We’ve heard, and read, of so many process-related effects of the CoronaVirus Pandemic on people and businesses in South Africa. From companies fast-tracking their digital transformation, to a significant increase in remote working and online shopping. What many of us might not have known, is that the influx in people scattered across various locations, instead of grouped together in central locations, resulted in an unexpected uptake in the need for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) globally. 

COVID-19 relegated the majority of the South African workforce to working remotely and VPNs presented a solution for companies and individuals who needed to have tight security during lockdown. If you’ve heard about VPNs but don’t know what they are or how they work, then you’ve clicked on the right place. We’ll give you a breakdown of what a VPN is, and why it’s important for you.

What is a VPN and how does it work? 

A VPN is a piece of software that helps you create a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs essentially protect your identity and private data from hackers while browsing the internet. It hides your data and IP address from hackers by creating a secure, virtual tunnel.

Not only is your online location and the data you send or receive hidden, but it’s encrypted. This means that your information is converted into code in order to prevent unauthorised access.

Why is a VPN important?

A VPN is vital whether you work from home or not. If you’re sending or receiving sensitive information, you need to mitigate data breaches as much as possible. This is even more important if you’re working from a public location, using free W-Fi. If you’re in an airport or restaurant, it is extremely easy for hackers to recreate the name of the Wi-Fi you are connected to, and pick up your passwords and other personal information.

Is a VPN free in South Africa? 

Most VPNs have free trials available but to use all the features and ensure your browsing safety, it’s advised to opt for a paid version.

There are free VPNs available but they have a a number of cons, namely:

– They might allow ads

– Slow down your connection

– Collect user data

– Hijack your browser

– Might be infected with malware

Read more: Why you shouldn’t use a free VPN

How to choose the right VPN

Depending on whether you work alone or in a team, or in multiple locations, ask yourself the following questions to lead you in the right direction:

  • How much are you able to pay for a VPN?
  • Which websites or streaming services do you need unblocked?
  • Do you need to switch your geo-location?
  • How many simultaneous connections do you need?  
  • How much tech support are you going to need? 

Whether it’s passwords and personal banking information, or reams of client data, a VPN solution is vital to ensuring this information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.