Virtual private networks (commonly known as VPNs) are designed to give you security and privacy as you surf. VPNs work by masking your IP address which keeps your online activities almost untraceable. If you are using public WiFi, the VPN creates a secure connection through which you can surf the internet without worry.
You can use a VPN to hide a whole load of information.
Some of the details that a VPN hides include the following.
- Browsing history
- Location and IP address
- Location in the case of streaming services especially when you travel
- The device information
- Web activities
- Personal data that can be used to steal your identity or wipe out your account
You have probably already noticed that there are countless options available in the market. But how do you choose the one that is best for you?
Selecting the Best VPN
Choosing the perfect VPN is simple; understand the results you want to achieve. Yes, it is that simple. Most VPNs are designed to perform specific tasks in a precise manner. Therefore, you need to know what your priorities are when it comes to cybersecurity. Here are a few insights to help define your needs.
1. What Do You Need the VPN to Do For You?
Would you like a VPN that serves your devices only or those of the entire household? If you would like a VPN that serves everyone in the household, go for one that is router-based. It allows multiple, secure connections.
If you want a VPN that allows you to access streaming services, consider those that are high speed and do not have bandwidth restrictions.
If you travel a lot and would like to keep working or accessing sensitive information mostly through public WiFi, look for a VPN with unrivalled security. It is also important that you choose a VPN that has servers globally.
Think about all the things you would like a VPN to do for you. With that list, you will find it very easy to narrow down to one that is perfect for you.
2. Is the VPN Compatible with Your Device?
First things first; the VPN should work on your device. While most of them support Android, Window, Mac, iOS and Linux, a good number of them are only available on limited platforms. If you use several devices on different platforms, you might want to get what works for all devices.
It is important to note that some of these private networks restrict the number of devices that you can connect to at any given time. As such, if you have multiple devices, consider these restrictions.
3. What Is the VPN Reputable For?
When looking at the qualities of the virtual private network, look at what makes it reputable. For example, assume you want to stream Netflix while you are in a country that is not allowed to access the site. You will need a VPN that is reputed to bypass Netflix’s VPN blocker.
If you would like to communicate sensitive information anonymously, you would want one that doesn’t retain logs. Additionally, pick a VPN that is reputable for offering secure encryptions. Look for solutions that have a kill-switch in their security protocol.
4. What Locations Would You Like Covered
When planning on being away from your usual location, you would want to still enjoy online services without restrictions. As such, look for a VPN that works in the location you will be. For example, countries like China have very strict internet access regulations. As such, if you need to travel to China, you may want a VPN that is effective against their restrictions and censorship.
5. Does the VPN Have Any Restrictions?
One of the reasons people pay for virtual private networks is ISP throttling. As such, it becomes frustrating to have a VPN that does the same thing you were avoiding. You might have to dig around to get this information as service providers are not always honest about it.
Some VPNs may have bandwidth restrictions. This doesn’t work if you want a solution for streaming videos and audios. Always opt for a VPN with no restriction or one with incredibly high limits.
Be sure to read the fine print. This is where you find all other restrictions such as file sharing, protocols and other services. While most virtual private networks do not have restrictions, there are some that do.
6. Is the VPN No-Log?
Some virtual private networks keep a log of your online activities. If this doesn’t sit well with you, get one with a strict no-logging policy. The no-log policy ensures that your information is private even if they are hacked or subpoenaed to give information on their clients’ activities.
7. What Are the Protocols That the VPN Supports?
VPN protocols are never equal. Simply put, protocol refers to the rules that govern a connection between you and the service provider. These rules define the security of the data you send over the network.
Here are the most common protocols.
- Point To Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is known to be unreliable as it an old technology but it is one of the fastest
- Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP/IPsec) has strongly encrypted data packets though it is easily blocked by VPN blocks. This option is perfect for anyone looking for high security, compatibility with multiple platforms and overall decent performance
- Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is very secure and is not vulnerable to VPN blocking and censorship. However, it works best with Windows but it might be vulnerable to government spying.
