A VPN (Virtual Private Network) helps protect your data by creating encryption between your internet connection and sites you visit. This encryption keeps prying eyes away from your private data, can help you avoid ISP throttling, and even can keep you from being fired. (Really!)
For anyone who is security minded (and that should be all of us), a VPN can enhance your privacy. Just remember that no VPN is 100% secure.
Here’s how a VPN works.
Imagine if you were driving a car into a tunnel. Once you enter the tunnel, no one can see that you were inside.
Instead of hiding your data in a physical tunnel, a VPN uses encryption to hide your data. Once you’ve connected to a VPN, your ISP provider can’t see your data on the internet. This is because your activity appears to come from the IP address of your VPN service, so (theoretically at least) it can’t be traced back to you. In other words, this encryption protects your data against interception.
When you’re away from home, it’s even more important to use a VPN service to protect sensitive data.
When you connect to an unsecured public network, such you’d find in a hotel, coffee shop, library, or airport, your data is at significant risk of being intercepted by sketchy individuals. What is particularly dangerous is that it’s easy for bad actors to spoof the location of the network you think you’re connecting through.
Hackers often name networks after hotels and businesses to lull customers into a sense of false security. Just because a network is named “XYZ_Hotel” doesn’t mean that you are connecting to the hotel’s real WiFi network! If you make an online purchase or sign into your banking when you’re connected to one of these unsecured networks, thieves can steal your credit card information, or hack your bank account.
And even if you don’t sign into a bank account or use a credit card in a session, you never know what kind of personal data you might be revealing. You might think you’re you’re safe because you’re alone in that coffee shop. The reality is some creep could be sitting out in the parking lot just waiting to intercept sensitive data.
Here’s something else to think about. You put your employer’s data at risk by working on an unsecured network (and that usually ends up badly. As in FIRED.)
As important as it is to use a VPN when you’re away from home, there is another great benefit of a VPN as well.
Many ISPs throttle upload and download speeds after users reach data thresholds. Connecting to the internet through a VPN hides your IP address, so your data isn’t throttled. And here’s another reason to use a VPN. Have you ever tried to watch a video and received the annoying message, “Video not available in your country?”
Most VPN services allow you to choose servers based in different countries to connect through. This makes it look like you’re viewing from a permitted country. This can also be handy if you’re travelling to a country that restricts internet access, like Cuba.
So it’s clear there are massive benefits from using a VPN connection, both in terms of data protection and avoiding throttling. But is it worth paying for a VPN, or is a free service good enough?
The old saying “You get what you pay for” certainly applies to free VPNs. Many have slow connections, show ads before you can connect, and may log and sell your user data. Even worse? Going through free VPNs can expose your machine to Trojans and malware.
Malwarebytes.com features a horrific tale of a fake VPN service that served up a keylogger (a program that records your keystrokes as you type to steal your passwords.) Keyloggers are only the tip of the iceberg of what you could be exposing yourself to with free VPNs. Recently, ZDNet.com reported that researchers at Kaspersky Lab have uncovered “multiple malicious cryptocurrency-mining applications distributed via the Google Play store, with the miners posing as games, sports streaming apps, and VPNs.” Yikes!
However, if you’re travelling and have no other alternative to protect your data on a public network, a free VPN is better than nothing. But there is a free VPN you definitely want to think twice about using.
We’ve all heard the recent horror stories about Cambridge Analytica using Facebook to unethically collect user data. (Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, read The Guardian’s expose of the tech giant here.)So that’s there’s even more reason to avoid Facebook’s new VPN service, Onavo Protect.
Gizmodo.com wrote that security researcher Will Strafach discovered that Onavo’s iOS app is “collecting various types of device data separate from server-side connection and usage logs. Even with VPN turned off, Onavo collects information about daily wi-fi usage and daily cellular data. Even if a user’s device screen is turned on and off too.”
Onvao’s terms of service state that the app collects data related to user’s online activities, including “information about your mobile applications and data usage, including the applications stored on your device, the use of those applications, the websites you visit and the amount of data you use.”
So what’s the best VPN to use? An app rated by a 3rd party with nothing to gain. Many VPN reviews are nothing but thinly disguised affiliate offers. That’s why I’m recommending anyone interested in signing up with a VPN service check out “That One Privacy Site.”
Visit That One Privacy Site for honest VPN reviews. It’s full of helpful information about how to protect your privacy online.
The site’s anonymous author and privacy advocate compiled a list of what to look for in a VPN, a helpful VPN glossary, and a detailed side-by-side comparison of various VPN services.
