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Let the Geek Guide You: How to Set Up a VPN


| By Amy Vagne | December 02, 2020

Stay safe and secure online with your very own VPN (virtual private network). Find out what it is and how to set up a VPN with this guidance from Geeks2U.

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Are you concerned about the safety of your information online? You should be. The stats are pretty alarming with ReportCyber, the government’s official cybercrime body, receiving a report from an Australian individual or small business every 10 minutes in 2019. But a virtual private network, or VPN, is a terrific security tool that can help you rest easy. Anthony Hill, the Head of Technology at Geeks2U, breaks down everything you need to know and explains how to set up a VPN.

What is a VPN?

How to set up a VPN and why it’s important to help secure and protect your data

VPN stands for virtual private network, but what does that actually mean? “Essentially what it means is you’re connecting your computer, or your local network, privately to another network or computer. [The connection] is not going through the general internet [and is] keeping your information directly secure between the two [networks],” Anthony explains. In a nutshell, with a VPN, all of your online activity is encrypted so internet snoops can’t see what you’re up to or spy on your personal business, including financial transactions. As a bonus, a VPN will also shield your location, so no one can tell where you’re based, which is a great safety measure.

Who Needs a VPN?

“Most companies and corporations use VPNs,” Anthony says. “Especially now, to allow remote workers at home to connect back to their offices.” But don’t count yourself out if you’re a private individual – a VPN is a good idea for anyone looking to beef up their online security. If you shop online, use internet banking, or send a lot of sensitive emails, a VPN can help protect you. Plus, as Anthony explains, a VPN can limit your risk when you’re using your laptop or phone to access the internet. “VPNs can be used on mobile phones and other devices. When you’re connecting to WiFi networks, especially public WiFi networks, a VPN installed on your laptop or phone allows you to use those public WiFi points securely because it encrypts the data.” Where do we sign up?

Choosing a Provider

You can take two basic routes to get a VPN. “The most common way for home users is through your home internet security provider. All the major brands, like Norton, have options available and you can purchase those as part of your internet security package,” Anthony says. The benefits of using a trusted internet security provider are pretty obvious – you’ll get a risk-free VPN that does what it’s supposed to. In some instances, a VPN can even come free as an addition to a standard internet security package, so it might be worth your while to do some research and shop around. The other option? “Third party or internet-based VPN services,” Anthony says, “But you could be taking a fair risk with your data there. You’re not assured that it’s properly encrypted, and equally there’s been more than a few instances of malware posing as VPN software. It definitely pays to do your research before choosing a VPN provider.”

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How to Set Up a VPN

How to set up a VPN on your computer and why you need it to secure your online activity

Once you’ve selected a VPN service, it’s time to install. In most instances this will involve downloading an app and setting up logins and passwords. If you’re keen to use your VPN every time you go online, you can arrange for it to auto-start. Otherwise, you can manually click on your VPN app whenever you need it.

Additionally, using a VPN router may be suitable if you need to connect back to a home or office from a remote location. It allows you to create a VPN that anyone working away from where the router is installed can connect to securely.

“For example, a business that has remote workers external to the office location can use a VPN router to create private connections from the remote location to the office,” Anthony says. “Or you may have a business with two or more office locations that can be connected using a VPN router at each location, this allows the staff at any office location to securely access all information.”

Things to Keep in Mind

While using a VPN has plenty of safety benefits, it can also have some side effects to be aware of. You may notice your internet running a little slower. “Internet speeds are always variable, of course, but adding a VPN layer on top does introduce overheads to the experience,” Anthony explains. “Many VPNs will offer data-limited trials and it’s often a good way to get a feel for how fast (or slow) their services actually are in real world use.” Investigate the location and quantity of servers your VPN is using – generally speaking, the more local servers, the better. Price is another factor to consider. While some online companies do offer free VPN services, you usually get what you pay for. Make sure you do your due diligence, and vet any companies and offers before you sign up.

Need some IT help? Geeks2U offer tech support for households and businesses. Find out more here.