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10 Reasons Not To Use a VPN (and 4 Reasons You Should)

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are popular tools for improving online privacy. But VPNs also come with drawbacks and risks in some situations.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover:

  • How VPNs work and their main benefits
  • 10 potential downsides of using a VPN
  • When you should use a VPN – and when you may not need it
  • The top 3 VPNs for security, speed, and privacy
  • FAQs on the pros and cons of VPN services

First, let‘s recap what exactly a VPN does.

What is a VPN and How Does it Work?

A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts your internet traffic and masks your IP address. This allows you to browse the web more anonymously.

When activated, your traffic routes through an encrypted VPN tunnel before exiting to the open internet. This prevents snoops on public WiFi, or even your internet service provider, from viewing your online activities.

VPNs reroute your traffic through remote servers located in different countries. This allows you to bypass geo-restrictions and access region-locked content.

Here are some of the main reasons people use VPN services:

  • Access blocked or censored apps, sites, and streaming content
  • Enhance privacy and stay anonymous online
  • Secure public WiFi connections
  • Prevent bandwidth throttling by ISPs
  • Bypass government surveillance and censorship
  • Protect Internet of Things (IoT) devices

Now let‘s dive into the drawbacks and disadvantages that come with VPN usage.

10 Disadvantages of Using a VPN

VPNs provide significant security and privacy benefits. But there are also some downsides to consider:

1. VPNs Can Slow Your Connection

One of the biggest complaints about VPN services is slower internet speeds. VPN encryption adds overhead that can noticeably reduce your connection speed.

How much speed loss you experience depends on several factors:

  • The VPN Protocol – Some protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2 have less impact on performance than older protocols.

  • The Encryption Strength – Stronger encryption slightly reduces speeds but provides better security.

  • Your Location vs the VPN Server – Connecting to a distant VPN server slows down the connection more.

According to Harvard research, VPNs reduce bandwidth by 5% to 40% on average. But the speed loss can be much higher if using distant or overloaded servers.

Gamers and video streamers are hit hardest by VPN throttling. But choosing a reliable VPN with ultra-fast servers, like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, minimizes the impact.

2. Some Sites Block VPN Access

Streaming platforms like Netflix aggressively block VPN IP addresses due to licensing restrictions. Even the best VPNs get blacklisted frequently.

Many corporate networks also prohibit VPN access to prevent unauthorized remote login attempts. And some websites block VPNs used heavily for spam and attacks.

Thankfully, top-tier VPN providers like Surfshark stay ahead of the blacklist game by providing an abundance of IP addresses. But access problems persist on some sites.

3. VPN Data Usage Eats into Data Caps

Adding a layer of encryption means VPNs use more data than your normal internet connection. The overage varies based on activity.

Heavy video streaming can use considerably more data through a VPN tunnel. Online games use minimal extra data.

According to Surfshark tests, using a VPN added around 17% more data for web browsing – so not a massive impact. But a VPN could eat your mobile data much faster when streaming HD video content.

4. VPNs Are Illegal in Some Countries

Before setting up a VPN, know the laws of the country you’re in. Many restrictive regimes including China, Russia, and Iran have banned VPNs.

Some Middle East countries like the UAE levy fines for VPN usage. Punishment is rare but possible in places like Turkey and Belarus where VPNs are a legal gray area.

Corporate VPN usage is still permitted in most countries. But be aware of any potential personal legal risks.

5. Some Free VPNs Are Not Trustworthy

Free VPNs need to fund operations somehow, often by selling user data and online habits to advertisers. This defeats one of the main purposes of using a VPN – enhancing privacy!

Paid VPNs like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Private Internet Access rely on subscription fees rather than harvesting user data.

Some free VPN browser extensions have even been caught installing malware on people‘s devices. Stick with well-known premium suppliers instead.

6. VPNs Don‘t Shield Against Malware

A common misconception is that VPNs protect you from malware or malicious sites. This isn‘t true.

A VPN merely encrypts a connection. If you visit a sketchy website not using HTTPS, you could still infect your device – VPN or no VPN.

Some VPN providers like NordVPN and Bitdefender do provide ad and malware blocking. But most focus solely on tunnel encryption. So always pair your VPN with strong antivirus software.

7. VPNs Sometimes Leak Data

VPN providers take measures to prevent "VPN leaks" that expose your true IP address or location. But leaks happen occasionally.

Using VPN kill switches, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and a reliable provider minimizes risks. But no VPN is perfect 100% of the time.

With Safari or Chrome, websites can also use fingerprinting to identify your device – even hiding behind a VPN IP. Use browser add-ons like uBlock Origin to thwart this.

8. VPNs Can Be Hard to Use

Let‘s be honest – VPNs can be kind of a pain to set up and manage. Apps frequently disconnect or fail to connect automatically. Connection speeds vary wildly. And troubleshooting network issues through an encrypted tunnel is challenging.

