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Are VPN Apps Worth the Money?

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VPNs are a big part of the internet these days. Virtually every IT expert in the world recommends that you always use one, and that’s because they’re essential to having a safe and secure experience when getting online. When you buy reliable VPN access, it can provide that security on any device that connects, and you have plenty of options when it comes to VPN providers. That leads to a pretty obvious question. Is the VPN worth the money? To answer that, we can compare the cost of the VPN to the cost of not using it. We’ll also look at a few VPN features that can impact their overall value.

The Cost of VPN

If we’re going to seriously answer the question, it starts by looking at some basic costs. There are a lot of VPN apps out there, and each one has its own pricing and offers. While we can’t fit everything into a neat little box, most VPN services will fall into a competitive range of features and pricing. We’ll look at pricing in two categories: free services and subscription services. We can make some pretty easy comparisons to help you see how much a VPN app will cost you.

Free

There are VPNs that are completely free to use. The Opera browser has it built right into the software, and plenty of others work as VPN apps that are quite effective in creating a secure tunnel for your internet traffic. Even though these VPNs have no financial cost to use, we can attribute some amount of cost to their use. Most of those come in terms of performance.

Free VPNs tend to be slower than paid subscription services. If your internet speeds have a lot of value to you (especially if your work is online), then VPN speeds could have a real fiscal cost associated with their use.

Aside from speeds, a few other performance issues can impact free VPNs. For the most part, they offer less in terms of automated connectivity. If you get disconnected from your free VPN, it might not halt your internet traffic until the tunnel can be reconnected. That means you might be using the internet without protection, and in those cases, the cost of a free VPN is quite similar to the cost of not using a VPN, which we will discuss in a bit.

Subscription

When you use a paid VPN service, the cost is easy. You’re paying out of pocket for security. Most consumer-grade VPNs are going to charge a monthly fee, and that monthly fee is not very high. It’s usually in the ballpark of dollars per month (not even tens of dollars). Many subscription services will cut you a deal and lower the monthly cost if you commit to a longer time frame. It’s a common tactic, and it can save you a lot of money.

To make this simple, the cost of subscribing to a VPN (that hopefully won’t let you accidentally connect unsecured) is the price they charge, and it will usually be between $1 and $10 a month.

Cost of Ignoring VPNs

We talked about the cost of using VPNs. Now we have to consider the financial fallout that can come from unsecured internet activity. If you use the internet enough (without protection), you will eventually run into at least one of the problems. Every time you do, it costs money. When you consider just how big the long-term costs can be, it helps put VPN pricing into perspective.

Stolen Data

This is a big concern for everyone, but it’s especially scary for businesses. If you operate a business without a secure tunnel, the risk that data you use can be stolen goes up considerably. Data breaches are one of the biggest killers of businesses. The cost of having data stolen because there is no VPN can easily get into the millions of dollars. For large businesses that handle data for millions of customers, the cost can even get into the billions.

Even if you aren’t running a business, having personal data stolen is not good. That can include financial information, passwords and other secure info. Anyone who has had their identity stolen can inform you that it is neither cheap nor painless to resolve. While a VPN can’t offer you perfect protection from all threats, it dramatically reduces your risk of having vital data stolen. That means using a VPN can easily save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Activity Tracking

Even when people aren’t stealing your credit card information or Social Security number, VPNs are protecting you. Having your online activity tracked can still be a costly concession. This is especially true if you have ever done something that breaks the rules on the internet.

No one here is condoning or promoting illegal activity, but it’s surprisingly easy to unwittingly violate copyrights or terms of service. Do all of the videos you view properly attribute all of their credits? Have you streamed music? Were the artists properly compensated? It’s impossible to know, but most internet users violate terms of service at some p[oint without even realizing it. Doing so makes you fiscally liable, and companies do go after violators on a regular basis.

Your VPN masks all of this, so when you accidentally break a rule, no one can track it back to you. It protects you from liability lawsuits that could be enough to ruin you.

Performance

We talked about how a free VPN can impact internet performance and cost you money. No VPN can have an even bigger impact. When you consider bombardments of ads, adware, tracking software, crypto mining and a myriad of other ways online connections can mess with your devices, VPNs are giving you a massive upgrade in overall internet performance. By preventing the vast majority of these abuses, your time online is more efficient.

