A tech expert or not, you have probably heard of VPNs. You might have wondered why they are so popular these days, and whether or not you need one too. You might have even asked yourself how to go about choosing the right VPN. These are the questions that we are going to answer today.
VPN is short for Virtual Private Network. It is an online security tool companies and individuals use to keep their Internet connection safe and private. For example, a lot of people use public Wi-Fi in hotels and gas stations, which can be extremely unsafe. A VPN will keep your connection secure and your data intact.
VPNs use strong encryption to obscure your online traffic. This means that, even if somebody gets hold of your data, they will not be able to decode it.
Also, a VPN can come in handy if you are trying to bypass geographical restrictions. Different service providers limit their users’ content access to their subscription territory, making it out of bounds when travelling abroad. A VPN offers several VPN locations that hide your actual IP address and location and allow you to watch your favourite shows.
bEST vpnS 2024
6 simultaneous devices.
- ● Fastest VPN 2024
- ● Servers: 5900+
- ● Countries: 60+
WHY I LIKE NORDVPN NordVPN has long been regarded as one of the strongest brands in cybersecurity. With one of the largest server offerings on my list and support for most, if not all operating systems, making NordVPN an obvious choice for many. They have 24/7 customer support if you need help getting started. Their app is one of the most well-designed apps I have ever used. NordVPN even accepts cryptocurrencies as payment for extra anonymity.
7 simultaneous devices.
- ● Best Gaming VPN
- ● Locations: 115+
- ● Countries: 100+
WHY I LIKE CYBERGHOST CyberGhost VPN is the first choice of many other cybersecurity experts, and the reason is clear; they have the most complete VPN service. An incredible number of extra features that are best suited for the more advanced users but also work flawlessly for every-day purposes like P2P-filesharing. Cyberghost VPN also has the longest stretching money-back guarantee at a full 45 days.
10 simultaneous devices.
- ● Best Free VPN 2024
- ● Servers: 3150+
- ● Countries: 70+
WHY I LIKE PROTONVPN: ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland and is most known for their e-mail service ProtonMail. They currently offer the safest free VPN services on the market. There is also support for TOR usage and P2P file sharing. I highly recommend ProtonVPN if you are intending to do some extensive online sharing. It goes without saying that Proton does not collect logs of any kind and is completely safe to use.
How to choose the best VPN?
Choosing a VPN can be a bit difficult, especially if you find the abundance of online information confusing. According to Techradar, the most important things that should influence your choice of a VPN are its server locations, VPN features, number of connections, customer support, and price.
But let us look more closely into these and many other things that should be considered before choosing a VPN.
Security and encryption
The most valid reason to get a VPN is security. Whether you run a company that operates remotely or you are a privacy-oriented person, a VPN is something that will surely increase your level of privacy and safety online.
The most important things safety-wise are encryption and safety protocols.
What is encryption?
Encryption refers to the way certain information is coded, i.e. encrypted. The best encryption available on the market is AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 256-bit encryption. This type of encryption has 2256 key combinations (a number that consists of 78 digits) and is virtually impossible to break.
What are safety protocols?
When you use the internet, your device sends and receives information. To keep this data safe, VPNs create what are known as VPN tunnels. These are secure pathways that make sure the data can be exchanged safely. A VPN protocol is essentially a set of instructions that decides how this data will be sent and received.
There are several types of security protocols available, and the most reliable ones include OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, and WireGuard. While WireGuard is considered to be the fastest protocol, many believe that OpenVPN is the most secure one. IKEv2/IPsec provides a strong connection, so it is considered the most stable VPN protocol.
What is the point of having a VPN if it cannot guarantee privacy?
It might be surprising, but some VPN providers, particularly free ones, gather, keep, and sell their users' data to other businesses. These companies use this information to target users for profit. The reason behind this is that if a VPN is free, it has to find other ways to make money, and one of those ways can be selling your data.
VPNs have a reputation for slowing down the Internet connection. It is quite normal for the traffic going through an encrypted VPN tunnel to have a slightly reduced speed. But this speed reduction is not something that you should be able to perceive.
