Top 9 Benefits of Using a VPN (Plus Some Disadvantages)

Posted on Jan 12, 2024 by Chantelle Golombick

The internet, once a bastion of free information, has become a surveillance tool. Now, intrusive ISPs and invasive tracking systems obstruct your freedom to browse.

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to help you stay safe and private online. After all, the two main benefits of a VPN are privacy and security:

    Privacy – Protecting your identity. A VPN encrypts your traffic and hides details like your real IP address that others can use to help identify you or your location.
    Security – Protecting your data. VPNs protect your personal information from being stolen as it travels over your connection.

Let’s look at this in more detail below. 

Note: PIA VPN is the easiest way to protect your privacy, keep your data secure, and access sites and services safely. We offer lightning-fast speeds, powerful encryption, and servers in over 90 countries – plus, you’ll be able to connect as many devices as you want at the same time.

Some Key Terms

First, let’s look at some common terms often used when talking about VPNs:

  • Encryption: How VPNs secure your data. Encryption scrambles your information and wraps it in layers of cipher text. This makes data completely unreadable, and ensures only the intended recipient can read it. It makes it impossible for your ISP or other third parties to see what websites you’re visiting or what information you’re entering.
  • IP masking: The process of concealing your real IP address by redirecting your traffic through a specially configured server. Websites and third parties will see the server’s IP address instead of yours. You can use this to make it look like you’re accessing the internet from a different country – helpful when you’re traveling and need to access your accounts from home.
  • Kill switch: If your connection drops and reconnects before connecting to the VPN server again, your data won’t be encrypted. A Kill Switch automatically disconnects you from the internet when that happens. This keeps your information private by ensuring your data and real IP address can’t leak.
  • Latency: Often called “lag” or “ping,” it measures how quickly your internet connection responds to your requests and is measured in milliseconds. Low latency means faster response times.
  • No Logs policy: No Logs VPNs don’t track or store your web activity, real IP address, how long you’ve used the VPN, or any other usage information. 
  • Split-tunneling: This feature splits your connection into encrypted and regular traffic based on your preferences. This means you can choose what traffic the VPN encrypts and reroutes through its server. All other traffic goes through your regular network. 

The Advantages of Using a VPN

Let’s take a look at nine of the biggest benefits of using a VPN. 

1. Enhanced Security

Every time you go online, whether for work, logging into your emails, or accessing your bank accounts, you put your personal information at risk. A VPN helps to protect your traffic against snoopers and data leaks. Encryption hides your online traffic from snoopers by creating a secure tunnel between your device and the VPN server to send your data through. Every packet of data that leaves your device is encrypted, making it difficult for anyone to track your online activities. Even if someone intercepts your data, they wouldn’t be able to understand it because it’s encrypted, and only the VPN has the key to decode it.

Once you’re connected, all your internet traffic is encrypted until it exits the VPN server. If your ISP or the government monitored the traffic leaving VPN servers, they wouldn’t be able to connect it back to your IP address, as the VPN server gives you a different one.

VPNs can also protect you from cyber attacks such as DDoS attacks, Man-in-the-Middle attacks, doxing, stingray attacks, swatting, cookie hijacking, and SSL stripping. It conceals what you’re doing and where you’re doing it from, making it much harder for anyone to intercept and use your data. 

While a VPN significantly enhances your online security, it’s not a silver bullet and should be used in conjunction with other security measures like strong, unique passwords, two-factor authentication, and regular software updates.

2. Increased Anonymity and Privacy

The internet is not private; it’s a fertile ground for cybercriminals to intercept and misuse sensitive information like your passwords, credit card numbers, and other confidential information. ISPs, governments, and cybercriminals can access, store, or manipulate data that is transmitted over the internet. 

Using encryption and IP masking, a VPN actively conceals your information from intrusive entities, providing a robust solution to this issue. It protects your privacy as your data travels between your device and the VPN server, making it unreadable to anyone who might intercept it. This can help you in the following ways: 

  • Protecting personal information: Every time you go online, you share personal information, from your name and location to your shopping habits and even health information. This information is used in a range of ways, from advertisers targeting you and hoping to make a profit, to cybercriminals stealing your identity or passwords.
  • Freedom of expression: Increased online anonymity allows you to express your opinion online without fear of reprisal. This is particularly important for activists, journalists, whistleblowers, and others who may face retaliation for their views. 
  • Preventing unwanted tracking and profiling: Many companies track your online activity to create a profile of your interests, habits, and preferences. They can use this information for targeted advertising, sell it to other companies, or even hand it over to governments. 
  • Added protection against cyberstalking: Cyberstalkers are very good at using the internet to get the information they want from their victims. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself and increase your online privacy against cyberstalking is to install and use a VPN when going online, especially when you’re using public Wi-Fi. 

