A Virtual Private Network (VPN) like Private Internet Access is a way of pushing your network traffic through a remote server, allowing you to send and receive data as though you were from somewhere else.
These have traditionally been the workhorses of the enterprise, allowing workers to remotely connect to the corporate network when away on business, or working from home. But why – as a consumer – should you care?
Here are 5 refreshing uses for VPN networks that you may not have thought of.
Watch Netflix (Without Your ISP Slowing You Down)
Verizon is an ISP so terrible, it borders on farce. Some have speculated that Verizon isn’t actually an ISP, but rather the longest exercise in broadband-related trolling.
What makes Verizon so terrible? For starters they’ve been throttling Netflix, likely to protect their own vested interested in cable television that are threatened by the faster (and almost certainly better) offerings of Netflix.
If you’re a Verizon customer and you want to get full-speed Netflix, all you need is a VPN like Private Internet Access with an endpoint in the US, and you can watch the popular streaming site, but without the needless buffering.
Play Games (Without Your ISP Slowing You Down)
Traffic from online games is often slowed down by ISPs. Furthermore, some games (including the hugely popular MMORPG World Of Warcraft) use the BitTorrent protocol to issue patches and updates. This protocol is a particularly bandwidth-intensive one, and one that is often used for illegally downloading copyrighted materials. As a result, it is often throttled by network providers.
How do you get around this? You use Private Internet Access, making it impossible for your ISP to directly slow your gaming experience. Fair warning though, this is a double-edged sword. By using a VPN, you make significant increase your latency, potentially reducing gaming speed.
Watch Awesome Online TV
Australia has the ABC. America has CBS. The UK has the BBC. What do these broadcasters have in common? They let you freely stream their content online, but only if you live in these respective countries.
But what if you’re desperate for your fix of The Chaser, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, or ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid?’.
Private Internet Access allow you to move your network traffic to the country of your choice. All you need to find is an end-point in the country of the service you want to watch, allowing you to unlock the treasures of BBC iPlayer.
Securely Work From A Cafe (Without Getting Spied On)
Those of us fortunate enough to not have to work from an office also have the luxury of working from wherever we please. Whilst I prefer to work from my local hackerspace, others prefer working from cafes, pubs and even – for those who live in cities with municipal WiFi – parks.
Whilst convenient, the majority of these networks are fundamentally insecure, since they send and receive traffic without the encryption that is generally found on the WPA2 networks that are used by most home users.
Thankfully, VPNs generally encrypt traffic using secure, military-grade encryption. Meaning? Well, you can surf, work and be productive without worrying about anyone capturing your traffic.
Shop Online While Abroad (Without The Hassle)
So, I was living abroad and I decided to switch Web hosts. I paid with a British credit card. After having paid… Nothing.
Later, I got an email from the company I’d bought the hosting from. They said that my purchase had been flagged as potentially suspect and they would have to manually verify my purchase. What did that involve?
Well, I had to take a piece of blank, white paper and place it over my bank card. I then had to find a pencil, and shade the piece of paper that was over my card, so that the shape of my card and the numbers were noticeable. I then had to fax – yes, fax – the paper to the Web hosting company.
The reason I had to jump through these hoops was due to my making a purchase with a British credit card whilst abroad. However, if I used a VPN based in the UK, I could have saved myself a lot of hassle.
Did I miss any?
VPNs are a wonderful thing, and they’re not just for downloading torrents without getting sued by the RIAA. If you’re looking for a good VPN service, we recommend Private Internet Access — they do not store logs, supports 5 devices simultaneously and only costs only $39.95 a year.
Have you found any unique or interesting uses for them? Let me know in the comments section below.