What VPN Means ? The Advantages & Disadvantages of a VPN, with Decision Aid

Written by Guy Coward

Mar 18, 2022

March 18, 2022

What VPN Means
More and more people have now heard of the VPN phenomenon or use a VPN service. On this page you can read what VPN means, how it works, what options it offers and what advantages and disadvantages there are to using a VPN. We also discuss some good VPN services that are suitable for novice users.

What VPN means : a brief summary

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) provides a secure connection between you and the internet. When you connect to the internet via a VPN, all your internet traffic is sent through an encrypted virtual tunnel. This has several advantages:

  • You are more anonymous on the internet: your IP address and location are no longer visible to everyone.
  • You are safer on the internet: the encrypted tunnel stops many hackers and cyber criminals, for example on public Wi-Fi.
  • You are freer on the internet: because a VPN gives you a different IP address, you can access websites and online services that would otherwise be blocked.

Would you like to use or try out a VPN yourself? Then we recommend NordVPN. This VPN provider has many options and offers rock-solid security.

You can find more information about what a VPN does, how it works, and how to set up a VPN connection in the rest of this article.

What VPN Means ?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.  Using a VPN is an easy and efficient way to improve your online security, privacy and freedom.

When you use the internet, your smartphone or computer is constantly exchanging information with other parties on the web. A VPN creates an encrypted (VPN) connection between your device and the rest of the internet. It first sends all your data traffic via this secure connection to an external server: the VPN server. From there, your data traffic is sent further out on the internet.

Redirecting your internet traffic through a VPN server has several advantages that we will discuss in detail later in this article. The main ones are:

  • A VPN hides your identity from the outside world.
  • Your data traffic is well secured thanks to the strong encryption.
  • You enjoy internet freedom, even in countries with severe censorship.

Video explanation: what VPN means?

For those visually inclined, we’ve included a short video to explain what a VPN is and how it works. Enjoy watching! The article continues below the video.

How does a VPN work?

In practice, a VPN works very easily. You choose a provider, take out a subscription and download the VPN software. Then choose the server you want to connect to. The VPN does the rest.

Behind the scenes, a VPN works like this:

  1. The VPN software encrypts your internet traffic and sends your data over a secure connection to the VPN server. This data first goes through your internet provider, but they can no longer watch because of the encryption.
  2. The VPN server receives your encrypted internet traffic and decrypts your data so that it is readable again.
  3. The decrypted internet traffic continues up the internet, towards its final destination. So the VPN server communicates with the internet on your behalf. All incoming internet traffic that is intended for you, therefore first goes through the VPN server.
  4. The VPN server encrypts the internet traffic destined for you, which it then sends to you via the secure connection.
  5. The software on your device decrypts internet traffic, allowing you to view it.

How does a VPN Work - What VPN Means

How does a VPN Work ?

The VPN application runs in the background of your computer, tablet or smartphone. You hardly notice this yourself. You can usually use your computer and the internet as usual.

How do you easily use a VPN yourself?

It is very easy to use a VPN yourself:

  1. First of all, you take out a subscription with a reliable VPN provider. You can often close a VPN account with a high-quality provider for a few euros per month.
  2. After registering, log in to the VPN software with your account details and connect to a VPN server of the provider.

Most (major) VPN providers have software for all your devices and operating systems, be it Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android or Linux. There are even special apps for your smart TV. Within these programs you can often choose which VPN protocol you want to use and which servers in which country you want to be connected to.

Within a few clicks you have connected to a VPN server. From that moment on, all your internet traffic runs through the secure VPN connection and you can use the internet more securely, freely and anonymously.

Installing a VPN is also very easy. Below we explain in three steps how to find and use a good VPN.

Set up a VPN: encrypt your data in 3 simple steps

Want to start using a VPN for the first time, but don’t know where to start? Do not worry. It is very easy to get started with a VPN. It only takes 10 minutes. With these three simple steps you will be protected by a VPN in no time:

Step 1: Choose a reliable VPN provider

For novice VPN users, we recommend Surfshark or NordVPN. We tested these providers extensively and concluded that they are very easy to understand and use. In addition, they are both very fast and allow you to use your subscription on several devices at the same time.

Both VPN providers also have a long money-back guarantee. You can try out these VPNs at your leisure for a month, before committing to a subscription. Always check the site of the VPN provider you want to use for the exact conditions.

