How To Choose A VPN Service
The VPN market has exploded in the past few years, growing from a niche industry to an all-out melee. Many providers are capitalizing on the general population’s growing concerns about surveillance and cybercrime, which means it’s getting hard to tell when a company is actually providing a useful service and when it’s selling snake oil. In fact, there have even been fake VPNs popping up, so be careful.
When looking for a VPN, don’t just focus on speed, since that’s the factor you and the VPN company have the least control over. Since nearly all VPN companies offer some mixture of the same technologies, consider value instead. How can you get the most for the least? Look for extra features like split tunneling, multi-hop connections, and so on. You may not need these all the time but they’re useful when you do.
Nearly every VPN service provides its own app with a full graphical user interface for managing the VPN connection and settings, and we recommend that you use it. You might dismiss such things as mere chrome, and instead prefer to manually manage your VPN connections. This works, but doing so is tedious, requires manual updating, and won’t give you access to the additional privacy tools that many VPNs provide. When looking at a VPN, decide whether you can stand looking at it.
How Important Is Choosing The Right VPN Server Location
Its fairly important, given that it can influence your online experience. Plus, youd probably want to get the most out of your VPN usage and the money you pay for it, and choosing the right server is an important part of that.
For example, theres a chance that choosing the wrong VPN server could result in slower speeds or less privacy.
Other VPNs We’ve Tested
Not every VPN can be a favorite. These are ones we reviewed, but they’re not full-throated recommendations for one reason or another, including limited features and concerns over adequately hiding your identity.
- Servers: 3,200-plus in 82 locations
- Country/Jurisdiction: US
- Platforms: Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Linux,
- Price: $8 per month or $95.88 billed annually. Month-to-month plan at $13
Hotspot Shield VPN’s TLS-based Hydra Catapult protocol, US jurisdiction, 128-bit AES encryption support and large percentage of virtual servers might strip away our trust in its ability to provide more privacy protections than its competitors — but those are all key components to its ability to achieve the blazing speeds it delivered during its most recent speed tests.
As of May 2021, it’s the second-fastest VPN I’ve tested, effortlessly delivers smooth-streaming media and can dance between server connections without missing a beat, no matter how many interruptions you throw at it. A 26% speed loss puts it in second place, falling behind Surfshark — which lost just 16.9% of its speed the last time I tested it — and knocking ExpressVPN down to third place with a 51.8% speed loss at last measurement. Speed losses on UK connections were under 8%, Gaming, torrenting, browsing, streaming — these speed-dependent services won’t be slowed down for Hotspot Shield users.
- Number of servers: 1,500
- Number of server locations: 200 in 73 cities
- Country/jurisdiction: US
- $40 for the first 12 months
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The Best VPN Right Now
Let’s look at each of our VPN vendors below in more depth. Keep in mind that this is an evolving list: It’s constantly being updated. We’re actively working on more VPN testing and research, so expect this guide to change throughout the year as our VPN use continues and we put each option through its paces.
The list below presents our favorites in an overall ranking if you want to see each top VPN judged by more specific criteria, check out the links below.
- Number of IP addresses: 30,000
- Number of servers: 3,000-plus in 160 locations
- Number of simultaneous connections: 5
- Country/jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
- 94-plus countries
- Three months free with one-year plan, plus a free year of Backblaze cloud backup
ExpressVPN tells us its network is powered by TrustedServer technology, which ExpressVPN built to ensure that there are never any logs of users’ online activities. In the privacy world, ExpressVPN has a strong track record, having experienced a server seizure by authorities which proved its zero-log policy true at the time. We also like the quality of the VPN’s setup guides and the detailed information in its FAQ.
While its speeds consistently compete with heavy-hitting competitors, our 2020 speed tests saw ExpressVPN produce a 52% overall loss of our normal internet speeds, representing a significant slowdown compared with its 2019 score of 2% speed loss.
- Number of server locations: 65
- Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
- $2.49 a month for a two-year plan
Pro Tips For Choosing A VPN
Before laying down your hard-earned loonies, here are two things to keep in mind when you’re choosing a VPN:
First, you will always save money by opting for a longer subscription. However, we caution against thisâat least initially. Instead, use a free VPN subscription or short-term subscription to test out a VPN in your home environment. That way, you can find out whether it will work with all the sites and services you need and get a feel for its performance hands-on. If you like what you see, you can always upgrade to a long-term subscription.