- Open source VPN (OpenVPN) can access all encryptions in the OpenSSL library and is excellent with multiple platforms. However, since it is not specific to any platform, you might be forced to use third-party solutions. It is perfect for anyone looking for security and flexibility
- Internet Key Exchange (IKEv2/IPsec) is incredibly fast and holds the protocol security even when switching between mobile data and WiFi. Being a Cisco and Microsoft product, it might have some built-in vulnerabilities
- SoftEther and Wireguard are relatively new in the market. The former is designed to support a range of protocols. The latter is new in the market and still not fully explored
Choosing the protocol is very easy when you define what you need the VPN for.
8. What Is the Service Provider’s Customer Service Policy?
It is extremely important to work with a service provider whose team is available to help whenever an issue arises. As with all other tech-based services, changes are bound to occur. As such, you need a service provider that can help you get back up if you hit a snag.
9. What Is the Service Provider’s Money Back Guarantee?
There are times when we purchase a product that doesn’t live up to the hype. On such occasions, you would want to be dealing with a service provider who understands and can issue a refund. In other cases, your needs may change, which would make another VPN more appropriate.
There are VPN service providers who offer money-back within a specified period. Always look out for that information. If the information is not readily available, you can ask for clarification before you make a purchase.
10. What Is Your VPN Budget?
Yes, the best virtual private networks cost a buck. Sure, you can find free versions, which are likely to let you down when it matters the most. The cost varies depending on the features on offer and the length of the subscription.
The payment options are as vital as the pricing plans. There are platforms that offer anonymous payments such as Bitcoins. This is for the person who wants total anonymity when it comes to their online activities. There are some that allow payments through gift cards. Regardless of the payment option you choose, avoid giving personal details.
This is one of the biggest brands when it comes to VPN and the best option for general users. It supports numerous simultaneous connections as well as offers a dedicated IP if preferred. It has some of the best security features in the industry. Additionally, it has more than 5,500 servers in its network in more than 60 countries.
You can choose among the four monthly pricing plans. There is an ongoing offer at the moment.
- The first plan is billed monthly and goes for $11.95
- The second plan is billed annually and costs $6.99 monthly
- The third plan is billed biennially and goes for $4.99 per month
- The fourth plan is billed every 3 years at $3.49 per month
- Fast and easy to use with a reputable global presence
- Allows 6 connections at a time
- Offers ultimate security with a no-log policy and a 30day money-back guarantee
- It works on all devices including routers and smart TVs
- Fast SmartPlay feature that unblocks streaming and geo-restrictions
- It automatically blocks ads and malicious sites/content
- Does not have bandwidth limits
- They allow Bitcoin, credit card and PayPal payments
- Once in a while, server connections are disrupted, though the situations are rectified almost immediately
- There was a reported data breach in October 2019 and the service provider is working hard to restore the reputation by ensuring that it doesn’t happen again
2. PIA (Private Internet Access) VPN
This is a robust service that best serves power users. It is pretty easy to use and offers a range of features that can be easily configured. It also blocks ads, trackers, third-party cookies and location access. Additionally, it allows you to choose the authentication and encryption option you want.
PIA works with Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux systems. PIA is also effective as a browser extension for Opera, Firefox and Chrome. The VPN comes with a snooze option where you can temporarily disconnect it when the need arises.
PIA VPN offers 3 pricing plans with a 30-day risk-free money-back guarantee.
