Do you pop into a cafe to get your email when you travel? Do those of you who carry an American passport have dealings with Medicare or other health providers?
Then you just might need a VPN.
What will this VPN thingy do for me?
A VPN is a “Virtual Private Network”. You download a program to your computer, tablet or an app for your phone that gives you access to the network. It pretty much configures things on its own.
A good VPN encrypts the stuff you’re sending over the internet so nobody in that crowded cafe who has purchased $50 worth of equipment to hijack your Internet traffic can read your passwords as they float through cyberspace.
A VPN’s most useful attribute is that it allows you to pick a server around the world so that it appears to the sites you access that you’re in Cleveland instead of Cremona. You might wonder why that’s important, especially if you’re an American.
Why a VPN is essential for some of us
For those of us who spend an extended time in Italy, a good VPN is just part of the basic kit. Let’s say you have an online pharmacy in the US and you need to order your “meds” so that when you get home they’ll be there and your life will be allowed to continue unabated. So you hit the shortcut that takes you to the site where you can make your transaction. Whoa! You get a big red stop sign that says you can’t have access! What’s going on?
Well, the pharmacy, not wanting to deal with anyone who’s not where they’re supposed to be in order to pay more for pharmaceuticals, has blocked IP address all over the world that don’t originate in America! YOU’RE GONNA DIE!
Of course, you could just walk into an Italian pharmacy and get your drugs way cheaper, but maybe you don’t want to break American law that says as a resident of the US you are obligated to pay more for exactly the same meds Europeans get far cheaper so that other people who wear ties and who aren’t you can get rich. So what do you do?
You get a VPN and pretend you’re in Peoria or somewhere. Then you can access most places on the Internet and protect your personal information. Securely.
So, at first I got a very cheap deal on a VPN. It was bad. You see, if you don’t have a good provider with many fast servers in many places around the world, the whole process—encrypting your data and sending it to an extra server before serving it to the place you want to access—naturally slows things down a bit. If the VPN salespeople oversell it slows things to an absolute crawl. I waited 5 minutes for each page to load. Yes, it can be that bad.
So I did a whole lotta research. I found a VPN that was highly touted by nearly everyone. It was fast. I took the plunge.
I chose ExpressVPN. I’ve been running it continuously on my computer in the US. I could be anywhere. My tests show that it slows me only minimally. So I leave it on. It also runs on my Android phone.
So, if you do a lot of online work while you’re in Italy, consider a VPN. It has saved people from identity theft.
And…did you know that unless you have an IP address outside of Europe you might not get the Google search results you’d get in Burbank?
Be secure my friends.