For more information about these and other providers, take a look at our review overview. Of course, in addition to Surfshark and NordVPN, we tested even more VPN providers. Some other impressive VPNs include PIA, ZenMate, and ProtonVPN. This last VPN also happens to offer one of the best free VPN plans.

You have to be careful with free VPNs. Many free VPNs are insecure and have data or speed limits. This is not the case with ProtonVPN. We’ve researched free VPNs that are secure. You can read more about this in our article about the best free VPNs.

Of course you need a VPN subscription

Once you have chosen a VPN service, all you need to do is sign up for a subscription. Create an account for this and keep your login details safe. You will need this info in the following steps.

As we mentioned before, Surfshark and NordVPN both have a money back guarantee. This allows you to always try out the VPN and, if necessary, request your money back if you are not satisfied. You can read how to use this guarantee in our explanation about the Surfshark trial and the NordVPN trial.

Step 2: Download the VPN app

Now that you have selected a VPN provider, all you need to do is download the provider’s software. You do this via the official website of your chosen VPN provider. Download the VPN app for your Android smartphone, iPhone, tablet, macOS or other device. Once you have installed the VPN software, you can log in with your details from step 1.

Step 3: Activate the VPN app and surf online safely and freely

Now all you need to do is activate the VPN. With many VPN providers you only have to press the ‘on’ button. The VPN connection is then set up automatically. In general, you will hardly notice that you are connected to the internet via a VPN. You can simply run the software in the background.

And that’s all! As long as the VPN connection is active, you can surf the internet more securely, freely and anonymously.

Which VPN providers are there?

There are many hundreds of companies that offer a commercial VPN. Take a look in the App Store and Play Store. There you will already find a dizzying number of VPN apps – many of which can be downloaded for free. There are also numerous parties that offer business VPN packages.

We are happy to help you on your way and have already tested dozens of VPN providers. Detailed information on all of these tests can be found in our VPN reviews section below.

Suitable VPN providers for beginners

If you want to use a VPN, choose a reliable VPN provider. In our overview of the best VPN providers you will find detailed descriptions of the best options.

You can try most VPN providers for free, if you are not yet sure whether a VPN is for you. Read here how to use the trial period of a good VPN provider. If you want to get started with a high-quality, user-friendly and reliable VPN, we can recommend NordVPN, Surfshark and Private Internet Access.

Extra tip for advanced users: do you want to have all the devices in your house go online via the VPN connection at once? Then set up the VPN on your router. This can be technically challenging. Easiest is to use DD-WRT router software.

NordVPN: easy-to-use and secure VPN

The first VPN we recommend is NordVPN. NordVPN especially excels in the field of security and unblocking. At the moment this VPN is one of the most popular options in the world. Moreover, NordVPN has often shown that it puts the anonymity and security of its customers first. This VPN keeps no logs and uses rock-solid encryption.

NordVPN’s customer service responds quickly, which is especially nice for beginners. Nord also offers many options for the advanced user, such as obfuscated servers and dedicated IP addresses. These features make it easier to bypass geoblocks. We are also very satisfied with the speed of NordVPN.

Finally, NordVPN is a fairly cheap VPN. For just a few dollars a month, you can use NordVPN on six devices at the same time. An entire family can therefore use one subscription. There is also a generous 30-day money-back guarantee on all packages.

Want to check out the current discounts you can get at NordVPN through us? Then click the box below to go directly to the correct page of the NordVPN website.

NordVPN turns 10!

Get 2 years of VPN service with 66% off + bonus.

30 days money back guarantee

Surfshark: fast and cheap VPN

Surfshark ranks second in our top best VPNs. The biggest difference between Surfshark and many other VPN services is that Surfshark is many times cheaper. Surfshark’s VPN software is also very user-friendly. You’ll have it installed in no time and connected to the right VPN server in just a few clicks.

You can also use the VPN to surf anonymously, for example, or even view one of the many foreign Netflix libraries. How about the countless movies and series on American Netflix?

Surfshark has no limit on the number of devices you can use with one subscription. It is therefore possible to connect every device within the household to one subscription.

In addition to the standard VPN service, Surfshark also offers numerous other options, including an anonymous browser. If you want to see all the options this VPN service offers, you can view our full review of this provider. To summarize: Surfshark is a great VPN for any novice VPN user who wants a lot of features at their disposal.