- The monthly plan goes for $9.95
- The 6-month plan goes for $5.99 per month, billed once in 6 months
- The annual plan goes for $2.85 per month, billed annually with 2 months free
- It unblocks geo-restrictions, censorship filters and sites with VPN blockers such as Netflix and iPlayer
- It has network coverage of more than 3,000 servers in 46 countries as of May 2020
- Can connect to 10 devices simultaneously
- The VPN comes with a kill switch that disables internet connection if the VPN drops. This feature is available across all devices
- High speed, reliable connectivity
- It doesn’t keep logs of online activities
- It accepts anonymous payment options such as bitcoin
- The speed can be inconsistent depending on the distance from servers
- The VPN has some struggles with Amazon and Hulu
- It doesn’t have obfuscated OpenVPN
3. Express VPN
Express VPN is fast, reliable and secure. You get to surf through its DNS so that you are always protected in case of any issue. This VPN is a great choice for P2P sharing and torrenting. It is secure and fast – even in long-distance connections. Its speed and HD quality are perfect for gamers.
ExpressVPN is available in three pricing plans, all of which come with a hassle-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
- The monthly plan costs $12.95
- The 6 months plan is $9.99 monthly, billed bi-annually
- The annual plan goes for $8.32 per month, billed once a year
- Flawless streaming even on sites with VPN blockers
- Reliably fast and breaks geo-blocks
- Its 256 bit AES encryption keeps your online activities protected from prying eyes
- It doesn’t keep a log of your online activities
- The kill switch is automatically enabled to keep the IP address secure if there’s a VPN drop
- ExpressVPN allow up to 5 connections at a time
- It is costly
- The kill switch is not available for iOS users
- It can be initially challenging for the inexperienced
Surfshark has more than 1700 servers spread across 63 countries which make it strong. It successfully bypasses geo-restrictions. The VPN works on all devices. It can unblock sites with VPN blockers and stream content in HD.
- Surfshark is currently running an offer at $1.99 per month billed biennially.
Payments can be made through PayPal, Google/Amazon Pay, major credit cards or in cryptocurrency (Ethereum, Bitcoin and Ripple)
- It blocks ads, malware and trackers
- It is compatible with P2P torrenting platforms
- Surfshark has a kill switch and leak protection even while on IPv6 -enabled sites
- It doesn’t keep a log of your online activities and personal information
- It supports IKEv2 and OpenVPN protocols for security
- Works on Windows, Android and iOS
- The intuitive platform is easy to use even for beginners
- Some servers’ locations are different from the IP location
- Connections can get sluggish
IPVanish is one of the easiest VPN options for beginners. With more than 1400 servers in over 75 countries, the VPN offers impressive speeds. It supports up to 10 simultaneous connections on Mac, iOS, Android and Windows devices.
IPVanish has three pricing plans
- The annual plan goes for $6.49 per month, billed annually
- The quarterly plan goes for $8.99 per month and is billed once every three months
- The monthly plan costs $10
- It is very fast in the US, and relatively fast in locations outside the USA
- The VPN uses AES – 256 encryptions to keep your information safe from attacks
- Torrenting is allowed and the VPN grants 100% privacy
- Some IPVanish servers can unblock Netflix
- It is compatible with The Orion Network
- Mobile device versions do not have a kill switch
- There is little information on how to set it up
- They keep traffic logs that they can be subpoenaed to produce
CyberGhost offers VPN services to more than 10 million users as of May 2020. It boasts of an impressive network of more than 7,000 servers across 89 countries. The VPN gives custom solutions for users when it comes to security and the sites they’d like unlocked. It comes with an automatic HTTPS redirect which ensures data security. Additionally, it has a data compress option which helps you save on surfing bills while on mobile.
This VPN comes with 4 pricing plans.
- The monthly plan goes for $12.99
- The annual plan goes for $5.99 per month and is billed annually
- The biennial plan goes for $3.69 per month and is billed every 2 years
- The 3-year plan goes for $2.75 per month and is billed every 3 years. It comes with 2 free months and 45-day money-back guarantee
If you’d like a dedicated IP to go along with your VPN, you can get it at an additional $5 per month.
