Travel Tips

Published on March 6th, 2014 | by Daniel

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Browsing the World with a VPN

One main concern when you start travelling and working at the same time is online security. More so than is the case when you are on a “normal” holiday, as a digital nomad you will do everything online, from conducting your personal bank transaction to communication with business partners.

As you may know, there are many stories of hackers stealing personal details over the internet, some of which are exaggerated, but many aren’t. The case remains that it is quite easy for someone to hack your laptop and go on the run with your personal usernames and passwords. This is especially true when you are in a communal area, using a public Wifi connection in a coffeeshop or hotel.

It makes sense then, to secure your internet access on the road without having to worry where you connect to internet. The best and most secure way to achieve this for people with no technical knowhow is with a VPN.

What is a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This is basically a secured computer/server you specifically use for browsing the internet. It works like this. You connect your laptop/phone to the internet via WIFI, broadband, it does not matter. After you have been connected you connect this to the VPN. The VPN also has its own IP-address and location. You use this IP-address to browse the internet and to conduct your business. Basicially you use your computer to browse from another computer. As all your communication is only going trough you encrypted connection via your VPN, you data cannot be tapped in public.

Another convenient use of a VPN is that you are actually browsing the internet from a different location with a separate IP-address. As such it is also a really good way to bypass firewalls that are enforced by various governments around the world. For instance, with a VPN you will be able to use Facebook and watch Youtube video’s in China or Iran. And you can access content  as if you from a specific country, which is handy in case you need to browse in your own language.

Furthermore, a VPN enables you to surf the internet anonymously to a large extent. The IP you use cannot be tracked back directly to your computer and to you as a person. Only the VPN provider that you use has this data.

How to get a VPN?

There are many companies worldwide that sell Virtual Private Networks. Options and prices can differ vastly in this regard. Some things that influence the quality and price are:

Speed – As your connection is going through an extra layer, speed is important.
Amount of switches – How often you can switch between IP-addresses.
Security/Protocol – You can encrypt well, or extremely well.
Provider country – The provider is subject to the laws of the country it is incorporated in.
VPN country options – Where you can have your VPN be based.
Difficulty of installation – Some companies have userfriendly software for this.
Customer service – Differs vastly between various companies.

Of course, it also depends on the device you are using. Some VPN providers are better for mobile (with 3G/4G connectivity), while others will provide better security and speed for laptop users.

The best VPN networks

I use StrongVPN, already for many years. I am quite content with them. They are (relatively) cheap, easy to set up, the speed is good and they have good customer support. I am able to use an IP from practically every western country. Another good thing with them is that they offer a variety of VPN packages, depending on if you want to use it for your smartphone, tablet of computer.

Other good VPN companies I have used are HideMyAss and PureVPN. I have also heard good things about Witopia.

Most of the time you can just start out with a monthly membership to test the VPN, and find out how it works for you.

Some things to take into account

There are some things to take into account with a VPN:

  • The company that provides the Virtual Private Network is subject to the country laws where it is incorporated in. This means that you cannot really use torrent sites with most VPN providers, as the VPN company can be sued for copyright infringement, and they will block you account (temporarily) if you do illegal stuff.
  • Better to pay a bit more, than to have a cheap VPN that is riddled with security issues.
  • Make sure you understand the installation and how it works. This way you know exactly how to use it and when.
  • Speed with VPN is always a little lagging behind the normal connection. The quality of the company is paramount to make this lag negligible.
  • Buy your VPN before you go to another country. If you need it to bypass firewalls, big chance is that the VPN provider website is blocked as well, so you would not be able to buy it when residing in that country.

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