What is a VPN: Explanation and Best Choice

15-May-2019

A VPN is a secure encrypted connection between your device and a so-called VPN server. Via the VPN server, your data only accesses the Internet. This has several advantages: you are protected against hackers, you can bypass geographical blockages (and you can watch Ziggo Go abroad, for example), and your privacy is better protected. For the reasons mentioned earlier, using a VPN connection is becoming more and more popular among internet users. On this page you will find extensive information about how such a virtual private network works, what you can do with it and how this solution works for different purposes. But first an overview for the people who are simply looking for a good VPN connection. Below you can see our top 4 favorite providers.

What's VPN? And what can you do with it? Clear explanation and best choice!

What's a VPN?

A VPN is a virtual private network between which data can be exchanged in a secure manner. The abbreviation stands for "virtual private network". A VPN connection is a network made safe by encryption that is connected to each other via the internet. This encryption takes place between the user's device(s) and the VPN server. These secure connections are designed to allow remote computers to connect to local networks, e.g. in the office, for people who work outside the office. These local networks are often company networks or computer networks within educational organisations. Because the VPN connection is encrypted, people can send data to these networks in a secure way. Nowadays VPN is used to create more online privacy, bypass geographical blockages and protect against hackers. This is done by subscribing to a VPN service. With such a subscription you have access to the various VPN servers of the service in question. With the included software you can easily connect to such a VPN server and all your internet traffic will be encrypted and routed through that server. To give some clarity to the story above we will show you schematically how a VPN network works.

Easy via VPN provider

The easiest way to use a VPN connection is by subscribing to a company that offers VPN connections, a so-called VPN provider. There are many different providers that offer VPN connections to VPN servers around the world for a fee. These parties enable you to choose such a secure connection when you think you need it. If you use the internet through a VPN, you use the internet in a more secure way. We have extensively tested several services and have written an exclusive review about all tested VPN services. Below you will find at least the top 3 VPN services we think are the best.

ExpressVPN

In addition, the security and privacy is really good with this service. The best encryption is used and no logs of users are kept. You get 3 months free with an annual subscription to ExpressVPN! *Only valid via the links on our website. When ordering an annual subscription, you will see this offer on the ExpressVPN website.

NordVPN

NordVPN is a large and well-known provider that has been active for many years. During these years they have not been idle, which is clearly visible in the software and its functionalities. You will find good and easy to use software for all known operating systems. Even for the slightly more exotic equipment there is support. For example, on the website you will find an extensive explanation and associated files on how to get a NordVPN connection active on a DD-WRT router. NordVPN's connections have proven to be really stable and fast in our tests, something that is obviously very important when using a VPN connection. Especially when you are looking for a good torrent VPN, NordVPN is known for the high level of privacy they guarantee. It is therefore one of the favorite VPN services for those who want to surf and download anonymously. This is partly because of the possibility of Tor over VPN and VPN over VPN. But also the good kill switch function and the fact that the VPN service is located in Panama confirms the image of a reliable provider.

CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost has developed software for all known operating systems; Windows, iOS, MacOS and Android. All this software is very good and easy to use. The website also includes extensive manuals for installing CyberGhost on numerous devices including a Raspberry Pi and various routers, as well as a cheap premium VPN. If you are looking for a very good affordable VPN, then CyberGhost is for you!

How does VPN work?

Setting up a virtual private network requires a server and a client. In most cases you will only be a client in the VPN network. This is for example the case when you need to connect to the network of your company or educational institution. Even if you are using a paid online VPN service the server is of course already available, as a client you will need to log in to the server. This is to ensure that only people with the appropriate rights are allowed to use the VPN connection. This login can be done in different ways, depending on what the administrator wants. For example, a combination of a login name and password can be used. It can also be done with a password in combination with a certificate and other methods, such as creating a secure tunnel. This tunnel ensures that all data that is sent and received is encrypted so that only the sender and receiver can see what is being sent. It is also called a VPN tunnel and if you want to install your own VPN server you can do so.  The software you need is free to download and always comes with a detailed description. A VPN server can be installed on many different devices. Think for example of certain routers, the Raspberry Pi, computer that is always on, NAS station and so on. Installing a VPN server at home is useful when you want to access your own home network securely from the outside. If you want to do this you are responsible for the correct configuration of both the VPN server and the client.

If you want to know more about this you can read our page with explanation on how a VPN works.

VPN protocol

VPN connections are thus set up by means of a virtual point-to-point connection. This is done by using a virtually secured tunnel and encrypting the data sent in most protocols. There are several ways to set up the tunnel. The most common ways, the protocols, we will discuss below.

OpenVPN

OpenVPN is an open-source VPN solution. It stands for "open source virtual private network". This technique uses the tried and tested OpenSSL. This means that all encryption possibilities offered by OpenSSL can also be used for OpenVPN connection. The AES encryption is often seen as the strongest, and certificates are used to establish the connection. This way the VPN server and client knows how to encrypt and decrypt the data. Because OpenVPN can work on different ports and you can choose for both tcpip and udp, it can often be used. Also when the network you are using or country you are in tries to block the use of VPN's, OpenVPN is known to be the number 1 safest solution to set up a VPN connection. In addition, due to its open-source character, it is available for many different platforms. This means that we also recommend OpenVPN where possible.

