Despite how popular VPNs are nowadays, many people still don’t know if these services can provide them with the online experience they want. That’s usually because they don’t know what the real advantages and disadvantages of VPN services are.
If that description applies to you, or you simply want to learn more about VPNs, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’re going to be taking an in-depth look at both VPN benefits and disadvantages, so that you can see if the service really is right for you or not.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an online service that encrypts your online data to make sure nobody can monitor or steal it, and which also hides your real IP address to help you bypass geo-blocks and online censorship.
When it comes to really understanding VPN benefits and disadvantages, there are a lot of things you need to consider. We’ll start out by discussing the disadvantages of VPN services to get them out of the way first, and then move on to covering the main advantages of VPNs.
Using VPN services comes with a few drawbacks. It isn’t anything too serious, though, and most of these problems are just minor annoyances. Still, it’s important to know about the disadvantages of VPNs, so that you can really see if such a service is right for you.
While VPN services can offer a lot of perks, they will come at a cost. Some services might set you back up to $10-$12/month, which can easily mean over $100 per year. For some people, that might not be much, but for others, that can be a pretty high expense.
“Can’t I just use free VPNs, though?”
You could do that, but it would be very risky. Why? Well, for one, a lot of free VPNs apparently either don’t use encryption or the providers don’t configure it correctly. Whichever the case, the result is the same – your Internet privacy is exposed and in danger since there is nothing keeping cybercriminals from snooping on your connections.
Even worse, some free VPNs might expose you to malware infections, sell your bandwidth to botnets, or even collect your personal info and sell it to advertisers or other third-parties.
So, in the end, if you’ll want to enjoy a truly smooth and secure online experience with a VPN, you’re going to have to pay for it.
True, VPNs normally work on the most popular devices and operating systems (we’ve got an in-depth article detailing that right here), but there are still some platforms that have don’t have any native support for them, such as:
In that case, you will have to normally set up the VPN connection on a router, which can be a pretty complex process if you’re not too tech savvy. Once that is done, though, any Internet-connected device that accesses the web through that router will use the VPN you set up.
Alternatively, you could also share your VPN connection through your computer or laptop by connecting the device to it with an ethernet cable. However, if you do that, your online speeds might be pretty slow – not to mention you can’t physically connect all the web-connected devices in your home to your computer/laptop.
You might have heard this is just a myth, but it really isn’t. It’s actually one of the main disadvantages of VPN services people have a problem with. While it doesn’t happen 100% every time you use a VPN to access the web, your online speeds might take a hit sometimes. Usually, that happens because:
Of course, there are other factors at play too, but those are the most common reasons why your connection speeds might slow down a bit when using a VPN.
Unfortunately, some VPN providers tend to log user data – usually information about their connection. But – sometimes – personal info could also be stored. Most of the time, providers do that to comply with the laws of their countries. While that’s understandable, a VPN that logs your data pretty much defeats the idea of using a VPN in the first place.
Luckily, this issue is easily avoided if you just pick a VPN provider who has a strict and clear no-log policy in place. The provider being located in a country where data collection laws are pretty lax also helps.
With the disadvantages of VPN services out of the way, we can start focusing on the main VPN benefits – which significantly outnumber the drawbacks.
Geo-restrictions are content control methods used by content providers to decide which online users get to access their platforms or not. Due to the “geo” in their name, it’s pretty obvious that geo-restrictions (also called geo-blocks) restrict access to content based on your geographical location.
How does a website know which part of the world you’re accessing it from? It’s rather simple – the website can see your real IP address when you send connection requests its way. And your IP address contains data that can leak your geo-location.
So, all a website needs to do is analyze your connection requests to collect your IP address, cross-reference it against its content control rules, and either give you access, or block you or redirect you to a different page.
It’s extremely frustrating, we know, but – luckily – a VPN can help you bypass any geo-blocks you encounter. Since it hides your real IP address, and replaces it with the address of the server you’re connected to, any website you access from then on won’t be able to tell what geographical area you are from.