Do you subscribe to VPN service – or have you considered signing up for one? Let us know in the Comments below.
An Apple Family Sharing plan is an excellent way to keep track of your family’s app purchases and media. Why pay for separate iCloud storage when you can share a storage plan for less?
Up to six family members can share a joint iCloud storage plan (and Apple doesn’t limit who you can share your account with.) Better yet, you can even instantly share apps and books between family members at no extra cost.
For example, you can download a game app and it will automatically appear on all your kids devices.
The plan works for any iOS device, whether its an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
A shared plan can also you track your family’s devices in case of loss or theft (more on this feature later in this post.)
So let’s get started setting up a shared iCloud storage plan with your family!
To enable Family Sharing you need an iCloud account that has at least 200 GB of storage space. This means that you’ll need to upgrade your account form the free 5gb plan. (For more information, and to sign up for a plan, click here.)
When you sign up for a shared iCloud storage plan, designate an adult family member as the family organizer. He or she then has ultimate control over the shared account and has the ability to approve other family member’s purchases.
After you’ve signed up for your paid iCloud account, the next step is for the family organizer to invite and add family members to the shared account.
Apple makes it simple to invite family members to join the shared iCloud account.
This action will open up the Apple ID screen that appears to your right.
Choose the family members you wish to add (up to six family members can share an account.)
The person receiving your invitation will receive an iMessage notifying them you’ve invited them to share your account.
Or you can invite family members by entering their name, email address or Game Center identification.
Select the ‘Create a Child Account’ option by tapping it, then the screen to the right will open. Tap next.
After you enter this date, tap Next.
Note: Apple allows anyone 13 or over to have their own iCloud account. If you don’t want your older kids to have their own account just yet, override this by fudging the year your child was born to 12 years prior from now.
Tap “Next” and you’ll see the Parent Privacy Disclosure Page.
Step 6) Accept the Parent Privacy Disclosure by clicking “Agree”
Step 7) Verify that you’re the account owner.
To verify, enter the security code on the back of the account credit card.
Step 8) After You’ve Verified, Add Your Child’s Details.
Congratulations, you’re done.
Now that you’ve added your family members and set up accounts for your children, you can begin to share all of your apps, books and games and cloud storage space.
An Apple Family Sharing plan lets you stay on top of app purchases. You’ll be able to avoid making the same app purchase multiple times for different kids.
There’s no need to worry that enabling a Family Sharing plan would allow Junior to run wild buying apps and games (since the account is tied to the credit card of the family organizer.) To prevent any unauthorized purchases, simply set up the “Ask to Buy” feature when you’re setting up your Family Sharing account.
When your child tries to initiate a purchase from the Apple Store, you’ll receive a notification to review and approve the purchase. From there, you’ll have the ability to approve or decline the purchase.
By the way, this feature also gives you a nice “carrot” to get the kids to do their chores. For example, if Susie puts the dishes away all week, she earns a reward in the form of an app purchase approval. Since apps are inexpensive for the most part, this could be a great bargaining tool for parents.
But what about photos? Can photos also be shared by family members? Yes!
Sharing photos via iCloud Photo Sharing is another great reason to enable Apple Family Sharing.
You can even create shared albums that signed in family members can comment on and like. If you’re concerned about posting photos of your children publicly on social media, this is a secure alternative.
Check out our post for more details on how to save and optimize your photos with iCloud.
By now your wheels are probably turning about how great it would be to share and manage all of your family’s files, apps, books, games and more through a Family iCloud account.
But there are even more benefits to your shared account!
Here’s another major benefit to an Apple Sharing Plan.
When you have Apple Family Sharing enabled, you can find any family member’s device with the Find My iPhone app. (The app comes pre-installed with every Apple device. )
To use this feature, enable “Location Sharing” on your family members’ devices while you’re setting up your shared iCloud account.
The next time you log into Location Sharing, you’ll see a list of your family members and their devices, along with their device’s last reported location. (You’ll also see your family member’s physical location if they happen to be carrying their device with them.)
This is a very big deal when you have kids (or spouses) who frequently lose their phones, iPods and iPads. Instead of fretting that Billy left his phone at the movie theatre, you’ll be able to spot that it’s hiding somewhere in your own home.
For more information about tracking missing devices using Location Sharing, check out this post.
Before we wrap up this post, there’s one last question you may have about Family Sharing.
You might also wonder if you can share your Apple Music subscription.
Yes, you can, but with a catch.
