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20 ways to get the most out of your VPN

Verified by Nick Jones

In a time of rampant online threats and privacy concerns, virtual private networks (VPNs) have gained increasing prominence as an effective way to protect your privacy and your digital assets against ever-increasing cybercrime. Designed to protect data and ensure online anonymity, a VPN is a powerful tool with versatile uses. 

Through encryption, tunnelling, and IP masking, the best VPNs secure your online activities, ensuring they’re unreadable to anyone who might intercept them. VPNs operate using several protocols, such as OpenVPN, IPSec, PPTP,  or SSTP, each offering different strengths in security, speed, and compatibility. The choice of protocol can influence the VPN’s performance and its suitability for your specific needs.

With data being considered the “new oil”, online privacy and security have become critical. The rising number of data breaches prompts internet users to take proactive steps to protect their online information and activities. Hence, VPNs have evolved from being a niche product to a mainstream security solution used by close to a third of all internet users around the world, which is a fifth of the world’s population. While a VPN won’t protect your data in the event of a security breach, many now offer monitoring services to check if your details have been compromised, and they will still provide protection for your browsing data.

As we dive deeper into the topic, you will discover the multiple ways a VPN can be used – far beyond just privacy and security. From streaming your favourite shows to securing financial transactions and even enhancing digital marketing campaigns, VPNs have varied applications across personal and professional spheres. 

Remember that not all VPNs are created equal, so it’s essential to choose a reliable provider to get the best out of your VPN. Explore our list of the best VPNs to make an informed choice.

Get ready to explore the versatility and power of VPNs. 

Benefits of using a VPN

VPNs are more than just tools for accessing restricted content. They are an essential component of a comprehensive digital security strategy and offer a variety of benefits that go beyond merely circumventing geographical blocks.

main reasons for using vpn pie chart

Here are some reasons for the increase in VPN use globally.

Benefits of using VPNs Details
Enhanced online privacy and anonymity Masks your online activities and protects your personal information
Improved data protection and security Provides a secure tunnel for data, protecting sensitive information
Bypassing geo-restrictions Masks your IP address, allowing access to region-restricted content
Protection against online surveillance and hacking Protects against potential hacking attempts
Preventing ISP throttling Can potentially enhance and stabilise your connection speed by preventing ISP throttling

Enhanced online privacy and anonymity

VPNs create a secure and private tunnel for your data to travel through the global web. This cloaks your online activities, making it significantly harder for third parties to track your activities or access any personal information being transmitted over the web. With a VPN, you can browse the web securely and anonymously, ensuring your privacy is protected.

Improved data security 

Along with its numerous conveniences and benefits, the internet presents many potential security threats. VPNs provide extra protection, encrypting and keeping your data private and secure, even on public wifi networks. This protects sensitive information during online transactions, such as your credit card details, passwords, and personal emails, ensuring they’re not easily intercepted or deciphered.

Bypassing geo-restrictions

Geo-restrictions can be quite frustrating, particularly if you’re travelling and want to check in on the websites or apps you usually use at home. VPNs can help overcome this challenge by masking your IP address and making it appear as though you are connecting to the internet from a different location. This enables you to access region-restricted content no matter where you are in the world.

Protection against online surveillance and hacking

The risk of hacking, while rare for the everyday person, is ever-present in the digital world. An intrusion on web sessions can expose sensitive information, leaving users vulnerable to identity theft and other forms of cybercrime. By encrypting your data and obscuring your online presence, VPNs can help protect against online surveillance and potential hacking attempts.

Preventing ISP throttling

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may slow down (or “throttle”) your internet speed, particularly during peak usage times or if they notice you’re using a lot of bandwidth for activities like streaming or gaming. By hiding your online activity from your ISP, a VPN can help prevent throttling your connection based on your usage, providing potentially faster and more consistent connection speeds.

So, VPNs are essential for anyone concerned about online privacy and security. They offer robust protection for your browsing data, a bulwark against online threats, and a passport to a borderless internet.

20 VPN use cases

Let’s explore the versatile applications of VPNs.

1. Securing wifi connections in public places

While convenient, public wireless networks available at coffee shops, airports, or hotels can sometimes be unsecured, leaving users exposed to cybercriminals, who can find ways to eavesdrop on unencrypted connections. A 2021 NordVPN survey indicates that 85 per cent of respondents are afraid of falling victim to hackers and cybercrime while travelling abroad and using public wifi at airports.

using public wifi on holiday

A VPN used when accessing public wifi provides a robust shield against such threats, encrypting your data and keeping your online activities confidential. 

