How to Choose the Best VPN

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Picking the best VPN service is not a decision to be taken carelessly. And with numerous options to choose from, it can be an overwhelming choice. People’s consciousness and technical abilities differ significantly, so the best VPN is distinct for every person.

Before you choose a VPN, ask yourself these questions!

What Will You Use a VPN For?

This is presumably the most critical question to answer when choosing a VPN provider.

  • Accessing Your Company’s Intranet: If you’re working remotely or are traveling abroad, but still want to access your company’s server, a VPN tool can help you do that. A VPN enables a company to restrict access to their servers, while still allowing remote access.
  • Accessing Location Specific (Or Location Restricted) Content: Some streaming sites, such as Hulu and Netflix, restrict access to streaming content to particular geographic locations.
  • Circumventing Internet Censorship: VPN tool use is widespread in countries with extensive censorship. Even though in several of these countries, VPN use is prohibited, the use of VPN services is still prevalent. A less severe, but always helpful, use of VPN services is to circumvent school or work content filters. For instance, if your school has blocked YouTube or Facebook, a VPN can give you workaround the content blocking.
  • Additional Privacy Protection: VPN services work by redirecting your internet traffic through remote networks in different locations. It is this feature that makes VPN services especially useful for using the internet anonymously (or at least more anonymously).
  • VPN Use For Torrenting: Another reasonably frequent use of VPNs is for keeping yourself anonymous when downloading torrents and other P2P files. Because downloading copyrighted files for free is illegal in many countries, people use VPNs to eliminate some risk of them being tracked.

Read more: What has changed in VPN services after COVID-19 impact (2020)

Does The VPN Fit Your Needs?

Once you’ve determined what you’re using the VPN for, make sure the one you choose offers the functionality you need.

If you plan to use a VPN to access streaming content, you should verify that the particular VPN has servers in the country you need.

If you are using a VPN for extra privacy while torrenting, you should make sure that the VPN you choose doesn’t keep store or log your network activity.

Which VPNs Are Compatible With Your Device?

Most VPNs support Windows and Mac computers. But if you also want to use a VPN on your mobile device, it’s a good idea to check that your choice offers support for iOS and Android devices. Most popular VPNs support both desktop and mobile usage.

Choose a VPN That Doesn’t Store Traffic Logs.

A VPN that stores information about its users eliminates much of the core purpose of a VPN. By logging information like your IP address and the websites you visit, a VPN could actually open you up to more issues than it protects you from.

Before selecting a VPN, read through the privacy policy to check how the VPN collects, stores, and gets rid of it.

How Much Should You Pay for A VPN?

VPNs range in price from about $1 per month up to $15 per month. The price depends on many factors. If you pay for a full year upfront, rather than month-to-month, you will get a better deal. There are many reliable and secure VPNs available for less than $5 per month.

Does The VPN Offer Flexible Payment Options?

If you are trying out a VPN for the first time, they usually have offers for one free month and often have sales going on. If you don’t want to commit to a full year, you should try the VPN for a month and see how it works for you.

Avoid Free VPNs If Possible

Free VPNs work like Facebook. The reason it’s free is that you pay with your personal information and use data. Generally, paid VPN services are more reliable and trusted than free ones.

Choose a User-Friendly VPN

VPNs shouldn’t require complicated setup processes. If you aren’t primarily technical, there are still plenty of choices that make the setup process very easy.

Most VPN installations are as simple as installing a program on your computer. However, if you need a VPN for a more specific use, it may require extra steps.

Our Recommendation

1. NordVPN

VPN
NordVPN
Location
Panama
Servers
5,800+ in 59 Countries
Price
3.49$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • Double encryption for added security
  • Automatic kill switch
  • A variety of platform support
  • Six simultaneous connections
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 3-Day free trial
Get 70% off NordVPN (drops the price down to $3.49 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the NordVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

2. ExpressVPN

VPN
ExpressVPN
Location
British Virgin Islands
Servers
3,000+ in 94 Countries
Price
8.32$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
  • Unlimited Bandwidth with Ultra Speed
  • Provides all VPN protocols OpenVPN (TCP, UDP), L2TP-IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP
  • Dedicated VPN Apps for Android & iOS
  • High-End Security with OpenVPN 256-bits
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 3 simultaneous connections
Get 35% off ExpressVPN (drops the price down to $8.32 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the ExpressVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

3. Surfshark

VPN
Surfshark
Location
British Virgin Islands
Servers
1,700+ in 63+ Countries
Price
1.99$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
30 days
Website
  • AES 256-Bit Network Encryption
  • Chrome Extension Available
  • Kill-Switch functionality
  • A variety of platform support
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
Get 83% off Surfshark (drops the price down to $1.99 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the Surfshark review for more test results and analysis.)

