Digital Nomads and VPN Service, Choosing and Understanding
If you’re a Digital Nomad or aspiring Digital Nomad looking to learn about why VPN service is important you’re in the right place! Here we will detail the purpose of VPN and why it will serve as a great asset in your travels abroad.
VPN Basics for the Digital Nomad
Virtual Private Network (VPN) acts a shield for your online data by employing a layer of encryption security on top of the data you receive and request while accessing the internet.
Without this shield snoopers and hackers can intercept data you send and receive while accessing the internet on public networks. For example if you were to visit a coffee shop and connect to public Wi-Fi, your computer or smart phone, along with many others will be connected to the same network.
Without VPN service it is possible that any unencrypted data you send over the internet through the public network will be intercepted by others that are also on the network. This possibly includes banking information, credit card details, cookies, private passwords and other log-in information on unsecured or poorly implemented websites. Some public networks can have up to thousands of users at any given time.
Public Wi-Fi is nearly ubiquitous these days and there’s a high probability you will find yourself connecting to at least a few networks, either at the airport, hotel or coffee shop as mentioned in the previous example, along with countless other places.
Securing VPN access will allow you to access your banking accounts and other sensitive information on these public networks in a safe and secure manner. Due to the nature of the digital nomad lifestyle you will likely, at some point, find yourself in need of public Wi-Fi and will be glad to have an active VPN service available.
Content Blocking and Nomad Problems
Not every country treats the internet in the same way. This means you may find the country you are visiting has blocked, from a national level, a service that you typically use daily.
The most common example for westerners would be their experience of visiting other countries and noticing that core services like Google are blocked. For most of us, this is easy to relate to because we use Google very frequently for a variety of important use cases.
Other examples of regional blocks often encountered are popular western social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You may also find access to streaming content or even ride-hailing services restricted.
With a VPN service you will be able to quickly connect (without demanding technical knowledge) to a server in another country entirely. To put it plainly and in an easily understandable way, by connecting to a server in the United Kingdom, for example, you will be able to access all services regularly available in the United Kingdom no matter where you are physically.
This allows the end-user, or in this case you, to avoid regional blocks that could impair your daily business routines and social imperatives.
Dovetailing off of this, is the fact that some countries will block VPN service websites as well. This means you should install VPN software and obtain a VPN subscription prior to traveling outside of your country of residence. As is always good practice as a digital nomad, plan ahead when possible.
Software for Digital Nomads
Fortunately installation of VPN software does not require much technical knowledge. Most popular providers package apps for each platform, allowing for a very simple setup that will usually take only a few minutes of your time. There are a plethora of VPN options on the market today and none are equal to the other, but first let’s consider some features.
The VPN Kill Switch
You may find yourself in a situation where the internet is unreliable or in and out of range, in this case you will begin to appreciate a kill-switch feature. Some providers offer this as part of their service. Essentially what it does is automatically stops any unencrypted connections when switching networks or dropping signal.
The kill-switch feature is a must have, so be sure that your VPN provider includes this functionality. Keep in mind that when the kill-switch feature on most services is enabled, it will attempt to automatically reconnect with active VPN service as soon as possible.
Make sure your operating system is supported, whether you use iOS, Android, Windows, macOS or other software options this is a priority. It’s important that you have reliable coverage across devices. Also keep an eye on pricing for multiple connections and be sure they are numerous enough to meet your needs. Most reputable companies offer easy to use software for all major platforms.
A few countries will attempt to block VPN access entirely through regional firewalls. The best method of finding out if a service is usable in a wide range of countries is to check the reviews and be sure that the service will work at your destination. The best feature of a VPN is a working VPN.
As a general rule of thumb, if the service operates well in the most restrictive countries they will most likely work everywhere else.
Be sure to check for server types and server locations, as well as server abundance. Having a long list of servers available in various countries will maximize your potential use cases for the VPN. Also be sure to check reviews and look for trials in order to confirm real world speed test results.
You will want many servers and a built out network in order to support a good connection with the service. Connecting to nearby servers (in the closest country without restrictions) will usually yield faster speed test results.
Most VPN services can be had for only a few dollars a month and provide such great utility, it would be ill-advised to go without one. As a digital nomad it is particularly important that you protect your personal information and data sent over the internet.
Having your bank account or credit cards compromised overseas can be a real headache. If you need to provide proof of identity while abroad mailing services may be slow if required by your institution. Overall, VPN services offer a much needed layer of security that every digital nomad will use in their daily lives.
By far, the most popular options for VPN services are Private Internet Access and NordVPN. As I have used both I can attest to their legitimacy and quality, but I will stop here as to not suggest anything I have not tried personally myself.
Another good resource for comparing VPN providers is That One Privacy Site, which compares over 200 VPN providers based on jurisdiction and policy approaches to privacy.
Additional information involving the fine details of VPN privacy can be found over on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s article about choosing VPN services.
Not all VPNs are created equal, some may log user information to the extent that they are mandated by law. The level of logging may be as simple as retaining payment information or as complex as retaining all internet behavior, which can be a real privacy nightmare.
Remember, as a rule of thumb VPN provides security but not always privacy. Be sure to do additional research on services before committing. Always strive to use the most privacy focused VPN providers.
For maximum transparency be sure your provider supports the open source OpenVPN platform.
I hope this has properly outlined and educated you on the importance of VPN while traveling as a digital nomad. By employing good VPN service we can be proactive about problems before they arise and avoid potential mishaps while traveling abroad.
Regional blocking will no longer interrupt your work-flow when VPN is utilized properly. While secured networking may not be as exciting as travel, it will help ensure you’re present to enjoy that excitement without setbacks.