Choosing a VPN with intuitive apps and lots of server locations minimizes headaches. Providers like TunnelBear and IPVanish offer great user experiences.

Some smart routers like those by ExpressVPN allow effortless whole-home VPN coverage. Overall, VPN tech still has some catching up to do.

9. Paid VPNs Cost Money

Quality VPNs protect user privacy rather than monetizing data. This means they have to charge customers monthly or yearly fees.

Top providers typically range from $3 to $13 per month, depending on whether you get a 6-month, 1-year, or 2-year plan. Occasional sales let you stock up on a VPN for as little as $2 to $3 per month.

While not exactly cheap, robust privacy and security does have value. Just make sure to compare VPN costs to get the best bang for your buck.

10. No Anonymity from Your VPN Provider

While a VPN hides your identity from websites and your internet provider, the VPN provider itself knows your real IP address and activity logs.

This is why it‘s crucial to choose a trustworthy VPN company located outside the reach of spying agencies, like in Panama or the British Virgin Islands. Strict no-logging policies also provide assurance your data isn‘t being monitored or stored.

4 Reasons to Use a VPN

VPNs aren‘t necessary for casual web surfing at home. But there are certainly instances where a VPN provides invaluable privacy and access benefits:

1. Public WiFi Security

Connecting to hotel, airport, or coffee shop WiFi without a VPN is extremely risky. Hackers can intercept your Internet traffic and steal login credentials, financial info, and anything else transmitted over the network.

Activating a VPN shields your data and activity from other WiFi users. Public hotspots see only encrypted traffic to and from the VPN server.

2. Accessing Restricted Content

VPN connections allow you to bypass geographic restrictions and access region-locked content. Connecting through a VPN server in another country evades blocks on streaming services like Netflix, sporting events, and news outlets.

VPNs also provide an avenue to get around internet censorship implemented by repressive governments and access banned apps and sites.

3. Enhanced Privacy Online

One of the original purposes of VPNs is to enhance privacy by masking your IP address and physical location. This prevents snooping by governments, ISPs, or companies collecting your browsing history.

VPNs provide peace of mind that your personal online activities aren‘t being tracked and logged without your knowledge.

4. Remote Access Security

Corporate VPNs protect remote workers accessing company apps and data over the public internet. Rather than connecting directly, traffic gets routed through an encrypted VPN tunnel to the corporate network.

With more employees working from home, secure VPN access ensures prying eyes can‘t monitor sensitive business activities and communications.

When you only need a VPN for certain tasks, split tunneling allows you to designate which apps route through the VPN versus using your normal connection.

Top 3 Most Trusted VPN Services

If you decide a VPN meets your needs, choosing a reliable provider is key. Here are our top recommendations:

VPN Provider Starts At Simultaneous Connections Servers Rating
ExpressVPN $8.32/month 5 3,000+ servers in 94 countries 4.8/5
NordVPN $3.29/month 6 5,600+ servers in 80 countries 4.7/5
Surfshark $2.49/month Unlimited 3,200+ servers in 100+ countries 4.6/5

We recommend ExpressVPN as the best VPN if speed is your top concern. NordVPN offers the best overall value and very user-friendly apps.

Surfshark is excellent for connecting unlimited devices simultaneously. All three providers have strict no-logging policies and excel at unblocking Netflix.

Common VPN Questions

Let‘s wrap up with answers to some frequently asked questions about the pros and cons of virtual private networks:

Is it risky to use a VPN?

Using a reputable paid VPN from a trustworthy provider poses little risk in most countries. But free VPNs or tools from unknown companies could potentially expose you to malware or leak your personal data.

Do you need antivirus with a VPN?

Yes, it‘s wise to use antivirus software in addition to a VPN for comprehensive protection. VPNs only encrypt your connection – they don‘t scan traffic or block malicious sites from infecting your device.

Do VPNs protect you from hackers?

A VPN does help shield you from hacker snooping on public WiFi. But using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication protects against hackers directly targeting your accounts.

Can VPNs be used illegally?

VPNs have many legitimate uses. But some people do use them illegally to access the dark web or torrent copyrighted material. Most quality VPNs block access to known malicious sites.

Will a VPN slow down gaming?

Yes, connecting to a distant VPN server will increase online game latency due to the extra distance data must travel. Choose local VPN servers with fast connectivity when gaming.

The Bottom Line – Should You Use a VPN?

VPNs provide important benefits but aren‘t essential at all times for everyone. Casual web browsing from home on secured WiFi doesn‘t call for a VPN.

Where VPNs really shine is providing:

  • Secure public WiFi access
  • Ability to bypass geographic restrictions
  • Enhanced privacy from snooping entities
  • Safe remote access to employer networks

So rather than always-on connectivity, use a VPN strategically when the extra privacy and accessibility perks matter most.

Just be sure to select a premium VPN like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or Surfshark that properly secures your data and doesn‘t undermine performance too much.

The minimal speed hit is worth it for the anonymity, security, and freedom a trustworthy VPN affords.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.