VPNs are now well known and well used across the globe as an online security and privacy tool. A rapidly growing number of users are employing VPNs to protect their devices and online content from hackers and government surveillance alike.
This is undoubtedly the big selling point of a VPN and its primary function. It is also something which it excels at. But it would be a mistake to pigeon-hole a VPN as purely a Security tool, because it can offer so much more.
As a business-person, there are various benefits that you can gain from running a VPN on your device which can give you the edge over your competitors. I shall go into those in more detail below. But first, for the uninitiated, a quick summary of just what a VPN is.
What is a VPN: Protecting Your Privacy and Data
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and as we have already explained, its primary function and selling point is as a security and privacy tool.
A VPN works by rerouting all your online traffic down an encrypted pathway and via an external server, before it reaches its intended destination.
How does this help with online security and privacy? Well, by forcing everything down an encrypted pathway a VPN ensures that all of your online traffic in encrypted. This makes it completely secure and means that no hacker or government surveillance officer will be able to see what you are doing online.
A VPN also reroutes all your traffic through an external server. The purpose of this is to hide your online identity. Usually when you are using a website or online service, they can see your IP Address, which tells them where in the world you are.
But if you are connecting to a site through a VPN, the only IP Address they can see if that of the server your traffic is going through. As this server can be located anywhere in the world that means that VPN users are essentially anonymous online.
Working on the go
So, those are the fundamentals of how a VPN protects your online security and privacy, but how exactly does it offer a marketing advantage to professional users?
The best place to start is working on the go. A VPN means you can log into accounts and services securely and continue to work no matter where in the world you are.
Many professionals travel and have to visit other countries as a part of their job and accessing online content and services can prove difficult.
There are, sadly, many countries around the world that censor the internet and it can be hugely inconvenient for overseas workers there who turn up and then realise they cannot get into their webmail or their cloud storage service.
There is also the issue of geo-restrictions which many different sites use. Geo-restrictions mean that access to a site or online service is only permitted to users located in a certain country or region. If you try to log-in from outside that area you will find yourself encountering an error message.
With a VPN these are no longer a problem. A VPN offers different servers located all around the world – the exact number will vary depending on exactly which provider you are using. Connecting to the internet via a server located in your home country means that you appear to websites to still be in that country.
This means that all sites with geo-restrictions will be available, and any domestic censorship you might be encountering will be circumvented.
Dealing with different search results
For marketing professionals, an issue they frequently encounter is different search results in different countries.
Many companies have global operations and are therefore keen to appear as high up search engines rankings as possible in different countries. However, these rankings can vary wildly, and this can cause marketing professional a real headache.
The question I have been asked a lot is, how can I check out the search results in different countries without actually having to go there.
The solution is to use a VPN. If you connect to a VPN server which is located in Spain and then go to Google, you will automatically be redirected to their Spanish homepage. This means you can check the Google rankings in Spain.
Then, merely by switching server, you can check the rankings again in another country. The headache is cured and as a marketing professional you can now get on with the job of SEO-ing your online content for your various target markets.
We can use exactly the same premise to monitor overseas adverts as well. Marketing professionals need to be able to monitor the impact of their adverts and also see the ads of their competitors if they are going to effectively give their company an edge in their sector.
That can prove frustrating for companies operating across different countries because, again, access can be a problem. But not with a VPN. By using a VPN you can switch servers at will and so keep a close eye on both your own adverts and that of your competitors.
Essentially, by using a VPN, you negate the need for marketing professionals to be located around the world in order to deliver effective overseas strategies. They can now do so from their desk in your headquarters no matter where in the world that may be.
Access geo-restricted software
We have already discussed the impact of geo-restriction on monitoring and market awareness, but it can also help marketing professionals to access apps and software that might otherwise be restricted in their area.
It is a common misconception that it is only online streaming services which restrict content based on geographic locations. In reality, all sorts of different online services use geo-restriction; from professional services and apps, to news sites and sector information providers.
This is a problem both for professionals who travel, but also an organization which might have different marketing teams located in different offices around the world. Of course, you will want all your team to have access to the same tools and information.
But if that service is geo-restricted, how do you get around it? Needless to say, a VPN can offer a solution. As long as each device is running a VPN, your staff should be able to access online apps and services from wherever they are in the world without any problems.
I am not suggesting that marketing teams like to go a bit ‘James Bond’ when they are jousting with their competitors, but it is certainly true that a lot of them need to monitor their activity.
Of course, your competitors don’t want you to do this and a growing practice in the professional world is trying to block the practice. Every online users has a unique IP Address, and analysis of this can tell your competitors if you are one of their visitors.
But they can also block your IP Address and therefore stop you seeing what they are up to.
A VPN however, makes this practice nigh on impossible. With a VPN, you can change your IP Address at will. This not only renders you anonymous to those sites you visit, but it also means you can switch IP address as often as you like. So, a VPN can help your espionage to be as effective as possible.
Craigslist, and various other popular messaging boards and services try to restrict who can post on the various geographic versions of their site.
This can be a pain if you are not based locally but want to advertise a product or service or even hire staff from there. Again, because a VPN can hide your location and make the Craigslist servers believe you are located elsewhere, this becomes a problem you can work around.
All you have to do is find a server from the selection offered by your VPN, which is within the required distance, and you will be able to post on Craigslist, and other sites, as if you were actually there.
If you use an affiliate marketing model within your company, it too can benefit from running a VPN. With a VPN, it is much easier for affiliate marketers to keep different accounts separate and so make their operation as efficient and effective as possible.
As you can see, there are various ways in which a VPN can be employed to benefit marketing professionals and enable you to use a VPN to your marketing advantage.
This is just a handful of the various benefits that can be found, and clearly illustrates why the few dollars it costs to set up a VPN account could be one of the shrewdest investments you will make with your marketing budget all year.
A VPN is an advisable investment for every individual who goes online for the security and privacy benefits it offers. But there is plenty more to be gained from having one, especially for the professional user.
Bio: Chris Beattie is a Co-founder of Fried.com — a website dedicated to educating individuals on how to protect their online privacy through comprehensive guides and tutorials. He is professionally passionate about web development, online privacy and maintaining a “free web” for the entire globe.