Whether you are working remotely or you want to have online information secure and private, the best option is a VPN. A virtual private network is essential as the service encrypts your connection to the internet and thus keeps browsing habits and data secure.
VPN services are fully aware of how helpful they are to consumers and so there are several companies to be choosing from. Furthermore, each VPN service varies in reliability, security, and speed. As such, you don’t want to pick whichever VPN right out the door.
Through this brief guide, you’ll learn all about the ins and outs of VPNs and also an overview of the best VPNs the industry has to offer. In the end, you’ll have a better understanding of which VPN is appropriate for you and your needs.
What is a VPN?
A VPN as mentioned above is a technology that allows you to create a private connection that is encrypted between your computer and the Internet. A VPN is just as easy to install as an app or program you’d use.
On top of having a private connection that prevents third parties from collecting data, you can also get around censorships in some countries and access geo-restricted media in others. These services can even block your own Internet service provider from looking at your browsing history or privacy.
How VPNs can do all this is by making you appear as though you’re connected to a different location or country.
Do I Need a VPN?
From the explanation above, a VPN’s ideal market is for people who currently use public and unprotected Wi-Fi. This type of Wi-Fi you’ll find in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, airports, or any other public location.
These public Wi-Fi services are good for staying connected, but they provide no security or privacy and can be easily hacked into.
So, if you are one of those people who frequently needs Wi-Fi in those areas and you use public Wi-Fi to connect, then a VPN can be very helpful.
This doesn’t apply to just computers either. If you use tablets and smartphones accessing public Wi-Fi, a VPN will help.
Beyond that, individuals who want more safety and privacy of where they’re browsing for whatever reason is an ideal customer.
VPNs also protect users’ passwords, login information, bank and shopping details and many others. For people who want all communication of that information encrypted at all times, a VPN is something you’ll need.
Does Everything I Use Require a VPN
If your goal is to protect prying eyes from everything, a VPN is required to be installed and active.
A VPN will also be needed if you ever plan to access streaming services that are locked in your country for whatever reason. Overall, a VPN is a good idea to have whenever you’re connected to the Internet.
Are There Mobile VPNs?
Yes. There are many mobile-friendly VPNs available, and they should be used if you want to avoid slower speeds and have greater privacy for the whole device. Mobile VPNs will have smaller memory footprints and require less processing power than a VPN for desktops.
For consumers that means while you’re using a mobile VPN, your battery isn’t going to be drained quickly by having it on.
The only catch with mobile VPNs is that most of them are designed for one type of mobile device. So be sure to do your homework. Apple has access to mobile VPN apps that Android can’t get and vice versa. Of course, there are some that are universally compatible too.
What is the Best VPN I Can Get for Free?
With privacy and security being a higher issue for people, it’s good to be looking at your options. It won’t take you long at all to find that there are security and privacy apps online that offer free protection. And those are some good options to consider.
But VPNs offer more than those free services at the cost of them charging money for those services.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a free VPN out there as a VPNs cost companies a lot of money to both operate and keep secure. If you ever find a VPN that is free, it’s likely filled with malware and data snoops.
All that being said, because there is such a high demand for these services, VPN prices are incredibly low with some of them charging $5 a month or less. There are a lot of budget VPNs out there that you can consider and will offer more protection than any free VPN or security or privacy app.
What Should I Consider for the Right VPN?
A lot of it will come down to personal preferences and your own personal privacy needs however there are some key characteristics of some ideal VPNs to consider:
- They’re not free. As mentioned before, a free VPN has very high chances to do the exact opposite of what a VPN is meant to do.
- No-logs VPN service. Basically, means the VPN doesn’t keep logs of your browsing history. A good quality VPN will keep as few logs as possible and make them anonymous as possible. Keep in mind that even if a VPN offers this, they can’t assure 100% anonymity.
- VPN transparency. What I mean by this is how and when VPNs cooperated with authorities in the past. You can tell VPNs are doing this by them issuing “warrant canaries”. These are passive notes to the public to say whether or not they’ve been subpoenaed by government entities or not.