3. Access to Geo-Restricted Content

Have you ever tried to access content online only to find it’s not available in your location?  This is called geoblocking, and it happens because websites and services use your IP address to determine your location and what you can access online.

Many streaming platforms restrict their content based on your geographical location. Certain countries, such as China and the UAE, also restrict access to popular social media platforms and messaging services because of censorship laws.

You may also find that when traveling abroad, certain content isn’t available in the region you’re visiting. Some banks also track and log IP addresses upon sign-on. Accessing your bank account from a foreign IP address may trigger security measures like blocking your access to your account.

When you connect to a VPN, your traffic is rerouted through your VPN provider’s servers instead of your ISP’s servers. This hides your original IP address behind a new one in the location of your choice, letting you access the content and platforms available in that region. This can be very helpful for accessing your streaming libraries while traveling. Overcoming geo-restrictions is also especially important for people in countries with strict censorship laws who need to maintain access to unfiltered traffic.

4. Secure Connection for Remote Work

If you’re working at a bustling coffee shop, you’re probably using an unsecured public network. A VPN can safeguard your online traffic with encryption, making it challenging for cybercriminals to access your company’s confidential data and networks. 

Security experts recommend using a VPN when working remotely or in co-working spaces. This lets you access sensitive data and resources on shared networks without compromising your company’s security or letting outsiders gain access to its internal network.

5. Say Goodbye to Bandwidth Throttling

Have you ever noticed your internet speed drops dramatically while streaming your favorite show or during an important video conference? If yes, you’ve been a victim of content-based bandwidth throttling.

Streaming and gaming use large data packets, so ISPs sometimes intentionally slow down internet speeds or limit them based on what you’re doing. This is called content-based bandwidth throttling. This practice is used to regulate the flow of data on a network to ensure fair usage, manage congestion, and prioritize certain types of traffic over others.

Bandwidth throttling can significantly affect network performance. It leads to slower download and upload speeds, increased latency, and an imbalanced user experience. Activities such as streaming, online gaming, and large file transfers can be particularly affected.

While a VPN can’t help you bypass regular bandwidth throttling, throttling caused by network congestion, or data cap overages, it can help you bypass content-based bandwidth throttling. Because the VPN encrypts your internet traffic, your ISP can’t see which websites you visit and the type of content you access, and they can’t throttle what they can’t see. A VPN can’t help bypass regular bandwidth throttling, throttling caused by network congestion or data cap overages, though.

6. Safe Public Wi-Fi Use

Public Wi-Fi allows you to stay connected wherever you are, whether you’re sending a last-minute work email at a café or binge-watching your favorite series during a layover. However, these networks are far from secure, making them an ideal hunting ground for cybercriminals. 

Connecting to public Wi-Fi without protection is like strolling through a busy marketplace with an open wallet. This vulnerability allows cybercriminals easy access to intercept your data and steal your personal and financial details.

7. Improved Ping and Decreased Latency in Online Gaming

Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from your device to the game server. The faster your data travels, the lower your latency. Unfortunately, ISPs don’t always route data along the most direct path. They can route your data through various stops that increase the distance and time it takes for your data to reach the game server. It can also lead to packet loss. These detours are sometimes chosen due to the ISP’s network management needs, which prioritize operational efficiency over speed of data delivery. 

While VPNs are primarily designed to enhance online privacy and security, they can sometimes lower ping by providing a more direct route between your device and the game’s servers. 

8. Bypass Local Network Restrictions at School or Work

When you connect to a VPN, it encrypts your data, converting it into an unreadable format and adding an essential layer of protection. This encryption can help you bypass your school or workplace’s network restrictions as it makes your online activities invisible to network administrators and the router firewall.