- It is reliable, fast and has an effective kill switch
- It unblocks iPlayer and Netflix and allows torrenting
- It is easy to use and you can get speedy assistance on live chat
- Connects up to 7 devices at a time
- They do not keep logs of IP addresses or surfing activities
- It doesn’t allow LAN connection
- There are no apps for routers
- It is not very reliable on geo-restricted locations such as UAE and China
7. Mullvad VPN
This is one of the VPNs to go for when looking for privacy and data security at an affordable price. It has a strict no-log policy and uses military-level encryption to ensure that your data is safe from hackers. It is reliable and fast with Australia and US servers showing decent performance. It operates more than 350 servers in 30+ countries across the globe.
Mullvad VPN goes for €5 per month. This plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you would like to test it out, the VPN is available for free for 3 hours.
- You do not need to input any personal information such as email or account
- It allows HD streaming of HBO GO
- Mullvad’s speed and security allows torrenting
- It unblocks geo-restrictions to allow you to keep surfing even while in China
- This VPN can be used with Windows, Mac, Debian and Fedora devices
- It supports up to 5 connections at a time
- It has an automatic kill switch that keeps your data safe even if the VPN fails
- Prevents IP leaks when browsing
- Their server network is in few countries
- It doesn’t bypass Netflix, Hulu and BBC’s iPlayer
- It doesn’t have an ad-blocker
8. TunnelBear VPN
If you are looking for a VPN that you can use for a while before you are ready to make a purchase, consider TunnelBear. It comes with free and paid options. The free option allows 500MB monthly bandwidth. It used OpenVPN protocol and 256-bit AES encryption, which ensures security while browsing.
TunnelBear VPN is available in 3 pricing plans namely;
- The free option with 500MB monthly bandwidth limit
- The unlimited option which costs from $3.33 per month
- The teams’ option that costs $5.75 per month for businesses with more than two users
You can make payments via bitcoin or credit/debit card.
- It can be used as stand-alone software or a browser extension
- It doesn’t keep any information concerning your online activities, not even your IP address
- Its friendly user IX coupled with the encryption makes it reliably secure
- It can be effectively used on multiple devices – Mac, Android, Windows and iOS
- It supports 5 simultaneous connections and has a kill switch
- It allows torrenting as well as TOR
- The connection speed is slow
- It cannot access sites with VPN blockers such as Netflix
- It doesn’t support router installations
9. TorGuard VPN
First things first; no, this VPN has nothing to do with any proxy services including TOR that are used to surf the deep web. It was initially made for torrenting but grew to the reliable, secure and fast VPN it is today.
It comes with a no-log policy. It has a strong presence globally, with more than 3,000 servers in over 55 countries. It recently announced that it is taking off its mainland servers in China due to the government’s crackdown on VPN service providers.
The pricing plans are dependent on the service you would like
- For an anonymous proxy, you will pay $5.95 monthly
- For an anonymous VPN, you will pay $9.99 monthly
- For anonymous emails, you can buy an email with no monthly charges
- For streaming, you will pay $21.98 monthly
- It is fast and offers dedicated IP address for streaming Netflix and the like
- You can browse anonymously with a hidden IP
- The VPN supports up to 5 connections simultaneously
- You can use this VPN on iOS, Windows, Android, Mac, Ubuntu and Linux.
- You can use it as a browser extension with Chrome and Firefox
- It supports a number of protocols and gives you the freedom to choose whichever you want
- Third-party apps are required when using TorGuard on mobile devices
- It is a US-based VPN, which means that they may be required by law to hand over information about users’ activities
10. Proton VPN
ProtonVPN is a Swiss-based VPN that offers high levels of privacy and anonymity. Its smart Secure Core technology routes online activity through multiple servers before it exits the network. This makes is extremely difficult for any snoopers to trace an individual’s online activities.
There are 4 main pricing plans for Proton VPN
- The free version can serve only one device and is available in 3 countries
- The Basic Plan is high speed and supports 2 devices at 4€ per month, charged yearly
- The Plus Plan costs 8€ per month and is charged yearly. It connects to 5 devices
- The Visionary Plan supports 10 devices and goes for 24€ monthly, which is charged yearly.