In order to share an Apple Music account, you need to be signed up for a Family Subscription. This will run you $14.99 per month (in the U.S.) vs. $9.99 a month for an individual account. But even though a shared subscription looks more expensive on the surface, it could still save your family money on individual Apple Music subscriptions.
For example, a couple with individual Music subscriptions could save $48.00 per year with a Family Subscription versus paying for individual subscriptions. If you have a kid or two at the age where they love to listen to music on their iPods, this subscription will certainly pay for itself.
And just because one family member loves a certain genre of music doesn’t mean everyone in the shared subscription needs to listen to it.
Users can create their own playlists inside the Family subscription. In other words, you won’t be stuck listening to your husband’s Hot Country playlist or have to endure the kids’ “Moana” soundtrack when you’re a die-hard Motorhead fan.
Tip: Apple offers a free trial period for Apple Music accounts. You can always try an Apple Music subscription out and cancel later.
Want full details on a shared Apple Music subscription? Click here.
Thanks for reading!
Lost your Android or Apple device? Don’t panic – here’s a step-by-step walkthrough that gives you a second chance to find your missing device.
Protect your Android it in case of loss or theft by downloading an app from Google Play called “Find My Device.” This free app helps you locate your lost or stolen device.
Once you have the app installed, you can access Find My Device from any browser by typing in https://google.com/android/find.
Youll have options to ring, lock or erase your device in case of loss or theft.
Sign into Google and type myaccount.google.com into your browser. Locate the “Find Your Phone” option at the bottom left and click on Get Started.
Find Your Phone displays a map of where your phone has reported its location. Next, tell Google which time period you’d like to search. After you enter this information, Google will display the last known location of your phone before its battery died.
As well as viewing your phone’s last location, you can also lock your device to protect it from prying eyes through this same interface.
If you feel that your phone won’t be recovered, then take the final step and erase all personal data from your phone. Be sure that this is what you want to do because there is no going back after this step.
Apple user? We’ve got you covered in case you lose your device, too. Here are two methods to locate your lost device.
Apple has an app called Find My iPhone that comes pre-installed on your device (it also works for iPad.) And it’s your new best friend for finding a missing device.
To set it up, sign into iCloud. Locate the “Find My iPhone”setting and turn it on. Turn on the “Send Last Location” setting as well. (You’ll need this activated to report the last known physical location of your phone.)
Now that you’ve activated Find My iPhone let’s look at the options available inside the app to help you locate a missing device.
If you can’t find your device, navigate to the Find My iPhone app on another Apple device. Sign in with your Apple ID.
Choose “Lost mode.” Enter your phone number at the prompt.
This number will then display on the screen of your lost device so you can be notified by the person who finds your phone.
In Lost mode, your phone plays an audible tone to alert anyone nearby for as long as your battery lasts.
This is also a handy feature to help find your phone if you misplace it while you’re alone.
If you can’t sign into iCloud on a family member or friend’s device, don’t despair. You have an option to sign iCloud in from a browser on a Mac or PC.
Navigate to icloud.com/find from your browser and sign in with your iCloud ID.
Follow the on-screen prompts to put your phone into Lost mode.
If you feel there is no chance you’ll get your device back, choose Erase in Find My iPhone’s settings.
Erase deletes all personal data from your phone. Make sure that you feel there’s zero chance of recovering your phone before you take this step because you won’t be able to reverse it.
Hopefully, you had previously enabled iCloud or iTunes backup. If you did, if necessary, you’ll be able to restore your lost phone’s settings to a new device.
But what if a family member loses their device?
If you have iCloud Family Sharing enabled you’ll have a way to help them track it down.
If you’ve enabled iCloud sharing between family members, and have Location Tracking enabled, the Find My iPhone feature will allow you to see where your family members have left their devices too.
You’ll see a list of your family member’s devices and the last reported location of each device after log-in.
Also, enabling Location Sharing also means you’ll be able to view a family member’s physical location if they are carrying a device registered to the family account. This feature could be useful while travelling, or in case your family accidentally gets separated in a crowd situation.
If you feel the device can’t be recovered, then erase the device’s data as described above to protect personal information.
Setting up iCloud Photo Library is a simple process.
It’s a great way to store your photos without saving them to your device or to an external hard drive.
Photo files are large and take up a lot of space.
If you take any amount of photos, it doesn’t take long to run out of local storage. So free up space by uploading your pics to iCloud Photo Library instead.
The answer to this question is: “it depends.”
iCloud gives you 5 GB of free storage, which doesn’t go far if you have very many photos to store.
