At the start of the pandemic, few would have predicted the huge changes that Covid would bring – especially for office workers. Most people – us included – thought we’d be back in the office in mere weeks after the initial lockdown.
But here we are, more than 18 months later, and many people are still working from home. Businesses, or at least a lot of companies, have been quick to see the advantages of hybrid working, both from a cost-saving perspective of moving to smaller premises as well as the improved work/life balance for employees.
The question, though, is whether you should be using a VPN when you work in a home office.
While some organisations will already have VPNs in place, if you don’t ordinarily use one and haven’t been asked to install one, it’s a very good idea to do so.
Do I need a VPN for home working?
A VPN provides a secure, encrypted connection between your laptop (or phone) and a server on the internet. This adds an extra layer of security and helps to prevent anyone from spying on what you’re doing, protecting the contents of any messages or data that you access over the connection.
If your work involves handling sensitive data, it’s essential to use a VPN.
There are other benefits of using a VPN, including being able to access websites and video that’s not available in your region. This may or may not be work-related, but even if not, there’s no harm in having some side benefits.
Which VPN should I use?
One of the first questions most people ask is whether free VPNs are safe to use.
They can be, but it’s important to use a reputable service, and not simply the first one that comes up in the list of search results. When you use a VPN service, you’re effectively handing it all your data, so it needs to be one you can trust completely.
If you do need a VPN for your job, your company should be willing to pay for, and we recommend using a paid service for a variety of reasons. These include unlimited data, faster speeds, a wider choice of servers and locations and the ability to connect several devices at the same time.
However, there are some great free VPN services which might just offer enough bandwith, server choice and speed for your needs.
All involve compromises, and if you (or your employer) is willing to pay, then NordVPN, Surfshark and Cyberghost are three we’ve tested and can recommend.
How do I use a VPN at home?
If you have a VPN provided by your employer, you should have received a guide on how to use it. Here, we’ll explain to use one of the most VPN services: NordVPN.
But the process is very similar with all VPNs. It’s as simple as downloading the provider’s app to your phone, laptop, PC, Mac or tablet.
Once you’ve logged in, you can enable the VPN by pressing the ‘Connect’ button – Quick connect in NordVPN’s case – which will pick the closest or fastest available server. And that’s it. You can then work as normal and you shouldn’t notice any difference.
Of course, there is a difference: your connection is now routed via a VPN server and all the data is encrypted.
You can get extra privacy and security by switching on features in the VPN app. The main one to look for a kill switch, as this is usually turned off by default. When the kill switch is enabled, no data can be accidentally sent across an unencrypted connection should the VPN stop for any reason.
It’s a rare occurrence, but it does happen from time to time and a kill switch ensures apps – and web apps – don’t leak any data when the VPN isn’t running.
For more, see our guide on how to use a VPN.