There have been recent calls around the world to restrict the use of VPNs. Variously, they're offered for differing reasons:

  • VPNs are encrypted connections, possibly to servers outside your control, and therefore, you can neither eavesdrop on nor control what an internet user is doing.
  • VPNs facilitate access to services outside the internet users' "market" area, thereby allowing them to avail of services that a monopolist would rather they not use.

The reasons cited, however, are non-typical. Overwhelmingly, VPNs are used in business to allowing staff to connect to a company network so they can access the files and services that are within the company. A VPN helps here, as once connected through it, the staff member's computer is effectively within the company network, and there's no need for each application or service to be exposed individually to allow remote access.

But here's another, simple, value to a VPN:

I attended a job interview today. Prior to leaving the house, I reviewed the version of my CV that I had sent in, and I typed some notes into it to help me prepare. I saved the file, but forgot to check it in1. I parked the car outside the office, and had 15 minutes to spare, so I took out my 'phone to review my CV. Once I checked out this version, I noticed that not all the notes that I had prepared where there.

No problem: I have a VPN server at home2. I connected to it on my phone, I then used ssh to connect to the computer I had been working on earlier, and I checked in my updated CV. Once done, I was able to check it out again, and presto I had the updated version!

This was simply done, and done quickly. It would have been impossible without a VPN. And some people want to criminalise this sort of behaviour!

Epilogue3

My 'phone is a Nokia N900, which is really nothing more than a standard computer running a Linux distribution called Maemo. It has a terminal application which means connecting to other computers using ssh is a easy as doing it from any computer.

It's a genius 'phone, and I will miss it when there are none left!

Footnotes:

1
Yes, I check my CV into a revision control system. I'm a software engineer. You should expect nothing else!
2
Running on a Raspberry Pi
3
An earlier version of this post has this section titled "Prologue". That was stupid.