There are several things you can do to make sure you have the fastest possible VPN.
First of all, you need a provider that does not limit speed and bandwidth.
Secondly, you need a VPN with server locations that are physically closer to you. The more VPN server locations there are to choose from, the better your chances of finding a nearby server. Also, a larger server network means less chance of them being overcrowded, which is another thing that poorly reflects on the speed.
If you have tried all the above and still haven’t achieved the desired speed, you might have an issue with the VPN protocol. Not all protocols have the same strengths and weaknesses. While some are more secure or more stable, others are faster. Having a provider that offers several protocols and allows you to switch them based on your needs is more than welcome.
Server locations and network
The importance of having a good server network with many server locations has been emphasized above. Though it is not the only indicator of a VPN’s quality, it is quite an important thing to take into consideration. Not only will it affect your device’s speed, but also your ability to enjoy your favorite content.
For example, if you have subscribed to Netflix or another streaming platform, you will not be able to use them outside of the US due to the providers’ geo-restrictions. If, however, you connect to one of your US server locations while abroad, you will appear to be in the US and be able to bypass those restrictions.
Ease of use and compatibility
How many times have you decided to quit using a website because it was not user-friendly? Chances are, at least once.
Not everybody is tech-savvy or has one such friend willing to help with setting up and using a VPN. That’s why having an easy-to-use VPN is of great importance. Not all users have the same tech background, and not all of them will find the same things clean and easy to use. That is why you should check out all the VPN providers’ websites to see whether you can find your way around.
With the current market trends and inflation, most people will certainly try to find an affordable VPN. You will be able to get the best price if you subscribe to long-term service, usually between 1 and 3 years. Some may think this is a risk, as everything has become unpredictable. But with a respectable VPN provider and a bit of luck, you can get a very good long-term deal and not have to worry about your online safety for quite some time.
Typical free trials are not that frequent among VPN providers. However, most if not all of the reputable providers have a one-month money-back guarantee. Also, the holidays are a good time to go shopping for a VPN, as providers usually have Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and other similar sales. Check out our table below to find the best VPN deals at this moment.
Being able to get in touch with reliable and knowledgeable customer service can be invaluable. Though it might not seem like a life-and-death situation to most people, having a problem fixed quickly is essential for those whose work or safety depends on it.
Live chat assistance has become the gold standard for customer service in many areas. If getting a speedy response is important to you, make sure to choose a VPN provider that has it.
There are other kinds of customer support available, too.
Most VPNs have solid FAQ sections where one can find a lot of useful information. Visit them if you are not pressed for time and you might find an answer to your problem.
Some VPNs have e-mail support, though this is not something you should resort to if you are looking for a quick fix. Most e-mails will take at least a day or two to answer, so leave e-mail correspondence for less urgent situations.
There are a lot of additional features that can make a VPN even more efficient.
Cloudwards writes that some of the most valuable additional features are encryption type, VPN protocols, kill switch, leak protection, dedicated IP address, and ad blocker.
Let’s look at what they are and why they are important.
Let’s assume you are online doing your thing and using a VPN to stay off the radar. If, at some point, your VPN connection is severed, you and your online traffic are exposed to online predators and other potential threats.
This is where a kill switch comes in handy. It is a feature that, in case your VPN connection is interrupted, automatically disconnects you from the Internet. After your VPN connection is re-established, you can continue using the Internet without worrying about being exposed.
DNS leak protection
DNS stands for Domain Name System.
Domains are names or addresses we use to access different websites. Simply put, DNS ’translates’ domain names into IP addresses so that people can access the desired information through their browsers.
If you have a DNS leak, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can ’see’ the content you are accessing. Sometimes ISPs use this information to control or limit the service of users using a VPN for torrenting, streaming, gaming, or other activities that require fast speeds. This is why having DNS leak protection is extremely useful.