4. CyberGhost

VPN
CybberGhostVPN
Location
Bucharest, Romania
Servers
6,200+ in 87+ Countries
Price
2.75$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
45 days
  • Uses AES 256 Encryption
  • Supports OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP
  • DNS & IP Leak Protection
  • Uses 2048 Key & MD5 Authentication
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • Up to 7 Simultaneous Connections
Get 79% off CybberGhostVPN (drops the price down to $2.75 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the CybberGhostVPN review for more test results and analysis.)

5. Private Internet Access

VPN
Private Internet Access
Location
United States
Servers
3,320+ in 30+ Countries
Price
2.85$/mo
Support
24/7 Live chat
Refund
7 days
  • Offers all Protocols PPTP, OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec including SOCKS5 Proxy
  • IPv6 Leak Protection & DNS Leak Protection
  • Kill-Switch functionality
  • Encrypted Wi-Fi Protection
  • Zero log keeping policy of internet activities
  • 10 simultaneous connections
Get 71% off PIA (drops the price down to $2.85 per month)
(Discount is applied automatically)
(See the PIA review for more test results and analysis.)

What’s the Fastest VPN?

We’ve often said that having to pick one thing between security and convenience is a false dichotomy, but it is somewhat true in VPNs. When a VPN is active, your web data traffic is taking a more circuitous route than usual, often resulting in slow download and upload speed and high latency. The good news is that using a VPN service probably doesn’t remind you of the dial-up days of yours. That is important because, in our 2018 survey, 45 percent of respondents said that speed was the most critical factor.

Most VPN services provide adequate internet speed when in use, and can even manage streaming HD video. Nevertheless, 4K video and other data-intensive tasks such as gaming over a VPN are different stories. Some VPNs, such as NordVPN, have started to feature specialty servers for high-bandwidth activities. And almost every service we have tested includes a tool to connect you with the speediest available network. Of course, you can always restrict your VPN use to when you are not on a consigned system.

When we test VPN services, we use the Ookla speed test tool. This test provides metrics for download speeds, latency, and upload speeds. Each of these can be an important measurement depending on your requirements, but we tend to see the download speed as the most important. After all, we live in an age of digital consumption.

Our speed tests focus on comparison and reproducibility. That means we stand by our findings, but your results may differ. After all, perhaps you live on top of the VPN server or happen to have a super-high bandwidth internet connection. 

Can Netflix block a VPN?

Netflix and other video streaming websites are getting smarter to people accessing online streaming content in different regions by spoofing their location with a VPN tool. In our testing, we found that Netflix’s smart device blocks streaming its content more often than not, when we were using a VPN. There are a few exceptions, but Netflix service is actively working to protect its content when accessed from VPN’s server. However, those VPNs who keep changing their IPs are hard to fall under their radar.

Using a VPN With Windows 10, Chrome, and Linux

When we test VPN services, we generally start with the Windows client. This is often the complete review, covering some different platforms, as well as the service’s pricing and features in-depth. That is purely out of necessity since most of our readers use Windows (although this writer is currently using a MacBook Air). We now use an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10. We periodically upgrade to a newer machine, to simulate what most users experience.

The Android mobile OS, for instance, is the most commonly used OS on the planet. So it makes sense that we also test VPN services for Android.

That is not to ignore Apple users. We also review VPN applications for iOS and macOS.

Using a VPN service is a little weird for ChromeOS users. If you are on a Chromebook or Chromebox, your best bet is to use an Android VPN app. See our guide to set up a VPN on a Chromebook for more.

Finally, we have lately begun to review the best Linux VPN apps, too.

Using a Mobile VPN Service

We used to tell people to do banking and other important stuff over their cellular connection since it is generally safer than using public Wi-Fi. But even that is not always a safe bet. Researchers have shown how a portable mobile tower, such as people, can use a femtocell for malicious purposes. The attack hinges on jamming 3G bands and the LTE, which are secured with strong encryption, and forcing devices to connect with a phone tower over the less-secure 2G band. Because the attacker controls the fake tower; they can carry out a man-in-the-middle attack and see all the data passing over the cell connection. Admittedly, this is an exotic attack, but it is far from impossible.

On the other hand, Wi-Fi attacks are probably far more common than we would like to believe. While attending the Black Hat convention, researchers saw numerous devices connecting to a rogue access point. It had been configured to copy networks that devices of victims had previously connected to since many devices will automatically reconnect to a public network without checking with the user. 

That is why we recommend getting a VPN service for your mobile device to protect all your mobile communications. Even if you do not have it on all the time, using a mobile VPN service is a smart way to protect your personal information.

Most VPN offer iOS and Android VPN apps, saving you the trouble of configuring your mobile’s VPN settings yourself. VPN service providers typically allow five devices to be connected simultaneously under one account. Also, while there are free VPN services available, a lot of them require that mobile users sign up for a premium subscription.

Conclusion

Figuring out what you need a VPN for and deciding what features are important to you will help you choose the best one. If you don’t have time to search through the hundreds of available VPNs, our recommended VPNs are compatible with most devices, have servers in thousands of locations, offer great payment plans and customer service, and all include a money-back guarantee.

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