As a professional freelance writer, I work from home most of the time. My home office has what many traditional offices have, a computer, phone, printer, Internet connection, and copy machine. (I do not have a fax machine since I’ve gone without a phone land line, but it doesn’t seem to come up very often.)
However, as anyone who earns money working from home as an entrepreneur will tell you, sooner or later you need to get out of the “office” no matter how great your setup is. I love my little basement home office, but there are no other people there but me, and sometimes I look up and realize that I haven’t seen the sun from a different angle in days. This is especially true in the fall and winter when the days get shorter and my workday can go from before the sun comes up to after the sun goes down. That means working from Starbucks or another coffee place.
For many people accessing the Internet from an insecure wireless hotspot like the ones they have at Starbucks, bookstores, and coffee shops is no big deal. Most banks and financial institutions use encryption on anything important, and certainly when logging on with a username and password. Even online email accounts like Google Gmail or Microsoft Hotmail use SSL when you are logging in. But, when you are talking about a full work day and accessing client-provided information, networks, data banks, or archives you can’t always be sure that the encryption is already there. And, when you are a freelance writer working on a deadline, you can’t always remember to check before you type away at the keyboard, potentially exposing sensitive data or giving away usernames or passwords in the clear.
Recent news about attorneys mass subpoena names and address from IP addresses also makes me nervous. I don’t do a lot of P2P type stuff, and almost none of it would attract a copyright attorney’s attention, but if they can do it for that, they can do it for anything. More to the point, current U.S. case law seems to suggest that a law firm can subpoena user data from ISPs and Internet providers based upon suspicion that something may or may not have been done by the IP address in question and, by extension, whoever was using it. I’m not interested in getting caught up in any “widely cast nets.”
Paid VPN Service Versus Free VPN Service
There are some free VPN services out there. The most popular one is HotShield. It offers free encrypted VPN connections, but it comes at the cost of having advertising. Ads are not a big deal when they are kept out of the user experience on a full-size monitor, but try working on your 10-inch ultra-portable netbook with an ad banner across the top. In some cases, it can take up a quarter of the screen.
Most free VPN services are also slower thanks both to the need to keep costs for a free service offering down, and in order to entice some users to upgrade to their faster paid VPN service.
Add it all up and it makes using free VPN a hassle for serious networking and Internet connectivity. I find myself weighing the burden of firing up the VPN client versus the odds that I can keep myself safe without it. That’s not a good way to run a railroad, so to speak.
Premium VPN Services
I did some preliminary research and it appears that getting unlimited secure VPN access with encrypted network connections to the Internet and beyond is realatively innexpensive.
I’ll be looking into various VPN providers over the next couple of weeks and trying several of them out. There are reviews out there, but it so hard to distinguish fake reviews from real reviews that I don’t know which ones to trust. The only reviews to speak of from respected publications review VPN services as they pertain to the computing or IT industry and not how they work for the entrepreneur trying to keep his small business safe while working remotely from the road or the local coffee shop. Hopefully, I can help fill this gap by reviewing VPN connection providers from the viewpoint of a small business owner networking on the go.
Grab the Best Hubris RSS feed so you don’t miss any of the upcoming VPN provider reviews here on BestHubris.com. While you are at it, you can check out my recent review of WiFi Guardian hotspot security software.
If you offer a premium VPN service and want me to include your product in my review, please contact me and I will test out your product. Please let me know whether I will need to download and install software or not, and let me know how to access the reviewer’s account username and password.