Wondering how to choose the best VPN that’s right for you? Read on!
So, you’re looking for a VPN? And why not, as these tools offer a plethora of benefits, ranging from bank-grade encryption to IP address masking. However, you might have noticed that there are TONS of VPNs to choose from.
The industry has witnessed exponential growth over the last few years, and competition is fierce with new options popping up from time to time. With more than 300 VPNs available, choosing the best one for your needs can be challenging.
Fret not though, as we’ve got your back! Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to choose a VPN service. But before we start, let’s revisit why so many Internet users are turning to VPNs.
Why Use a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is basically a piece of software – or sometimes hardware – that creates a virtual tunnel to a remote VPN server, through which you can connect to the Internet.
While the technology was originally developed for big businesses to guarantee security of sensitive data and provide remote access to employees from anywhere they work, VPNs have various use cases for individuals as well.
Since they encrypt your connection, nobody can see what data you’re transferring. Your traffic can’t be intercepted to steal personal information such as credit card details, especially on public WiFi networks.
With your IP address masked with another one from a server in a different country, you can trick websites and other third-parties into thinking that you’re located elsewhere. As a result, you’re able to access the Internet freely and privately.
RELATED READ: What Are Some Common Uses of a VPN?
Determining What You Need a VPN For
If you’re in the market for a laptop, you aren’t going to buy the first one you see. The same concept applies when it comes to VPNs. Everyone uses them for different purposes, so the best way to select the ideal VPN service is to determine your needs before going shopping.
Do You Want a Secure Browsing Experience?
Even if you aren’t concerned about your privacy and security, you should have a VPN if you regularly connect to public WiFi. These unsecured networks allow nearby hackers to sniff the data transmitted from your device and use it to their advantage.
In such a scenario, you want a VPN service that offers military-grade encryption to safeguard your online activities like checking emails or conducting transactions. The best VPNs secure your data with AES 256-bit encryption, which is used by top agencies and governments worldwide.
Do You Want to Switch Your Geolocation?
If you want to access content otherwise unavailable in your country, you’ll need a VPN with servers in hundreds of locations globally. Want to watch Netflix US from outside the US? Make sure your VPN service has US servers.
Similarly, want a UK IP address to stream BBC iPlayer videos? Choose a VPN provider with plenty of UK exit nodes. Remember, there’s no point in signing up for a VPN if you can’t get an IP address from any location that you want.
Do You Want Online Anonymity?
Are you looking to hide your browsing history from snooping governments and Internet Service Providers (ISPs)? Though VPNs aren’t a complete anonymity solution, but they can make it close to impossible for your online actions to be traced back to you.
After all, your traffic appears to be originating from another IP address shared between multiple users. Here, you want a VPN service that doesn’t store any logs and has an extensive customer base – the more people using their servers, the more difficult is it for you to be singled out.
How to Choose a VPN – 13 Things to Look For in a Provider
Now that you’ve assessed your VPN needs, you might be wondering, “What makes a good VPN provider?” Besides having a selection of plans at a reasonable price point, other essential elements of choosing a VPN service that’s right for you include:
1. Supported Protocols
VPNs utilize a variety of security protocols to protect the data as it passes through the tunnel, but not all of them are created equally. Each protocol brings its own set of advantages and disadvantages to the table.
Unless you’re into streaming, you should avoid using PPTP at all costs. It’s an outdated protocol that uses weak encryption and has many known security vulnerabilities. While PPTP might be an excellent option to access location-locked websites and protect your non-sensitive browsing, it can’t be relied on for serious security.
L2TP/IPSec is considered an upgraded and better version of PPTP. It provides much better security than its predecessor but lacks in the speed department. SSTP is one of the safest protocols available but has limited support for non-Windows devices. Though it’s somewhat fast, the high level of encryption can slow it down to some degree.
IKEv2/IPSec is among the fastest and most secure protocols out there, but it’s better suited for mobile devices that switch between Wi-Fi and data. The best all-round protocol is OpenVPN, as it offers robust security without compromising greatly on speeds. Remember, good VPN providers will allow you to choose from all these options.
2. Cross-Platform Compatibility
Most VPNs provide support for all major platforms like Windows, iOS, Android, and Mac, but some don’t. If you have a Windows-powered computer but use an Android phone, you’d want to ensure that your VPN has apps available on both.
You should also check the number of devices you can connect simultaneously, but we’ll get to that part in a bit. The best VPN services will not only offer clients for mobile and desktop platforms but also have manual configurations for Smart TVs, routers, set-top boxes, gaming consoles, and other devices that regularly connect to the Internet.
3. Number of Servers & Locations
Interested in accessing US streaming services like Netflix without geographic restrictions? Then, let’s face it – choosing a VPN provider with the vast majority of its servers in Asia and Africa will be of no use to you. Don’t settle for anything less than a vast array of servers in multiple countries.
Ideally, you should look for one with hundreds, if not thousands, of VPN servers in all the important locations across the world. The more servers you have, the better as you can switch between them freely to access different types of geo-restricted content.
4. Simultaneous Connections
You’re using a VPN on your laptop or desktop, and that’s great. But what if you want to set up a VPN connection on all the devices in your household? What you’ll need is a VPN service that supports multiple sessions at a time, of course.
You should go for a VPN provider that offers up to ten concurrent connections, at least,, especially since more of us are working from home (and playing at home) since the coronavirus pandemic. Also, the ability to connect your router to the VPN is preferred. It allows you to secure all your devices in one go without exhausting all your simultaneous logins.
5. Unlimited Bandwidth
One of the main reasons why people use VPNs is to get around ISP throttling, so paying for VPN service only to get throttled again is a terrible idea. Bandwidth limitations may not have been a problem before the dawn of the streaming era.
