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What is a VPN, and how do I get one? This question is common among remote workers who are looking for an extra layer of internet security or are working out of the country for the first time.
Unless you’re required by work to use a VPN, you might have heard this mysterious acronym but not been sure what it is or how it works.
But if you work remotely, you should absolutely learn about VPNs and whether you’d benefit from using one. So without further ado, let’s dive into the ABCs of VPNs and how they can help remote workers and digital nomads.
What is a VPN connection?
VPN stands for virtual private network. It’s a service that routes your internet connection through another server, allowing you to securely and privately access the internet. If you use public WiFi, travel, work remotely, or just want some privacy, then you should consider using a VPN.
What are the benefits of a VPN?
There are multiple benefits of VPNs that are especially appealing to remote workers. The main advantages stem from the additional layer of security and privacy from anywhere in the world. Here are some of the top benefits:
- Hide or change your IP address
- Encrypt data transfers
- Mask your address and physical location
- Access geo-blocked websites
- Hide your browsing history
- Access censored websites
- Reduce the risk of identity theft
Many VPN services let you choose a new location, so even if you’re working from Bali, your IP address will appear to be coming from NYC, for example. This can be really useful for work, as it allows you to do research with U.S. search results instead of ending up with a bunch of sites in a foreign language.
It can also be great for your own entertainment, since you can access Netflix or Hulu shows that might otherwise be blocked in the country you’re working from.
How does a VPN work?
While we won’t take a deep dive into the inner workings of a VPN, just know that VPN software encrypts your data and masks your IP address. That encrypted data will go to the VPN, then from the VPN server to your online destination (i.e., whatever website you’re trying to access).
That website will see your VPN’s IP address and location, not your actual IP address or physical location.
Here’s how to set up a VPN for your computer
So, how do you get a VPN? Well, companies that require a VPN will most likely provide you with the necessary software. But if they don’t — or if you’re looking for a VPN for personal use — you will need to research what VPN is best for you.
If you plan on accessing your personal information (bank accounts, Social Security numbers, etc.) or use your computer for work, we’d strongly recommend going with a paid service. Not only are they more secure than the free ones, but you’ll also get faster internet access.
Setting up a VPN is very easy. After you’ve selected your VPN, you’ll need to download its software. Once downloaded, you will login and follow their setup process. You can either set the VPN to launch automatically, or you choose when and how you connect. You can also typically choose your IP address location.
4 best VPN services for remote workers
Here are a few of our favorite VPNs for remote workers:
- ExpressVPN – While this is a paid service, it’s hands down one of the most popular VPNs out there. ExpressVPN lets you access content anywhere in the world with their super fast servers. The only downside is that it’s one of the pricier options, costing anywhere from $9.00 – $13.00 a month. As of the time of writing, they do have a special 15 month deal that includes three free months.
- IPVanish – Another paid service that’s largely recommended in the tech community for its security features is IPVanish. This service keeps your identity under wraps and guarantees your privacy. It starts at $6.50 a month, but it does not support Netflix streaming.
- NordVPN – Costing anywhere from $2.99 – $11.95 per month, this is one of the cheaper and highly-trusted paid services. Users can connect up to six devices to NordVPN at the same time. The software is easy to use and comes with military grade encryption. You can unblock Netflix with this server.
- VyprVPN – This VPN is especially popular for those who travel frequently in China. To protect the Great Firewall of China, China actively blocks access to most VPNs, but VyprVPN still works. Combat censorship, protect your privacy, and get unlimited streaming with this server for just $5.00 – 6.67 a month.
Each VPN service has different offerings and abilities. You may need fast access speed and strong security, or maybe you’re just looking to access your favorite U.S. TV shows while in another country. Be sure to consider the available features and determine what’s most important to you.
Learning how to set up a VPN is essential if you work and travel
Many remote workers are required to access private business networks, but these networks contain sensitive data that must be kept secure. VPNs allow you to connect to a network anywhere in the world securely. That’s why many companies require their employees to use a VPN when working.
If you frequently work on public or unsecured WiFi networks, VPNs can also give you peace of mind. Whether you’re working in a coffee shop down the street, a hostel in Thailand, or a coworking space in Prague, you can securely access your personal data and business networks without worrying about identity theft.
Keep in mind that while VPNs provide additional security, they’re not bulletproof. Always err on the side of caution when accessing sensitive data of any kind online, especially in a public place. Safe internet surfing, friends!