A reader from Maryland has a question about VPNs.

“Under ‘Active Networks’ my Wi-Fi is listed as a private network. Can you discuss the difference between that and a VPN? (I’ve tried various free VPNs and the only thing they accomplish is slowing down my internet speed).”

Great question, reader. I hope this response sufficiently answers your question.

What is a VPN?

There’s definitely a big difference: a VPN (virtual private network) is a private connection to your network that can be accessed from any location. This makes VPNs very popular with businesses that may have remote workers who need to access the in-office network. VPNs additionally encrypt all of your outbound information. For example, when you are browsing the internet, a VPN will encrypt this information to prevent unauthorized users from seeing your data.

https://i0.wp.com/imgsrv.worldstart.com/images/ct-images/2017/01/tunnelbear-vpn-screenshot.jpg?resize=369%2C285

What is the Windows Private Network?

When you connect to a wireless network for the first time, Windows will ask if you are on a private (also called home), work, or a public network. If you choose “Private Network,” then your computer will enable file-sharing and discovery features. As such, you’ll be able to easily share files and other media amongst your home computers.

https://i0.wp.com/imgsrv.worldstart.com/images/ct-images/2017/01/windows-private-network-screenshot.jpg?resize=314%2C266

Source: Digitial Citizen

Private networks only allow nearby devices to connect with each other. VPNs allow you to connect from any device and from any location around the world. Furthermore, a private network will not encrypt your outbound data like a VPN does—you will have to enable other encryption methods, such as WPA2 encryption on your router, to keep your information secure.

I hope this was helpful to you.

–Alice