2. Remote work and accessing company networks

With remote work becoming commonplace, accessing company networks securely is crucial. A VPN creates a safe connection to your workplace’s network, even from home or while using public wifi. This means users can access sensitive company information and collaborative tools securely, just as if they were physically at the office.

3. Streaming geo-blocked content

Many streaming platforms restrict content based on location. A VPN can help bypass these geo-restrictions by selecting a server in the desired location. This means you can stream your favourite shows, movies, or music from your home country, which is especially useful when travelling.

Advanced VPN services offer extensive server networks in multiple countries so users can overcome geographical restrictions and barriers. 

VPN provider Number of servers Number of countries
NordVPN 5,500+ 60
ExpressVPN 3,000+ 94
CyberGhost 9,000+ 91+
Surfshark 3,200+ 100
Proton VPN 2,700+ 68

4. Torrenting and P2P file sharing

While torrenting isn’t illegal, downloading copyrighted material is. Still, filesharing is an activity where users often desire a certain level of privacy. The best VPN for torrenting can protect your privacy by hiding your IP address, making your online activity invisible to your ISP. This provides an added layer of security, helping you avoid potential privacy issues related to torrenting.

5. Online gaming and reducing latency

In competitive gaming, every second counts. A VPN for gaming can potentially reduce latency by connecting you to servers closer to the game servers. In addition, it protects you from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that can interrupt your gaming experience.

6. Protecting online banking and financial transactions 

Online banking is convenient but risky, especially on unsecured networks. VPNs encrypt your data, making financial transactions secure. It minimises the risk of your sensitive banking information being intercepted and misused by hackers or other malicious entities.

7. Securing VoIP calls

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls can be intercepted, allowing unauthorised parties to listen in. Using a VPN, your VoIP calls are encrypted, rendering the data useless to potential eavesdroppers. This way, your private conversations remain private, providing peace of mind.

8. Anonymously browsing the web

A VPN masks your IP address, essentially hiding your online activities. By using different server locations, it ensures your browsing history isn’t linked to your identity. This keeps your online behaviour anonymous, offering a significant boost to your internet privacy.

9. Evading censorship and maintaining free speech

Many countries implement internet censorship, restricting access to certain websites or platforms. A VPN enables you to bypass these restrictions, connecting to servers in locations where the content is accessible. This upholds the principle of free speech, allowing you to access and share information freely.

10. Overcoming government surveillance

While government surveillance is meant to maintain national security, it can infringe on personal privacy. A VPN encrypts your data and masks your IP address, making it difficult for anyone, including governments, to monitor your online activities. 

In addition, reliable VPN services, such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN, PureVPN, and Proton VPN, operate under jurisdictions outside surveillance alliances (Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes) with no data retention laws. They follow a strict no-log policy, maintaining personal privacy.

11. Protecting IoT devices

Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as voice assistants, wearable tech and home security systems, are often vulnerable to cyberattacks. A VPN can help secure these devices by encrypting the data they send and receive. This prevents hackers from gaining unauthorised access to your IoT devices and the sensitive data they may hold.

12. Avoiding price discrimination in online shopping

E-commerce platforms often show different prices based on location. A VPN can mask your location, allowing you to check prices from different regions. This can help you find better deals and avoid location-based price discrimination.

13. Accessing home country content while abroad

When travelling, you might not be able to access certain content from your home country due to geo-restrictions. A VPN allows you to connect to a server in your home country, giving you access to your favourite shows, news, or websites that are otherwise blocked.

14. Protecting sensitive personal information

Whether shopping online or signing up for a service, you often share sensitive personal information. A VPN secures this information by encrypting your data, making it difficult for hackers or third parties to access and misuse your personal details.

15. Collaborating securely in business environments

In a business setting, sharing files and confidential data safely is crucial. A VPN allows secure collaboration by encrypting the data shared within the business network. This reduces the risk of sensitive business information falling into the wrong hands.

16. Safeguarding against identity theft

Online identity theft is a growing concern. By hiding your IP address and encrypting your online activity, VPNs can significantly reduce the risk of identity theft. Your personal information, such as your name, address, and credit card details, remains secure. However, it’s important to remember that a VPN is only part of a comprehensive security solution – we recommend investing in good antivirus software to prevent malware and computer viruses, which can slip through to your device even when you’re using a VPN.

