Is VPN Necessary for Various Online Activities?
Is a VPN necessary every time you’re on the Internet, or do you just need to use one under special circumstances?
While a VPN can be a useful tool, it’s understandable if you might have certain doubts about whether or not you need to run it whenever you want to do something online.
Table of contents
- Is a VPN Necessary at Home?
- How Necessary Is a VPN for Just Browsing?
- Is a VPN Necessary for Smartphones?
- Is VPN Necessary at Work?
- Is a VPN Necessary for Traveling?
- Is a VPN Necessary for Torrenting?
- Is a VPN Necessary When Streaming?
- Is a VPN Necessary for Kodi?
- Is VPN Necessary for Your Online Habits? We’ve Got You Covered!
Well, we’ll answer this question, and we’ll start by giving you a quick, straightforward definition of what a VPN is, and then move on to answering some of the most common questions regarding what situations you might need a VPN for.
What Is a VPN?
A VPN is a service you can use to surf the web in a secure, private way. It helps you hide your real IP address (which contains data that points to your geographical location) so that you can access blocked content, and encrypts your online traffic and personal information to keep it safe from hackers and surveillance agencies.
Is a VPN Necessary at Home?
It depends what you plan on doing when you’re on the Internet at home. If you want to do any of the following:
- Browse the web
- Watch different movies and shows
- Download torrents
- Game online
Then yes, you’d definitely stand to benefit from using a VPN. It can help you overcome content restrictions, make online browsing more secure, keep you from getting into trouble for downloading torrents, and protect you from DDoS attacks (which can happen when you’re gaming).
A VPN would also help you avoid ISP bandwidth throttling when you’re at home. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s when your ISP decides you’re using “too much data” to do various things online. So, they slow down your online speeds in an attempt to “convince” you to buy a pricier subscription or data plan. Of course, that doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s worth keeping in mind a VPN can prevent that from ruining your online experience.
And if you want to enjoy all of those perks on all your devices, you could set up a VPN on your router. This way, whenever you will connect to the router’s network with a specific device, it will automatically use the VPN to access the web.
Still, we should also mention that if you’re only interested in enjoying geo-blocked content and nothing else, you could use a Smart DNS instead of a VPN. Basically, it hides your DNS address (which can contain info that reveals your geo-location) to help you bypass geo-restrictions, and it too can be set up on routers like a VPN. Though, it doesn’t provide all of the other perks we mentioned.
How Necessary Is a VPN for Just Browsing?
You don’t really need to use a VPN if you just browse secure web pages that are available worldwide. However, you might need a VPN if you come across a website that’s only available in certain countries since you’ll have to hide your real IP address to bypass geo-blocks.
Many US websites are good examples of that since some of them tend to be available only to US users. Some websites have even started restricting access to EU users since the GDPR came into effect, actually.
For instance, if you’d try to access The Chicago Tribune from a country in the EU, you’d get a message letting you know the website isn’t available in most European countries. That’s just one example out of many.
Also, if you want to lower search engine tracking to a certain extent so that you don’t have to deal with spammy “personalized” ads so much, you should use a VPN to hide your digital footprints.
The same goes if you want to prevent your ISP (or anyone else) from seeing what you’re browsing for, or if you want to prevent cybercriminals from stealing sensitive info – like credit card details or login credentials, for example.
And yes, if you just want to browse websites that have geo-blocked music, shows, and sports without the extra security, you could use a Smart DNS instead of a VPN if it sounds more appealing to you.
Is a VPN Necessary for Smartphones?
If you want to watch geo-blocked content or access geo-restricted apps on your smartphone, a VPN would definitely come in handy. Alternatively, you could use a Smart DNS service. Both hide your geographical location when you’re on the Internet.
However, if you want to go the extra mile and protect the sensitive info you have on your phone (as well as other stuff like login credentials for multiple accounts), you should stick to a VPN since it can encrypt all your traffic and personal data to keep them safe.
After all, while using a WiFi network (even an unsecured one) to check your email or do some online banking on the go might be convenient, it’s extremely dangerous because hackers can actually keep tabs on everything you do.
Is a VPN Necessary for iPhone?
While most iOS device are relatively safe because of the powerful encryption they use, you can’t rely on that completely. As it seems, a data extraction company that works with the FBI managed to get around that high level of security to unlock an iPhone.
That poses a serious threat to your privacy as an iOS user – not to mention what danger your data would be in if cybercriminals would be able to get their hands on that company’s tech or replicate their methods.
