A VPN is a powerful tool, but unfortunately, mainstream users find it useful for only two things; either unblocking geo-restricted content or preventing tracking.
Many people don’t depend on geo-restricted services, and honestly, Google finding out you like kittens over puppies doesn’t bother most people. So many people find VPN redundant. But is it really useless except for these circumstances?
At its very core, a VPN will just redirect your connection to hide your IP address and encrypt your data. However, this simple change can completely change how you interact with the online world.
You might be involved in many online activities even right now that either require a VPN or at least can be significantly improved using a VPN.
In this post, I am listing some common online activities that require a VPN, but many people still perform them without a VPN.
Playing online games 🕹️
Every online game depends on central servers to connect people from around the world. Depending on your current location and the server’s location, your input is delayed due to the distance required for the packet to travel. This delay is called ping and is calculated in milliseconds (ms).
If you are playing any reactive online game like FPS, MOBA, or MMORPG, the ping is an important factor for smooth gameplay. Usually, if the server is in the same country as you, you’ll get anywhere between 15-60ms (depends on connection quality too).
Ping between 50-100ms is considered good for most games, and even up to 150ms ping is deemed to be playable. So you should try to get a ping below 150ms when playing online games.
Now how does a VPN help you with your online gaming experience? A VPN can decrease and stabilize your ping by optimizing your connection through its own servers.
Your ISP (Internet service provider) may not always create a direct connection with the game server. This is especially true if you live far away from the game server, so your ISP may hop the connection through multiple networks.
A VPN creates a direct connection from your ISP to its own server, which is closest to the game server you want to play on. This not only minimizes delay due to multiple hops but also stabilizes ping as the VPN server is usually highly optimized to handle packets and have less conjunction. This can lead to a decrease in original ping anywhere from 20-150ms.
For example, when I have to play games with servers in Europe, I get around 200-250 ping. However, using a VPN drops the ping to 140-180ms, making the games at least playable. In the below screenshot, you can see my ping both with and without a VPN to get an idea.
The improvement in ping isn’t limited to long-distance connections. If your ISP poorly handles packets or throttles your connection, a VPN will further lower the ping (even if it’s a tiny improvement) and minimize/eliminate ping spikes.
Many popular VPN services offer a gaming-optimized VPN service, such as ExpressVPN. However, I recommend you use a dedicated gaming VPN such as ExitLag if you only need the VPN for gaming. A dedicated gaming VPN is better optimized for gaming (in my experience) and usually cheaper too.
Torrenting is often seen as an illegal activity of sharing copyrighted software and media. However, it’s nothing more than a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing system where people connect to the BitTorrent network to share data.
The type of data people share decides whether torrenting is legal or illegal. Of course, uploading/downloading copyrighted software or media is definitely illegal and can lead to legal action.
A VPN is a must for torrenting whether you share legal or illegal content. If you share unlawful/copyrighted content (we don’t endorse this act), then obviously, you need a VPN to become anonymous. The government, your ISP, and copyright companies monitor the BitTorrent network for illegal activities. If you end up under the radar, you can be threatened with letters or even sued.
It’s also really easy to see the IP address of peers; you can just visit a website like I Know What You Download, and you can see torrents along with the number of peers and their country and city. Anyone with enough influence can reach you using your ISP, not just copyright companies.
Even if you don’t share illegal data, a VPN is still necessary for multiple reasons. The most important one is not ending up on “The list”. Many agencies and government authorities like NSA, MPAA, GCHQ, etc., keep a watch list of people to track for illegal activity.
People who continuously download/upload torrents are the main target of such lists as they usually end up doing something illegal. So the last thing you want is to get identified and followed by government bodies.
Most ISPs are also known to throttle the connection of people who torrent often. They may even terminate service. If you want the best download speeds, then a VPN can hide your activity from your ISP so it would not know whether you are torrenting or just streaming some videos.
Although to a lesser extent, cyberattacks are another concern because when you connect to a BitTorrent network, your data is open to everyone. A VPN encrypts your data so that it can decrease the chances of a cyberattack.
Even though any popular VPN should work fine for torrenting, choosing the one that operates under strict privacy laws is recommended. The big problem is that a VPN company is forced to follow government laws, so if a government can force them to give up your data, you could end up in trouble even when your data was encrypted.
I personally recommend ProtonVPN for torrenting as it is based in Switzerland, which is known to have the most strict privacy laws. Even if you do end up in trouble/surveillance, the VPN company won’t break to government demands.
