Chances are that you are not new to VPN. You may have been using it to stream Netflix, for example. My husband and I have also done it occasionally to watch Hindi movies as we don’t get so many of them on Netflix Netherlands 😉
But did you know that you can also use a VPN in your small business, for marketing and other purposes? We’ll get into that, but first the usual FAQ.
Or you can jump to the 13 reasons why a VPN is important for business & marketing.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a technology that makes your web traffic and activity unreadable by routing it through a special (VPN) server.
Your computer’s IP address is the identification number of your computer on the internet or any local network. Information is shared across all devices on the internet through IP addresses.
A VPN hides your real IP address so that other devices cannot easily find you and track you.
This makes your work on your computer and on the internet extremely safe and private.
How does a VPN work?
When you use the internet normally, you directly connect to the internet, and all your information is open for others to track (or steal!).
A VPN basically connects your computer to a server in a location that you choose. And then that server connects to the internet.
This means that if you surf online with a VPN, the VPN server becomes the source of your data, and your IP address and information are hidden. This way, all of the internet believes the server IP is actually yours.
Is using a VPN safe?
Using a (paid) VPN is safe, and the VPN provides you security as well, as we saw.
But exactly what does a VPN protect you from?
A VPN will only protect your IP and data. But you will still be at risk of viruses if you visit phishing sites or download unsafe files. A VPN is not anti-virus software.
13 reasons why VPN is important for business & marketing
There are lots of benefits of using VPNs. The reasons why companies use a VPN however, and so should you, can be grouped into 4 major blocks:
1. Low-cost products/ services
One of the biggest advantages of VPNs is that they help you save money.
As a small business owner, you may need to invest in certain products or services to run your business. You may need to travel, buy supplies, enroll in courses to gain extra skills.
But sometimes these cost differently in different countries/states/ cities. By connecting to a VPN where the price is the lowest and shipping is possible, you can get the cheapest prices and save money to spend on other operational and marketing expenses.
2. Free or cheap Skype calls
Most of the calls we make nowadays are on messaging calling apps like WhatsApp. But some calls have to be made in the traditional way, of mobile/ landline to another mobile/ landline.
So when you have to call a number in a different country, you would normally have to buy Skype credit and call from there. Since a VPN hides your real location, you can connect to a location where your call recipient is based, and then you could even call for free or at a very low cost.
3. Secure private data and ensure customer trust
In the US, internet service providers (ISPs), i.e., the guys who provide you with an internet connection, are legally allowed to sell their user’s data to their advertisers. Or there could be hackers who want to steal your data.
A VPN encrypts all the data on your computer. This means that it converts the data into a type of code that can only be unlocked with a specific key that is not openly available. Since all of your data are encrypted, even if you share data between two servers, in the case of data-hijack, the hackers will not be able to read, steal, or sell any of your company or client data.
With a VPN, you can assure your clients or customers that their data (e.g., email address, payment information), are protected. This also helps you build and maintain better client relationships, which is a big reason why VPN is important for business.
4. Safe connections with public wifi
Whether you are a small business owner working from home or from an office, there might be times that you're on the go. Maybe you're in a cafe or in a coworking space and need to connect to a public wifi.
And as we all know, these are not always safe.
With a VPN, you can form connections through any wifi without worrying about any malware or hacking attempts as a VPN can usually block these.
The VPN I use, Surfshark, is particularly good at this with their CleanWeb feature that blocks all malware and phishing attempts, even through ads.
On a plus note, as ads are blocked, you have a faster connection.
You can create very effective marketing campaigns when you get in-depth insights about your target audience: lifestyles, pain points, needs, and even their online experiences.
You need this information to create a buyer persona and make sure that your marketing strategies are targeted, cost-effective, and deliver the best returns.
With a VPN, you can get very detailed insights into your customer’s online world.
5. SEO & content research
Your small business may be based in one location, but you may be delivering your products/ services to your clientele in a different city/ state/ country.
You can get insights about what your audience is searching for and what search engine results they are getting for their searches by connecting to the VPN of that particular location.
Of course, you can get these insights from any SEO tool (you may know, my favorite is Semrush ;), but when you connect to a VPN and you Google a particular keyword, you get the exact experience that your audience has.
You can see the title of the search result, the description, the images, and everything else that your audience sees. Besides, in SEO tools you can see the results of a particular country. With a VPN, you can see the results in a specific city.
Here is an example.
I searched for 'ski jacket' in my location first: Maastricht, Netherlands. These are my search results.
See how everything is in euros and the search results show me ads and brands in Netherlands?
Now I connected to a VPN (Surfshark), to New York, United States.
See how the results change.
There are a lot more images, products and brands in dollars, and even the images look different
And the following is for the same country, but a different city. Boston, United States.
Even in the same country, the search results look different in different cities. In the Boston search, there are a lot more ads, for example.
You can do a lot of research for your search engine optimization this way, playing around with keywords and cities.
The search results on Google for any search query is based on not just the location, but your private browsing and search history as well.
So to do the best research with a VPN, it is better to do your searches without being logged in, in an incognito window.
6. Competitor research
You can get a ton of insights about your closest competitors with a VPN, and it is one of the main reasons why VPN is important for business.
Competitors don't have to mean a particular company. It could also mean those who are beating you in search or ads. You can find out about your closest competition by searching for keywords relevant to you, and see who comes up on top.
