In my November blog post, http://rbsmn.com/blog/page/3/, I touched on using a VPN, “Virtual Private Network,” as an option to protect against hackers when using a public Wi-Fi.   Several local customers and business owners inquired whether a VPN made sense to have at home or for their business needs.  In this blog, I’ll delve into more detail of what a VPN is and list some pros and cons of using one to access the internet or business network.  As Max Eddy with PC Mag notes, “even if you don’t use it every moment of every day, a VPN is a fundamental tool that everyone should have at their disposal—like a password manager or an online backup service (Max Eddy, PC Mag, The Best VPN Services of 2018, January 31, 2018 https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp).”  I and my team at RB’s Computer Service completely agree with Mr. Eddy’s observation.

What is a VPN?Clean Computer Cooling Fan Elk River, Remote IT Support Elk River, Managed IT Services Elk River, Managed IT Service Agreements Elk River

The acronym VPN stands for virtual private network.  A VPN is used to forge an encrypted, secure connection between your computer and a server operated by the VPN service.  Think of it like a protective tunnel connected to your computer on one end and a server on the other with your data flowing through it.  In a professional setting, “this tunnel makes you part of the company’s network, as if you were physically sitting in the office—hence the name  (Max Eddy, PC Mag, The Best VPN Services of 2018, January 31, 2018 https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp).”

When you’re connected to a VPN, all your network traffic channels through this protected tunnel, and no one can see your traffic until it exits the tunnel from the VPN server and enters the public internet. If you make sure to only connect to websites secured with HTTPS, your data will continue to be encrypted even after it leaves the VPN. (Max Eddy, PC Mag, The Best VPN Services of 2018, January 31, 2018 https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp).”

Pros of a VPN for Personal and Business Use

  • Secure connections for home owners, smart phones, tablets, laptops and businesses.
  • Affordable. The top 10 VPN’s reviewed by PC Mag are available on a monthly subscription basis from $5/month to $20/month (Max Eddy, PC Mag, The Best VPN Services of 2018, January 31, 2018 https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp).
  • Cost savings for business, eliminating the need for expensive long-distance leased lines.
  • Cost savings for business, reduces long-distance telephone charges.
  • Cost savings for business, offloading support costs (Bradley Mitchell, Lifewire, What Are the Advantages and Benefits of a VPN?, July 21st, 2017, https://www.lifewire.com/advantages-and-benefits-of-a-vpn-818178).

Cons for VPN for Personal and Business Use

  • Home owners: need to connect every device in your home individually to the VPN service, so just two or three licenses won’t be enough for the average cohabitating pair. Note that many VPN services offer native apps for both Android and iOS, but that such devices count toward your total number of connections (Max Eddy, PC Mag, The Best VPN Services of 2018, January 31, 2018 https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp).
  • VPNs require a detailed understanding of network security issues and careful installation / configuration to ensure sufficient protection on a public network like the Internet.
  • The reliability and performance of an Internet-based VPN is not under an organization’s direct control. Instead, the solution relies on an ISP and their quality of service.
  • Historically, VPN products and solutions from different vendors have not always been compatible due to issues with VPN technology standards. Attempting to mix and match equipment may cause technical problems, and using equipment from one provider may not give as great a cost savings (Bradley Mitchell, Lifewire, What Are the Advantages and Benefits of a VPN?, July 21st, 2017, https://www.lifewire.com/advantages-and-benefits-of-a-vpn-818178).

The cons noted above should not deter you from securing the benefits of a VPN.  They are simply mentioned because the average person probably needs some help setting one up and navigating the configuration for performance.  RB’s Computer Service can help with this.

For example, say you have a plethora of devices in your home or business that you want connected to a secured VPN.  In these cases, you may be better off configuring your router to connect with the VPN of your choice. By adding VPN protection to your router, you secure the traffic of every gadget connected to that router. And the router—and everything protected by it—uses just one of your licenses.  At RB’s Computer Service, we can help you sort out the best options for you (Max Eddy, PC Mag, The Best VPN Services of 2018, January 31, 2018 https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp).

Final thoughts on VPN’s…

It would be misleading to claim that any security product is a magic bullet. VPN services, while extremely helpful, are not foolproof.  A determined hacker can almost always breach your security in one way or another. Using a VPN can’t help if you unwittingly download ransomware, or if you foolishly give up your data to a phishing attack. What a VPN can do is to protect you against mass data collection and the casual criminal vacuuming up user data for later use (Max Eddy, PC Mag, The Best VPN Services of 2018, January 31, 2018 https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp)

In fact, since VPN services have become so popular in the wake of Congress killing ISP privacy rules, there have even been fake VPNs popping up, so be careful.  RB’s Computer Service can help you find the safest and best fit (Max Eddy, PC Mag, The Best VPN Services of 2018, January 31, 2018 https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp)

To determine VPN options to best fit your personal or business needs, contact me via phone or email: 763-441-3884, randy@rbsmn.com.  In addition to VPN solutions for home and business, RB’s Computer Service sells the best commercial grade firewall routers, best laptop computers, best desktop computers, business computers, computer parts, computer monitors, plus we provide ransomware strategies.  For managed IT services, computer repair, iPhone, smartphone, and tablet repairs, contact us today!  We serve customers and clients throughout central Minnesota and St. Cloud