- It comes with a kill switch and DNS leak protection
- Its AES-2556 encryption and OpenVPN protocols keep your data secure
- It allows P2P file sharing with high download speeds and unlimited bandwidth
- Can stream sites with VPN blockers such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix
- It comes with a free option as well as other low-cost plans
- It works with multiple devices and supports a number of simultaneous connections depending on the subscription
- It has an intuitive, user-friendly app interface for easy navigation
- To access the full range of features, you need to be on the Visionary plan
- It has limited servers in Asia
- It tends to be gimmicky and the company offers only email customer support
11. Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield is your ideal VPN when it comes to live-streaming. This is because it is fast, great at unblocking sites and has several location options from which to choose. It is suitable for use on desktops and mobile devices. However, it isn’t suitable for devices such as Windows phone or Chromecast that can be configured with other virtual private networks.
There are two subscription options
- The monthly option costs $12.99
- The annual option costs $7.99 monthly but is billed once a year
Payment can be made via debit/credit cards or PayPal.
- It has an expansive server network, making it pretty fast
- It connects to 5 devices at a time
- It unblocks Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime videos, All 4 and ITV Hub
- It can be used on all mainstream devices
- The software has a well-designed interface, making it easy to use
- Doesn’t allow cryptocurrency payment
- It keeps logs of activities and it has had a few privacy issues in the past
- The kill switch is only available on Windows app
This Swiss-based VPN has a network of more than 700 servers in 64 countries. It supports Windows, iOS, Mac, Android. It also works with routers, Smart TV, QNAP, Black phone and Anonabox. It comes with a range of online tutorials on how to set it up and ensure that it is running smoothly. It also comes with VPN cloaking to make it even harder for hackers and unauthorized people to monitor your online activities.
VyprVPN is available in 4 different options.
- The Standard Plan goes for $9.95 monthly, and $60 when billed per year
- The Premium Plan goes for $12.95 monthly and $80 if you pay per year
- The Business Plan starts at $299 annually
- The Business Cloud Plan starts at $349 annually
Both business plans come with a free trial.
- Offers HD streaming of all sites including Netflix, BBCiPlayer, Hulu, Amazon prime Videos etc.
- It is fast and owns its own servers
- No DNS leaks and no third-party apps that can keep a log of your information
- It is effective on multiple devices
- Strong encryptions and NAT firewall for security and privacy
- It can support up to 5 connections
- It keeps a log of your IP address and the VyprVPN IP address assigned to you for 30 days
- It doesn’t accept bitcoin payments
13. HideMyAss VPN
Having been in the business for more than 15 years, HMA VPN has built a reputation for providing security and privacy. If you want industry strength privacy, Hide my Ass is the VPN for you. It has a network of more than 1000 servers in more than 290 locations.
HMA is available in 3 pricing plans.
- The Monthly Plan costs $11.99
- The Annual Plan goes for $6.99 per month, billed annually
- The 3-year Plan goes for $3.99 per month, billed once every three years
Each plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee
- It has its own DNS service hence no leaks
- It can support up to 5 simultaneous connections
- It automatically blocks phishing and malicious sites
- It works on many platforms, not just the usual Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Linux
- It comes with a kill-switch,
- Android version has split tunnelling
- It is available as a Chrome browser extension
- It doesn’t keep logs of your IP address or activities that can be used to identify you
- It offers a range of resources and live-chat support
- You cannot pay for the subscription with Bitcoin
- HMA logs some information
- The VPN’s speed could be better
If you are looking for excellent service in Italy, UK, US and Australia, this VPN should be on your list of considerations. Private VPN bypasses geo-blocking. Additionally, it unlocks sites such as Sling TV, Netflix US and BBC iPlayer. It is pretty fast when you are near the servers, though the speed decreases with distance.
