Using VPNs When Streaming and Gaming

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Gaming Girl using a VPN

The need for a VPN for basic privacy and security reasons is something most savvy Internet users are already aware of. But when it comes to streaming movies and playing online games, the rules get a little more tricky as to when you should use one.

What is a VPN?

VPN stands for "Virtual Private Network" and it's pretty much what it sounds like. You have your physical network that connects your computer to your Internet Service Provider. Imagine it's like your water pipes -- you have a connection to the utility and all the water going in our out of your house goes through those pipes. Now imagine you could insert your own pipe inside that pipe that went out to another service provider -- anywhere in the world -- and you got all your water through that pipe, bypassing your regular service provider. That's sort of like a VPN. A VPN is a "virtual" tunnel through your digital pipes that is "private" to you, that "networks" you to a different server than the one you pay for service. The advantage here are that it protects your privacy by giving you a new IP address that belongs to the VPN service rather than to your local computer, masking your location and making it harder for hackers to get to your information.

Changing your IP essentially changes your location. This can present other advantages -- or issues, depending on the type of Internet usage you want to do. For instance, if you use your VPN to change your location to a different country, you may suddenly find that your pages begin to come up in a language you cannot read, or that your movie watching services provide you with a list of different viewing choices (and maybe remove things you were currently watching if those shows aren't yet available in the country you are now "virtually" in).

Some gamers also use a VPN judiciously in an attempt to give them an online advantage. In addition to masking their point of origin, they also attempt to VPN to servers that are closer to the game servers, with the intention of reducing their ping, or rate of return of a signal. Opinions are mixed on whether this advantage can actually be achieved or not, but it hasn't stopped gamers from trying to get that extra little edge in online competitive e-sports.

There are several VPNs on the market, with varying degrees of cost and services provided. Be sure to contrast and compare when adding a VPN to your Internet connection to get the best deal for the services that best match your needs.