Nowadays, most households have more than one electronic device, so it’s important to have a provider who can cover them all. With most providers, you can simultaneously cover between 5 and 10 devices, though some offer an unlimited number of connections for the price of one.
Most top providers have apps that are compatible with all devices and their operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and Chrome. This means that you can enjoy a safe online environment regardless of the type of device you are using.
When you think about the kind of content you access in your line of work (or fun), you can probably tell straight away which of the programs you access are reliable and which aren’t.
Split tunneling is a feature in your VPN app that divides your internet traffic into two categories. The first category, which is less secure, is sent through a VPN tunnel. This makes it safe but can slow it down a bit. The second category is the traffic you think is already safe. This part doesn't go through the VPN, so it stays faster but isn't as protected. This setup allows you to balance speed and security based on your needs.
Also called multihop or doublehop, double VPN is another additional feature that increases the level of your online security. It is literally what its name suggests: two VPNs, i.e. double encryption.
This is so-called VPN server chaining. Your traffic is first encrypted on your device and then sent to a remote VPN server. Upon reaching its destination, that traffic gets re-encrypted and passes through a second VPN server, where it is decrypted. This way, your traffic reaches its final destination safely and out of the public eye.
Needless to say, not all websites support the use of VPNs. Obfuscated servers are super-smart servers that can hide the fact that you are using a VPN.
When you are using a VPN, your ISP cannot know your real location, but it does know that you are using a VPN. Similarly, so do other websites. They can register and block a device using a VPN as soon as you try to access their content. With an obfuscated server, however, your data packets are hidden with an additional level of encryption. The VPN-blocking tool registers this as regular traffic and lets you bypass the VPN-blocking firewalls.
Dedicated IP address
The basic principle behind VPN protection is getting a new IP address for your device.
Your VPN provider allows you to hide in the online space by connecting you to one of their many servers. In other words, your device gets that VPN server’s IP address and no one knows your location.
Having a dedicated IP address is going one step further. It means the IP address you are assigned is yours and yours only. As you are always assigned the same dedicated IP address, you are allowed to access services that might be sensitive to IP address changes. Having this kind of IP address, you will also avoid annoying CAPTCHA, which is common when a lot of devices use the same VPN server.
VPN over Tor
Tor is short for the onion routing. It is a special browser that provides online anonymity. The reason it is called ’onion’ is because it works by adding a new layer of encryption at every relay. In this way, your identity, location, and online traffic are hidden and nobody can track them.
However, you could still be at risk from hackers, which is why it is a good idea to use a VPN over Tor. Make sure to always connect to your VPN before opening the Tor browser and accessing the Tor network.
Ad and malware blocker
Though strictly speaking, blocking ads is not one of your VPN’s main duties, many VPN providers offer built-in ad blockers in their service. This can somewhat reduce your chances of picking up a virus or other malware.
Nevertheless, a VPN cannot prevent your device from getting infected by viruses or other malware that you accidentally pick up. This is why your best bet would be to also get antivirus software.
P2P optimized servers
One of the reasons users like to have a VPN is safer and faster downloading. Though many seek privacy to conduct illegal torrenting, it’s important to know that not all torrenting is illegal. Much of the online content can be downloaded legally, though your ISP might want to try to limit your speed. Some VPN providers have P2P (peer-to-peer) servers optimized for torrenting and are good at handling large transfers of data, providing higher speeds and faster downloading.
Gaming optimized servers
If you are a fan of playing games online, you are familiar with problems such as high ping and lag.
One of the reasons these things occur is because ISPs frequently throttle their users’ speed. These are problems that can be easily fixed with the help of a VPN.
Having a VPN service also protects you from DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks which disrupt normal Internet traffic and can cause losses at crucial times during the game.
What are the best VPNs on the market?
Here we deal with the best and most reputable VPNs currently available on the market. We look at their good and bad sides and try to help you decide which one is the best for you.
All of these VPNs are equipped with a kill switch and many additional safety features. They also have apps for different operating systems, offer multiple simultaneous connections, and have a money-back guarantee.