If you think you’ll exceed this amount of storage, create a paid account. Don’t skimp here, since other file types (such as documents) are automatically stored to your iCloud account as well.
Paid iCloud storage plans rates vary from country-to-country. You can check out plans here.
Note: If you go with a 200 GB or 2 TB plan, you can share your storage with family members. ( More details to come later in this post.)
There are a few critical steps to take before you start to save photos from iCloud.
Although these steps might seem a bit time consuming, going through them will sync your photos across all of your devices.
And if you happen to do any edits to your photos, they’ll appear across all of your devices registered to your iCloud plan.
Setting up iCloud Photos and waiting for them to migrate from your device storage to iCloud can be a bit of a pain, but it’s worth it.
Now all of your photos will be available on every device where you’ve signed into iCloud, from any location in the world.
And just because you don’t have an iPhone doesn’t mean that you can’t use iCloud Photo Library.
The answer is “Yes!” First, you will need to create an Apple ID. Click here to register for an Apple ID.
Next, you’ll need to download iCloud for Windows. Depending on your storage needs, you may need a paid account.
After you’ve downloaded and opened iCloud, go to Photos and click Options. Select iCloud Photo Library, then click Done and Apply.
From now on, your photos will automatically upload to iCloud.
Now that you’ve enabled iCloud Photo Library, here’s how to optimize to save some storage space.
The great thing about your Apple Photo Library is that it stores photos from all of your registered devices.
So any photo you’ve uploaded to iCloud will always be available on any of your iCloud registered devices, regardless of whether you’re using your Apple computer, iPhone, iPod or iPad.
If you want to free up more storage space, use the Photos app to delete any old photos and videos that you no longer need. But removing unneeded images is only one way to save on your iCloud storage space.
You can save additional space by turning on “Optimize Device Storage” within your device settings.
With Optimize Storage turned on, Photos replaces original photos and videos with thumbnails. Any time you click on a thumbnail, your original, full-resolution photos and videos are available in iCloud, ready to be downloaded at any time.
Don’t sweat it if you accidentally delete a photo you wanted to keep. All Deleted photos are saved in a Recently Deleted album for 30 days.
Make sure to remove any content you’d like to save from the Recently Deleted album before the 30 days are up. iCloud permanently removes Recently Deleted content if you exceed your storage limits.
Your photo could be gone for good in that case, so be sure to remove accidentally deleted pictures from this album ASAP.
Speaking of saving space, you may want to check out yet another option to keep your photos – Google Photos.
Google Photos is another excellent option to store treasured photos.
Get started by downloading the Google Photos app from the Apple App Store or from Google Play. There is also a desktop version of Google Photos available.
Google is much more generous with their storage plans than Apple is. While Apple gives you 5 GB of free storage, Google provides 15 GB free.
And if you’re willing to limit your photo resolution to 16 megapixels and video resolution to 1080p (more than adequate for most smartphone photos) Google Photos provides free unlimited storage space.
However, if you need to store your photos in higher resolution than 16 megapixels, they count against your Google Drive storage limits.
As a bonus, Google Photos automatically detects where your photos are taken and arranged into albums – without any additional effort on your part. It’s a handy feature to help you stay organized when you have a ton of travel and event photos.
iCloud Photo Library or Google Photos? The choice is yours.
By utilizing one of these services is you won’t have to live in terror of what will happen to your photos if you lose your phone. And you’ll avoid running out of device storage just as you go to take a once-in-a-lifetime shot!
We’ve written another post which explains how you can take advantage and share iCloud storage with family. Now, all of your family members can save photos to iCloud and never run out of space on their devices.
Discover how to share iCloud storage with family here.
The need to back up your iPhone is something no one thinks about until an emergency strikes.
A little proactive action can save you a whole lot of headaches down the road. Backup your iPhone now and prevent a lot of grief in the future.
If you have an Apple device, you have two platforms where you can backup your iPhone: iTunes & iCloud.
First, let’s have a look at the pros and cons of each method.
In a hurry? Jump to a specific section of this post by clicking on the links below.
No matter which platform you choose, storage limits will play into your decision over whether to use iCloud or iTunes to back up your phone. Below you’ll find some pros-and-cons for each backup system.
While you’ll receive 5 free GB of storage with your iCloud account, you’ll use it up fast if you have large files or a lot of photos stored on your phone.
The good news is that additional iCloud storage can be purchased according to your needs.
Apple offers three premium plans for iCloud storage.