Second, while a VPN is a useful tool for improving your privacy online, it can’t protect against every ill. To really anonymize your traffic, you’ll need Tor, but using it will impact your internet speeds far more than a VPN. Also, be sure to use a password manager to create unique and complex passwords for every site and service you use, enable two-factor authentication wherever it’s available, and install local antivirus software.
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Whats The Best VPN Server Location For Internet Freedom
The term internet freedom covers a lot of ground. When we talk about freedom online, we mean the ability to access the internet and avoid censorship. We also expect net neutrality, which means that ISPs should not discriminate against content. This isnt just about censorship, but the idea that providers shouldnt make it more difficult to access information by slowing down certain websites.
So, whats the best VPN server location for internet freedom? According to Statista, Iceland takes the lead, with 95/100 on the Freedom House Index. This is a ranking based on numerous factors that include content limitations, violation of user rights, and obstacles to accessing content. This means that, with an Icelandic IP address, youll encounter the least amount of barriers and limitations online and have access to a greater range of content.
However, this doesnt mean that youll be able to access everything with an Icelandic IP address. For instance, if you want to watch US Netflix, an Icelandic server wont allow you to access that.
More importantly, Iceland has mandatory data retention laws that could be a threat to your online privacy and anonymity. Protecting these rights is important. Thats why we recommend ExpressVPN if you do plan on using an Icelandic VPN server for internet freedom. ExpressVPN has a zero-logging policy, which means that they will not store any logs concerning your online activities when youre connected to their servers.
VPN Services And What You Can Use Them For
If theres one worry when it comes to using technology and the internet, its privacy. By using a VPN, you can, in theory, prevent your internet service provider and government from seeing your internet history.
VPNs have also emerged as a popular tool in the freedom of speech movement. Youre able to avoid censorship within organisations and from third-parties. For example, if you have a view that goes against the priorities of your employer, you dont have to worry about them finding out.
People also use VPN technology to geo-spoof their location. This results in users customising their location settings to be able to use overseas services. A great example of this is watching a TV programme or online product thats only available in a specific country, perhaps due to legal or licensing issues – that’s why using a VPN for Netflix has become so popular.
You can resort to a VPN to protect yourself from hackers too. If youre outside and sign up to use a public internet hotspot – perhaps in a cafe or library – there is the chance someone could try to break into your device. This can lead to you losing valuable data, such as passwords.
This technology is also emerging as a popular force in the world of business. When youre traveling around for meetings all the time, its normal to connect to third-party networks. With a VPN, you can access your firms intranet without the worry of being targeted by cyber criminals.
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Which Countries Users Need VPNs Most
VPNs offer a whole range of benefits for anyone using them. But while some people use them to gain something extra, some use best VPNs to gain the basic internet access that should be available to everyone.
These are people who live in countries where the internet is heavily censored and content is filtered on a large scale.
There are quite a few countries that fall in this bracket.
Should I Use A VPN Server Located In My Own Country
Connecting to a VPN server located in your own country is as safe as anywhere else. Your data will still be encrypted and hidden for prying eyes.
Ultimately, what matters are the privacy laws in the country where the VPN server is located. If your state has good data protection laws, I say go for it. Youll get better speeds due to reduced latency.
However, if your country isnt so great when it comes to privacy, I would advise opting for a VPN server located in a much safer jurisdiction.
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Server Number Vs Server Locations
Right out the gate, if you’re not hugely interested in the science behind it, you can skip down to our top picks for VPN server providers by following this link.
When making your decision, one of the most important things to pay attention to is the number of VPN server locations a provider offers. This is just as important as the sheer number of servers if a provider has a relatively narrow network, connecting to or from more unusual locations could result in a severe drop in connection speed.
This is often the case with smaller, more Europe- and US-focused VPNs, with users in Asia having to connect to servers several countries away.
A balance does need to be found, though. Providers with a huge amount of locations and just a few servers in each can end up performing poorly compared to VPNs with a narrower network with plenty of servers in each location . In that comparison, HMA proves to be a poor choice as a streaming VPN, while Surfshark is one of the best not to mention one of the cheapest.
What you really want is a good selection of well-populated locations. This should make sure no single server becomes overloaded with users or is detected by streaming providers before another can take its place.