So, if you’d want to access Pandora Radio (which only works in the US), all you’d need to do is connect to a US-based VPN server, and you’d get instant access.
Since any website can see your real IP address, it’s pretty clear that almost anyone else can see it too when you’re on the Internet. That might not seem like much, but – unfortunately – people can learn a lot of things about you just from your IP address:
That’s not all, though. When you’re online, your Internet traffic also isn’t secured. So, anybody can monitor it if they want to see what you’re doing on the web. For example, your ISP or government can snoop on your online traffic to see what websites you access or what you look at on the Internet.
Also, here’s another worrying thing – advertisers can use ads to track your online movements to a certain extent. Why would they do that? To build up an “accurate” customer profile, and bombard you with “relevant” ads. What’s more, they could even buy data about your online behavior from your ISP. Technically, that isn’t legal, but you never know what goes on behind the scenes – not to mention that in the US that happens openly, and it isn’t against the law.
You’re probably getting pretty worried right about now, but – fortunately – you can take it easy. One of the main VPN benefits is that it can help you protect your online privacy against all those threats. How? By masking your IP address to hide your digital footprints, and by encrypting your Internet traffic to ensure nobody can monitor it.
Cybercriminals are getting smarter and smarter by the day. Not only can they eavesdrop on your WiFi connections if the network isn’t properly secured, but they can even spoof WiFi networks (essentially creating fake networks), and trick you into connecting to them. Unfortunately, not even secured networks are very safe at the moment since WPA2 is actually vulnerable to a specific cyber attack.
What does this all mean to you? That whenever you try to use public WiFi to check the news, your bank account, or your social media profile(s), a hacker could monitor all your online communications, and steal sensitive data such as:
With such information, cybercriminals can easily empty your bank accounts, impersonate you, or even sell your personal information on the deep web.
Pretty scary stuff, right? Well, the good news is that using a VPN can help you properly secure your connections – even if you are using a fake or unsecured WiFi networks. Basically, your web traffic will be fully encrypted. If anyone will try to eavesdrop on your connections, they’ll just see gibberish and nothing more.
While the Internet can give you access to tons of information and content, the level of access you get can easily by limited by governments if they force national ISPs to use firewalls to block various websites. The Great Firewall of China is the best example we can give, as it bans numerous apps and websites across the country.
And that’s not all. Don’t forget – Internet censorship can also come in the shape of a network admin restricting your right to access various website on the WiFi you’re using. It’s a bit harsh to call that “censorship,” but let’s face it – doesn’t it feel like it when you’re not allowed to listen to your favorite YouTube music compilation when you’re at work or school just because some higher up or teacher is afraid you might “slack off”?
Well, since one of the main advantages of VPN services is that they hide your IP address, they help you instantly bypass any firewall restrictions you might encounter. Plus, your online traffic is completely hidden, so the network admin can’t monitor what you’re doing on the web – especially during your break.
If you run a business, and your employees need remote access to sensitive company and customer data on the go, a VPN would be the ideal way to offer it. Since the service encrypts employees’ connections to your business servers, there’s no way that hackers could eavesdrop on their traffic to steal valuable corporate data.
After all, employees tend to access business servers even from the coffee shop across the street nowadays. As admirable as their dedication is, if they connect to the company’s servers through unsecured WiFi, someone could easily monitor their connections. With a VPN, that isn’t possible.
Plus, that’s not the only way a VPN can benefit business owners and employees. Here are other reasons you should consider getting a VPN subscription for the whole office:
Did you ever notice a random drop in speeds whenever you were playing your regular online gaming session or downloading some files? Did that drop in online speed happen at regular intervals?
If yes, that’s basically bandwidth throttling in action. It’s when your ISP limits your bandwidth in order to “improve their services,” as they say. While that is true to a degree since it helps ISPs reduce network congestion, it’s more of a band aid solution that allows them to save money by not buying or renting better servers.