Even if you don’t make your living online, you’re paying for access to the internet. If that payment includes a bunch of obtrusive ads or other disruptions, then you’re losing money. The protection provided by your VPN makes your internet service spending more cost-effective.

Malicious Software

This is one of the biggest reasons to have a VPN. While it isn’t an antivirus package (although plenty of providers bundle services), your VPN makes it much harder for people to reach you with malicious software. It protects you from keyloggers, ransomware and other cases that render your device unusable or otherwise unsafe.

If you have ever had to deal with these problems, you know that resolving them isn’t always cheap. Keyloggers can be used to steal things from you. Ransomware can take away all of your data, and replacing it is never free. Even removing viruses typically costs money, and all of this is money that could be saved by using a VPN.

The Value of a VPN

While we’ve covered the cost of ignoring a VPN, there’s another side to this coin. VPNs come with a bunch of services, and those can add direct value to what you’re getting. Let’s review some of the most valuable services to complete this picture.

Geoblocking

Many content providers block their content by region. Netflix is the most notorious example. The content you can access in the United States is very different from what you’ll see in Europe or Asia. Geoblocking is very common, but a good VPN can get you through geoblocking and unlock the entire internet to you. This adds a lot of value to any content subscriptions you might have. How much more is your Netflix worth when you can see all of their stuff instead of just some of it? Multiply that concept by the entire internet, and you can see how your VPN is adding value in big ways.

Device Limits

Each service will set its own device limits, but as long as that limit is more than one, you’re essentially getting a bundled deal. You’re getting the benefits of your VPN on every device that uses it, so high device limits are adding multiplicative value to your VPN subscription. That’s something to consider when you shop around. The more devices you can use with one subscription, the more value you can get out of it.

Multiple Connections

One of the most interesting VPN features is multiple connections. Each provider has a clever name for the service, but the idea is interesting. You can connect to multiple countries at the same time. This gives you access to more internet content while simultaneously improving your anonymity. It takes the value of using a VPN to a whole new level.

Let’s revisit the original question. Is a VPN app worth the money? Only you can answer that, but when you consider everything you just learned, the answer isn’t too tough. When you consider that there are a ton of features and benefits that are just too numerous to include here, the answer becomes even easier. You can get a VPN for a very low cost, and it’s easy to make it worth the investment. It’s really up to you.

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UN launches the first artificial intelligence tool for rapid natural capital accounting

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An innovative artificial intelligence (AI) tool that will make it easier for countries to measure the contributions of nature to their economic prosperity and well‑being was launched today by the United Nations and the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3).

Developed by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and BC3, the new tool can vastly accelerate implementation of the new ground-breaking standard for valuing the contributions of nature that was adopted by the UN Statistical Commission last month.

The tool makes use of AI technology using the Artificial Intelligence for Environment and Sustainability (ARIES) platform to support countries as they apply the new international standard for natural capital accounting, the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Ecosystem Accounting.

The new open-source and user-friendly digital tool, called the ARIES for SEEA Explorer, enables, for the first time, rapid and standardized yet customizable ecosystem accounting anywhere on Earth.

“The ARIES for SEEA Explorer is a game changer for governments that want to implement the recently adopted SEEA Ecosystem Accounting standard,” stressed Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the Statistics Division. “This application allows countries to jump-start accounts compilation from global data sources, which they can refine with national data or model parameters.”

The ecosystem accounts produced by countries will track the extent, condition and services provided by nature’s ecosystems – such as forests and wetlands – in the form of physical and monetary accounts and indicators. The adoption of the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting has been heralded as a historic step forward for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to move beyond GDP in tracking global progress.

Bert Kroese, Deputy Director for Statistics Netherlands and Chair of the UN Committee of Environmental-Economic Accounting said, “The ARIES for SEEA Explorer will give countries a much-needed tool to make progress with the SDGs and the monitoring framework of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Its low barrier to entry will ensure that no country is left behind when it comes to ecosystem accounting.”

Risenga Maluleke, Statistician-General of Statistics South Africa and Chair of the UN Committee of Experts on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics said, “The launch of the ARIES for SEEA Explorer on the UN Global Platform is an important step to mainstream the measurement of ecosystems and their contribution to the economy and wellbeing into global, regional and domestic statistics that will feed into policy and decision making. Better measures of nature will contribute to better policies to save our planet.”