Still, some institutions may have measures in place to block VPN connections. In those cases, you may need to use a stealth VPN or enable the VPN obfuscation if your VPN provides that feature. The latter scrambles your VPN traffic and makes it look like normal traffic, making it harder for a firewall to detect the VPN connection.

9. Avoiding Discrimination and Bias

The information collected about your online activity can lead to discriminatory practices. For example, some companies use online data to offer different prices to different people or to decide who gets access to certain services. This is known as dynamic pricing and regional pricing strategy.

You can make this work for you by using a VPN to connect to a server in a country where the product or service is offered at a lower price. This can be particularly useful for online shopping, in-app purchases, and getting cheaper flights. PIA VPN has servers in over 90 countries, giving you plenty of options to compare prices.

The Drawbacks of Using a VPN

VPNs have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. They offer a host of benefits, but, like any technology, they also come with their own set of drawbacks. A good VPN can mitigate many of these drawbacks, which is why it’s important to be picky when you choose a VPN.

1. Slower Connections

The biggest downside to using a VPN is that it can decrease your connection speeds. Encryption modifies your traffic, meaning you use more data. As your data packets become larger, they take longer to travel to and from their destination. This results in slower download and upload speeds. Plus, the distance between you and the VPN server can also impact speed.

If your VPN has limited server space, you could also experience reduced speeds during peak hours. This is because too many other users are on the network. The spike in demand causes what is known as a WAN error, which is like a traffic jam for data packets. The way around this is to choose a VPN that has a large enough number of servers to avoid server congestion, like PIA. A VPN can also reduce speed loss by using fast VPN protocols and servers. You’ll rarely notice a big difference in speed between the VPN being on and off with a premium VPN. 

While a slower connection can be a downside, it’s important to weigh this against the benefits of using a VPN. The added layer of security, the increased privacy, and the freedom to access content globally often outweigh the potential drop in speed.

2. Unethical Practices and Vulnerabilities

The effectiveness of a VPN’s protection can vary based on factors such as the encryption protocols used, the provider’s practices, and potential vulnerabilities. Let’s quickly look at three reasons why a VPN might not properly protect your data:

  • Weak encryption protocols: Some VPNs use weak encryption protocols that can be easily compromised. It’s crucial to choose a VPN provider that uses strong and up-to-date encryption standards, such as the 256-bit AES algorithm.
  • Unethical practices: Some VPN providers may engage in unethical practices, such as injecting ads, tracking user activity, or distributing malware. That’s why it’s so important that you choose a reputable and trustworthy VPN service with a proven no-logs policy.
  • DNS and IP leaks: If your VPN fails to properly route DNS requests through its servers, it can expose your browsing history. IP leaks occur when your VPN connection is not correctly configured, revealing your true location. High-quality VPNs have measures in place to prevent DNS leaks and make sure your real IP address stays hidden. 

Pro tip: One solution for this problem is configuring a VPN on your router. This way, every device connected to that router benefits from encryption and IP masking, including any devices that don’t natively support VPNs.

3. Blocked or Blacklisted IP Addresses

Multiple users are usually connected to the same VPN server sharing the same IP address. Let’s say you’re one of these users, and you engage in illicit activity or violate the terms of service of a website. The shared IP address you’re using can be blocked and blacklisted, affecting everyone connected to the VPN server. In these cases, people may need to switch to a different server to avoid being blacklisted. 

This is known as the “bad neighbor effect.” The IP addresses of commercial VPN services are regularly blacklisted due to cybercriminals using them for increased anonymity. Reliable VPNs actively manage their server IP addresses and replace any that are blocked by services or websites. 

4. VPNs Are Banned in Certain Countries

Certain countries like China, Russia, and North Korea are notorious for their stringent internet filtering practices. In these countries, VPNs are either banned or usage is heavily restricted because of government control, national security, and censorship. Using VPNs in these countries can expose you to a range of risks. 

Increased scrutiny from government agencies is one such risk. In these countries, authorities often monitor internet activity closely, and using a VPN could lead to severe penalties ranging from hefty fines to, in extreme cases, criminal charges and jail time. 

Another concern is the security of your data. While VPNs are designed to protect your privacy, not all providers offer the same level of security. Some VPN services, particularly those based in countries with strict data retention laws or ones with servers in countries targeting VPNs, might be obliged to store your data and share it with the government. PIA maintains several virtual server locations, including in China and India. This ensures that we’re not subject to local data retention laws, offering an added layer of protection for you. 