Then you can analyze their websites, blogs, and social media profiles in more detail to see what they are doing better.
You can also see which companies are placing ads, and on which topics.
7. Youtube research
While Youtube is classified as a search engine, it is extremely important because videos are the future, people use Youtube to consume content differently, and they use it for entertainment as well, more than Google searches.
For e.g., if your audience wanted to learn a skill with a tutorial, they would probably search for it on Youtube rather than Google. Same if they wanted to watch cat videos.
By connecting to a VPN, you could also see the search results that your audience is getting in a specific location.
Below are the results for the Youtube search ‘how to clean a tennis shoe’ in Atlanta (US).
And here are the results for the same search in Denver.
One search result is different and there are no ads.
8. Social media research
Similar to SEO and Youtube, you could also connect to social media in different regions and check out the feeds in different countries.
For e.g. see the Instagram Explore section for my profile in Frankfurt, Germany.
And here is the same section for me in Lisbon, Portugal.
You will see the ads that appear on your social media feeds are also different in different locations.
9. Advertising research
You can know who the top bidders are on specific channels, in specific locations. Which competitor is placing ads on social media, which ones on search.
You will know which product/ service/ content piece/ offer the competition is placing ads for, and all of these can help you shape your own marketing strategy.
10. Higher connection speed
Sometimes ISPs slow down the speed of your internet connection on purpose, especially when you’re consuming big amounts of data. For example when you download heavy files or stream videos.
This is called ISP throttling and internet providers do this to save costs as more data consumption by customers like you mean more costs for them.
This can make your work very frustrating and slow, not to mention drive more data usage, especially on mobile.
As a VPN encrypts your internet traffic, your internet providers won’t know what internet activity you are doing, and hence can’t throttle your connection.
Result? You get faster internet.
Remember to choose a server in a location closest to you, to get maximum speed.
11. Geographical unblocking
It is quite common for certain countries to block certain search engines and apps like social media. According to a study analyzing social media censorship, “almost one in three countries have blocked social media either permanently or sporadically since 2015.”
So you cannot connect to them to do your marketing or ad campaigns.
This is called geo-blocking, and working around this block is another reason why a VPN is important for business.
You can access any app in any country by connecting to a location there through a VPN and continue with your marketing activities.
12. VoIP unlocking
Many countries block accessibility to internet (VoIP) calling, making it difficult for you to use these services (Skype, WhatsApp, etc.) to make cheap calls. You can easily work around this solution with a VPN.
13. Access more free resources
Some websites and online forums give you access to only limited resources and articles for free, before signing up for a free or paid account. These sites track your IP addresses, and when you hide that with a VPN, you can get more free resources.
However, from an ethical standpoint, if you're using these resources rarely, once in a while, then using a VPN could be okay. But if you access these sites often, then it would only be fair and respectful to the company that's providing you with such value, to get a free account or pay for its services.
Free vs paid VPNs
There are some free VPNs that you could use, like Betternet VPN, Hola VPN. But some of them openly admit that they share your session data with advertisers. So third parties have access to your confidential information.
In fact, 77% of free VPNs could pose a risk to your security.
The security they provide is limited, the browsing experience is filled with ads, and the internet connection may be slow and disruptive. Sometimes premium VPN providers offer free versions with limited features, encouraging you to upgrade.
Remember, this is the safety and security of your company and of yourself that we're talking about. So if you're really wondering if paid VPNs are worth it, just think: would you really want to compromise security for the sake of a few dollars? This brings us to the next point.
How much does a VPN cost?
The cost of an average VPN service is usually $5-$15 per month, going down to $50 for 2 years if you sign up for an annual plan.
The cost of high-end VPN services (for example, when you have big data to protect) is bearable for mid-sized businesses (large businesses have their own) but heavy for small businesses, and it's not even needed. If your budget is limited, you can start with budget-friendly VPN services.
In the future when you have large profit margins, you could subscribe to a more high-tech VPN, or hire a professional to configure your own company VPN.
Which is the best VPN for small businesses?
There is no one best VPN for business. The best small business VPN would be the one that gives you the best balance of the maximum necessary features at the lowest cost.
There are free business VPNs as well, but as we said, we will stick to paid VPNs for security reasons.
However, given a balance of features and pricing, Surfshark comes out the winner. While Perimeter 81 is approximately $15 a month, Express and Nord is about $8, and Surfshark at around $2.
I am a big fan of Surfhsark and use it all the time for my business.
Is Surfshark a good VPN?
Without going into too many technical details, let's say it is not as high-end as Perimeter 81. So it really depends on your needs.
What I love about it is that aside from being a high-speed secure VPN with an easy-to-use interface (so ideal for beginners) and one of the lowest costs, it lets me use the VPN app on unlimited devices at the same time. Hardly any other business VPN offers that.
So I could be using it to do my marketing research, while my husband could be using it to stream Netfix. Both at very high speed. So it suits my needs.
What else can you do with a VPN?
You can also get access to streaming sites that are not available in your country. Or connect to Netflix to watch shows from other countries. You can also prevent cookies from reading your browsing preferences and share files on the internet anonymously.
Of all the reasons listed above, I use the VPN mostly when I connect to public wifi, make calls, am downloading big files, or when I want to do marketing research to get into the shoes of my audience.
Do you use a VPN currently for your business? For what purposes? And which one? Would love to hear your comments!
Got any questions about using VPNs for your business?