A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a networking technology that creates a secure network connection over a public network such as the Internet or a private network owned by a service provider. Large companies and other organisations use VPN technology to enable remote users to securely connect to a private network to access files and resources on the office network. However, a VPN can also be used by individuals to create a secure network connection via the internet and it is the various benefits of this type of usage that will be discussed here.
The first and probably most important benefit of using your own VPN is if you ever connect to the internet from a public Wi-Fi such as a coffee shop, hotel, airport in fact anywhere other than your home or work networks ! It is a surprisingly trivial task for somebody, once connected to the same network as you, to intercept your whole communication stream and sift through it at their leisure. There are plenty of hardware and software tools available that can “sniff” network traffic like this and there are even browser plugins that can be downloaded and installed in less than a minute that will provide this ability. There have been a large number of documented cases of this happening and almost certainly an even larger number of times where it happens and it is never discovered. The graphic below shows the simple benefits of using a VPN when in a public place.
The second reason to use a VPN is to by-pass regional restrictions on certain websites. Many people use a VPN to get around state-sponsored censorship such as journalists and people protesting against governments. However, you can also use a VPN for recreational purposes, such as connecting to a British VPN to watch the BBC iPlayer outside the UK. This is possible because you are connecting to that service using a UK based IP address and so look as if you’re just another British visitor. There are plenty of examples of other websites / services around the world that restrict access by IP address or location where this would be useful.
Another use, that we and also many of our customers make use of for security reasons, is restricting access to the whole or certain parts of a website, to specific IP addresses. Most VPN services will allocate a random IP address each time you connect, so this would be no good for this benefit. but the VPN Service available through us provides a fixed IP address as part of the service. For example access to Web Host Manager (WHM – the admin side of the cPanel hosting control panel) and also many other server services, on every single server we run, is restricted to a few specific IP addresses. If we have to access these servers outside of our office locations then we use a VPN, not just for the encryption security benefits but also because it gives us a fixed IP address which is allowed access. Customers using one of our Reseller Shared Hosting Plans are also restricted from accessing whichever server hosts their account by IP address. If they dont have a fixed IP address where they work from, then this type of connection will be required but it is obviously also very useful for them when they are away from the office as well.