5. Incompatible with Some Devices

Not all devices and operating systems play well with VPNs. Some smart devices, like certain models of Smart TVs and gaming consoles, lack built-in support so you can’t directly install and run a VPN on these devices.

6. Subscription Costs

Quality VPNs usually come with subscription costs. While you can use a free VPN, it won’t have the robust security features and reliability of paid services. You should evaluate the subscription cost of a VPN in light of its protection against cyber threats, the freedom it provides from geo-restrictions, and the peace of mind it brings when it comes to online privacy.

7. Selling Data to Third Parties

Some VPN providers claim not to collect logs, but still collect some of your data, which they might hand over to authorities when requested or even sell. To ensure you’re getting a true No Logs VPN, look for the following features:

  • A clear and concise No Logs policy
  • A transparent privacy policy
  • Third-party audits that confirm privacy statements
  • A solid reputation for privacy and security

You can reduce your exposure to online restrictions and surveillance and get peace of mind with PIA VPN. Our No Logs policy was independently verified by Deloitte and proven in court — twice!

To VPN or Not to VPN: A Quick Comparison of the Pros and Cons

While the benefits of a VPN are many, they also have potential drawbacks. Before deciding whether to use one, you should assess these factors based on your needs and priorities. The handy table below quickly outlines the pros and cons of using a VPN to help you make an informed decision when choosing a VPN.

Pros of Using a VPN Cons of Using a VPN
VPNs create a secure, encrypted connection between your device and the VPN endpoint, concealing what you’re doing and where you’re doing it from, making it much harder for third parties to intercept and use your data. VPNs can reduce your connection speed due to encryption and server distance.
VPNs mask your IP address and encrypt your traffic and so protect your personal information and freedom of expression, and prevent unwanted tracking and profiling.
Some VPNs don’t protect your data properly due to unethical practices and potential vulnerabilities such as weak encryption protocols and DNS/IP leaks.
You can bypass geo-restrictions, enabling access to region-locked content globally and streaming libraries while traveling.
Some countries and online services restrict VPNs to control information and enforce content licensing.
Some companies let remote workers connect to their internal systems through VPNs to protect their intellectual property. Many remote workers also use VPNs to protect their sensitive data or files on shared Wi-Fi.
The IP addresses of commercial VPN services are regularly blacklisted because cybercriminals abuse them, which can lead to problems for everyone connected to the VPN server.
VPNs encrypt your internet traffic, preventing your ISP from seeing the websites you visit and the type of content you access so it can’t throttle your bandwidth based on your online activity.
Certain devices like Smart TVs and gaming consoles lack built-in VPN support.
VPNs can sometimes lower your ping by providing a more direct route between your device and the game server.
Some VPN providers may claim not to collect logs, but still record some of your private data and will hand this over to authorities or sell it to third parties.
VPN encryption lets you bypass local network restrictions based on your school or work network policies
Paid VPNs can be expensive but offer robust features that free versions don’t.
You can connect to a VPN server in a region with lower prices to avoid regional pricing strategies.

Looking at this comparison, it’s fair to say that the benefits of using a VPN far outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Leaving a VPN on Full Time vs Turning It on When Needed

Whether you should leave your VPN running all the time depends on why you’re using it. Here’s how you decide:

  • Leaving VPN on all the time: If online privacy, security, and anonymity are your primary reasons for using a VPN, it’s advisable always to leave it on. This is especially important when using public Wi-Fi, doing online banking or shopping, and browsing on restricted networks.
  • Turning a VPN on when needed: If you mainly use your VPN for streaming or you’re worried about battery drain or slower connection speeds, turning the VPN on and off as needed might be the best choice.

Remember that leaving the VPN on all the time constantly protects your privacy and security.

Is a VPN Actually Worth It?

The short answer is yes! It’s not a matter of “if” but “which one” is the right fit for you.

Remote work, which is now more common than ever, has led to an increase in cyber threats. Intrusive trackers also constantly monitor everything you do online. When you consider this, the benefits of a VPN are impossible to ignore.

If you use a reputable, paid VPN service, you can enjoy the numerous advantages of VPNs without worrying about the potential downsides.

Why Free VPNs Don’t Make the Cut

While not all free VPNs are problematic, there’s always the risk that some may be malicious or looking to monetize your internet traffic.

