Using a VPN when traveling is a simple and easy way to keep your connection secure. A few months back, we did a video/post on whether it’s safe to use a free public wifi connection. One of our recommendations in the video was to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN service, to protect your data connection. Though one thing that we may have overlooked is that it can be intimidating to install or use a VPN service. In this video/post, we’re going to review the process and show you how easy it is to keep your data secure.
Keep in mind that this not only applies to when you’re traveling, but anytime that you’re on an unsecured network. Basically, any internet connection that isn’t your own and not protected, like the free wifi at your local coffee shop.
What is a VPN service?
At a very high-level, VPNs are like tunnels that connects your computer to a server from the VPN provider. This “tunnel” prevents others from seeing your internet traffic and where it’s going. You then access the internet from that connected VPN server. The VPN ensures that you have a secure connection and transmission of data from your computer, through the internet, to a specific website or service.
As an example, we could be sitting in a hotel in London and accessing the internet via the hotel’s free wifi. But our connection is being tunneled to a server on the east coast of the US, which then connects us to our website. This is safer than us connecting directly to our website from the connection in London as our traffic could be intercepted or compromised.
Setting up a VPN
For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to show you how we use the VPN service from Private Internet Access (PIA). PIA is one of many VPN providers, and the reason we use them is that they are consistently highly-rated, especially by prominent tech sources like Lifehacker.
You’ll first need to sign-up for your service. In the case of PIA, you can pick between a monthly, yearly, or two-year plan. The price is less if you opt for a longer period of time. However, if you only need it for the occasional trip, you might want to consider going monthly and canceling after your trip. That way, you’re only paying for the service a couple of times a year.
After you sign-up, you’ll want to download the software. You can either download the software from the site, or even better, PIA will send you an email with installer links for your computer. Using installer link is convenient since it’s already preconfigured with your username and password.
Once you install the app, you’re ready to use the software. You’ll notice that PIA has servers all around the world. All you have to do is connect to the one you like, which then establishes the connection. You can even save your favorite server location in the app.
We also used it on our smartphones (iOS | Android). We downloaded the app and used the login and password provided by PIA. The app also shows you the response times from different servers around the world, which is helpful when trying to decide between a connection. We used the VPN service when we wanted to check our bank accounts and when watching streaming shows on our phones.
And that’s how simple it is to use VPN. It doesn’t require you to go into your setting and make any changes. You literally just pick the server you want, then the app shows you whether you are connected or not. It’s an easy and simple way to protect your data and not worry about having your connection compromised.
Additional tips and considerations
In addition, here are some tips to keep in mind when using a VPN service.
1. VPN servers close to you will be the fastest:
If you just need to protect your connection, then you’re usually best off with selecting a server closest to your physical location. For example, if we were traveling in Paris, we would choose the VPN server in France for our normal browsing. Selecting theUS servers will result in a slower experience due to the distance. Though we might connect to a US east coast server if we wanted to stream videos restricted to US users.
2. VPNs will not protect against malware or viruses:
VPNs ensure that all traffic is being securely transmitted. However, it won’t protect you from having your data stolen from a virus or malware. With that being said, it’s important to scan your device for viruses and malware to minimize the risk.
3. Streaming services are getting smarter:
We recently tried to watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” while in the UK using our VPN connection. It took multiple tries and location changes before Hulu would stream the video. We kept getting an error from Hulu since it was detecting an IP address associated with a VPN service. The same occurred when we tried to watch the latest episode of “Westworld” in the airport lounge.
VPN has traditionally been a reliable way to watch content while overseas. However, the streaming services are becoming more sophisticated at detecting and recording addresses associated with VPN providers.
Do you use a VPN when traveling? If so, please share in the comment section below.