I’ll be completely honest. We have done a lot of travelling without using a VPN. We have also taken advantage of free wifi anywhere possible. Hotels, cafes, shopping centres, airports, you name it. Sound familiar?
But the other day, I got a bit of a wake-up call. We somehow used up 6GB of data in about an hour. That was without streaming, without downloading any files and without watching any videos.
I have our internet provider looking into it and it may well be that we accidentally had an app running which was using up all of our data, but the thought occurred to me - what if someone had hacked into our network? I’m pretty sure (I really hope) that is unlikely as we are with a reputable provider but it still got me thinking. Being nomadic, we rely on cloud-based services and have a lot of personal data on our devices. We use our devices for internet banking, sending emails and logging into loads of websites who have our personal data. If someone were to get access to all of that, we’d be screwed. BIG TIME.
So I immediately hit the internet to see how serious this could be and whether having a VPN was a solution. Here’s what I found.
PUBLIC WI-FI IS NOT SECURE
OK, I know this is obvious but seriously, think about this. If you can get on the network (whether a login/password is required or not), then so can everybody else. Think about free wi-fi at the airport and how many people could potentially be on there at the same time? When you’re on one of these networks, your information is visible to anyone who has the right tools. Someone could literally be hanging out at the airport bar and be stealing all of your personal information and you wouldn't have a clue. We’re talking usernames, passwords, credit card information and addresses. Your complete identity.
WHAT IS A VPN?
Nomadic Matt has a great analogy to describe how a VPN works.
“To understand how they work, think of the Internet as a river. Drop a load of dye into the river - that’s your (unencrypted) data. Anyone standing along the riverbank can see that dye; what color and consistency it is, and where it ends up.
Now, put a small pipe in the river, running from wherever you are to somewhere along its length, and tip your dye into that instead. Until it emerges from the end of the pipe, nobody on the bank can see the dye or knows anything about it. Your VPN is that pipe”.
So in other words, a VPN makes an unsecured network secure by encrypting your data.
CHOOSING A VPN SERVICE
By the end of the day after my realisation that my personal information was not secure, I had chosen, installed and was running a VPN service. I spent hours researching different VPN services and decided upon a company called Private Internet Access (PIA).
Here are the reasons that I chose PIA:
- They are very reasonably priced and allow month to month plans. The monthly plan is $6.95 US or you can choose a 6 or 12-month subscription. A 12-month subscription ends up costing $3.33 per month.
- You can connect up to 5 devices simultaneously. That’s important for us. Two laptops and two phones and boom, that’s 4 already. A lot of VPN services don’t have this option.
- Servers in over 24 countries which means that we'll be covered in most parts of the world.
- They don’t keep logs of your traffic. Be careful as some VPN services do.
- They have unlimited bandwidth.
- You can choose your server (and location) or allow the service to automatically choose one for you.
- They offer a money back guarantee within 7 days.
- They are a sponsor of the Earth Day Network and have planted a tree for every server in their network (this totally appeals to my hippy side).
In addition, when I asked a question via their support channel, I had an answer in a matter of hours. There are a bunch of other features too but the ones above were the most important to me. Install was remarkably easy. I signed up, was emailed app links to click on for my MacBook and iPhone. Once I installed the apps, I signed in with details provided and within seconds I was running a secure VPN. On both devices, I have a VPN symbol which shows me that it’s running and makes me smile because now I know that all my personal info is not out there for some dodgy hacker to steal. All for the price of two coffees.
Bonus tip: I remember my Dad once telling me that he saved hundreds of dollars on exactly the same flight by booking the flight online from what appeared to be a different country. Ytravel has recommended using a VPN to do exactly the same thing. With PIA, you can select which countries server you want to connect to so you can check out different prices and save!
There are lots of different options out there so have a look around and keep those points that I mention above in mind. It’s early days yet but I’m pretty happy with the VPN service of Private Internet Access so far.
If you don’t hook up to public wi-fi much, then it may not be worth using a VPN service. Just make sure that you stay away from internet banking and emails until you get to a secure network. If you’re like me though and make the most of free wi-fi throughout your daily travels, then I strongly suggest that you look at using a VPN service. Think about how much personal information you have stored on your devices and how devastating it would be if someone got a hold of it. For $6.95, it's a no-brainer for me.
What do you think? Do you think you’ll consider using a VPN service? Let me know in the comments below! (Make sure you click on 'subscribe via e-mail' to be notified when we write back).
P.S. If you are thinking of using a VPN service, please do check out Private Internet Access. We do receive a small commission if you decide to use their services at no additional cost to you. We wouldn't recommend them to you if we didn't love them and are so glad our data is safe! Click here for more info on the services from Private Internet Access.
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Jen spends most of her time following Mick around the mountain, often unintentionally off jumps and cliff drops. Currently on a mission to prove that you’re never too old to try freestyle. Aside from snowboarding, a little obsessed about yoga, CrossFit, saving animals, learning to play the guitar and clean eating. Web designer and digital marketing nerd.