U.S.-based iCloud plans start at $0.99/month for 50 GB; $2.99/month for 200GB and 2TB for $9.99/month. (Bonus: 200GB and 2 TB plans may be shared with family members, so your cost-per-user ends up being less.)
Other countries rates vary – check this page to find out Apple’s latest rates for non-U.S. based accounts.
To increase your backup storage, enable the iCloud Photo Library. Doing this eliminates videos and photos from your regular iCloud backups, as they are already stored in the cloud.
iTunes backs up data to your own computer, so needless to say, you won’t need to pay for any extra storage when you back up your device to iTunes.
However, your backups are limited to the amount of space available on your machine. If you know that you’re short of RAM on your computer, backing up a large number of photos and large files to iTunes isn’t advised.
You can always backup iTunes to an external hard drive if you’re short of storage space on your computer.
To backup iTunes up to an external hard-drive, Apple provides instructions here.
Or you can always spring for some extra storage on iCloud.
However, if you have any privacy concerns, and you want full control over your data, stick to iTunes as your backup method. Because iTunes stores your data on your own machine, it isn’t as vulnerable to hackers.
Speaking of hackers, let’s look at how to enable data encryption to protect your private data against unauthorized use.
Encryption helps keep your private data safe in the event your phone gets lost or stolen. Many of us keep highly confidential data on our phones, such as banking passwords, and health data. You don’t want that kind of data to fall into the wrong hands.
This is why it’s very important to make sure your data gets encrypted when you back up your iPhone. Luckily, both iCloud and iTunes will encrypt your data.
iCloud encrypts data by default. You don’t have to change any settings at all. However, you must enable encryption for iTunes since it is not a default setting.
But don’t stress. It’s a simple 3-step process to enable iTunes encryption.
It’s that easy!
You should be aware that iCloud only saves what Apple considers as essential data during an automatic backup. This can leave you vulnerable in case of loss or theft, or in case you want to transfer your saved data to a new device.
To follow is a list of what is and isn’t automatically saved in an iCloud or iTunes Backup so you can make an informed decision about which one to use.
Your iPhone backup to iCloud only includes information and settings stored on your device.
Any information already stored in iCloud is excluded from your backup
Excluded information includes:
iTunes is is a more complete back up method than iCloud back up is.
With iTunes the following information is backed up:
Even if you prefer the convenience of an automatic iCloud backup, it’s still a good idea to occasionally backup to iTunes as well. This will ensure all of your data gets backed up.
Ready to back up your iPhone? Let’s get started! Both backup methods are simple. Just choose the one you think fits your own situation best.
Backing up to iCloud is the easiest way to backup your device. You can begin an iCloud backup with only a few taps on your device.
Here are the easy steps to backup with iCloud:
Backing up your phone or device with iTunes a snap. Here are the 5 easy steps to backup secure your data with iTunes.
Now you’ll enjoy peace of mind that your device data is protected in case of the loss or theft of your phone. And if you change devices, it will be easy to upload your contacts, apps and data.
Note: You can also select which individual apps you’d like to backup. Under “Choose Data to Backup”, turn off any apps that you don’t wish to backup at this time.
To do this, choose “Turn Off & Delete.”
Now that you’ve successfully discovered how to back up your device with both iTunes and iCloud, here are the steps to access your backup and restore your data any time you need it.
If you purchase a new device, it’s a pain to have to download all your favourite apps one-at-a-time to your new device and also reconfigure all of your settings.
But you, being the smart person you are, have your iPhone data backed up. This makes it easy to automatically restore apps and settings to a new device!
Below are instructions on how to restore your backed up data to any compatible device.
Data stored in your iCloud backup can easily be restored to a new device.
However, if you started to set up your device without restoring data from a backup, there is an extra step you’ll need to take. Any new data you’ve added to your device must be erased in order for the backup to work properly.
Here are the easy steps to restore data from an iTunes backup:
Note: There isn’t any need to keep every iPhone backup indefinitely. As new apps and data are added to your device, old backups become obsolete. So you can save yourself some storage space by periodically deleting your old backups.
What’s the best way to backup your iPhone – iTunes or iCloud?
Both! iCloud is more convenient, but iTunes backups your non-Apple purchase and passwords without eating into your iCloud data allowance.
So why not use both methods?
While you may not want to go through an iTunes backup daily, backing up to iTunes when you purchase a book, music or other downloads from a source other than the Apple Store ensures you can always access these items whenever you need them.
Comments or Questions? Let us know!