However, network performance is another thing entirely. First, keep in mind that if you're using a VPN, you're probably using it at a public location. That Wi-Fi service is likely to range in performance somewhere between "meh" and unusable. So, just the fact that you're remotely working on a mediocre network will reduce performance. But then, if you connect to a VPN in a different country, the connection between countries is also likely to degrade network performance.
There was a time when using a VPN required users to know about the built-in VPN client for Windows or universal open-source solutions such as OpenVPN. Nowadays, however, nearly every VPN provider has its own one-click client that gets you up and running in seconds. There are usually mobile apps as well to keep your Android or iOS device secure over public Wi-Fi.
We’ve shown you how to build your own VPN for remote gaming and browsing that also protects your security, shown you how to make a VPN even more secure, and shown you dozens of services that operate free and paid VPNs you can sign up for and use. We’ve even put the question to you several times to tell us which VPN service providers you think are the best. So how do you pick a solid VPN service?
Since it takes research to find out if a VPN service has a history of good or bad behavior, we’ve done the legwork to find the best VPN out there. In order to win our seal of approval, the service has to protect online privacy; allow you to keep anonymity; offer a good variety of locations from which to direct your traffic; offer fast, reliable performance; and provide an easy-to-use interface.
An impressive and fast VPN service, Buffered VPN offers total online security and world-class customer support. The service boasts of providing access to content from any country in the world. This is achieved through the service’s server locations in 45 countries. It supports Windows, Linux and Mac platforms, but can also be set up on Android and iOS. The service offers excellent latencies and fast upload speeds, very good for browsing.
Something pretty great about Speedify is that you can use it for free without even making an account. The moment you install and open the software, you're immediately being protected behind a VPN and can do anything a user can, like change the server, toggle encryption on and off, set monthly or daily limits, and easily connect to the fastest server.
VPN technology was developed as a way to allow remote users and branch offices to securely access corporate applications and other resources. To ensure safety, data travels through secure tunnels, and VPN users must use authentication methods -- including passwords, tokens or other unique identification procedures -- to gain access to the VPN server.
Credit: Opera VPNAlso, although your data is encrypted as it travels between you and the far-off VPN server, it won't necessarily be encrypted once it leaves the VPN server to get to its final destination. If the data isn't encrypted — and that depends on the website you're connecting to — then the traffic might be intercepted and read. (One well-known VPN provider was recently accused of inserting ads in users' web browsers, which would violate users' security and privacy.)
TorGuard offers applications for every major platform, including Windows, macOS, and Android. And unlike our top pick, it also supports OpenVPN on ChromeOS. (Though TorGuard does offer an iOS app, it doesn’t natively support the OpenVPN protocol that allows for the easiest and most reliable secure connections.) Using these apps, you can manually select a server, click Connect, and not worry about the rest. But otherwise, the applications aren’t as refined or easy to use as IVPN’s. New users are likely to find themselves out of their depth when modifying anything but the most basic functions, such as auto-connecting at launch or minimizing the app.
L2TP uses UDP messages over IP networks for both tunnel maintenance and tunneled data. The payloads of encapsulated PPP frames can be encrypted or compressed (or both); however, L2TP clients do not negotiate the use of MPPE for L2TP connections. Encryption for L2TP connections is provided by IPSec Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) in transport mode.
When it comes to servers, more is always better. More servers mean that you're less likely to be shunted into a VPN server that is already filled to the brim with other users. NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TorGuard currently lead the pack with well over 3,000 servers each—NordVPN is at the forefront with 4,875 servers. But the competition is beginning to heat up. Last year, only a handful of companies offered more than 500 servers, now it's becoming unusual to find a company offering fewer than 1,000 servers.
It is our business to make safety and caution for our free VPN service the number one priority. We are constantly working to understand and develop new technology that keeps our users safe, without requiring costly fees or lengthy sign-up features. We want to keep you and your family safe without you having to give up any freedom. We would never limit these rights and don’t believe in setting limits. That is not our business.
A powerful VPN service, SaferVPN is very useful in hiding users’ IP addresses. It also allows access to blocked websites or safely share information. Privacy is also ensured as the service uses high security protocols. It offers a unique Automatic Wi-Fi Security feature which instantly activates a secure and encrypted VPN connection as soon as someone’s device connects to an unsecured Wi-Fi connection — automatically protecting them from public Wi-Fi threats. Likewise, it features single-click applications for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Chrome.