Fortunately, a VPN would act as a second, stronger layer of encryption, giving your iOS device a much-needed security boost. Also, it would hide your online identity, and let you run torrenting applications safely.
Is a VPN Necessary for Android?
Like iOS, Android has strong encryption. For many years, it was thought that it couldn’t be broken. However, back in 2017, an investigation revealed that the FBI can actually crack Android security protocols. While the circumstances are understandable given the context of the investigation, we’re once more faced with the dilemma of what would happen if hackers were to learn how the FBI bypasses Android encryption.
In 2016, there was also quite the media scandal surrounding the fact that Full Disk Encryption on millions of Android devices could be cracked. That issue was likely fixed, but that doesn’t mean cybercriminals won’t be able to come up with other exploits.
All in all, it’s just safer to use a VPN on your Android phone whenever you go online. It adds an extra, more powerful layer of encryption, and also secures your Internet privacy. Plus, you’ll be able to use torrenting apps without having to worry about getting huge fines.
Is VPN Necessary at Work?
First, we need to make one thing clear – corporate VPNs are not the same as personal VPNs.
- Corporate VPNs – Also called remote-access VPNs, these are tools set up internally by a company to allow employees to access sensitive work data remotely. Normally, large corporations use corporate VPNs.
- Personal VPNs – These are services offered by third-party providers that make it easy for any online user to access the web in a safe, unrestricted manner. Smaller businesses are more likely to use these kinds of VPNs because they are more cost-efficient.
With that out of the way, yes, a VPN would definitely come in handy at work – whether you’re just an employee, a business owner, or self-employed. Here are a few ways a VPN would help:
- A VPN would help you deal with geo-restrictions that can prevent you from accessing websites by hiding your real IP address. Such restrictions could be a huge problem if, for example, you’d need to do market research for a client by checking US websites that are only available to US online users and nobody else.
- VPNs could offer a security boost by encrypting employee Internet traffic when they’re accessing work files remotely – even when they are connected to a WiFi network.
- A VPN could help you unblock VoIP services if they aren’t available in your country (whether it’s due to geo-blocks or government censorship), making conference calls much easier to set up. Besides that, it could also potentially help you get better call rates, and secure your VoIP traffic to make it surveillance-proof.
Lastly, a VPN might benefit you as an employee if your workplace network enforces firewalls that prevent your from accessing various websites. For instance, you might not be able to access YouTube to listen to music while working or on your break.
In that case, using a VPN would help you bypass the workplace network’s firewall, so that you can connect to any website you want.
Of course, we do need to mention that if your line of work doesn’t rely on Internet access, a VPN won’t really be necessary.
Is a VPN Necessary for Traveling?
Yes, and one of the main reasons you should use a VPN when you’re on vacation is to secure your personal data. Let’s face it – you’ll likely connect to numerous WiFi networks whenever you want to check the web, especially if your data plan is pretty small or if you already used it up.
The problem with that is that many WiFi networks are unsecured (don’t have a password), and hackers can exploit that weakness to monitor all your communications. That means they would be able to easily steal bank account details from you, for instance.
What’s more, even your hotel’s WiFi network might not be 100% safe since cybercriminals could try to spoof it, fool you into connecting to their fake copycat network, and steal sensitive data from you.
With a VPN, though, you’re no longer at risk since all your info and traffic is encrypted, meaning that nobody can monitor your activities. If they try, all they’ll see is a load of gibberish.
Other reasons why a VPN is necessary when you travel include:
- You might visit a country where certain websites you are used to browsing might not be available due to geo-restrictions. Alternatively, the country’s government might block said websites (like China blocks YouTube and Google). Since a VPN masks your IP, you could overcome those issues with ease.
- A VPN can help you secure your privacy when you’re on vacation by encrypting your traffic and ensuring no ISP (national or foreign) can track your online behavior. That would really come in handy if you visit the US, where ISPs can actually sell your personal data to advertisers.
- A VPN could potentially help you get better deals on airplane tickets. It’s not always a guarantee, but many online users have said VPNs have helped them save anywhere between $20-$30 to even $400 or more.
Is a VPN Necessary for Torrenting?
That would depend on which country you live in since some places don’t criminalize torrenting. For example, if you’re from Switzerland, Poland, or Spain, you won’t need to use a VPN for torrenting since you likely won’t get in trouble with the law for it. Even countries like Romania, Greece, or the Netherlands are pretty safe from this perspective, as torrenting is often overlooked by the authorities there.