IPSecL2TP

This is in fact a combination of 2 protocols. IPsec takes care of the encryption and L2TP takes care of the tunnel that needs to be set up. This is also why the protocols are often used in combination with each other. IPSec always uses UDP port 500. This means in practice, it is easy to block. IPSec is safe. This is partly due to the many encryption methods supported by reliable authentication. In addition, it is installed as standard on many devices. All this also makes it a widely used protocol.

PPTP

PPTP is a protocol often used in the past. We strongly discourage this protocol due to found security loopholes. It stands for "point to point tunneling". And this is all it does, it just sets up a tunnel. In addition, the tunnel set up is of poor quality by today's standards. It has been proven several times that the encryption is relatively easy to crack. The connection over the network is about secure tunnel in the PPTP protocol, which is not very secure. Through this tunnel, encrypted data is sent that is not very strong either.

Softether

Softether is a relatively new VPN protocol. Like OpenVPN, it is open source and therefore free to use and modified at your own convenience. The advantage over OpenVPN is that it seems to be faster and more stable than OpenVPN. Softether is relatively new and has yet to prove itself. So far, this protocol looks promising.

What is a VPN connection used for?

VPN networks are used for a wide range of applications. Below, under the relevant headings, you will find its usefulness in the situation in question.

Companies and other institutions

For companies, it is desirable that employees can access the company network if they are not physically present within the company. This way, important files stored within the company are always accessible, and this is of course over the secure VPN connection. A VPN is therefore a security system for the data that is sent and received. In addition, it is possible to use services that run on the network, such as the CRM system, calendars and other services. VPN connections are also often set up between universities and other educational institutions in order to exchange information effectively. In this way, students and professors can easily and securely exchange information.

Safe on public networks

When you are logged in on a public (wifi) network, it is relatively easy for a third party to eavesdrop on your network. With a VPN connection this danger is completely gone. Because the data you send and receive via a VPN connection is encrypted, malicious people who intercept your data only see encrypted data. This can be very desirable when you want to send sensitive data over a public network.

Bypassing censorship and geographical blockades

When you use a VPN connection to access the internet the internet thinks you are using the internet directly from the ip address of the VPN server. In this way you can create the impression that you are in America while you are physically in the Netherlands. If you connect with your computer, phone or other device to a server in America it seems like you are in America. This has the advantage that geographically blocked content that can only be seen in America can be viewed in the Netherlands. Ideal to watch the American Netflix, for example, and the other way around also it works the same way. For example, it is impossible to watch a lot of internet television from the Netherlands abroad. Think for example of RTL XL and NPO that it is impossible to watch because of the geographical restrictions. With a VPN you can bypass these blockages and just watch Videoland abroad. In China, for example, many websites are blocked. In Turkey too, access to certain websites and services such as Twitter is regularly blocked. These blockages can be avoided with a VPN connection and commercial VPN services are often used to bypass censorship and geographical blockages. They offer the use of their VPN servers in a subscription form.

More anonymous on the internet with an online VPN

Many people also simply feel the need to be more anonymous on the internet. The fact that ad networks are trying to build a profile of you is enough for some people to purchase a VPN service. In fact you hide your own IP when using a VPN and many people also want to deny the government or ISP they are using, the insight into their data. A commercial VPN solution offers a good opportunity for this as well.

How to use a VPN network

To login to a VPN network you need a client (software) that connects to the VPN server. Most operating systems support a number of protocols by default. In addition, the various VPN protocols release free client software that allows you to connect to a VPN server that works on that protocol. To actually log into the online VPN network you need an account. The authority or company that gives you access to the VPN servers will provide you with the required login details for your account. In 9 out of 10 cases they will also give you a clear explanation on how to connect to their server. Most mobile devices also offer support for connecting to a VPN network. This standard support is usually not used. The different providers always develop their own app, for example for the iPad, which works much easier than the built-in support on your device. If you come across a VPN app in the app stores, it is most likely an app for using VPN connections. OpenVPN has the broadest support for different operating systems. For example, OpenVPN even supports setting up a DD-WRT router as a VPN client. This allows you, for example, to connect your entire home network to a VPN network. There are also other routers that support VPN connection by default, these can be found on the VPN router page.

What is a VPN service?

These are companies that, for a fee, make VPN servers available to their customers. This allows them to easily set up and use a VPN connection. Lately, the rise of commercial VPN services is very much on the high. These VPN services are parties that make various servers (often a whole range) available to use the Internet via the servers. The biggest reason to use such services is often for privacy. For example, the connection is always secure so that other parties cannot see exactly what you are doing on the internet. In addition, the services are also often used to view content with geographical blockages. We have a special page where we compare reviews of all known VPN services. A commercial online VPN service also usually has easy-to-use software for different operating systems. For example, it is very easy to connect your iPad to a VPN with the help of an app.

Do you have to use a VPN?

We are often asked whether it is necessary to use a VPN connection. Of course it is difficult for us to decide for others, but we do use a VPN. For example, if you want to view content that is normally geographically blocked, then buying a VPN is highly recommended. Using a VPN is also highly recommended for your online security and privacy.

Best VPN Ranking


vpn-provider Visit ExpressVPN



vpn-provider
Visit NordVPN



vpn-provider
Visit Cyberghost



vpn-provider
Visit PureVPN



vpn-provider
Visit PrivateVPN