Do You Need a VPN If You Don’t Use Public WiFi? (Pros & Cons)

If you have found yourself more than a little concerned about your online privacy and vulnerability in recent years, especially following the Snowden leaks and current Facebook controversies, you’ve probably thought about getting a VPN. But you never use public WiFi, so should you still use one?

While there is a lower risk of becoming a victim of a hacking attack on your home network, using a VPN still offers benefits worth considering. Your ISP can track your online activity and use it to throttle your bandwidth or even sell. However, using a VPN will hide your identity online. 

If you make regular use of public networks, it should go without saying that it is a good idea to use a VPN. But protecting yourself on a public network isn’t the only reason to use a VPN. There are a few benefits and uses that apply to your home network as well. 

vpn if don't use public wifi

What Does A VPN Actually Do?

Maybe you’ve just heard that getting a VPN can help protect your privacy, but you aren’t entirely sure what they do. Understanding what they do can help you decide why you need, or don’t need, one at home.  

When browsing the internet, your activity can be seen and linked to your IP address (your device’s address code on the web). For example, if you are streaming from Netflix, your Internet Service Provider can see that you are streaming, and Netflix can monitor what you are watching.  

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A VPN takes your activity and data and adds layers of encryption onto it by running it through their servers. By routing your traffic through their servers before it reaches your ISP’s gateway to the web, they also hide your IP address. 

You could be sitting in the USA, and it will appear to your ISP as if you are a random user logging on from Norway. 

Because of the layers of encryption, protection, and privacy, VPNs are fantastic defense mechanisms against cybercrimes associated with risky public networks.  

How A VPN Can Benefit You At Home

Before getting into how a VPN can help protect your privacy at home, I should mention that a VPN is not the complete and total answer to all of your internet-associated risks.  

If you are hyper concerned with online privacy and want to hide from pesky advertising trackers or be completely anonymous online, you need to use a few tools and steps in conjunction with a VPN.  

1. A VPN Hides Your Identity From Your ISP

If you believe your internet service provider (ISP) is on your side, you should think again. In 2017, for example, U.S. President signed off on allowing ISPs to sell user browser data without permission. ISPs promised to keep this data anonymous, but I wouldn’t count on their commitment. 

This means that your ISP can see what you are doing, and they can also sell that data off in mass to the highest bidder. And data, as we know, has become of the most valuable currencies globally. 

It’s not just your data being sold off that should concern you. It’s that your ISP is also the biggest tattletale in the class, eagerly waiting for the opportunity to report you to the teacher and watch you get a spanking.  

I mean to say that if you are a person who, for example, uses peer-to-peer torrenting services to get your daily fix of content, Big Brother is watching your every move.  As a result, you may land in some legal hot water if they spot you sharing and consuming copyrighted material.

Furthermore, privacy concerns are arising from the purchase and trade of cryptocurrencies.  Bitcoin, for example, was initially developed to move money around outside of the global, government-controlled financial system.  

As it turns out, governments aren’t exactly eager to stand back and allow this.  Part of the fear that bitcoin enthusiasts have is that trading happens online, and everything online can be tracked.  

Using a VPN at home will hide your identity from your ISP or delink your activity from your identity, making it harder for them to collect your data and see your activity. Especially if you are using torrenting services, you should strongly consider using a VPN. 

2. A VPN Can Bypass ISP Throttling

As if collecting and selling your data isn’t bad enough, some ISP practice usage throttling which limits your bandwidth during certain activities such as streaming.  

Bandwidth is ultimately the product your ISP sells to consumers, and if demand exceeds supply, it can severely strain their networks. Streaming and gaming services demand high bandwidth, so many ISPs will throttle your speeds when you use these services.  

The result is watching Dune in 720p as opposed to glorious 4k. Not great. 

Hiding your IP address from your ISP makes it harder for them to see that you are busy streaming and harder to throttle your speeds

3. Using A VPN Can Give You Access To Restricted Content

It is a huge frustration when you realize that your version of Netflix and your friend’s version in the UK do not air the same content.  

Due to local licenses agreements, certain movies and series may not be available on your streaming service of choice, forcing you to add another monthly expense to get the other service or take the less-than-legal route.  

Alternatively, by using a VPN, you could gain access to the same Netflix library as your friend by tricking your ISP into thinking that you are from the UK.  

Granted, this doesn’t always work because streaming services have become pretty good at detecting VPNs. However, specific workarounds, like purchasing a dedicated IP from your VPN, still seem to do the trick.  

4. VPNs Are Useful For Gaming

Nearly all of the benefits above apply to gaming as well. For example, if you are playing online multiplayer games and are too good for the disgruntled losers, they could force you offline using a denial-of-service attack, or they could even track down your IP and stalk you online. VPNs help a great deal to prevent these attacks.  

Furthermore, many ISPs throttle or geo-block certain games, and using a VPN will bypass these measures. You could gain access to games unavailable in your home country and avoid those pesky slow, throttled bandwidth speeds. 

Why You Should Not Use A VPN At Home

It’s not all good news in the arena of VPNs, and there are some legitimate cons that could influence your final decision.  

1. VPNs Can Be Painfully Complex

VPNs aren’t overly complex, but they inevitably add a layer of complexity and frustration. If you are absolutely sold on protecting your privacy, you probably won’t mind the extra effort. But if you casually want to test the VPN waters, you may find them freezing. 

For example, simple functions, such as Chrome Cast, often don’t work with VPNs because of the way they hide your IP. You can resolve this issue by getting a VPN that offers split tunneling, allowing selected applications or functions to bypass your VPN.  

As mentioned above, you could also find your streaming services not working with your VPN. Again, you will need to get a static IP to resolve this or use split tunneling to allow your streaming app to bypass your VPN. 

2. VPNs Will Slow Down Your Internet Speed

If you use a first-world-country fiber line running at speeds exceeding 500Mb per second, you are unlikely to be phased by the speed drop. But bandwidth is a precious commodity for those of us still using stone-age internet with speeds below 20Mb. 

Because VPNs add extra layers of encryption and give you the option to send it through a server on a different continent, there is a drop in speed. How much bandwidth you lose will depend on what VPN you use and how far away your chosen server is.  Express VPN and Nord VPN are renowned for being extremely fast.

Keep in mind that to stream content in 4k, you should have a minimum of 25Mb flowing into the device doing the streaming. So, if your VPN takes even 10Mb off that, your quality will drop to the 1080p range. 

Options For Using A VPN At Home

There are essentially two options to implement a VPN at home. Firstly, you could install the VPN on every device you want to use it on. So, for example, if you aren’t too concerned about the streaming benefits but concerned about your banking and finances, you could install it only on the device you use for those tasks.  

If you want a blanket VPN on your entire home network, you can install it on your router or buy a pre-installed router from the VPN. In this way, every device connected to that router will pass through the VPN’s encryption.  

Conclusion

Using your home network is immeasurably safer than a public network, making cyberattacks highly unlikely, depending on what you do and which sites you visit. However, you could still get some valuable benefits from using a VPN at home. 

A VPN protects your identity from your ISP, online gamers, and peer-to-peer sites. It also potentially allows you to access otherwise blocked content. Just keep in mind that it can be complicated and could slow down your network.  Just remember to do proper research before purchasing.  

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