However, if you’re from a country where torrenting is considered a legal issue (like the US or Canada – just to name a few examples), you should definitely use a VPN to protect yourself. Otherwise, you might risk:
- Receiving DMCA notices
- Being taken to court
- Having to pay huge fines (up to $150,000 in the US)
- Having to do jail time
A VPN for torrenting would also be necessary if you value your privacy and want to encrypt your online traffic to make sure your ISP can’t monitor what files or how much data you download.
And you would need a VPN if you want to protect your identity from other peers downloading the same file as you. Don’t forget – most torrents contain trackers that collect your IP address, and that info is shared with other users who are in the same Swarm (the total number of peers sharing a torrent) as you.
As a disclaimer – we here at SmartyDNS do not promote copyright infringement or illegal piracy, but we do understand that – sometimes – torrenting is the only way some people can access the work and school files or entertainment they need.
Is a VPN Necessary for Popcorn Time?
Given that Popcorn Time relies on the BitTorrent protocol, you clearly need to use a VPN if you’re from a country where torrenting is illegal. Popcorn Time’s own website says that you should use the software “at your own risk.”
In fact, if you also check their Terms of Services, you’ll see they make it pretty clear that they don’t take any responsibilities if you are accused of committing copyright violations while using Popcorn Time.
Basically, what we previously discussed applies here too. And besides protecting yourself from legal problems, you should also use a VPN if you want to protect your privacy when using Popcorn Time.
Is a VPN Necessary When Streaming?
If you can’t access certain streams because they aren’t available in your country, you’d need a VPN to bypass that obstacle by masking your real-life location.
Also, a VPN would really come in handy when streaming if you want to make sure your ISP won’t throttle your bandwidth because you spend “too much” time and data on streaming.
A VPN isn’t your only option, though. If you’re just interested in getting access to geo-blocked streams and nothing else, you could just use a Smart DNS service. Since it replaces your ISP-assigned DNS address that points to your actual geo-location with a different DNS that points to an “acceptable” country, you can overcome content restrictions with ease.
So, if you’re from Italy, for example, you’d be able to use a Smart DNS to access content from the US Netflix library by making the platform believe you’re connecting from the US.
One of the main perks of using a Smart DNS for streaming is that you get to enjoy your original ISP-provided speeds. With a VPN, your streaming speeds could be a bit slower if it has powerful encryption, though that’s not likely to happen all the time. Still, if you want to make sure your streaming speeds stay the same, a Smart DNS would be a decent alternative in this case.
Is a VPN Necessary for Kodi?
While the Kodi website isn’t geo-restricted to online users, the website’s video addons are. Basically, some of those addons are only available in certain countries. For example, the Kodi Hulu addon will only work if you’re in the US since Hulu is only available in that country.
That’s because Kodi is only an open-source media player – it doesn’t own the rights to stream all the content the addons offer worldwide. Kodi just uses the addons to integrate content from other platforms into their own software – that’s it.
In this case, a VPN would definitely be necessary. You’d have to use a service with a US server, connect to it, and then try to install a geo-blocked addon on Kodi. The same goes for any other addons that are only available in other countries.
Already have access to the addons you want? Well, if you plan on using Kodi to binge content, you might still want to consider getting a VPN to avoid ISP bandwidth throttling. Since your ISP can see what you do online, they’ll know if you use a lot of bandwidth to watch all sorts of shows on Kodi.
With a VPN, that’s no longer a problem since all your Internet traffic becomes encrypted, meaning your ISP can’t monitor it to see what you’re doing. What’s more, your ISP (and nobody else for that matter) won’t manage to see exactly what content you are watching on Kodi, which is a huge plus if you want your privacy to be respected. Also, you get to enjoy a higher degree of security since your geo-location and IP aren’t leaked.
Overall, since Kodi is just a media player, you don’t exactly need a VPN to use it because it’s available to everyone. Still, using a VPN for Kodi will give you access to more addons, and help keep your privacy intact while you’re using the software – not to mention it’s always nice to have a VPN by your side when you’re on the Internet.
Need a Reliable VPN Service?
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So, is a VPN necessary for you? Well, there’s only one clear answer – it depends. Certain online activities are best performed while using a VPN, while you can also rely on a Smart DNS if you’re only interested in unblocking content and nothing else.