Privacy is a hot topic in today’s world. Our government spies on us, advertising services track us across the web, and malware is rampant. If you want to keep your private information private, you should be using one of the top VPN services.
Yet there’s a problem with this approach. While many of us use a VPN at work, few of us understand what they do, which can make finding the best VPN service pretty difficult.
In this guide, we’re going to cut through the tech jargon that frequently stops people from pursuing the use of a VPN. We’ll show you what a VPN is, how it works, and what you need to look for in a fantastic VPN.
Are you ready to learn more? Then let’s get started!
What Is a VPN Service?
A VPN service is a service that offers access to a virtual private network. To access your VPN, you’ll need to pay a subscription cost, usually either once per year or every month.
A VPN service creates an encrypted tunnel that you’ll then use to explore the internet. Everything that goes through this tunnel is secure and safe from prying eyes, and it can also make you appear as though you’re browsing from a whole other country. This is perfect for accessing services that are geoblocked in your location.
If you want to access BBC iPlayer from outside the UK for instance, you’ll need to use a VPN to spoof your location.
How Does a VPN Work?
When you connect to the internet without using a VPN, your computer uses the network that your ISP gives you to access the internet. You’ll explore the web, leaving small traces of your activity everywhere. As it’s not encrypted, it’s also trivial to spy on someone who isn’t using a VPN.
When you connect to a VPN, the VPN service connects your computer to a remote server somewhere else in the world. Every bit of internet traffic needs to be sent to this server first, which means that it’s effectively acting as another security layer on top of your internet connection.
The connection between you and the server is encrypted too, which means that it’s a lot harder to identify what you’re doing. ISPs will often throttle certain kinds of traffic, for instance, using network monitoring apps to identify the traffic that’s coming and going from your computer. When you’re connected to a VPN, the type of data that you’re sending and receiving is hidden, which means that your ISP would need to slow down everything you’re doing, which they won’t do.
Choose a Logless VPN
If you want to find the highest rated VPN on the market, you want one that will take care of your privacy. If the VPN that you’re looking at keeps logs of your activity, then they’re taking a lackadaisical approach to your privacy.
A logless VPN means that the provider doesn’t know what you’re doing any more than your ISP does. This is very important for privacy.
For instance, let’s say that you want to torrent an old TV show and the copyright holder wants to issue you a cease and desist notice. If you were torrenting without using a VPN, that would be easy: they’d get your information from the ISP and send you one.
However, when you’re using a logless VPN, this becomes a lot harder. The VPN service won’t have the capability to identify you via your traffic, which means that they won’t be able to hand over your details. This, in turn, means no cease and desist letter.
A VPN provider will always cooperate with this kind of investigation to the best of their ability. However, with no logs, their ability becomes a lot less capable.
Find a VPN That Has Servers In Many Countries
A work VPN may only connect you to a single server, but commercial VPNs should give you the choice of thousands of servers scattered all across the globe. For instance, they should have servers in multiple parts of the USA, Canada, the UK, Russia, Japan, Korea, Australia, and more.
This means that you’ll never be stuck and unable to access the content that you want. If you’re in the UK and want to access Hulu, a VPN should let you do that, if you’re in Japan and want to access SBS On Demand, a VPN will let you do that.
When you’re looking at VPN services and wondering which one is right for you, make sure that it has plenty of servers around the globe. Never settle for a VPN that doesn’t have a presence where you’ll need it.
As a word of warning, you should also make sure that the VPN service has a high number of servers in each of its locations. Too few servers can cause serious issues for the VPN’s users: if too many people are on one server, it will get far slower, which will make you want to turn off the VPN, defeating its very purpose.
Does the VPN Regulate Its Usage?
A great, logless VPN won’t care what you do when you’re connected to it. You can torrent, stream movies from various sites, and access blocked websites to your heart’s content.
However, some VPNs don’t take this kind of free and easy usage very kindly. They may have a no torrenting policy, for instance. If this is the case, you should run, not walk, to another VPN provider.
If they will keep an eye on what you’re doing, they’re no better than your ISP. You want to use a VPN for privacy, not to add another person to the list of people surveying your every online move.
