Can You Keep a VPN on All the Time?
Many people use VPNs or virtual private networks for added security and anonymity. Some only use it to protect financial or other sensitive information, and some people use it to access content from different countries. Because you clicked on the headline, we assume you already know this, but you don’t know if you’re ever supposed to turn it off.
You can keep a VPN on all the time. It is the easiest and safest option. Some VPNs can slow your connection and take longer to load websites or download files, but leaving it off can be dangerous, especially if you connect to public WiFi a lot.
The article below explains what VPNs are, why you might need one, and of course, why you should keep it on most of, if not all the time.
What Is a VPN?
VPN stands for virtual private network. As PC Mag puts it, “a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server operated by a VPN service.” They were created so that corporations could protect sensitive information when connected to a public network. Below we’ll explain some basic terms you should know, VPNs’ features, and why people use them.
Short for Internet Protocol Address, an IP address is a string of numbers separated by periods that gives your device an identity on the internet. This identity can include the type of device you’re using (like a cell phone or laptop) and your location. There are different types of IP addresses, but that’s irrelevant in the context of this article. If you want to know more, check out this one instead.
VPNs ‘spoof’ your IP address using servers from different countries; the farther the country is, the longer your device will take to load things. We’ll get into that more later.
This is essentially how much information and devices your internet connection can handle and how fast it can send data to and from your devices. For example, suppose you have a lot of devices in your household connected to the internet at the same time and find that websites or apps load slowly, constantly watching a buffer wheel spin around and around. In that case, you probably need higher bandwidth.
Stay Protected on Public WiFi
When you connect to a public network, you run the risk of exposing all of your information to someone with malevolent intentions. This information includes access to your bank information, addresses, telephone numbers, access to social media accounts, and virtually all of your online activity.
This is the foremost reason VPNs were created. They hide and secure your information from danger so that you never have to think twice about connecting to your local Starbucks WiFi.
When using a VPN, there’s a chance that the private connection can fail. The ‘tunnel’ collapses, leaving your data and information unprotected and vulnerable to thieves. The worst part is that this can happen without you even knowing. Kill switches shut down all connections if the VPN ever fails, preventing you from accidentally exposing yourself.
Not all VPNs offer a kill switch, so be sure to check that one is included if you want one.
This feature allows you to whitelist certain websites and applications, letting them go through your actual IP address without encryption. Or you can do the opposite and only use a VPN for specific sites, letting you use our real IP address for most of your time online.
Split tunneling isn’t included with all VPNs, so again, you’d have to check if the VPN service you want provides this feature.
Entertainment Across the World
Apart from keeping your data secure, VPNs can make it seem like you’re in a different part of the world. This is because it masks your IP address and location; some VPNs even let you pick where you want your address to be located. Recently people have been using this as an advantage to get access to geo-restricted content, like watching movies and TV shows that are only available in other parts of the world.
Although it’s not illegal to access content restricted in your country, some places across the internet don’t appreciate you doing so. Netflix and other streaming services can ban you for using a VPN to spoof your location. Still, many VPNs advertise the fact that they work with Netflix, but we’ll talk about that later.
ISPs Selling Data
Lastly, some people use VPNs so that their ISP (Internet Service Provider) can’t sell your data to advertising companies. Technically, ISPs have to monitor all data for security purposes; there’s no getting around that.
But a measure passed by the US Senate and Donald Trump allows ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T to sell data without permission from its customers, albeit anonymized. Verizon stated that they are “fully committed to the privacy of our customers.”
There’s a lot of discourse on internet privacy, censorship, and data collecting, and enough coverage online to write separate articles on each of them. If you’d like to know more, here’s an article from NBC News that explains the measure and why so many people disagree with it.
Keep a VPN on All the Time
Know that you know the basics, I’ll answer the question you came here for. For the most part, keeping a VPN on all the time is the easiest and safest option. Still, there can be a few setbacks. One of the most common complaints is that some VPNs slow your connection when downloading large files or streaming video. Or that some limit your bandwidth, leaving you unable to connect multiple devices to the same network.
Of course, you can keep it off and turn it on only when you need it, but human error almost guarantees that you’ll forget to turn it on one day.
Before we get finished, here are some of the most popular VPNs out there. All of these VPNs include fast Fast connection speeds, the option to choose your location server, and connections to multiple devices at once. These aren’t the only options out there; you should be mindful of what you want from a VPN and find what’s best for you.
- ExpressVPN. This VPN is recommended for general online use. It has a kill switch and plenty of apps dedicated to a specific type of device or operating software, e.g., Mac, Windows, Playstation, and even your router. You can connect up to five devices at once.
- Nord VPN. They advertise a “strict no-logs policy,” promising to never collect or sell your information on their website. They also provide a kill switch. They also include encryption with TOR (The Onion Router) for advanced security. You can connect up to six devices at once.
- TunnelBear VPN. This VPN ‘bears’ more simplistic features. They don’t offer a kill switch; in their own words, “TunnelBear apps are really easy to use—one on/off switch, no tech stuff.” You can connect up to five devices at once.
VPNs offer a wide array of advantages, including security, encryption, anonymity, access to geo-restricted content, and more. Some offer valuable features like kill switches, split tunneling, and the ability to connect to multiple devices. A lot of VPNs offer different monthly plans at different prices depending on what you need.
You should keep your VPN on all of the time because doing so makes it easier to stay safe online. You should only take it off if it slows your connection and you download or stream data faster than usual.
- iDrop News: FAQ: Can I Leave My VPN Connected All the Time? Why or Why Not?
- Windows Report: Can you keep VPN on all the time? How to always keep VPN on?
- MSN: Should you leave your VPN on all the time?
- T3: The 10 best VPN services for most people in 2020
- Nord VPN
- TunnelBear VPN
- US News: What is a VPN?
- PC Mag: What Is a VPN, and Why You Need One
- PC Mag: The Best VPNs for Netflix
- ars Technica: FTC investigates whether ISPs sell your browsing history and location data
- Security Gladiators: How Do ISPs Sell Your Data And How To Stop Them
- NBC News: Trump Signs Measure to Let ISPs Sell Your Data Without Consent
- VPN Mentor: What Is a VPN Kill Switch And Why You Have To Use One
- LifeWire: What Is an IP Address?
- LifeWire: What Is Bandwidth?