When you browse the Internet, you have to connect through an Internet Service Provider, which means that any data transmitted to the Internet from your device has to go through at least one gatekeeper first. This means for every search and every site you visit, there’s a record of your activity that anyone can see. If you’re not comfortable with this, a VPN will help protect your online privacy.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to browse the Internet through a secure network connection, ensuring that your data will remain protected from third parties. If you’ve never used a VPN before, you should learn more about how a VPN works and the many benefits that come with establishing a private connection to the Internet. This guide offers a comprehensive overview of virtual private networks and their advantages.

The Complete VPN Process From Server To User

Virtual private networks are designed to change your IP address when you’re browsing the Internet. A VPN works by redirecting your IP address through a remote server run directly by the VPN host. As such, the VPN will be the source of all of your data when you browse the Internet. In this way, your internet service provider won’t be able to view your data or look at the websites you visit.

When you browse the Internet with a VPN, the incoming and outgoing data will be through an encrypted tunnel that transforms your data into an unreadable jumble. Even if hackers or your ISP record your data, they won’t know what it means.

Key Features of a Good VPN

While a VPN can be outfitted with a large number of distinct features, the primary features that should be included in every reputable VPN include strong protocol encryption choices, a recent public security audit, and a human readable privacy policy that explains what personal information the VPN provider might have access to.

Protocol Encryption

Protocol encryption refers to the type of algorithm used to turn human readable text into impossible to read coded messages. When your data is encrypted, only you and the VPN server can see what information you send, so it’s like having your own private connection to the Internet.

There are many different types of encryption, but many organizations, from banks to government agencies, use a variation of AES-256 bit encryption, which is considered one of the most secure encryption algorithms available. If a VPN provider doesn’t say what encryption they use, keep looking for other providers.

Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is a modern security feature that provides extra protection from hackers and other cybersecurity threats. When two-factor authentication is enabled, you’ll receive a code sent to your mobile device whenever you attempt to log in to your VPN. Even if someone can guess your password correctly, two-factor authentication won’t easily allow them to access your account because they’d need the second code as well.

VPN Types to Select From

You have a lot of VPN options to choose from, but in the end, your choice will depend mainly on what you require from a virtual private network. The three primary VPN types available to you include SSL VPN, site-to-site VPN, and client-to-server VPN.


An SSL VPN is designed to allow access to a VPN through the SSL protocol. The only prerequisite to using an SSL VPN is to have a browser compatible with the HTML5 programming language. Popular browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox are all HTML5 compliant. When you open one of these browsers, you can access the VPN once you enter your login credentials.

Site-to-Site VPN

A site-to-site VPN is a private network that multiple users can access. It is ideal when different users need to share the same resources. Because of its functionality, a site-to-site VPN is commonly used by larger companies with multiple locations. These VPNs are relatively difficult to implement and aren’t nearly as flexible as SSL VPNs.

Client-to-Server VPN

A client-to-server VPN requires the use of a VPN client, a kind of software that you can manually install on a computer. Once installed, the VPN client allows you to gain easy access to the VPN server. Companies tend to use this type of VPN to allow at-home workers to enter the company network from their home offices. It can automatically encrypt your data through a direct connection.

How to Install a VPN on My Device

While virtual private networks are primarily used on desktop computers, they can also be installed on laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Here are some guides to help you install a VPN on any device.

How to Install a VPN on Your Smartphone

Depending on the brand of your smartphone, you can install a VPN in a few different ways. The steps involved with this process include:

  • Download the VPN application from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
  • Create login credentials, after which you will likely be taken through the key features of the service.
  • Access the VPN on your home screen. Turning the VPN on should be easy since most apps implement this option on the home screen.
  • Learn more about the VPN of your choice. Most VPN applications provide advanced setup options, which allow you to perform diagnostics, learn more about the VPN features, and select additional encryption protocols.
  • Start browsing! Once you activate your VPN connection from the app, you can safely browse the Internet.

How to Install a VPN on Your Computer

Computers and laptops have more features, specs, and operating systems than smartphones, so the installation of VPNs varies per device. Mac users can download a third-party VPN on the App Store. In contrast, Windows users can install registered software on the Play Store or manually download an application from a reputable brand online.

Dig Deeper: How to Use a VPN

Considerations When Getting A VPN

A VPN can work wonders, but you should consider all factors involved before getting one. You should take a look at its advantages, benefits, and restrictions in parts and as a whole.

Benefits of Using a VPN

Many notable benefits come with using a VPN when browsing the Internet. The main advantage of using a VPN is that it will encrypt your online data and keep it from being externally accessed. Even when you decide to browse the Internet on a public network, a VPN ensures that your data is safe.

Another key benefit of a virtual private network is that you can change the server’s location that your VPN is tied to. For example, if you can’t access a YouTube video because of geographic restrictions, changing the server to another country may allow you to access the video without issue. Virtual private networks are also highly beneficial for remote workers. If you regularly need to access files through your company network, a VPN will protect this connection.

Is a VPN Illegal?

Your ability to use a VPN depends on the country you live in. Virtual private networks are relatively modern, which means that the laws surrounding VPN use are regularly changing. In the United States, Canada, and some portions of Europe, VPN use is legal in most situations. On the other hand, using a VPN is heavily restricted in countries like Russia, China, and Iran.

Is a VPN Anonymous And Safe From Tracking?

Using a VPN doesn’t wholly make you anonymous, but it can protect and promote your anonymity, depending on how you use the Internet. A VPN can change your IP address and hide your online activity and location so you cannot be tracked by hackers and advertisers.

Can a VPN Be Used for Free?

When you’re searching for the ideal virtual private network to use when you connect to the Internet, you’ll find that both paid and free options are available. However, it’s important to understand that free VPNs usually don’t have all of the available features a paid VPN can easily offer.

In many cases, free VPN will have some other way to make money off their subscribers, so it’s important to know how they’re making money. Many free VPN sell user data in some way, so you’re not getting any of the privacy protections a VPN should provide.

Is It a Good Idea to Get a VPN For Daily Use?

Before you decide to use a VPN and dive deep into how VPN works, you must understand the level of protection provided by a VPN. While a VPN will be able to stop some forms of online tracking, VPN won’t protect you from every type of hacking, phishing, or malware.

For complete protection, the best option is to pair a secure VPN with reliable antivirus software, such as McAfee Total Protection. A VPN can provide you with a highly secure network connection, but virtual private networks aren’t suitable for everyone and every online activity. If you don’t spend much time browsing the Internet or already avoid placing personal information on the Internet, a VPN may be unnecessary. A VPN is ideal when you want to:

  • Bypass specific geographic restrictions when streaming audio or video and when using certain websites.
  • Torrent safely and securely
  • Optimize online gaming experience
  • Protect yourself when using public WiFi hotspots.
  • Watch streaming media on Hulu, Netflix, or HBO Max.
  • Obtain some amount of online anonymity by hiding your actual location.

Dig Deeper: Top 10 Benefits of a VPN in Everyday Use

Final Thoughts

A VPN is an excellent service to use when you want to keep your connection secure. If you would like to increase your online privacy while browsing the Internet, then you need a VPN.

Modern VPN providers offer a wide range of features that provide extensive functionality. So, the selection process should be easy. If you want to be confident that you’ve made the right choice, compare the services you’re interested in before making a final decision. McAfee Secure VPN, for one, has a transparent list of VPN features you may want to consider.