HMA Pro (reviewed here) is slightly more complicated, but it’s far from difficult to understand. If you want to select your desired virtual location click the Location mode tab, click on the location name, and then choose your preferred location from the list. Once that’s done, click the slider button that says Disconnected. Once it flips to Connected, you’re ready to roll.
If you're trying to connect to a remote media source with Kodi, a VPN would likely play a different role. It might, for example, prevent your ISP from determining what you're up to. It might also be useful if you're connecting to a third-party service for Kodi that allows streaming of copyright-infringing material. Keep in mind, however, that some VPN services specifically forbid the use of their services for copyright infringement.
Privacy features – The privacy features you want/need really varies for each person and depends on your threat model. For a higher level of online anonymity, you could use a multi-hop VPN, or possibly chain different VPN providers together. This could be done by using one VPN on a router, and then connecting through a second VPN on your computer. This can also be accomplished using virtual machines.
Final Verdict – IPVanish is a decent VPN service with one of the most appealing user-interfaces. It is fast, both in connecting to servers and during actual Internet activity. It uses the modern AES 256 bit encryption and provides up to 10 multiple logins. However, it does not work with Netflix and is not a recommended VPN for torrenting. For everything else, it is a great VPN service. You can get a detailed view in our IPVanish review.
We’re more than happy to help cut through all the jargon and ad copy to help get the bottom of things and, to that end, we’ve selected three VPN service providers that we have direct personal experience with and that meet our VPN selection criteria. In addition to meeting our outlined criteria (and exceeding our expectations for quality of service and ease of use) all of our recommendations here have been in service for years and have remained highly rated and recommended throughout that time.
IVPN exceeded our requirements for being trustworthy and transparent. It also offers good performance without sacrificing security, and it's easy to set up and use on nearly any device running Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS. Other VPNs we tested had faster connections at particular server locations or lower prices, but they came up short on essential factors such as transparency about who exactly runs them. If you're ready for a VPN, we think IVPN is worth the price, even considering competitors with cheaper options. If you're not ready to commit, you can try it out with a seven-day money-back guarantee. It's easy and obvious to turn off automatic billing, too.
The router could be running outdated and compromised firmware. The router could actually be malicious and actively sniffing packets and logging your data. The router could be improperly configured and other users on the network could be sniffing your data or probing your laptop or mobile device. You never have any guarantee whatsoever that an unknown Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t, either through malice or poor configuration, exposing your data. (A password doesn’t indicate a network is secure, either–even if you have to enter a password, you could be subject to any of these problems.)
Servers – PIA has a strong server infrastructure, and it comprises almost 3,800 servers. However, the geographical spread of the servers is limited to only 33 countries. This is a little surprising since PIA has been in the VPN business for over 8 years now and is one of the most reputed brands. Yet, it is understandable since PIA only uses physical servers in its network, in contrast to other VPNs that use a combination of physical and virtual servers. Thus, from the performance and security point of view, this is a positive quality of PIA, since physical servers are more reliable and offer stable connectivity in a way that virtual servers simply cannot.
The app likewise prevents websites from collecting users’ private data, allowing for safer and more secure web browsing. To make things even better, the solution automatically connects whenever an unsecure Wi-Fi connection is detected, ensuring constant protection. It connects to the nearest server, resulting in optimum speeds. But one can also connect manually and be able to choose a preferred server.
TunnelBear VPN is a free service that constantly impresses people. This VPN is super-secure and even opened up its software to a third-party analysis last year. The outcome? Security researchers found the VPN to be secure and reliable. It also keeps no logs. Unfortunately, The service is restricted to just 500MB per month. Despite this, it is brilliant for locations with severe censorship and where privacy is essential. It is perfect for securely unblocking news.
To be fair, not all pay VPN services are legitimate, either. It's important to be careful who you choose. Over on ZDNet's sister site, CNET, I've put together an always up-to-date directory of quality VPN providers. To be fair, some are better than others (and that's reflected in their ratings). But all are legitimate companies that provide quality service.
