VPN services and the use of “virtual private networks” used to be reserved for businesspeople and workers in a corporate setting that didn’t want to expose their company’s operational “secrets” to possible prying eyes.
But, today, the use of a VPN is something everyone should be — and is! — considering, especially as the Internet becomes increasingly surveilled, “Net Neutrality” rules are being debunked by governments and we all move our interactions, as a society, increasingly online.
Just like you wouldn’t step out of your house without clothes, digital privacy has become such a concern that, when “going digital”, it’s no longer enough to simply clear your browsing data or use a “private” browsing window. And an increasing number of individuals — common consumers, not just tech-industry professionals — are focusing on using a VPN provider to do more than simply cover their tracks.
Rather, they’re using VPNs for everyday browsing, in order to keep their personal information and online data safe from prying eyes who might otherwise profit off of it. But not all providers are created equal — and not all are going to be well-suited for your particular location or use.
Here are 5 things to consider and research when choosing the right provider for you.
1) Is the service free or paid?
VPN providers usually have different tiers of pricing and these pricing models reflect the kind of speed, access, storage and logging privileges the user can enjoy.
There are, for example, many free providers who have a basic level of protection and speed. However, free services come with a lot of caveats. The level of protection is one. Most of these “free” services only offer connections that, for the most part, prove to be insecure.
Speedcheck is another issue. Paid VPN gives users access to higher connection speeds. Because it’s a premium price that customers are paying, not everyone is using the same connection. This fact, in and of itself, makes paid VPN speeds much more desirable and automatically high-quality.
Over and above this, charging their clients for paid services means that the providers themselves have the chance to invest in better bandwidth and an increased number of servers.
2) What type of encryption does the VPN service provide?
You also want to consider the kind of encryption your chosen service provides. There are a couple of types of encryption protocols and not all of them are as secure as the other. For example, services that only provide PPTP are considered by many tech experts to be entirely unsecure.
It’s easy to compromise PPTP encryption protocols so you want to look for service providers that offer OpenVPN, IPSec, IKEv2, L2TP or OpenSSH. In fact, right now, OpenVPN is the accepted standard and it certainly surpasses “aging” protocols like PPTP or L2TP/IPsec.
3) Does it have a no-logs policy?
This is perhaps the most important point to consider when looking at providers and it’s why people even use virtual private networks at all: “no logs”.
If a provider has a “no logs” policy, it means that they’re not tracking any of your information and that, most importantly, they don’t actually store any identifying information or data that runs through their servers. In other words, even if they do “track” you or employees can witness aggregate data through connections, they don’t keep any logs that can be legally requested by law enforcement agencies.
Now, does “no logs” really mean absolutely zero information? Yes and no. The level of “basic” information in a no-logs policy really differs from company to company. But this is usually stated very transparently in their policy and you’ll be able to verify what “no logs” means to the company.
You also want to make sure that your chosen VPN employs something called a “kill switch”. This is a a safeguard against unprotected activity or a failure with the server. If your connection to a server should fail, your device is built to reconnect to the same content. A “kill switch” automatically shuts down your connection in the event of a system “error” (which could be a vulnerability).
4) How many devices can I use and what kind of access do I want?
Any chosen provider should be able to offer you connections to multiple devices and the option to remove old ones while adding more, if and when needed.
The standard for the number of devices is usually five. This can be your tablet, your smartphone, a video game console, your laptop, your home TV and more. As you can see, connections quickly add up and you’ll find you have more devices than connections. So five is usually a good number to start with.
5) Where is it based and how many servers does the VPN provider have?
The number of servers a VPN provider has will directly affect the speed of you connection. Providers that you choose should have hundreds or even thousands of servers spread out across the world. This wide distribution of servers allows you to experience fast connections when using a virtual private network to browse the web — and, that too, from anywhere in the world.
If you conduct your business remotely — because, for example, you’re an independent contractor — or you simply travel for business quite often, this can be a very useful thing to consider.
That being said, you should always seek a provider who is based in your home country, even if you end up traveling quite a bit. These providers are, after all, subject to the rules of your home country and are more likely to follow the rules of legal compliance that you would be subject to.
Since so many individuals end up choosing to use a virtual private network to shield their online activity from rather constricting or even oppressive governmental regimes, it becomes more important than ever to make sure that your chosen provider is within your own home state.
The last thing you want to do is have your information, which is supposed to be covered through the use of a VPN, subject to surveillance because of a governmental body pressuring agencies within the country.
Besides these five aspects of VPN providers try and figure out if your provider’s services will end up “throttling” or blocking certain other services. Sometimes, providers will slow down or “block” certain services that you’re using, like VoIP. Instead, go for a provider that doesn’t block or “throttle” at all.
Our recommendation when choosing a VPN: Astrill. Read a review about it here: vpnpro.com/vpn-reviews/astrill-vpn-review/