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Let me start this off by saying this is a shameless plug for Private Internet Access (PIA). Not just because I get a tiny kickback if people sign up, but because I truly believe in the product. I use PIA and love it. I’ve tried several others (including one about hiding your butt with a Donkey mascot) and hands down PIA is the best. PIA is growing rapidly and has new partners each month. This means more locations and better service. Furthermore the price is around $40 a year, which cannot be beat by the competitors in terms of quality and cost.

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN), is just that. It is a private network tunnel that uses the public internet to connect. So all traffic to and from your system and the other computers on the network is private. In this particular instance you’re routing traffic privately through another computer before it gets out to the internet. So all your traffic to the public appears to be coming from the other system and not yours.

PC World published this diagram to help explain the concept. As you can see your point of entry to the Web is through the tunnel endpoint and not directly from your local internet connection. So depending on where that endpoint is (PIA has many) you can appear to be located somewhere else.

This diagram illustrates the difference between using an unencrypted connection and using a VPN-secured Internet connection at your average coffee shop.

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Why do I need a VPN?

In short, no one NEEDS a VPN. A VPN is a tool to enable you to achieve anonymity online (especially while traveling or using public hotspots), access content not available in your geographical location, and keep your ISP from monitoring your traffic. Most people will fall into the category of wanting to access content not available in their geographical location. With a VPN you can connect to a server in a different location and access content that is available there. People use a VPN to watch MLB and other sports games not in their area, Netflix, Hulu, etc. When traveling if you want to watch your local sports team and MLB has blocked you through their site, you can trick the site by connecting the VPN to an area that the content is allowed. Of course the legality of this is between you and MLB. Here is a short list of some of the few reasons a VPN can benefit you:

  • Your Privacy is important to you.
  • Access streaming content from Outside the US while traveling
  • Download/upload/torrent files in privacy.
  • Securely use Public Wi-Fi or Hotspots
  • Access content your local network has blocked (Schools and corporate networks)
  • Encrypt your VOIP Phone Calls
  • Search the web anonymously
  • Watch Online content while traveling

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Torrents

If you are into Torrenting PIA has a tutorial on how you can run uTorrent through a proxy here. I’ve found this is a great way to run uTorrent since you don’t need to first connect your system to the VPN and can let uTorrent run in the background. Of course use of this service you agree that you will not infringe on copyright. PIA has the stance that we are all adults so let’s be honest. They won’t monitor what you do and you won’t do anything illegal. Read more here.

Once you setup uTorrent to use a proxy, you can use this IP checker tool to make sure you’re always secure. I recommend this to anyone that is concerned with “Big Brother”.

Speeds

One complaint people have about using a VPN is that speed are slow. Theoretically your speed is limited by the speed of the connection between you and the VPN service node. Typically the farther away the node the slower the traffic. However I have been more than impressed with PIA’s speeds. At times it is so fast that you can’t tell you’re running your traffic through a VPN tunnel. Use these speedtest to see:

So if you are interested in securing your internet activity I suggest you give PIA your business.
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