What is VPN and why do I need it?

Simply put, connecting to the office local network from a remote location requires use of the internet. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a subscription service that conceals your IP address (your identity) and encrypts the data sent back and forth as well as providing Cybersecurity and anonymity for any internet browsing. It basically routes your network activity through a remote VPN server through an IP Tunnel, a protected conduit  that no unauthorized person can gain access to, even if you use public Wi-Fi – a prime source for hackers.

VPNs have been around for a while, but once the COVID pandemic relocated vast numbers of workers to remote status, the demand across the business world grew exponentially. Even with no remote workers, every business should use VPNs to render all communications and transactions over the internet ‘invisible’ to unwanted prying eyes.

At IT Support LA, we have long espoused the undeniable value of a VPN and it is included behind every firewall we install for our clients. As workers left the office in droves last year, the buzz among the IT Support Los Angeles Community was “Now everybody wants VPNs!”. For us, it was simple, since the tool was already in place - it just needed a little modification updating the roster of devices allowed network access. It is the simplest and most reliable way to provide impeccable Cybersecurity for the expanding Office/Home business configuration.

The key words explaining why any business needs VPNs are Privacy and Security. They protect every user, from the user in the field accessing the company network from a variety of devices to the employee sitting at a desktop at home or in the office.

Note that a VPN is NOT the ‘Be all – end all’ of security – it is a tool in the toolbox of overall Cybersecurity, protecting data traffic and internet usage. An employee can still click on an attachment or link in a Phishing email and allow malware into the network. Cyber crooks are not stupid and they have their own toolboxes of schemes to get around defenses. New defensive measure still tend to come about as a response to successful cyber-attacks.

The 3 main things that a VPN will do:
1) Mask your location, browsing and torrenting history.
2) Encrypt your data as it travels over the internet. Even if hackers could steal it, they can’t read it.
3) Protect you on Public Wi-Fi. Cyber crooks park outside of Starbucks to see what they can steal customers use the free Wi-Fi.

For consumers, a VPN can enable viewers to access streaming content that is not available in their area, to access blocked and censored websites and avoid price discrimination based on location – yes, online prices can change based on IP address and zip code.

Please review our pages on Cybersecurity Dos & Don’ts and Best Practices for Secure Telecommuting  for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is there a 100% free VPN?

A:  Yes. There are a number of free VPNs, but remember that old saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” READ THE SMALL PRINT! While they may not require monetary payment directly from you, they make their money in other ways/ Some free VPNs sell your data, while some also monitor your website history and sell that information to advertisers. While the VPN masks your identity and data from others, the VPN provider has full access.

Not only will free VPNs sell your information, but they will also bombard you with advertising and continuously nag you to upgrade to their paid service.

Security is generally not up to par with paid VPNs, so do NOT think your privacy is bulletproof with a free VPN – it is not. Some consumers may be willing to put up with all the nonsense that comes with a free VPN. As a top-tier Managed IT Services company, we at IT Support LA,  strongly advise against it for business purposes, and most reputable IT Services firms would undoubtedly agree – the security issues alone provide many headaches for you and your IT support.

VPNOverview.com rates their top 6 free VPNs HERE.

Q: Which is better a paid or free VPN?

A: It depends on how much aggravation you’re willing to endure. Aside from the Cybersecurity issues listed above, a free VPN will only provide bare-bones performance: a slower connection speed, which will adversely affect your internet browsing, streaming. If you’re a gamer, don’t even consider it.

A paid VPN typically offers the highest level of automatically updated security, the fastest speed available and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are using the internet in the safest way possible.

Q: Is a VPN expensive?

A:  It varies. As with many types of subscriptions, the longer the term you accept, the lower the monthly cost. Typical month-to-month prices usually range between $5.00 to $12.00 per month, while 12, 24, or 36-month terms will come in much cheaper. Read the offer – the number of devices allowed on different plans also vary.

Where the best ‘bang for your buck’ lies depends on what you need and what type of customer you are – business or consumer. Ask your IT services department or offsite IT Support – maybe the IT HelpDesk - what they recommend.

Q: Does VPN have a firewall?

A: Most Premium VPNs do have a specific type of firewall which guards against the interception of the VPN connection by unauthorized persons – it protects only the starting point of the connection (the office), the traffic through the ‘IP Tunnel’, but the computer of the user at the end point of the connection (the remote worker).

This differs from the standard firewall which protects all users and allows for the creation of more specific security Policies & Procedures for ALL components of Cybersecurity (a VPN is merely one of those components).