Getting a VPN

The other day I heard from a friend of mine that somebody they know “has a living situation in which she needs a VPN” and the question was, could I recommend “a good VPN”.  These questions always drive me crazy.  I will explain why. 

The main starting point of course is that from the brief description, I don’t have any clue what the thing is about her situation for which she thinks a VPN is the solution.

One of the big challenges is that there are easily at least four distinct things that might prompt somebody to think they need a VPN, and there is no single VPN solution that addresses all of those things. Worse, depending on what exactly it was that made a person think they need a VPN, it is commonplace to have it turn out that what they really need is something completely different that is not a VPN at all. It routinely happens that someone will “get a VPN” and it does not actually address whatever it was that the person was worried about. And then the fact that they “got a VPN” could easily cause not one but two kind of harm — first, sucking up some of their money on something that is not actually doing them any good, and worse, deluding them into thinking that the need, whatever it is, has been protected against.

What astonishes me is that if you click around and read articles by self-appointed tech reporters in well-known newspapers and magazines, the articles often fail completely to even pay attention to this. The articles will take the VPNs that address problem A, and the VPNs that address problem B, and the VPNs that address problem C, and smoosh them all into one article where the various types of VPNs are all evaluated against each other (which makes no sense to do) and where the main thing the reporter does is compare the cost per month and the reporter’s subjective evaluation of the ease of installation or quality of tech support or whatever. And then the reporter announces that a particular one of the VPNs is “the best” based upon the reporter’s dopey metrics.  Invariably it turns out that that particular VPN is no help at all in addressing problems A or C. But you would never know it from reading the article. And some other solution that costs no money at all addresses problem A but you would never know it from reading the article.

I suppose at some point I should try to write up my thoughts about the various things that make people think they need VPNs.

3 Replies to “Getting a VPN”

  1. Yes, please do enlighten us!! Would love to hear your thoughts.

    I admit I have a VPN connection which I only use when I want to watch films or TV shows which are only possible if you are ‘located’ in a given country. But I make sure to close all my work related programs before and disconnect the VPN once I’m done watching whatever I wanted to see. One of the my IT guys said they did not like VPN connections at all, in terms of security.

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