Using A VPN With Windows 10 Chrome And Linux
You dont want to spend hours chasing down a VPN that works on your Windows 10, Chrome, or Linux devices, which is why we picked out the best VPNs that work with each for you:
- Windows 10: StrongVPN, Encrypt.me, TunnelBear, Ivacy VPN, Hotspot Shield
- Chrome: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, IPVanish, BlackVPN, ibVPN, TunnelBear, Ivacy VPN, Hotspot Shield, PureVPN, Windscribe
- Linux: ExpressVPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost, IPVanish, Perfect Privacy, Windscribe, BlackVPN, FastestVPN, Trust.Zone, ibVPN, IVPN.
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Most Free Countries: Best And Worst Countries For Internet Freedom
A free and open Internet is a human right, but it is hardly guaranteed throughout the world. Today, were taking a look at the freest countries in the world plus how you can bypass censorship and unblock websites using a VPN.
Internet access has quickly become a necessary utility for people around the world. Being able to check e-mail or chat with friends is nice, but having the ability to see news reports or research different topics is what keeps us thriving on a daily basis. Therere also considerations like data access for cell phone calls, which is often one of the few methods remote towns can use for contacting the rest of the world.
Secure your privacy online with these VPNs:
Best VPN For Unblocking Netflix And Youtube
- Private Internet Access
ExpressVPN is also an industry leader in unblocking video streaming services like Netflix. The most recommended VPN service has servers in more than 78 countries.
Private Internet Access makes it easier for expats to watch their favourite TV series and movies on Netflix while staying overseas. PIA uses 256-bit encryption to protect users privacy and internet connections. PIA offers a multi-gigabit VPN tunnel to facilitate fast and stable connections while watching video content on Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services.
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How Can You Benefit From A VPN Technology
There is more to VPN than accessing blocked and restricted websites. One of the main benefits of using a VPN technology is internet-anonymity. Your actual location wont be revealed by cloaking your real IP address so that you can be protected from any online monitoring or spying.
Whether you are an average citizen or an expert when it comes to programming whatsoever, you can use VPN. Use is for personal purposes and most especially for business transactions. The VPN software is the security everybody deserves.
What’s The Best VPN For Gaming
Most VPNs are chosen based on having a good balance of speed, security and cost. But if you want a VPN specifically to connect to game servers in another country, speed is everything. Free VPNs won’t be fast enough, but, fortunately, high-end security won’t be a cost driver, which gives you more options at modest prices. Since all VPNs reduce speed — most by half or more — that means picking one from the set that performed best in our speed tests. In 2021 tests, Surfshark managed to win our speed race while still being one of the least expensive VPNs we’ve seen. If you’re focused on VPNs for game consoles, have a look at our best VPNs for Xbox and our primer on installing them.
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Who Needs A VPN
Anyone who uses the Internet on a public Wi-Fi network needs a VPN. Theyre also ideal for anyone traveling internationally who needs to access a private network in another location, or anyone that wants to bypass government, school or work restrictions on Internet usage. VPNs are ideal for journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and anyone else that wants to be as anonymous as possible online.
How Does A VPN Work
In a series of steps in this VPN Buying Guide and choosing a Best VPN Server, I will explain how a VPN works.
Hence, they act as a middleman assuring better security.
Do you know that you can connect to a Server in Singapore while sitting at an airport in Europe?
If you want to read in detail how does a VPN work then consider reading this article What is a VPN and how does it work?
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Jurisdiction & Data Logging Policies
Typically, we used to consider the cost to features aspect of a VPN before signing up, but not anymore.
The first and foremost consideration before choosing a VPN is, of course, the jurisdiction of the VPN company, their data logging policies, and the response of the company to any and all legal notices.
But still, when we utilize a VPN service, we are paying for the anonymity of the service and the security it provides through their encryption protocols.
An important point here is that all VPN providers operate as a regular business and as such have to follow rules of law and respond to governmental inquiries.
Additionally, its naïve to think a simple VPN subscription is a free pass to conduct illegal activities. Its not.
Contrary to popular belief, US is a great jurisdiction, since there arent any proper data retention laws, unlike the EU, but if the servers are installed in the US, the Government can access data.
Therefore, it is recommended to choose a company that operates out of the US, but hosts servers in different countries. Countries like Panama, Russia, and the Netherlands also offer greater privacy and security.
But most important of all, always choose a VPN provider that can offer 100% guarantee against data logging and retention. It is the only available safest bet against modern surveillance technologies.