Building economic systems that value nature as a central source of human wellbeing, environmental health and economic prosperity in the post-COVID-19 world is essential, according to Susan Gardner, Director of UNEP’s Ecosystems Division. “Having technology that incorporates and integrates the latest data, models and understanding of nature’s contributions through natural capital accounting will facilitate well-informed nature positive decision-making from businesses and governments – driving tangible action on biodiversity loss and climate change and a sustainable future for all,” she said.

The new platform could lead to greater collaboration. Ferdinando Villa, Ikerbasque Professor and Lead Investigator of ARIES at BC3, added, “There is a growing global demand for sustainable management of our natural resources, and to achieve this, scientists and decision-makers need to collaborate more and more. AI-based tools like the ARIES for SEEA Explorer hold the key to a future where open integration and reuse of knowledge, by both, is possible.”

The ARIES for SEEA Explorer is available on the UN Global Platform: a cloud-service environment supporting international collaboration among all countries in the world by sharing scientific knowledge, data, methods and technology.

A number of countries have already started using the ARIES for SEEA Explorer. The Explorer will continue to be expanded in the near future, by adding the functionality to derive indicators that allow to assess progress towards SDGs and the emerging post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

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Huge plans for 2021 content year

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Cancel that Lead to Revival

This year was quite something for Division 2. And it’s not even Summer yet! Any fan of the game out there expects the devs to share plans for the new year at the end of the current one. But instead of sharing content plans for 2021, the devs suddenly announced that Update 12 would be the game’s last update. And even though everyone knows that the game doesn’t have a particularly large base of active players still, seeing official news like this put many fans in shock. By the time this announcement was released, Update 12 was already on the servers. Basically, it means that the devs weren’t going to release any additional content or even bug fixes for the game from that moment onward.

And this felt like passing on a huge opportunity. Sure, the game could have been made better, but the setting and the unique blend of genres of true-open world action and looter-shooter set in modern times post-apocalypse, this isn’t something that should be left to rot and get forgotten. There’s tons of possibilities and unrealized potential. This must have been what people at Ubisoft thought about too, because about a month later, the devs released another announcement, but this time with plans for content in 2021.

Of Ambitious Plans and New Player Assistance

Such a drastic change of heart must mean something, but this isn’t even the best of it. Ubisoft went from sending the game to purgatory to announcing huge plans for 2021, including an entirely new game mode that the series hasn’t seen before. What is it? Nobody knows.

But that’s not all. The devs want to add to the variety of builds which means new brands of gear and in great numbers. The new game mode will take them several months to develop. Therefore there’ll be plenty of time to get ready. Speaking of, have you ever heard of such a thing as Division 2 boost? This is a collection of services that can help you and your Agent with anything you two might need. It’s especially awesome and helpful for new players as there’s lots of content in the game, and it’s so easy to get lost. Services like the ones that you’ll find by clicking on that link will help your character steadily grow in levels and obtain actually valuable gear throughout the levelling process. So, come over and see what we have on the menu for you!

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Why Bankers use Data Rooms

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Investment banks and any other institution that deals with sensitive data have a responsibility to be GDPR compliant. When it comes to non-compliance and data breaches, financial institutions are starting to realize how costly this can be. In 2020, there were over $10 billion in fines handed out for compliance failures and breaches with Capital One taking the largest individual hit.

A US banking regulator hit Capital One with an $80 million fine for a cloud-based data breach. Any bank or financial institution that fails to perform due diligence and use secure data rooms risks being hit with a heavy financial penalty.

What are data rooms, and why, and how are they used by bankers?

What is a data room?

There are effectively two types of data rooms; a physical one and a virtual one. These days, the virtual data room is becoming very common and more popular.

A physical data room is an area set aside to store records and will have security in place so that only authorized personnel can access it. In the case of a merger or acquisition, this would normally mean the seller, the buyer, and their attorneys.

A virtual data room is a secure cloud-based storage area that has software put in place to stop access by anyone that is unauthorized. They are thought of as very secure and many top banks use them today. HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Santander, and Bank of America are just a tiny portion of the financial institutions that put their sensitive information into data rooms.

A virtual data room is accessed through the internet but the actual servers will be stored in a secure facility far from the actual bank of finance house. Authorized personnel will have individual passwords and all activity is monitored and recorded.