NordVPN is widely recognized as a leading VPN service, known for its robust encryption standards, including AES 256-bit encryption, and a range of security features like a double kill switch, obfuscated servers, onion over VPN, and P2P-optimized servers. It is particularly valued for its effectiveness in securing connections to public WI-FI. NordVPN also offers an informative blog and excellent customer support, along with the ability to connect multiple devices simultaneously.
ProtonVPN, based in privacy-conscious Switzerland, stands out for its strict no-logs policy and a strong commitment to user privacy. It offers a substantial network of servers globally, complemented by features like DNS leak protection, NetShield Ad-blocker, and Tor over VPN. The service allows connection to multiple devices but is known for being a bit pricier due to its high operational standards in Switzerland.
CyberGhost VPN boasts a wide network of servers worldwide. Its focus on security is evident through features like AES 256-bit encryption and an automatic kill switch. CyberGhost is particularly favoured for dedicated streaming servers, making it a preferred choice for torrenting and offering support for several simultaneous connections. While it may not have an extensive range of extra features, its user-friendly trial period sets it apart.
Surfshark's network spans a significant number of countries, offering various VPN protocols including OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2. Features like split tunnelling, Camouflage Mode, and NoBorders Mode enhance its versatility. Surfshark is noted for its affordability and allows unlimited device connections, although its torrenting speed may be comparatively slower.
Atlas VPN, based in the USA, has a focused server network and provides strong encryption protocols. It offers specialized servers like SafeSwap, streaming, or MultiHop, and stands out for its highly affordable plans, allowing protection for numerous devices. However, its location in the US might be a concern for some due to international surveillance alliances.
PrivateInternetAccess VPN (PIA VPN)
PrivateInternetAccess VPN (PIA VPN) is notable for its completely open-source apps, offering strong encryption, unlimited bandwidth, and ad-blocking capabilities. It's a solid choice for streaming and file-sharing, supporting unlimited simultaneous connections. Like Atlas VPN, PIA is also US-based.
PrivateVPN may have a smaller server network but is highly regarded for privacy and speed, offering a Stealth VPN mode for bypassing geo-restrictions. It supports multiple simultaneous connections, although it offers fewer additional features compared to some other services.
ExpressVPN has a wide-reaching server network and is renowned for its fast connection speeds, making it ideal for gaming. Its features include split tunnelling, a reliable kill switch, private DNS, and TrustedServer technology. Despite its numerous benefits, ExpressVPN is among the more expensive options, supporting several device connections concurrently.
How to set up and use a VPN service?
Luckily, setting up and using a VPN is not that difficult. Though the process is not the same for all providers, most of them will have a set-up process similar to the one described below.
Follow these steps to set up and use a VPN on your PC or laptop:
- Visit the VPN site and choose a plan.
- Enter your personal and billing information (you will receive an activation code).
- Follow the installation steps to set up the VPN on your computer.
- Click on ‘Sign in’ and type in your activation code (some providers will require a username and password)
- To start your VPN, click on the VPN icon.
- Choose a server location and click on the ‘Connect’ button.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a network that provides online users with privacy when using the virtual space.
A VPN is a cybersecurity tool that people use to keep their identity and internet traffic safe and private. VPNs provide protection when using public Wi-Fi and allow safe and fast gaming, streaming torrenting, and access to geo-restricted content.
A VPN encrypts your online traffic so that no one can decode its content. It also hides your real IP address and grants you access to forbidden sites.
Most of them aren’t safe. Many free VPN providers sell users’ data to cover their costs of operation.
Both a VPN and a proxy assign your device a new IP address, thereby hiding your real location and identity. A VPN also encrypts your online traffic, making it safe from hackers, which is something a proxy does not do.
There are many things to consider when deciding on the right VPN service. These include not only the most basic things such as encryption, speed, logging policy, and pricing but also many other features that could additionally increase your safety in an online environment. Only with all these things in mind can you make an informed decision and choose the VPN service that best fits your needs.
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