testvpnVirtual private network (VPN) connections shield you from many of the issues you might come across when using your ISP’s IP address in the Internet. A VPN lets you proxy from another server and browse anonymously. This means that any Internet content blocked by your country’s government or even your work network is viewable. You can use VPN on your desktop or even on a smart phone such as an iPhone.

Understand the basics of Internet privacy and anonymity

After you sign up for VPN access, you want to test it to make sure it’s working properly. There are a number of websites that will help you test a VPN connection.

What is VPN?

Virtual private networks have been around for years, but they’ve only lately become popular because of all the scandals over privacy and Internet traffic snooping. You can help protect your anonymity using a VPN. Some VPN providers also offer encryption, so you not only have a masqueraded IP address, but your traffic is also encrypted.

VPNs were mostly used for businesses years ago. The VPN server would authenticate a user, and then the user could access company resources. Now, VPN servers give you the ability to connect (sometimes for free) and browse the Internet.

You can also use VPN with smart devices such as iPhones by hiding your cell phone connection from the public web servers. Each time you access a website, the web server logs your IP address. This is typically your home ISP IP address. If you are browsing the web from your work computer, the IP address is typically the router IP address for your work’s Internet connection.

Learn how to work with search engines and your website

If the web owner has a complaint about you, he can find your IP address in the web server logs. This IP can be traced back to your ISP and then, if the ISP is subpoenaed, the complainant can track you down to your home address. With the recent complaints about NSA snooping, your traffic can be obtained and read, especially if you don’t use encryption.

When you connect to a VPN server, the transactions as you send traffic across the web are a bit different. Instead of connecting directly to the web server from your ISP’s IP, you first connect to the VPN server. Using the VPN’s IP address, you then connect to the web server. When the web server administrators view the logs, they see the VPN server. You can use a VPN server from all over the world, so you can spoof your IP to look like it came from another country or another state if you are in the US.

You can even connect to VPNs from other VPNs and connect to a VPN from a virtual machine. There are several ways you can proxy your IP address, but you don’t know if it’s working unless you test the VPN connection, which is really just checking that your IP address is that of the VPN server and not the ISP’s.

Test a VPN

Your VPN provider gives you a user name and password. Your VPN provider also tells you how to connect to its VPN service. You’ll need these instructions to test your VPN. For most setups, you set up a VPN either through desktop software you install on your computer or by editing your desktop browser settings.

Learn how the Internet is connected and “speaks” to other networks

For instance, with Google Chrome, click the preferences button in the top-right corner and click “Advanced Settings.” You can add a VPN IP address in the “Proxy Settings” section. Some VPNs might have a different port than the default. If so, you also need to add port number to properly connect to the VPN service.

After you configure your software or browser, the next step is to test your VPN connection. You can do this with a number of websites. You can search through Google for “what is my ip” or just type “whatismyip.com” in your web browser.

Take note of the IP address shown on the website.  Now open domaintools.com in another tab in your web browser. Copy and paste the IP address you got from the whatismyip.com site into the domaintools.com website. Take note of the IP owner and country information. This is how you identify if it’s your own ISP’s IP address or the IP address for your VPN. Your VPN provider should tell you what country your IP address will show up as when you browse the Internet. If you’re still not sure, look at the ownership information for the IP address. It will be your ISP’s information if your VPN isn’t working. If your VPN is working, the IP address ownership information will be the name of the VPN company and the country location of the server.

If the IP shows as the VPN service, then you are all set to browse the Internet anonymously. If your VPN service provider also offers encryption, use the encryption IP address for added protection. Even if you use a VPN, an unencrypted connection still allows people with access to the network connection to read your Internet browsing information.

VPN service is a great way to protect your data and browse the Internet with more privacy than a regular VPN connection. You can also bypass any filters and sometimes even speed up your Internet connection for video streaming. Companies such as Comcast are known to throttle video streaming, and you can bypass these filters using VPN service.

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