A lot of people avoid using VPN providers based out of the United States on the premise that US law would compel those providers to log all VPN activity. Counterintuitively, there are no such data logging requirements for US-based VPN providers. They might be compelled under another set of laws to turn over data if they have any to turn over, but there is no requirement they even keep the data in the first place.
No company came closer to being a pick than ExpressVPN. It has a huge server network that performed well in our tests, plus easy-to-use applications on tons of platforms, and strong security technologies in place. A representative answered all our questions about company operations at length—except one. As noted in a PCWorld review of the service, ExpressVPN chooses not to disclose the company’s leadership or ownership. The company representative told us that this policy enabled ExpressVPN to build a private and secure product without compromise. “We think that this approach has been effective until now and that coupled with a stellar VPN product, we have succeeded in gaining a solid reputation in our industry. We are fortunate to be trusted by the many users worldwide who choose ExpressVPN.”
More accessibility. It can be frustrating if you’ve ever traveled abroad and tried to use a website only to find that it isn’t available in that country. It can be especially frustrating if you were counting on using that site or sites for a business or educational venture. Thankfully there are ways of getting around that with a free VPN account. Our services will mask your location, giving you the freedom to explore and share content as you please, opening up more channels of communication and collaboration if desired.
Central America isn’t the first place you’d think of when it comes to cutting edge technology, but NordVPN is up there with the best VPN services in 2018. It has 1015 servers in 59 countries, supports up to six devices simultaneously, runs 2048-bit encryption and has a feature list including an automatic kill switch, dedicated IP addresses, strong DNS leak protection and the ability to pay in Bitcoin. For relatively short connections performance was superb, although we did notice a little latency creeping in from time to time for very long distance connections. However, browsing remained snappy and performance wasn’t degraded significantly. We’d recommend hunting the site for its free trial and if you like it, signing up for the 3-year plan which is currently going for just $99!
Final Verdict – PIA is a reliable VPN service that only uses physical servers in its VPN network. It does not make any exaggerated claims of its qualities and clearly describes its policies and features. Moreover, the low price is another positive attribute of the VPN. In a nutshell, PIA is a VPN you can trust, though it is not an ideal VPN for torrenting.
Some combination of the above. Odds are, even if you’re not one of these people more often than not, you’re some mix of them depending on what you’re doing. In all of these cases, a VPN service can be helpful, whether it’s just a matter of protecting yourself when you’re out and about, whether you handle sensitive data for your job and don’t want to get fired, or you’re just covering your own ass from the MPAA.
What's even scarier is the news that Hola, in certain instances, sells its users' bandwidth through a sister company. What that means, the safety experts say, is that if you're using Hola, your computer—working as an endpoint connection for other Hola users—could even be sold to shady characters for questionable or even illegal purposes as they try to stay anonymous on the Internet.
ZenMate has a lightweight app that is really simple to use. It offers good security and connects with any server of your choice almost instantly. The speeds remain fairly stable across servers and is faster than dozens of other VPNs. I would recommend its free browser extensions, as there are better premium apps available for lower rates than ZenMate.
So our advice is to not use a free VPN unless it really is for occasional, very casual use. For the odd IP-hopping use case, they can work. But if you're planning on using the VPN a lot and for streaming video etc we'd highly recommend going for one of the overall best VPN services - they're not free but they're also pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things.
Ray Walsh is one of BestVPN's resident VPN experts. Ray is currently ranked #1 VPN authority in the world by agilience.com. During his time at BestVPN.com Ray has reviewed some of the world's foremost VPNs. Ray is an advocate for digital privacy, with vast experience writing about the political and social aspects of infosec, cybersec, and data privacy. Find him @newsglug on Twitter.
This could be bad. I'm not terribly concerned if Comcast discovers my secret passion for muscle cars and I get more ads for car customizing kits. It might be annoying, but I'm not doing anything I really want to hide. Where the problem could occur is if ISPs start inserting their own ads in place of ads by, say, ZDNet. That could cut off the revenue that keeps websites alive, and that could have very serious repercussions.
All that being said, we currently name TorGuard as the fastest VPN service. It doesn't take the top spot in all of our tests, but has remarkably low latency and had the best performance in the all-important download tests. Fittingly, it offers many add-ons such as dedicated IP addresses that, along with its speed, will appeal to the BitTorrent users it is designed to protect.