What is a VPN connection – for dummies

In our IP Address Guide we write lots of articles about how to get IP address in different nations. We also write about how to protect your data and information on the Internet. The answer to both questions is often a VPN connection. The question is though, what is a VPN connection?

In this article we will try to answer the question in the most easy way possible, and that is why we have called this article „What is a VPN connection – for dummies.” Even your grandmother should be able to understand what a VPN is after reading this article.

VPN = Virtual Private Network

A VPN is a private network that is created between your computer/device and another computer/device. A very normal way to explain a VPN is to compare it with a tunnel. In general your computer is connected directly to the Internet and your data is sent from your computer to the different sites and servers you visit.

A normal Internet connection

Your computer is connected to the Internet

If you use a wireless network the principle is almost the same, only that your wireless device is conencted to a router, which again connects you to the Internet.

a wireless network Internet connection

Your wireless device is connected to a router and the to the Internet

The wireless signal is in most cases encrypted, thus making your data protected and safe, but if you surf the Internet using open and unencrypted wireless connection your data is at risk and it is in fact quite easy to steal your information.

A VPN is a tunnel

A VPN is often compared to a tunnel and if you take a look at the following illustration you will soon understand what we mean.

A VPN connection illustration

This is what a VPN connection looks like

If you look at the illustration you will see that your computer connects directly to a VPN server/computer somewhere else in the world. All traffic between your computer and the server is encrypted and hidden from the rest of the world, thus making it safe, even though if you are using an open wireless network. After connecting to the server all your movement on the Internet will not seem to origin from your actual location, but from the location of the VPN server you are connected to. In this way you will be able to get hold of IP address in tons of nations using this strategy and you will be able to unlock services that have been formerly locked and blocked by services and geo-blocks.

What VPN service should I use

Maybe you need a VPN connection to get an IP address in another country, or maybe you want to encrypt your connection so that nobody can steal your date. Some people want to unlock programs and gain access to services such as Twitter, Facebook and Skype… no matter what, there are quite a lot of VPN services and providers out there. We have tried to write reviews of quite a lot of these, and you can find those here. Read through them and make a subscription to the VPN provider that seems best to you. If you have recommendations, feel free to write a comment and share your experience and thoughts.

6 Comments

  1. Hi Thomas,

    I have a question that I’m hoping you can answer.
    I was telling some friends about the benefits of VPN and one of them said that he didn’t need anything as there was a built-in VPN within his wireless router. I didn’t really know what he meant by that and while I have found information on wireless routers with built-in VPN… I haven’t found any information on how they work.
    I was wondering if:
    1. You had any knowledge about them yourself?
    2. You could point me in the right direction with some links?

    For example: Does one just connect up a VPN enabled wireless router to their ADSL2+ line and they’re all good? I find that hard to believe and doesn’t exactly jive with what I know (and what you have described) about VPNs.

    Hoping you can help out.
    Thanks in advance.

    John

    • Hello! A router with a built in VPN is more like a router with the possibility to use it with a VPN connection. You can of course buy pre-configured VPN routers, setup for a VPN provider with whom you have a subscription, or you can buy a normal router with the chance to setup a VPN connection on it manually later.

      You can read more about some VPN routers here. In general you can also flash old routers and add a DD-WRT system to them and then you can easily set them up as a VPN router as well.

      To use a VPN connection running directly on the router can be very useful as it encrypts all your activity, but it can also slow things down as a VPN often slows down things online. There are big pros and cons to running your VPN connection directly on the router, so this has to be considered with pros and cons before you decide.

      If you decide to buy a VPN enabled router you will still need a VPN subscription. If it is pre-configured it is really just plug and play, but if you use a standard router and do the setup yourself then it is harder and might require both work, sweat and patience.

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