a VPN enables you to change your IP address to another country’s, you can watch restricted content with ease. And, by the way, using a VPN in the Netherlands is completely legal.’
So if you are considering using a VPN, so you can binge watch your favourite South American soap or keep in touch with the news back home, what are the main things to look out for?
Type of use
Firstly, says Baas, you should check if the service you have in mind is a good fit for your wishes. ‘For example, if you want to use a VPN to unblock certain streaming services from your home country, make sure it has fast local servers and the actual ability to unblock them.’
VPNDiensten.nl has drawn up a best VPN providers list, which all have subtle differences. ‘Different VPNs provide a smaller or larger number of international locations and operate at different speeds,’ says Baas. ‘Others are better at unblocking or have dedicated P2P servers.’
Pricing too can vary considerably. There are a number of free VPN services available to users in the Netherlands, but they offer limited options and might not enable you to watch, for example, American Netflix in the Netherlands.
In some cases, Baas warns, they can even be dangerous, particularly when it comes to guaranteeing the security of your personal information. According to VPNdiensten.nl’s experts, a free service is only really interesting if you occasionally need a secure internet connection – if you are using a public wifi link, for example.
In addition, most good providers offer a trial period in which people new to VPN can use the service at full capacity to see if works for them. If a VPN service is not for you, you can claim your money back, no questions asked. Most providers cost just a few euros a month anyway.
Highly rated NordVPN for example, is currently offering a free trial for 30 days so users can test out all aspects of the service. You need to sign up for a subscription to start, but you’ll get your money back if you are not happy with the first month.
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