What’s more, some ISPs might even throttle your bandwidth as a way to get you to buy pricier subscription and data plans.
How are ISPs able to do all this? Simple – they can see what you’re doing online, specifically what you are “wasting” their bandwidth on. So, they know which services to throttle.
If you use a VPN, however, your ISP won’t be able to monitor your online activities since your traffic is fully encrypted. As a result, they won’t be able to throttle your bandwidth for any particular reason.
Ever heard of price discrimination? It’s when online retailers and airline companies charge online users differently based on what part of the world they are from. So, somebody from India might see a significantly lower price for an item compared to someone from the US.
Not very fair, is it? It does make sense from the retailer/airline company’s point of view, though. If they keep the same prices for everybody, they would either not make as much profit as they could off of users from more developed countries, or they wouldn’t be able to sell many items to people from less developed regions.
If you use a VPN, you might be able to bypass online price discrimination. Many users try connecting to a VPN server in South-East Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or South America to get better prices. They also try using servers in the countries where the airline company/retailer’s HQ is located.
The results vary, though. This method isn’t guaranteed to work 100% of the time. You might get better deals if you use a VPN sometimes, but – other times – you might not notice any difference. Usually, that’s not because the VPN doesn’t work, but because the website you’re using doesn’t use price discrimination tactics. If that’s not the case, then it’s likely the website in question uses tracking cookies, which you need to clear before every search.
File-sharing can be extremely convenient when you need fast access to something. However, did you know it’s also highly risky too? After all, every single member of the Swarm (the total number of downloaders and uploaders on a torrent) can see your real IP address. It might not seem like much, but – like we already mentioned – an IP address can reveal a lot of info about your whereabouts.
Not only that, but – depending on the laws of your country – if you download torrents and your ISP catches you doing it, they could either terminate your service, or report you to the authorities or copyright agencies. That can result in your getting DMCA notices or even huge fines.
Luckily, with a VPN, torrenting is much safer and private. That’s because the service hides your IP address and web traffic, so nobody can see them – not even your ISP. In case you’d like to learn more about downloading torrents and staying safe at the same time, feel free to check out our in-depth article on that topic.
We’d like to also take this opportunity and make it clear that we don’t encourage illegal piracy or copyright infringement. However, we do realize that – for some people – torrents are the only means of getting access to the software, work/school files, and entertainment they want. Which is why we decided to mention this bit when discussing the advantages and disadvantages of VPN services.
A lesser-known advantage of VPN services is that they can help you better enjoy video games. For one, the VPN will keep you safe from sore losers who resort to DDoS/DoS attacks to ruin everybody’s fun by hiding your real IP address. Also, because of that, you’ll get to play in geo-blocked regions with all your friends, and you’ll even manage to bypass annoying IP bans issues by unfair admins.
That’s not all, though. If you use a VPN when gaming, you’ll also get to enjoy the following perks:
We here at SmartyDNS offer high-speed VPN servers with military-grade 256 bit AES encryption and highly-secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, SoftEther and IKEv2) and we adhere to a strict no-log policy.
Our VPN servers double as proxy servers and we also offer a Smart DNS service that lets you unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other 300+ worldwide geo-restricted websites.
We offer user-friendly VPN apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad, Android, and Fire TV/Stick and browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
Oh, and we’ll also have your back with our 30-day money-back guarantee.
There are both VPN benefits and disadvantages, but the pros significantly outnumber the cons. When it comes to drawbacks, at most you’ll be bothered by the following:
But all those issues are minor, and you can easily find a decent VPN service that doesn’t log user info, and which offers cost-efficient subscriptions. Not to mention those problems really pale in comparison to the fact that VPNs help you bypass geo-blocks, protect your data from hackers and government surveillance agencies, and they make it possible to mask your digital footprints. Other perks include the fact that VPNs:
All in all, a VPN is a great service to use if you want to take your Internet privacy, safety, and freedom to the next level.
Get SmartyDNS for $3.7/mo!