What are the reasons for using a virtual data room?

Cybercrime is worldwide and affects individuals and businesses. Cybercrime is having an impact on the banking sector in many countries, compliance and security are paramount.

There will be different data protection laws around the world and the GDPR or General Data Protection Regulations covers all European Union countries. Banks must avoid data breaches and practice due diligence and this is why data rooms are important.

When companies are involved in mergers and acquisitions, records need to be made available to the interested and relevant parties, however, they must also be kept out of the hands of hackers or other unauthorized people. In the past, it was common for due diligence to be performed using hard copies and this makes the process much slower. Virtual data rooms allow a much faster process to take place.

Data rooms are also put in place to help share files between clients, third parties, and to store records. They are far more cost-effective than having a physical data room and so more companies than ever are now turning to these secure storage methods.

What happens if a bank fails to use a good virtual data room?

Failure to be compliant and be the victim of a data breach will lead to huge fines. In the European Union, those fines are a maximum of 18 million Euros or 4% of the total worldwide turnover.

But, it isn’t just financial penalties that can hit a business if they fail to keep their data secure. When Equifax admitted it had suffered a data breach affecting over 140 million Americans, or over 40% of the population, their company valuation plummeted. Around $3.5 billion was wiped off the stock market valuation of Equifax all because of a data breach.

Not using a secure data room can lead to loss of revenue, a drop in valuation, investors losing money, and also lead to a PR disaster. After all, people trust banks to keep their money safe and if there are data breaches then clients may leave.

How do banks use virtual data rooms?

VDRs are used in IPOs, M&A transactions, restructuring, raising capital, and for many more purposes.

Banks use them to have a smooth flow of information backward and forwards between stakeholders. They help to close deals quicker as fewer hard copies are being transferred around. Data is sent immediately anywhere in the world.

They of course store documents safely and away from prying eyes, but, at the same time allow for a higher level of transparency.

Choosing the right data room for a bank

Due diligence rooms may have been used traditionally for mergers & acquisitions but modern, virtual data rooms are used for much more, especially by bankers.

That means that a banker needs a data room that is capable of handling much more than just M&A transactions. The software that powers the data room has to provide enough functionality for buyers and sellers in M&As, loans, fundraising, debts, and many more purposes.

Some of the features you would look for when choosing a data room would be:

  • Security
  • Smart features
  • Access control
  • Customer service
  • Add-on features
  • Pricing

All of these are areas that need careful consideration when choosing the right data room.

Security of data room

If you use the internet and share sensitive data then you need to understand how to protect yourself from cybercrime. Banking requires serious levels of security and this should be the number concern when choosing a virtual data room.

A good VDR will have several certifications such as ISO 9001 and they should also have many security features set to international standards. Some things to look for are watermarks, the ability to recall documents from a user, and screen-only viewing.

Watermarks are used to identify who downloaded and printed a particular document. Screen-only viewing means that some documents cannot be printed or downloaded, reducing the risk of having several hard copies floating about.

One other important feature is being able to pull back documents from unauthorized hands. This means that if someone has previously downloaded some records and has now had their access revoked you can ‘pull’ those files back from their computer.

Other areas to look for in a data room

Smart features

These include the ability to search for keywords and phrases much like you would in Google. It helps when trying to find documents that fit together or when you have forgotten a particular heading.

Access control

You need to be able to access the documents remotely and to control who is allowed to view and download records.

Customer service

A good firm will offer 24/7 customer service all year round. This is vital as clients may be working in different time zones and need assistance at unusual times of the day. A company such as Firmex can offer this kind of customer service and may fit your virtual data room needs.

Add-on features

Many virtual data rooms allow for extra features so they can be used for more than just mergers & acquisitions. These can include project management and can help streamline many processes.

Pricing

Lastly, the other consideration is cost. Virtual data rooms offer a cost-effective alternative to a physical room but there is still a price to pay. There are free cloud-based storage systems but when it comes to security it is worth paying for so corners aren’t cut.

Summary

Banks have some different needs than other businesses when it comes to data rooms but VDRs can help with many areas. They use them for IPOs, M&As, raising capital, and many more banking processes.

Modern data rooms offer a high level of security and functionality that traditional, physical due diligence rooms cannot and are ideal for the banking world.

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