You’ve probably heard that every remote worker needs a VPN, but if, like us, you’re not so technically minded, you may be a little confused as to why?
So, we went to investigate and now, we can share with you everything you need to know about setting up a working from home VPN.
What Is A VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and you don’t need to be an expert in computer networking to benefit from one.
In essence, it’s a way to send and receive data more securely by creating an artificial (and virtual) network on the internet that only you have access to.
This allows you to send data from home to the office securely, it also means that when you use the internet, you are effectively anonymous.
The Benefits Of Using A VPN
There are some very specific benefits to using a VPN when working from home:
- Encryption and security. Everything you send from your computer to another is encrypted, automatically, as it leaves and won’t be decoded until it arrives. This means if someone intercepts your data, all they get is gibberish that they can’t read.
- Location cloaking. This may not be a big deal to home workers, but digital nomads often want to disguise that they’re in London today, Paris tomorrow and Istanbul on Friday. This kind of cloaking also prevents websites from identifying where you are and confuses their spying “cookies”.
- Evading geo-blocks. If you want to watch Netflix from abroad or sign up to the BBC’s playback service from outside of the UK, this facility of a VPN lets you pretend to be somewhere that you are not!
How Does A VPN Work?
A VPN works by routing all your Internet traffic to and from your device via a secure VPN server.
So, when your data leaves your laptop, it goes to the server first, and it is then passed onto the website or server you wanted to communicate with.
This helps to disguise where the data came from and the VPN client will also automatically encrypt your data at the same time.
On the way back, the data comes from the website, to your VPN server, and then to your laptop.
Why Do I Need A VPN When Working From Home?
OK, if you’re not quite certain why you would need a VPN when working from home, there’s a simple acronym ESP that lays out the main reasons:
- E for Evasion. This means nobody else can know where you are using your device, right now. This is handy if you work from home but want to work in a coffee shop, for example. It also prevents tracking by tech businesses and governments and if you are subject to local censorship? It allows you to avoid that.
- S for Security. If you’re going to log into your work accounts or your own bank account for that matter, you really don’t want somebody else to get the data you’re using. A VPN helps to prevent that even when using a public hotspot in say a cafe or an airport.
- P for Protection. Not only that, but a VPN prevents any hotspot user from accessing any data on your machine, such as your logins or passwords.
Should I Use A Free VPN Or A Paid VPN?
There is nothing wrong, technically, with a free VPN service, in theory, it ought to do the same thing as a paid for service.
In reality, you’re likely to run into a couple of problems with free VPN services:
- You’re the bottom of the priority list for the provider and that means, your connection will run slower than it would if you’d paid for the service – this can be really frustrating
- You’re also likely to face a data cap – that is, once you’ve sent x amount of data, the service will simply cut off
- You may be limited to your choice of locations – most VPNs can allow you to present location data from anywhere in the world but the free services usually only give you one or two locations to choose from
- You may have to take ads to use it – yeah, it’s not really free when you have to endure endless ads is it? Your time is the payment, instead of money.
- You won’t get any support – support costs money, a free service doesn’t allow for support.
Given that VPN services aren’t really very expensive, you might just want to pay for one from the start and skip all these downsides.
What To Look For In A VPN Service
Most VPN services are quite similar but it can help to examine some of the finer points of VPN use including:
- The exact terms of any deals. A cheap deal for 3 years is awesome, a cheap deal which goes shooting up in price after the first month? Not so much. Also, check the terms for cancelling, you want to be able to leave when it suits you without any penalties.
- The servers they have available. If you want to use the BBC Iplayer, they need UK servers. For unlimited Netflix? US Servers are essential. And so on… and, in fact, the more countries they have to choose from, the easier it is to guarantee a fast connection.
- The number of connections allowed. If you want to share your VPN between your devices or with the rest of your family, you need to ensure that you get enough simultaneous connections to cover that. You need two just for your smartphone and your laptop.
- The data storage policy. The less data that they store on you, the better. Check restrictions here and just how long they will hold your data for too.
- Free trial. You want a free-trial of some sort to ensure that the VPN gives you what it says it does on the tin.
Is Using A VPN Legal?
In most cases, using a VPN is quite legal, however in China, Iran, Oman, Russia, Turkey and the UAE, you must use a government-approved VPN and these services tend to collect more data and have more limitations than other VPN services.
It is also completely illegal to use a VPN of any kind in Belarus, Iraq, North Korea, Uganda and Turkmenistan.
Fortunately, we don’t think that’s going to be much of a problem for the average home worker.
Our Recommendation For A Basic VPN Provider
Here at Modern Worker, we use a VPN called Windscribe.
Why’d we choose Windscribe?
- It has a fully featured but limited data trial service – 10GB of data each month
- It’s relatively low cost (as little as $2 a month)
- It has servers everywhere
- It’s very secure and holds very little data on its users
You may find that as you progress with home working that your needs for a VPN become more complex but we think Windscribe is an ideal starting point and you can download and run the free trial (no credit card needed) right now.
One Last Note
Whether you work from home or work remotely, you need a VPN, it’s essential for your security and it can be handy for leisure use too.
Our working from home VPN guide covers everything you need to know to get started using a VPN today and don’t worry, it’s super easy – no technical knowledge is required.
You may also find our tips for being productive when working from home, caring for your wellbeing and how to avoid burnout useful, why not check them out?