By Shriya Roy
As news of the pandemic broke out, companies and organisations struggled to streamline their work processes to ensure that employees could work remotely. Consequently, there was a major surge in the demand for virtual private networks (VPN) for both commercial and private usage. Today, VPN servers have become paramount for the smooth running of a company.
But what exactly is VPN and how does it work? A virtual private network gives online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. A VPN masks the IP address of a user, so their online actions are virtually untraceable. VPN services also establish secure and encrypted connections, increasing user privacy. The network enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network like at a workplace.
A VPN comes in handy for a company while working remotely as it can protect its internal server data while allowing all the remote systems to be connected through it. Many organisations now view VPN as an integral piece of internet infrastructure. A business VPN allows users to securely connect to corporate networks to send and receive files and data from anywhere.
The Netherlands has seen the highest growth in employee business VPN usage, with the number of users surging by 240%. It’s followed by Austria and Canada, which have seen VPN usage grow by 208% and 206%, respectively. In India, too, secure VPN access has been extended to officials across government ministries to facilitate work from home whenever required. It’s important, however, to make sure that the VPN is secure and up-to-date. Users must use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication in order to reduce the chance of any cyber crime.
Interestingly, VPNs have not only been useful for corporates and businesses, but have also become popular in countries that have repressive regimes, which are trying to hide the true news about coronavirus. In these countries, VPNs are allowing citizens to gain access to news outlets from around the world to get a fair and unbiased picture of the pandemic.
VPNs are also a popular solution for people to elude restrictions on the internet be it to access censored content or a banned app. Take, for instance, the TikTok ban. As countries around the world ban or threaten to restrict the Chinese social media platform, interest in virtual private networks has spiked, as it lets users access online services from an encrypted tunnel, helping bypass blocks.
The virtual private network called ExpressVPN, which claims to have over 3,000 servers across 94 countries, saw a 10% week-over-week increase in traffic following the US government’s announcement of a potential TikTok ban, the company said. The VPN service recorded similar trends in Japan and Australia, where it saw a 19% and 41% spike, respectively. In India, when the government officially blocked TikTok and other Chinese apps, ExpressVPN saw a 22% jump in web traffic. In Hong Kong, where TikTok pulled out following the enactment of the national security law, the VPN service logged a 10% traffic growth.
The use of VPN has become a common way to ‘trick’ the IP address of a laptop, smartphone, streaming device and even the Wi-Fi router. That’s because it reroutes all internet traffic via a secure server somewhere different—it could be the user’s home country or somewhere else.
When it comes to choosing a service provider, there is a wide variety to choose from. One of the top players in the game is, of course, ExpressVPN. Its speed and strength are great, and it boasts of having servers in over 90 countries. NordVPN, on the other hand, stresses on security and anonymity. It has a giant network of around 5,000 servers around the world.
A cheap VPN option is Shurfshark, which has a really friendly interface, making it user-friendly and simple to use.
People have realised that VPNs are making it safer for them to engage in online activity, be it for work, connecting with friends via videoconferencing or streaming their favourite content from the internet. VPN also ensures that data that is exchanged is completely encrypted, preventing access to sensitive information without authorisation. Individuals and businesses worldwide are, therefore, increasingly adopting VPNs to stay abreast with the times.