17. Researching and gathering competitive intelligence

If you’re a business researching competitors, you might not want to reveal your location or identity. A VPN allows anonymous browsing, so you can gather competitive intelligence without revealing your details or intentions.

18. Preventing tracking and targeted advertising

Most websites track user behaviour to serve targeted ads. A VPN can prevent this by masking your IP address and encrypting your browsing history. This makes it harder for third-party trackers to gather your data and target ads towards you. 

Moreover, the built-in ad-blocking feature is one of the things to consider when choosing a VPN. Not only does this functionality improve browsing experiences, but it can also decrease data usage and increase the speed of loading.

19. Enhancing digital marketing campaigns

For digital marketers, a VPN is an essential tool that allows them to view ad campaigns as if they were in a different location. This way, they can accurately track the campaign’s performance across different regions and make necessary adjustments.

20. Securing smart home devices

As smart home devices become more common, protecting them from cyber threats is essential. A VPN enhances security, preventing hackers from gaining access to your home network and the sensitive data it may contain.

Summary of VPN uses

VPNs offer a wide array of benefits, including enhancing internet safety, protecting personal data, and ensuring seamless access to global web content. From personal to professional applications, they play a multifaceted role in protecting and optimising our online activities. 

Whether you’re a remote worker, a gamer, a frequent traveller, or simply an everyday internet user, employing a VPN can significantly enhance your online experience. The importance of selecting a reliable VPN provider cannot be overstated, as the quality of service can greatly influence its effectiveness. With rising online threats, utilising VPN technology is not just a luxury but a necessary part of responsible internet usage.

Frequently asked questions around VPN uses

A VPN encrypts your data and masks your IP, making your online activities unreadable and anonymous. It creates a secure and encrypted VPN tunnel for your browsing data to pass through on route to its final destination, acting as a shield against any unwanted interception by third parties.

Yes, many providers offer mobile VPN apps for Android and iOS that offer the same encryption and similar features to their desktop apps, ensuring you have protection even when you’re out of the house. Check our best VPN for iPhone and best VPN for Android pages.

Potential downsides include slower internet speed due to the process of encrypting and decrypting data and complex setup. Some VPNs may have questionable privacy policies, which is why it’s important to choose a provider that has commissioned independent VPN audits to verify their privacy and security practices.

VPN use is legal in most countries, but usage restrictions may exist in certain areas. It’s important to check the laws around VPN use in any country you’re travelling to so you can avoid any potential legal issues. Remember that even if VPNs are allowed where you are, it’s still unlawful to use them for illegal activities.

Consider factors like privacy policy, server locations, speed, price, and support. Ideally, you want to choose a provider that offers top-notch encryption and protocols and the features you think you’ll need at a price that matches your budget.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.77 /Month
£6.77 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.27 /Month
£4.27 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.53 /Month
£4.53 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £3.58 /Month
£3.58 /Month

Mariana is an experienced technology writer specialising in web and internet technology. She writes about cyber security, including VPN; web development; and software engineering. She has been writing since 2006 and held a position of English lecturer at Technical University of Varna in Bulgaria until 2022, working in a variety of educational fields.

For the Independent Advisor, Mariana writes about the usefulness of VPNs and how people can protect themselves and their data online.

Nick Jones

Editor in Chief

Nick Jones is a highly experienced consumer journalist and editor, who has been writing and producing content for print and online media for over 25 years.

He has worked at some of the UK’s leading publishers including Future Publishing, Highbury Entertainment, and Imagine Publishing, with publications as diverse as Homebuilding & Renovating, TechRadar, and Creative Bloq, writing and editing content for audiences whose interests include history, computing, gaming, films, and science. He’s also produced a number of podcasts in the technology, science, gaming, and true crime genres.

Nick has also enjoyed a highly successful career in content marketing, working in a variety of topics such as health, technology, and finance, with market-leading global companies including Cisco, Pfizer, Santander, and Virgin Media.

Now the Editor-in-Chief of the Independent Advisor, Nick is involved in all aspects of the site’s content, where his expertise in finance, technology, and home products informs every article that’s published on-site. He takes a hands-on approach with our VPN content, penning a number of the articles himself, and verifying that everything we publish in this topic is accurate.

Whatever the area of interest he’s worked in, Nick has always been a consumer champion, helping people find the best deals and give them the information they need to make an informed buying decision.