Here are some typical drawbacks:

  • Limited features and performance: They’re often restricted in terms of the number of servers and features they provide compared to paid VPNs.
  • Data caps: They almost always impose data caps, limiting your daily and monthly data usage. This is a significant drawback if you use the internet frequently or for data-intensive tasks like streaming high-quality content or downloading large files.
  • Lack of customer support: Free VPNs typically offer little to no customer support or technical assistance, making it difficult to resolve issues.
  • Privacy and security concerns: Some collect your personal information and browsing history and may sell your data to third-party advertisers. These unscrupulous VPN providers can also inject targeted ads and spam into your browser, steal your bandwidth, and record your usernames, passwords, and bank details.
  • Limited compatibility with streaming services: While free VPNs can help unblock some geo-restricted content, they may not be able to bypass censorship or streaming blocks as effectively as paid versions.
  • Slower connection speeds: They may have slower connection speeds due to server limitations and congestion.
  • Limited security: Free VPNs may not offer the same level of security as paid VPNs, potentially leaving your data vulnerable to leaks or cyber attacks.

How to Pick a VPN That Suits Your Needs

VPNs are not just about security — they’re about freedom, control, and keeping your private stuff, well, private. Your choice of VPN provider should reflect this.

Choosing a VPN is about more than just picking the first or cheapest option you come across. It requires careful consideration of several factors to strike the perfect balance between security, privacy, and user experience.

Here are some critical factors to weigh when choosing a VPN provider:

  • Server network: Look for a VPN service with lots of server locations. This will give you access to geo-restricted content, enhanced privacy, reliability, and greater flexibility.
  • Uncompromising encryption standards: Strong encryption is the bedrock of any good VPN service. Aim for services offering 256-bit AES or WireGuard® encryption – currently the gold standard in the industry. This level of encryption ensures your data remains secure, even against sophisticated cyber threats.
  • Reliable customer support: If you experience technical issues, professional and responsive customer support becomes invaluable.
  • Audited No-Logs policy: A No Logs policy means the provider doesn’t store any data related to your online activities. You can check whether the VPN’s No Logs policy has been independently audited for added assurance. PIA’s has even been proven in court.
  • Added features and benefits: Value-added features such as tracker and ad blocking provide more value for your money and give you more control over how you use your VPN and what you get out of it.

Now that you’re armed with the right knowledge, you can make an informed decision that best suits your needs. Private Internet Access has received high praise for its customer support, fast and reliable service, and strict No Logs policy.


What are the advantages of using a VPN?

VPNs enhance your security by encrypting your traffic data, making it unreadable to potential interceptors. VPNs also provide increased online privacy by masking your IP address, making you harder to track. They can help you gain access to geo-restricted content and offer secure connections for remote work. You can use VPNs to avoid content-based bandwidth throttling and save money with online shopping too. VPNs are essential tools for safe and unrestricted browsing.

What are the drawbacks of using a VPN?

VPNs come with different drawbacks depending on how they’re set up and how they meet your needs. These can include slower internet speeds due to data encryption, bans in certain countries, incompatibility with some devices, subscription costs for quality services, and potential privacy invasion by free VPNs. However, with careful selection and usage, the advantages often outweigh these issues.

Is a VPN really worth it?

Yes, using a reputable, paid VPN is crucial today and can help you gain more freedom online, especially in countries with online censorship or on restricted networks. Some VPNs also come with added features like tracker and malware blockers.

Should I always leave my VPN on?

It depends. For peak online security and privacy, especially when banking or shopping online or while using public Wi-Fi, it’s recommended that you always leave your VPN on. If you’re worried about your internet speed, VPN bandwidth caps, or a potential increase in ping, it’s probably best to turn your VPN off and on as needed. 

Does a VPN slow down the internet?

Yes. A VPN can slow down your internet speed. This is due to the extra step your internet traffic has to take — it’s encrypted and then routed through the VPN server, which is an additional journey compared to a direct connection. That said, there are methods to mitigate this effect and enhance your VPN connection speed.

How much does a VPN cost?

The cost of a VPN service can vary significantly depending on the provider and the subscription plan. As an example, you can get PIA VPN for less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month! While cheaper options may be available, you should consider the network size, speed, safety, and other features offered by the VPN service.