There are numerous benefits to virtual private networks (VPNs). They create secure network connections, thus adding a layer of security beyond just a firewall to company assets. VPNs also let individual Web users enjoy more protection when connecting across public Wifi hotspots, which can prevent hackers from gaining access to their personal data.
When companies have teams spread across different geographical regions sharing data and files, they should invest in a good VPN service. An in-house team can then share data with remote teams or even offshore outsourcing services and still be sure the VPN will help prevent any form of eavesdropping on company secrets.
Currently, there are many VPN services to pick from, each with its own benefits and features. Here is a list of 10 of these services with rankings available, but there are many others as well. Many of these offer both business and individual user plans that cover all kinds of needs.
Some Data on the VPN Industry’s Current State
The VPN industry is thriving and, as long as security threats exist, it should continue in that path. It is also surprisingly booming on mobile, according to data provided by a thebestVPN report from earlier this year.
Mobile users account for 15% of VPN users, while tablet users are at 7% and desktop at 17%. The demographics of VPN users include 30% of all computing users in the Asia Pacific, 17% in both Europe and North America. This is interesting due to how GDPR compliance has affected website visitors in Europe not having access to certain U.S.-based sites and VPN is a way to overcome such geoblocks. Thus, VPN usage in Europe should be popular and increase in the long run.
50% of VPN users claim they use VPN to access entertainment online – possibly to enjoy content that isn’t available to them or that has been geoblocked. Meanwhile, a relatively high percentage of VPN users (30%) use these networks for work reasons.
The statistics also indicate that the global reach of Internet connectivity is still at 53%. Thus, certain regions of the world are far behind in online users. This means that the VPN industry still has room to grow as people from these regions start to go online.
VPNs are Useful for Remote Workers & In-House Employees Traveling Abroad
The trend today is for companies to rely on bring your own device (BYOD) principles for employees, both on-site and local. This means that employees can choose whatever devices make them most comfortable – whether a tablet or a Windows laptop – and take them home with them.
VPNs are particularly useful for such employees as most services are available as apps on both mobile devices and desktop PCs. They are as easy to connect to as picking a server from a wide range of choices across different regions of the world.
When remote employees or co-workers log into a VPN server before they start working from public or widely available WiFi networks worldwide, they do not have to worry about security DNS leaks from occurring. Often, people just connect to public WiFi spots when traveling, for instance, in cafes or even city networks and access work data that way.
VPNs can be the difference-maker in preventing mistakes from occurring during such trips or vacations. They can prevent spoofing attacks or even just eavesdropping that can occur by people in the vicinity of the public WiFi. When logging in from a Starbucks or other public and vulnerable WiFi connection, spoofs and other attacks are known to occur, so having a VPN automatically start at the device’s boot is a must for people traveling with their devices and accessing a business network.
It can be a good idea for companies to remind workers to have automatic VPN connections set up or to log in themselves before accessing any work data.
How VPN Helps Overcome Geoblocking Woes
Geoblocking is when certain websites or online services become unavailable in different regions of the world due to things like government censorship or companies following their networking rights and licenses they acquired for each region separately. A VPN can overcome this as it tricks the website or online service into thinking the user is in another location by masking the real IP address.
Although VPN services are in a constant battle with some of the network giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime for video and TV content, good VPN services update servers regularly and should be ahead of the curve when you log in. NordVPN is an example of a service that does this as it is also easy to use and available cross-device. It even supports various operating systems like Windows and Mac.
Geoblocking is not just about licensing fee restrictions and entertainment networks blocking users from content. It is also used by governments or certain entities to block users due to censorship or corruption, this is a huge reason for using VPNs to overcome such circumstances.
For example, if a copywriter, journalist or researcher is trying to look up information on Wikipedia, but he is currently visiting a foreign country that blocks it, the VPN will allow him to overcome this restriction and access the information he needs for the research.
VPN services allow users to bypass country restrictions in countries that don’t allow access to certain content based on the IP of the connected device. VPNs mask his IP and trick the network into thinking it is connecting with an IP address from another region that doesn’t have those limitations.
VPN Services Offer a Security Layer for Startups with Little Upfront Investment
Security should definitely never be ignored, even during the startup phase of a company. The company may grow to an incredibly successful enterprise and later find out someone in China is creating similar products based on data leaked years ago. They can have information leaked to foreign entities or industries without the startup finding out until well into product launches. It happens and VPNs is the safeguard that could have prevented it.
Many leaks come from disgruntled employees or motivated by bribes, not by some person hanging around the Apple campus in a hoodie trying to spoof or gain access to any unsecured WiFi data. VPNs cannot prevent this sort of leak from occurring. But it can make it more difficult and add an extra security layer.
Some VPN services are public, aimed at average computer users, while others offer better plans and security for business users. Larger companies often have their own internal physical private network (PPN) available for employees on a single WiFi network. However, VPN services should still be considered for BYOD or remote workers.
Employees logging onto internal systems remotely and sharing data with software outsourcing companies, for instance, should have access to VPN networks outside of the company’s firewall. If the company does not provide such a VPN or an internal PPN, the outsourced company or remote employees should take advantage of the various public VPN services available.
Drawbacks & Limitations of a VPN
One complaint users may have when it comes to VPNs is speed. Many servers are slow to connect to and offer a poor browsing experience. However, with the current high competition and the many servers available worldwide, it should be much less of an issue. This is especially true considering how prevalent high-speed online connections are and how 5G is making an appearance, which should all work to the benefit of VPN connectivity.
Another valid complaint is the lack of transparency among some public VPN providers. They sell their software based on slogans such as ‘we keep no logs’ and ‘all of your data is only available to you’, but the reality is often much different. These services may have employees eavesdrop on customer data as well as keep logs that can be used at a later time with bad intentions.
Good VPN services should be transparent to their customers. This will go a long way in securing trust between customers and service providers and make customers loyal in the long run. When VPN service providers claimed they did not log customer data, but have done so in the past, it caused them backlash, loss of credibility and business. Thus, look for VPN public services or software that specifically mentions no logs and read some reviews from other customers first.
The VPN industry is only going to grow as more devices become available and there is a demand for VPN software to be available across different channels. As more devices become smart and go online 24/7, VPNs should grow in adoption as a way to add a security layer to more devices.