Due to the increasing popularity of music and video streaming, though, the bandwidth available isn’t sufficient. As such, you should steer clear from VPNs that enforce bandwidth restrictions.
Nonetheless, a worthy VPN service will put no caps on the amount of bandwidth you can use. With no quotas to worry about, you can enjoy the convenience of downloading, browsing and streaming as much as you want.
6. Connection Speed
When you use a VPN, your connection speed slows down to some extent because of the encryption process that takes place. If you want to stream your favorite content or download files without any interruptions, this can be a deal-breaker.
The most popular VPNs have workarounds in place to ensure you get speedy connection speeds at all times, no matter where you’re located. Take, for instance, dedicated servers optimized for streaming and P2P file sharing.
7. Payment Methods
How you pay for your VPN service is also another important factor. If you want to purchase a VPN to use a public Wi-Fi network safely during your travels, it’s likely that payment via anonymous methods isn’t important to you.
If you want to purchase a VPN to strengthen your online anonymity or prevent political oppression, then you’ll be interested in anonymous payment methods. Luckily, some great VPN providers offer anonymous payment methods such as gift cards or cryptocurrencies. This way, no one can ever find out that it was you who paid for the service.
8. Money-Back Guarantee
You wouldn’t want to get stuck with a VPN that you don’t want, no? Sticking to VPNs with a money-back guarantee is a good way to prevent this from happening. Even if you happen to select a VPN that doesn’t suit your needs, you can always get out of your contract.
All the top VPNs offer a money-back guarantee ranging from anywhere between 7 to 31 days so that you can test out their services risk-free. If you’re unsatisfied, you can get your money back as long as the refund is requested within the eligible period.
9. 24/7 Customer Support
The technology behind VPNs is changing continually, and you might often find yourself in a situation where you’ve hit a snag. Despite that, one of the most overlooked factors of picking a VPN is if the provider has 24/7 customer service.
When it comes to the VPN industry, customer support is usually offered through channels like live chat, email, and tickets. However, we’d recommend picking a VPN that has live chat as you can get immediate answers to your queries.
10. Advanced Features
If you depend on your VPN to keep your online activities completely private, you’ll want to sign up for an entirely leak-proof service. After all, there’s no point in using a VPN service if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.
To keep your data and identity safe, premium VPNs come packed with a broad array of advanced features. These include but are not limited to IPv6 leak protection, Internet kill switch, DNS leak protection, and WebRTC leak protection.
11. Privacy-Friendly Jurisdiction
If you don’t want anyone to know what you’re doing online, you should avoid VPNs that are based inside the Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes Alliances. That’s because these providers have to comply with government requests to share personal user data.
Trustworthy VPNs are headquartered in privacy-friendly jurisdictions like Hong Kong, Switzerland, and the British Virgin Islands. Moreover, they don’t store any records of your VPN usage, which brings us to our next point.
12. Strict No-Logs Policy
In case you haven’t noticed, almost every VPN on the market claims to keep no logs whatsoever of your browsing sessions. However, do they really mean it? The only way to be sure is to look for VPNs that have undergone third-party audits.
During your research, you’ll see there aren’t many providers who have gone the extra mile to back up their privacy promises. A tried and tested no-logs policy is essential if you want to be anonymous and private every time you go online.
13. User-Friendly Interface
Many VPNs have a setup process and user-interface that could be too complex for your liking. If you’re a non-tech-savvy individual and don’t want to go through issues when using a VPN, you should find one that has organized, polished, and intuitive apps.
PureVPN to the Rescue!
You probably see by now that you got hours of homework ahead of you. However, what if we were to tell you that PureVPN checks all these items and thus is the best all-around VPN out there?
Not only do we meet the criteria outlined above, but also we’ve been in the industry since 2007 and have remained highly recommended and highly rated during that time.
Unlike other players in the industry, we’re going to let the quality of our service speak for itself. Sign up today and take advantage of our 31-day money-back guarantee.
How to Choose a VPN – According to Reddit
With the Net Neutrality and Broadband Privacy rules abolished, more people are relying on VPNs to protect their online privacy. This has led to a sharp rise in search queries for the “best VPN” on Google, which has been addressed by professionals, consumers, and tech publishers alike in the form of VPN reviews and comparisons.
But if you’re looking for a more personal opinion from a whole bunch of people with no filters, there’s no better place than Reddit. Besides, who better to ask about the best VPNs than the thousands of people who use and experiment with them every day? We’ve linked some Reddit threads about choosing a VPN that are worth checking out below:
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I Leave My VPN On All The Time?
Well, it depends on your situation. You’re better off leaving on your VPN when streaming geo-restricted content. Your actual IP address will be exposed if you disconnect, causing you to lose access to what you’re watching. If security is your primary concern, though, you should leave your VPN running every time you connect to the Internet.
Is VPN Illegal?
No. Using a VPN is legal in most countries across the world except for a few such as China and Russia. In other countries, it also comes down to how you use it. Don’t expect to get away with illegal activities when you’re connected to a VPN. You will have to face legal consequences, period!
When is the Best Time to Buy a VPN?
If you want to get a premium VPN for less, the October-December period is the best time. Many offer attractive VPN deals for events like Halloween, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, allowing you to purchase a top-tier VPN service at the most affordable price.
Is paying for a VPN worth it?
Paying for a VPN is definitely worth it. You not only get the benefit of getting a highly encrypted internet connection, but also software upgrades. You can even get a money-back guarantee with some VPN providers.
Wrapping Things Up
How do I choose a VPN, you ask? Now, you finally have the answer! Never make the mistake of believing that you’ll get the same level of service from all VPNs. By following the criteria we’ve discussed above though, you can separate the best VPNs from the rest!