Surfshark has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can give this VPN provider a try as well. Are you interested in this VPN service? Then click on the button in the box below.

Private Internet Access: the VPN that stands up for your privacy

Private Internet Access, or PIA, is fast, has thousands of servers, and works well with Netflix. This way you are also protected while watching your favorite show online. It is also possible to access much more content, such as the American Netflix!

The servers are incredibly fast and the software is easy to use. Nowadays you can also set the app in multiple languages, including Dutch. PIA’s customer service is also very responsive. And perhaps the best part is that PIA is a proven ‘no log’ VPN. It has been proven several times in court that the provider does not keep any data about you.

PIA is also very cheap and you protect 10 devices at the same time with your subscription. You can take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee and try the VPN first at your leisure. Click on the button below to visit the site of this VPN service.

PrivadoVPN: a good free VPN

Do you not use your VPN much and do not mind working with data limits? Then PrivadoVPN is a good choice. This VPN provider keeps no logs and has servers in eight countries available to its users for free. You can also just torrent with it.

PrivadoVPN ensures that the free service also works with Netflix, especially for readers of VPNGids.nl. With the 10 GB of data that you can spend per month with this subscription, you can enjoy almost three hours of series and movies.

If you like the service, you can also switch to PrivadoVPN’s paid service. You then get unlimited access to a much more extensive server network and you can use your subscription on multiple devices at the same time. Click on the button below to immediately take out the (free) subscription of PrivadoVPN.

VPN providers for the consumer market

There are of course many more VPN providers. Below you will find a modest selection to give you an idea of the larger and more well-known VPN parties that are active. We also state under which jurisdiction each VPN provider falls and whether the VPN provider is located in a 5, 9 or 14 eyes country. These are countries whose governments exchange data.

The jurisdiction may have implications for the privacy of VPN users, as each country has different privacy laws. In practice, there are therefore differences in which data VPN providers store from their users. With privacy in mind, you ideally want to use a VPN that doesn’t log or track anything about your internet activities.

VPN ProviderJurisdiction (Country of Location)Jurisdiction (14 eyes)
AirVPNItaly14 eyes
AtlasVPNUnited States5 eyes
Avast Secureline VPNCzech Republicnew
Bitdefender VPNRomanianew
BolehVPNItaly14 eyes
CactusVPNCanada5 eyes
Encrypt.meUnited States5 eyes
ExpressVPNBritish Virginislandsnew
FastVPNUnited States5 eyes
FastestVPNCayman Islandsnew
F-Secure FREEDOM VPNFinlandnew
Goose VPNNetherlands9 eyes
HMA VPNUnited Kingdom5 eyes
Hotspot ShieldUnited States5 eyes
IPVanishUnited States5 eyes
Mozilla VPNUnited States5 eyes
MullvadSweden14 eyes
Perfect PrivacySwitzerlandnew
Private Internet AccessUnited States5 eyes
PrivateVPNSweden14 eyes
SafeLabsCanada5 eyes
StrongVPNUnited States5 eyes
SurfEasyCanada5 eyes
SurfsharkBritish Virginislandsnew
SwitchVPNUnited States5 eyes
TorguardUnited States5 eyes
TunnelBearCanada5 eyes
Urban VPNUnited States5 eyes
VPN SecureAustralia5 eyes
Webroot WiFi SecurityCanada5 eyes
WindscribeCanada5 eyes
ZenmateGermany14 eyes

This is just a small selection of the available VPN providers. There are some really good VPNs on the market, a lot of mediocre VPNs and many more bad, misleading or even dangerous VPNs.

VPN providers for the business market

In addition to VPNs for consumers, there are also the necessary business VPN solutions. Large companies and governments can use these VPN solutions to allow employees and other authorized persons to access the network remotely.

Below is a small selection of the range of business VPN providers:

  • Perimeter81, part of StrongVPN
  • NordVPN Teams
  • VPN for Business from VyprVPN
  • Cisco AnyConnect
  • FortiClient
  • Pulse Connect Secure
  • Citrix
  • GlobalProtect
  • Sentry
  • Zscaler
  • netmotion
  • twin gate

What benefits does a VPN offer?

There are several reasons why people use a VPN. The most common reasons are: online anonymity, security and freedom, such as bypassing online blocks and censorship. We explain these and other advantages in more detail below.

