Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are primarily designed to enhance privacy and security. However, some characteristics of how they work make them suitable for other uses as well. In fact, there are many ways in which a VPN can be useful.
In case you haven’t read our VPN Guide yet, these versatile services help us protect our data and identities. By allowing connections to secure servers and applying high levels of encryption they apply to our data, VPNs help keep us safe.
However, VPNs often cost money to subscribe to, so let’s see what else we can do with them to reap maximum benefit.
When to Use a VPN?
1. Stop ISP throttling
This first use I’ve listed is one of the most important for many people. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are where most of us get our Internet from. This means that they control how much speed we get – basically, our entire quality of service depends on them.
Unfortunately, being so reliant on a single source puts us at their mercy. Often, ISPs have policies in place that will allow them to throttle, or restrict, your Internet speed when they wish to.
By using a VPN, you are masking all your Internet traffic from your ISP and they will find it hard to find a reason to throttle your connection.
2. Block Malware
An increasing number of VPN service providers like NordVPN (via CyberSec) and Surfshark (via CleanWeb) help block Malware. Although how these services do it may vary, the intent is clear – they want to keep you safe in any way they can.
There is also usually no extra charge for these services, so you won’t need to fork out the money for a dedicated anti-malware application to use.
Again, VPNs help effectively overcome censorship by hiding the nature of requests made from your devices. If controls set in place to block access to certain services do not know what you are doing, they will have a harder time limiting your Internet access.
4. Access Online Bank Accounts from Overseas
If you travel you might discover that some banks limit overseas access to your account for security reasons. They do this by following the IP address of the place you’re connecting from, so it's usually automatic and unavoidable.
This can be very inconvenient, especially if you’re travelling for an extended period. To avoid facing this situation, use a VPN and connect to a VPN server in your home country before trying to access your bank account.
Aside from allowing you access that used to be blocked, the VPN also helps secure your connection while doing so. This is also important since when you travel, you often won’t have access to a secure network.
5. P2P Safely
File sharing, torrenting, or P2P is popular with many people around the world. Unfortunately, it has come under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Copyright violations have led to P2P becoming highly monitored in certain places such as the United States, the entire Euro zone, and even some Asian countries like Singapore.
Getting caught torrenting might get you anything from a slap-on-the-wrist warning to serious jail time and fines, depending on the severity of the offence. To avoid issues such as these, use a VPN that allows file sharing on its networks.
Not all do, so be on the lookout for them when evaluating a VPN for subscription. Some VPNs like Surfshark allow torrenting on all their servers, while others like NordVPN have special P2P-optimized servers for use.
6. Use Whatsapp in China
China is one of the most oppressed countries in the world. Despite its tremendous current day economic stature, citizens of the country have little to no leeway in politics outside of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The people are also monitored tightly for signs of dissent, with the Great Firewall acting as a massive barrier to the outside world. Unfortunately, many apps get caught in that block and even Whatsapp will not work there.
Since Whatsapp works on data connections, using a VPN can help you unblock Whatsapp in China – if you choose the right one.
7. Secure Browsing
When we browse the Internet all the traffic (data coming in and out of our devices) is vulnerable during transit. It is entirely possible for hackers to Intercept data traffic and steal it, even without your knowledge.
When we use VPNs, all data in and out of our devices are usually protected by the encryption provided by them. Almost all VPN service providers will use 256-bit encryption – levels as high as what many armed forces around the world today still use.
8. Stop Unwanted Data Collection
Visiting websites for information, to buy things, or even simply out of boredom can have unintended consequences. For many businesses today, Big Data is a key watchword. They try to collect as much information as possible from web users.
This helps them serve up advertising that is in-line with users’ wants and needs. Unfortunately, this method of doing things is kind of intrusive. Do you really want an unknown company to be aware that you’re browsing for condoms for example? Even worse – you’ll get plastered with condom advertisements at all subsequent sites you might visit.
VPNs help with this on a number of levels. By masking your identity, VPNs make it more difficult for websites to track your browsing habits. In fact, a lot of VPNs today help block websites from tracking user information at all.
9. Unblocking YouTube
While many of us simply love Youtube for everything from cat videos to how-to guides, some countries don’t feel the same way. In fact, there is a long list of places where citizens can’t access content on this great platform. Again, using a VPN in situations like these can help bypass blocks that are somewhat inane.
In addition to that there is now also YouTube TV – which isn’t available outside the United States. Using a VPN can let you watch Youtube TV from anywhere in the world, as long as that service provider has a server in the U.S.
10. Unblocking Netflix Regional Content
I love Netflix, my mom loves Netflix, and even my dog loves Netflix. Sadly, because of licensing clauses and other restrictions, Netflix limits its content depending on what country you might live in.
Those in the United States are luckier since Netflix has a humongous library of media there, but other places don’t get those benefits despite paying comparable rates. If you want to unleash the full power of Netflix, sign up with a VPN provider that explicitly states it works with the services.
I highly recommend using one of the more reputable service providers for this purpose, such as ExpressVPN.
11. Watch NBA
Basketball is a huge hit in so many countries, especially watching teams from the NBA play. Yet not everyone can watch NBA live so what can we do? You’ve got it – use a VPN! Don’t forget that VPNs can be used on many devices.
That means you can use it on your routers, mobile devices, or even many smart TVs. Installing one and using it can give you NBA Live access from virtually anywhere.
12. Access Disney Plus (Disney+)
Disney Plus is at the moment only available in a handful of countries, with another small handful expecting rollout soon. Trying to explain that to your kids if you’re not in one of those countries can be impossible.
Instead of trying the impossible, do what’s possible by subscribing to a VPN and using that to let the kids watch Disney Plus. All you need to do is use the VPN to connect to a server in one of the countries where Disney Plus is available – problem solved and headache avoided.
By using a VPN you can in fact access a whole lot of media streams online which would otherwise be restricted. Watch UFC, Hulu, iBBC, and lots more like a boss!
Conclusion: The Right VPN Can be a Goldmine
As you can see by now, there are so many ways you can use a VPN that you might not even have thought of some of them. Yet at the end of the day, just as with everything else, finding the right VPN for a long term partnership is crucial.
Most VPN service providers offer outstanding discounts for longer subscription terms. This means that if you choose the wrong one and don’t realize it until later – you’re essentially locked in to an unhappy partnership.
When choosing a VPN, make sure you know what you’re looking for. Then, do a bit of research to make sure the VPN you’re looking at will fit those needs. Some top-tier VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN can do virtually anything, while others are more suited to specific use cases.
Where possible, refer to a few independent reviews with actual test results instead of simply accepting claims as the truth.
About Timothy Shim
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.