- The country the VPN is located in. For example, in the US The Patriot Act is still the law of the land. This means for US-based VPNs, they have little options if federal agents show up with subpoenas or national security letters in hand demanding access to servers, VPN user accounts or other data. True, they may have little data to give to authorities – especially if they have a strong no-logs policy – but you can avoid this problem by getting a VPN service outside of the US.
Top 4 VPNs to Use to Protect Your Privacy and Security
With over 3,200 servers located in 65 areas, Surfshark is one of the best rated VPN services around. It’s smaller than some of the others on this list but what makes it appealing to so many users is the features and the speed.
The biggest offer they have right now is unlimited device support which is amazing. If you’d like your entire home or your small/medium-sized business to be on Surfshark’s VPN, you don’t have to worry about the number of devices you’ve got connected on it.
Other notable features are anti-malware, ad-blocking and tracker-blocking.
The other appealing part is the speed. As mentioned, they have over 3,200 servers situated across 65 countries. You can run speed tests and the average loss of speed is under 17% – hardly noticeable in the grand scheme of things.
What’s also worth noting is that many have tested it being faster than other VPNs such as ExpressVPN, a company who is known for their VPN loading speeds.
Surfshark is available for Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Fire TV and routers. There is even a Chrome and Firefox extension that is highly secure too. This is very helpful for businesses and users since you don’t have to worry about particular devices.
Surfshark also has three special modes to get around restrictions and hide online footsteps:
- Camouflage Mode – masks your VPN activity so even your ISP doesn’t know you’re using one.
- Multihop Mode – jumps your connection through multiple countries to hide your online trail.
- NoBorders Mode – lets you use Surfshark in restrictive regions.
The only word of warning in using those features is that while you can use them, they can still be illegal and result in severe penalties if you’re ever caught. Chances are low but they can still happen.
Another top-rated VPN is NordVPN. It’s one of the most recognized brands in the field and for good reason. It has a generous simultaneous connection count (six devices can be hooked up at once), a dedicated IP option, and even a kill-switch feature.
Speed tests show that connecting the VPN will reduce speeds by 53% on average which is still on par with many of its competitors. Regardless, you shouldn’t be expecting sudden dips or service interruptions.
Do note that in 2018, a report that NordVPN had one of its rented servers accessed without authorization. After that breach NordVPN had multiple security audits, a bug bounty program and put more investments in server security.
While it’s bad and NordVPN should’ve disclosed the issue sooner, the breach was limited and involved no user-identifying information. This confirms that NordVPN does stick to is no-log VPN services.
Despite being even smaller than SurfsharkVPN, ProtonVPN provides an impressive 9.6% speed reduction compared to average speeds used without a VPN. It’s very impressive that the company managed to pull that up and is by far one of the strongest selling points.
You’ll find their plans to be more expensive than the others on this list however the high security standards and overall transparency may make this VPN worth it.
Beyond the insane speeds, it sends your traffic through a secure bunker of private servers. It’s also completely open-source and routinely publishes audits.
Another strong selling point is that ProtonVPN is one of the few VPNs that doesn’t use weaker security protocols like PPTP and L2TP which many VPNs use.
You might want to consider this VPN on the basis that it’s fun to use. UI design is one aspect that I didn’t bring up but it’s still important to some extent. With IPVanish, it’s ideal for clients who are interested in knowing what a VPN does under the hood. Its Multiplatform flexibility also offers people a good way to find a Netflix-friendly VPN as well.
Also consider ExpressVPN
Definitely a strong candidate and very popular supporting desktop and mobile devices.
Express VPN has a huge global footprint and many excellent privacy practices to protect you and your information being communicated on the Internet. The interface is very intuitive and easy to use.
It is one of the more expensive VPN options and hence why it didn’t quite fit into the top 4 category above but worth considering.
Check Your Needs and Find the Right VPN
There are several VPNs available and each one offers their own distinct advantages and drawbacks. Regardless, selecting any of the VPNs above is a solid option that you can’t go wrong with.