Private VPN is available in 3 main pricing plans;
- The monthly option goes for $7.67
- The quarterly plan is charged at $4.88 monthly, billed once every 3 months
- The annual plan goes for $3.82 per month and is billed once every 3 months
All the plans come with a 30 day money back guarantee. Payments can be made via credit/debit cards, Paypal or Bitcoins.
- It works with Android, Windows, Linux, Mac and iOS devices. It also works with routers
- It allows P2P traffic though it doesn’t support torrenting
- Its stealth mode is designed to bypass DPI firewalls and VPN blocks
- It doesn’t log any data
- It comes with AES-256 encryption and a range of protocol for security and privacy
- It comes with a kill switch as well as IPv6 and DNS leak protection
- Some servers are slow
- It isn’t the best choice for those who travel a lot
- You’ll sometimes get a streaming error when using Netflix
UltraVPN has more than 100 servers across 58 countries. It uses OpenVPN and AES-256, the most secure encryption option. While it doesn’t keep a record of your online activities, it does keep a record of your IP, device and location if it is enabled on the device.
UltraVPN is available in 3 options.
- The monthly plan is $7.99 per month
- The 6 months plan costs $5.99 monthly, billed every 6 months
- The annual plan is $3.75 monthly billed once a year
- It is fast and unblocks sites with VPN blocks such as Netflix, Hulu etc
- It works on all devices
- It has its own DNS servers, giving no room for DNS leaks
- It encrypts the information you send out and receive to keep it safe
- You can’t access BBC iPlayer if you are outside the UK
- It may not be the choice VPN for absolute anonymity
Frequently Asked Questions
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It simply refers to an aggregate of methods and applications that are designed to keep anything you do online private and secure. It also helps you to access your favorite programs or online sites while in locations with geo-restrictions.
VPNs are also used to bypass firewalls and block ads and malicious sites. It also identified and blocks malware.
VPN is the software that comes between you and the internet to shield you accordingly. Once you engage the VPN, it acts like your device’s “spokesperson”. It only gives out as much information as it is programmed to, and allows only authorized information to get back to the device.
It opens up sites that your device’s IP wouldn’t necessarily access. It blocks out unnecessary guests (such as ads and malware). It ‘hides’ you so that hackers cannot see anything you do online.
There are countless reasons why you may need a good VPN.
a. To safely use public WiFi without the fear of being hacked
b. To access sites with geo-restrictions especially if you are travelling but still need to work
c. To hide identity when sending or receiving sensitive information e.g. in journalism or crime reporting
d. To access games that are not available in all parts of the world
Your reasons of using the virtual private network will depend on the goals you want to achieve.
No. VPN doesn’t conflict with your internet network connection; it affects virtual network connection. This means that while you go about your online activities only your virtual presence will change to reflect what you want. The VPN makes it look like you are surfing through a different ISP or from a different location.
VPN service providers usually include onboarding tutorials. They have resources that show you how to set up the VPN in various devices. They also tell you which features are available for each device and how to make good use of them. Each VPN has its own set-up instructions.
There are countless virtual private networks in the market today. The prices differ greatly based on the service provider and the features available. Some VPN service providers offer some versions for free while others do not.
The price also depends on the duration of the subscription. Some service providers offer great discounts for those who choose to pay for longer subscriptions. The monthly payment for someone who pays once a month, once a year and once every three years vary greatly even if all other values and features are held constant.
This depends on the features of the VPN you choose. Most VPNs do work with computers and mobile devices. However, before you purchase the VPN, its best to confirm if the VPN will work with your device’s OS.
VPN takes your data through an extra layer of encryption and decryption. As such, it is likely to slow down your connection, even if you may not notice a difference. If the VPN is far from its server, you might notice the difference in the speed of your connection. The fastest VPN, however, invest in a vast network of servers to ensure that all connections are high-speed.
Virtual Private Networks are the best solution for travelling workers, gamers and people who love HD streaming on sites such as Netflix. While it doesn’t give anonymity (VPN service provider has the same information as your ISP), it offers privacy and security. Most VPNs have military-grade encryptions for security purposes.