Download/Upload large files
This issue usually plagues users who torrent often, but it isn’t limited to torrenting. ISPs throttle the connection of people who download/upload large files, whether as torrents or regular internet downloads. They keep track of how the user uses the data and then limit data speed when you do some blacklisted activity.
The activities usually include torrenting, streaming/downloading media, and downloading large files from free/paid software websites. Once you are marked as someone who downloads large data, your connection will automatically slow down when you try to download a large file.
Some ISPs even throttle connection speed for such heavy activities during their rush hours of the day for all users.
A VPN will encrypt and hide your activity from your ISP, so they will never know for which purpose you are using the internet. As the throttling process is automatic and automatically placed rules can’t see your activity, the ISP is forced to keep giving you regular download speed.
Now, unless your ISP decides they need to throttle your internet connection completely (that’s very rare), a VPN will always be able to prevent targeted throttling.
I recommend you get a VPN with a kill switch option to make sure your activity isn’t leaked if the VPN disconnects for some reason. Popular VPNs like ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield, and PureVPN – all have a built-in kill switch.
Using Public WiFi
You probably would have heard about this one already, as most VPN ads stress this issue. However, I would like to talk about this in detail as it’s extremely risky due to how easy it is to exploit.
Talking about how easy it is to exploit, even if some semiliterate person goes ooga booga “hw me see wifefi trafik”, Google will open up tons of resources with exact steps to snoop on WiFi traffic. Don’t believe me? Just copy/paste the previously quoted lines into Google search, and the resources will open up.
WiFi snooping isn’t something limited to hackers. Anyone with the right tools like NetSpot or Wireshark can see your online activity. Other than watching your activity, they can even steal your passwords and financial details.
If you connect to a public WiFi and your activity involves logging into a website, it’s a considerable risk. A VPN will encrypt your data before sending it through the WiFi router so that no one can see the data.
As long as you are not using a free VPN service, encryption is a basic function of all VPN services. So using any paid VPN should be enough to keep your data safe while using public WiFi.
Access content while traveling 🧳
Although you might have access to all your favorite websites and services in your hometown, you may have trouble accessing them when traveling abroad due to geo-restrictions. This is especially true when you move to a different continent.
You’ll be surprised how many of your favorite websites/services like YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Skype, WhatsApp, etc., are blocked in many countries. For example, most VoIP services are completely blocked in UAE, and China doesn’t allow any of the Google services and many USA-based websites/services.
If you often travel or looking to travel to a different country, you may need a VPN to access your favorite websites and services. As the VPN encrypts your connection and shows your location in a different country, it lets you access websites/services like you are sitting in a different country.
A VPN with lots of servers is recommended for travelers to ensure they get optimum connection to their preferred website/service no matter where they travel. Some of the high coverage VPNs include CyberGhost (7600+ servers in 90 countries), ExpressVPN (3000+ servers in 94 countries), and NordVPN (5400+ servers in 60 countries).
Warning: Some countries with aggressive censorship also block VPN access and can take legal action against VPN use. Make sure you read the country’s stance against VPNs before using one.
Online shopping discounts 🛍️
Sure, a VPN can protect your data and information while shopping online, but I am not here to talk about that. A VPN can also help you get big discounts while shopping online. Many online stores change prices based on the location of the customer.
This is especially true for services available in both developing and developed countries. Due to lower purchasing power, many services sell cheaper services in developing countries. You can use a VPN to show yourself in a country where the price is low and buy from there cheaper.
For example, many of the apps in the Google Play Store have different prices for different countries. However, I will not recommend you to use this trick to save just a few bucks as it can be daunting to find out which country offers the best discount, if any at all.
Although flight tickets, hotel tickets, car rentals, and big hardware companies like Microsoft or Apple can offer significant discounts of hundreds of dollars based on your location. If you’ll be buying something expensive like that, it’s worth checking its price in different countries.
Make sure you delete browser cookies before searching or use an incognito window to ensure the store doesn’t recognize you from your previous activity.
I should mention that VPNs have a basic internet speed and stability requirement to work properly. If you don’t have a good connection, then a VPN will negatively impact the activities I have mentioned above. As VPNs work as a middle service, they eat up some bandwidth to offer their service. Most VPN services require at least 10 Mbps speed to work properly, so make sure your connection is at least 10 Mbps fast.
For over 9 years, Karrar has been writing about everything Windows and Google with a strict focus on improving security and finding ways to get more out of our devices.