(Pocket-lint) - Online privacy is becoming more important to people as incidences of leaked data, cyber crime, identity theft, and general snooping into our internet activity increasingly grabs headlines.
Unfortunately it's no easy task to manually keep yourself out of the view of prying eyes, whether they are legitimate browser trackers looking to serve up product recommendation or sneaky snooping from government agencies or more nefarious people lurking on the internet's virtual highways.
But virtual private networks (VPNs) have become far easier to access, setup and run, allowing people to tap into the power of VPNs to mask IP addresses and hide browsing activities, and even make it appear that you're in a different country altogether.
There are a huge number of VPN services to choose from, some offering basic packages, others offering a huge array of settings that can befuddle all but the most tech-savvy users.
To give you an idea on how to get started with VPNs and accessing the internet freely and privately, we've taken a look at KeepSolid's VPN Unlimited, a service that offers a VPN to cover a lot of bases without overwhelming a user.
One, two, three go
Getting KeepSolid's VPN Unlimited app for Windows machines takes a simple visit to the company's website, a small download and rapid install process before the VPN program was up and running.
From there, we were offered the opportunity to login through Facebook, Google+, and an existing KeepSolid account or to setup a new one.
Once logged in, we were presented with a compact window showing a toggle to turn the VPN on and off, as well as the opportunity to select a server to host our hidden IP address from healthy list of countries, ranging from the US through to the likes of Turkey and Slovakia.
Switching the VPN on and off is also pretty seamless, and the desktop app can be configured to automatically switch on the VPN when a PC or laptop is booted up.
Access all areas
VPN Unlimited offers a choice of some 400+ servers located across 70+ locations, so users should have no problem finding a server location that suite their needs.
Selecting a server in another country allows you to either bypass any stringent censorship and internet controls the nation you're accessing the internet from may have, or simply access online services that have content "geo-locked" to certain locations.
For example, Netflix has different selections of films and TV shows in the US version of its service and apps than it does on the UK versions.
While the likes of Netflix have been putting in effort to block such VPN workarounds, there's a bit of a cat-and-mouse game going around between such streaming services and VPN providers.
We didn't encounter any blocks with VPN Unlimited, which was a good indication of the strong encrypted connections the service makes to servers in other countries and its ability to mask real IP addresses.
At the time of writing we were able to access the US version of Netflix by selecting a KeepSolid server in California and enjoy content that’s not yet available to Netflix in the UK. Previously, this wasn't possible with VPN Unlimited, but KeepSolid appears to have got its geo-location feature to play nicely with Netflix.
All in all, getting the VPN setup and essentially hiding the laptop and connection we were using to browse the web from trackers and spies, was simple and slick.
Once up and running, the neatly designed user interface of VPN Unlimited makes it easy to use, including accessing account details, support, and network settings. Your real and virtual IP addresses are also shown, which is a neat reminder that your actual location and connection details are kept private.
There's plenty of information available if you click through the settings, as VPN Unlimited treads the line between being able to quickly get started but also offer some more information on top.
There's also an iOS, Android, Linux, and even Windows Phone app to bring VPN privacy to mobile devices; up to five computers, smartphones, or tablets can be connected to a single VPN Unlimited account. And to top all that off extensions for Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox browsers are also on offer.
We took a look at the Android version of VPN Unlimited, which had a neatly designed interface that's easy to operate, particularly on a smartphone with a large display.
For people who like to connect to services privately or want to protect their data when accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots, having such a VPN on your mobile device or laptop can keep your activities hidden from the network operators or any hackers that may have infiltrated the hotspot – public Wi-Fi often lacks the strong security - or any at all - offered by home or work Wi-Fi networks.
For a rather flexible and easy to use VPN, KeepSolid has still managed to keep VPN Unlimited at a fairly affordable price.
A month’s worth of VPN Unlimited access starts at $9.99, but sign up for a year for $49.99 and that price takes a tumble to a little more than $4 per month.
People who really take a shine to VPN Unlimited can get a lifetime's worth of use for $149.99. And it's worth noting that the competitive world of VPN services can see you snag bargain prices during various promotions and sales.
There's also a 7-day trial for you to take VPN Unlimited for a spin before you commit to parting with your money.
Extra services are also on offer for people who want to get more out of their VPN use, such as the ability to pick a personal server or choose a static personal virtual IP address, though such features will cost an extra $21.99 per month.
Additional devices beyond the five connected to the VPN, can also be added, with prices running from $1.99 for one extra device to $11.99 for an extra 10 gadgets.
Overall, VPN Unlimited is offering a good amount of flexibility in its pricing as well as how the VPN can be used.
And into this mix KeepSolid promises to not record any personal information about a user's browsing habits. It will only keep encrypted data on the number of devices an account has accessing its service, and it will monitor traffic usage for each session and the dates of said sessions.
For technical purposes KeepSolid may also collect data on a VPN Unlimited user ID, connection attempt times, connection and device type, and the encryption being used. But this is to monitor and improve its service not to snoop on a user's activities and sell data on to third-parties.
Here KeepSolid is striking a balance between ensuring a user's VPN Unlimited activities are private, yet at the same time making sure its VPN service is capable and running well.
Overall, KeepSolid's VPN Unlimited offers a good gateway into VPN use, presenting a good collection of features and options, as well as flexible pricing plans.
If you're concerned about online privacy and data security then a VPN could be the answer you're looking for and VPN Unlimited is worth your consideration.