The best VPNs will actually have specific servers that can offer you a better torrenting experience due to the way that the VPN service has configured them. This kind of feature shows that they don’t care what you do and that you can feel very secure and private while using this VPN.
Where Are They Based?
Depending on where the VPN service is based, they’ll have different regulatory frameworks that they need to abide by. For instance, the Five Eyes alliance, which is made up of Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, and the UK, allows for intelligence sharing between all of these nations.
If your VPN is based in a Five Eyes country, the four other nations’ governments may be able to access your data too. For this reason, we’d recommend picking a VPN that isn’t based in a Five Eyes territory, but you should also consider a few other alliances too.
At the very peak, you have the 41 Eyes alliance, which adds a whole host of other nations to the alliance. If possible, you should pick a VPN that isn’t based in any of these territories. Look for one that calls a small island home, even if it’s just a name on a door, and they’re actually based elsewhere.
Avoiding government surveillance is very difficult in this day and age, but one of the best ways to avoid it is by using a VPN that isn’t part of this international intelligence cartel.
How Many Simultaneous Connections Can You Have?
VPN service providers often limit their users to a certain number of simultaneous connections. If this limit is two connections, it means that you can be connected to the VPN on your desktop PC as well as your phone.
While you might think that you only need one, consider the number of devices that you have that are connected to the internet. This includes games consoles, phones and tablets, routers, and devices like Google Home and other smart speakers.
If you want to stay private while you’re using the internet, all of these need to be connected to a VPN. This means that you need to pick a VPN service that offers a lot of simultaneous connections.
While most services will only allow you a limited number of connections, this number can vary a lot. We’d recommend shopping around to find a VPN provider that will allow you to connect all of your devices, rather than just a few.
How Much Do They Charge?
A VPN shouldn’t make you go broke. However, while it may be tempting to find the cheapest VPN service around and subscribe immediately, this also isn’t a good idea. A price that’s too low should raise your eyebrows and make you wonder where they’re cutting corners.
Shopping around to find the average price for a VPN service is a great way to start. If they’re too expensive, you should look elsewhere, but you should also look elsewhere if their base price is too cheap.
One other important thing to note is that free VPNs are not worth your time. Many free VPNs will harvest your data and sell it on to the highest bidder, so while you might be able to watch that content you want, it’s not actually free to do so, you’re exchanging your privacy to access a TV show. While this isn’t always the case with free VPNs, a bad apple spoils the whole bunch, and you should seriously reconsider using a free VPN if you are at present.
Do They Have a Kill Switch Feature?
A kill switch is a very important feature for any privacy-focused VPN. This feature will disable your internet access if your VPN goes down.
While this might sound like a hassle, it’s actually vital. Let’s say that you’re torrenting a TV show and your VPN goes down. If you don’t have a kill switch, the torrent will keep going on your unprotected internet, which means that your real IP address will be exposed to everyone else in the torrent.
If you have a kill switch, your internet will be switched off, which means your real IP address stays safe. This also doesn’t mean that if your VPN is down for an extended period of time that you’ll be without the internet. You can switch the kill switch on and off at will, which allows you to turn off your torrenting software before you get back online.
How Fast Is the VPN Service?
A VPN service is always going to have a very slight impact on your internet’s speed. However, that’s all it should be: slight. If you notice that you’re losing multiple megabits of speed while using a VPN service, you should switch to another provider immediately.
What Do Previous Customers Think of Them?
If you want to get a good idea of what a certain VPN provider is like, you should take a look at online reviews of the company. Look up the company on Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and see what people generally have to say about it.
Are there certain common pain points that are likely to be a serious issue for you? Are there any serious positives that make you want to subscribe right away?
Take a look at both positive and negative reviews and use these to build up a better mental picture of the company in question.
Is There a Free Trial?
One very good way to see what you like and don’t like about the company is to do a free trial of their VPN service. This will let you check out its features, assess the level of customer support, see the speeds you’re likely to get, and more. Don’t put money down without trying the VPN first.
Finding the Top VPN Services
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at how to find the top VPN services around. Finding a great VPN can feel difficult but if you use the criteria that we’ve laid out, you’ll have a fast, secure, and private connection to the internet.
For more interesting and helpful content like this, check out the rest of our blog today!