Benefit 1: Anonymity on the Internet

Normally, your location and even your identity can be found without too much effort thanks to your IP address. This IP address is unique to your internet connection. It is a kind of online zip code, which indicates who you are and where you are exactly. It enables others to link your internet behavior to you as a person.

A VPN hides your IP address and your location. A VPN reroutes your internet traffic through another server and links your online activities to the IP address of the VPN server. Your internet activities are therefore no longer linked to your own ‘real’ IP address.

When you use a VPN, websites, marketers, streaming services, governments, cybercriminals and law enforcement can no longer identify you by your IP address. After all, they only see the IP address of the VPN server you are connected to. They also cannot read your actual location from your IP address. It appears to the outside world that you are at the location of the VPN server.

So by using a VPN, your online activities can no longer be linked to your own IP address. This means that you can browse the internet more anonymously.

Benefit 2: Protection against hackers and governments

A VPN encrypts your data traffic using strong encryption protocols, which makes intercepting and reading your data a lot more difficult. Why is this important? We live in an era in which the internet is eavesdropped, monitored and monitored on a large scale.

Many parties are interested in your internet traffic, including companies, governments and cyber criminals. The security that a VPN offers makes it a lot more complex for them to view your data. And this increases your safety.

It should be noted that a VPN does not offer comprehensive protection against cyber criminals. We recommend that you always combine a VPN with a good antivirus software, as both types of software protect against a different type of threat. So they complement each other nicely.

Advantage 3: Safe internet on public networks

Using public Wi-Fi networks is risky. Other users, including hackers, can listen in on or redirect your internet traffic relatively easily. They do this, for example, through a man-in-the-middle attack. There is a significant chance that your credit card details or your email login details will be stolen in this way. While you are quietly surfing the internet, a hacker can steal your personal data unnoticed and use it for identity theft.

By using a VPN, you encrypt all data you send on the public Wi-Fi network (including on vacation). As a result, hackers have no use for the tapped internet data. They only see a jumble of characters (encrypted data) instead of your important data and passwords.

Benefit 4: Countering government censorship

In several countries (such as China, Russia, Belarus, Turkey and to some extent even the United Kingdom and the US) the internet is censored. These countries block access to certain internet services and websites. Think of WhatsApp, Google, Instagram, YouTube, Skype, Spotify and Facebook.

News sites and journalistic platforms are also often blocked when they are seen as a threat by the established order. Even in the Netherlands there are blocks and restrictions on the internet. Here, for example, The Pirate Bay is blocked by order of the judge.

A VPN reroutes your internet traffic through a server in a country of your choice. You thus change your ‘digital location’. So you can use the internet as if you were in another country. You then bypass blocks and gain access to websites and services that would normally not work.

Benefit 5: Bypass geographical blocks

It is not only governments that engage in online censorship. Online services themselves often only show certain content in specific regions. Streaming services are a good example. For example, you can often not watch Dutch television online abroad. Moreover, with Netflix you can watch much fewer movies and series in the Netherlands than in the United States. Sometimes you can’t watch your favorite Dutch Netflix series on vacation. In addition, sports matches can often be viewed live in a limited number of countries.

A VPN can help bypass these geoblocks. This also works here by redirecting your internet traffic via another country and by assigning a different IP address. This way you get access to a wider range of internet services, such as online streaming services.

Benefit 6: Download Anonymously

People who use torrent networks, Usenet or dubious streaming platforms like Popcorn Time are increasingly being followed and traced. An organization that mainly pays attention to this is Stichting Brein. Many people prefer not to let others know what they are downloading (for example, with pornography) and choose to download anonymously.

Downloading via a VPN is an efficient solution for this. Because a VPN shields the real IP address, your download activities can no longer be linked to you. This can also be nice if you don’t want the administrator of your network to see your download activities.

Advantage 7: Preventing a digital personal file

Advertising networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, try to build the most accurate profile possible about their users. They then sell this information to advertisers or governments. Using an anonymous VPN connection makes it more difficult to build up such a personal file. Your privacy is better protected and you will encounter fewer personalized advertisements.

Benefit 8: Access to corporate networks

More and more companies offer their employees the possibility to log in remotely to the company network. This way you can work safely from home. They regularly use VPN connections for this. A VPN makes it easier and more secure to log in to a network remotely.

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