One basic test for a VPN service is to check how long a VPN client takes to connect to a VPN server and get online. For our 2018 reviews, we installed each vendor's VPN client software on an HP EliteBook x360 1020 G2 laptop running Windows 10, an iPad mini and a Samsung Galaxy S8 Android phone. (In 2017, we used a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga notebook, an Apple MacBook Air, a Samsung Galaxy S6 phone and the iPad mini.) We used each device with each VPN service we tested.
Servers – Boasting over 2,000 servers, PureVPN’s network is like a giant tentacle monster with multiple servers located in over 140 countries of the world! Geographically, PureVPN covers more locations around the world than any other VPN I have come across. You can choose to automatically connect to the best VPN server depending on the purpose you wish to use the VPN for or choose your own preferred server manually. It takes a relatively long time to connect to the server compared to other VPN providers, which is one of the downsides of this VPN. But as soon as you are connected, you will experience that joy of having unprecedented freedom on the web.
A Mozilla executive says Google’s redesign has made YouTube slower on Firefox and Edge. Chris Peterson, the software community’s technical program manager, tweeted on Tuesday that the video sharing site loads at a fifth of the speed on non-Chrome browsers due to its architecture, as first reported by Sofpedia. “YouTube’s Polymer redesign relies on the deprecated Shadow DOM v0 API only implemented in Chrome,” he wrote. “YouTube serves a Shadow DOM polyfill to Firefox and Edge that is, unsurprisingly, slower than Chrome’s native implementation.
CyberGhost is one of the most feature-rich VPNs with special configurations for different use cases, including media streaming, downloads, anti-censorship and safe browsing. Ultimately designed to optimize your connection, this turned out to be quite irrelevant when looking at the download speed, which came out lowest across all testing tools, with an average speed of 2.47 Mb per second.
We recommend against using any so-called free VPN. Free VPN services tend to be significantly slower than their premium counterparts. Their servers are usually congested and the apps often impose bandwidth limits or data caps. Server selection is more limited as well. Besides speed, free VPNs often use shady practices to make money, such as collecting your browsing data to sell to third parties and injecting ads into browsers. Some even carry malware payloads to infect your device.
Of course that brings up another problem. Since there are so many services to choose from, how can you tell which ones are worth using? PCWorld has taken care of much of the legwork with its Best VPN services roundup. [Spoiler alert: It found Mullvad to be a great all-around VPN for its above-and-beyond commitment to user privacy, and NordVPN to be the current choice for watching U.S. Netflix from abroad.]
Betternet is a straightforward app that connects to a VPN with a single click allowing for access when needed. No registration is required and unlike some other free VPN services there are no data caps. All of this is provided by occasional ads and a promoted premium version which are manageable and discreet. The traditional problem with free VPN access has been slow connection speed and while this is still apparent it is not too much of an issue.
IPSec NAT-T enables IPSec peers to negotiate and communicate when they are behind a NAT. To use IPSec NAT-T, both the remote access VPN client and the remote access VPN server must support IPSec NAT-T. IPSec NAT-T is supported by the Windows Server 2003 Microsoft L2TP/IPSec VPN Client and by the L2TP/IPSec NAT-T Update for Windows XP and the L2TP/IPSec NAT-T Update for Windows 2000. During the IPSec negotiation process, IPSec NAT-T-capable peers automatically determine whether both the initiating IPSec peer (typically a client computer) and responding IPSec peer (typically a server) can perform IPSec NAT-T. In addition, IPSec NAT-T-capable peers automatically determine if there are any NATs in the path between them. If both of these conditions are true, the peers automatically use IPSec NAT-T to send IPSec-protected traffic.
Split tunneling is the generic term for software that lets you define which apps send data through the VPN tunnel and which travel outside the tunnel. This lets you route more sensitive activities, like web browsing or online banking, from more mundane but higher-bandwidth activities, like streaming music or playing video games. It's especially useful because Netflix blocks VPN use, as do other services. You can simply route these apps outside the VPN in order to avoid this problem. Not many VPN services offer this feature, but PureVPN does. Seek out split tunneling if speed is of primary concern.
Latency is a measurement of time between when your computer sends a request and when it receives a response. It's often called ping time. Lots of things can affect latency; the distance your request physically travels through fiber has a big impact, for example. Latency is measured in milliseconds, however, so even a large increase may not be noticeable to the average user. Latency is very important when playing video games over a VPN, as lower latency means a more responsive experience with less lag.
As a business grows, it might expand to multiple shops or offices across the country and around the world. To keep things running efficiently, the people working in those locations need a fast, secure and reliable way to share information across computer networks. In addition, traveling employees like salespeople need an equally secure and reliable way to connect to their business's computer network from remote locations.
IVPN was one of the fastest providers when we tested US servers using the Internet Health Test. Our budget pick, TorGuard, was faster, but it defaults to the less secure 128-bit encryption. Our non-VPN connection tested at roughly 300 Mbps down. Some tested services are not listed because connection failures prevented some of our tests from completing.
We really like PrivateVPN’s user-friendly desktop client but the mobile apps leave a lot to be desired when it comes to configurable options, although this probably won’t affect the majority of users. It can be made to work in China at a push, however there are much more reliable options available for that purpose. In terms of striking a balance between privacy and performance, PrivateVPN does a brilliant job.
The free version allows you to connect only one device, and you can use only one server in America – which will not work with Netflix, Hulu, or other popular streaming sites. You can still use it to access YouTube, Facebook, and other favorite social media sites that may be blocked. Plus, it’s compatible with all major operating systems, and it’s one of the fastest VPNs out there.
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.
Subscribing to CyberGhost is a superb way to introduce yourself to the world of VPNs at a very low price point. There is no bandwidth limit, encryption is great and setting up the service is easy. CyberGhost’s user-friendly apps makes connecting to the VPN simple and straightforward. CyberGhost is based both in Romania and in Germany, the latter being responsible for most of the software development. With both teams united by a common credo for internet anonymity, CyberGhost is a major supporter and promoter of civil rights, a free society and an uncensored internet culture. Our kind of folks!
If your needs are more serious than watching Netflix or keeping some war kiddie at the coffee shop from snooping on your social media activity, a VPN may not be for you. Many VPNs promise anonymity, but few can actually provide it–and you’re still trusting the VPN provider with access to your traffic, which isn’t ideal. For that, you likely want something more like Tor, which–while not perfect–is a better anonymity solution than VPNs.
It can be quite simple to watch Netflix and other restricted goodies. You'll have to use a VPN service that allows you to get a unique IP address. This can often be available for an additional fee. Look for VPN services that offer a "dedicated IP address", "dedicated IP", or "static IP." Additional features like these will always allow you to access content from Netflix through a VPN service.
Prices – ProtonVPN offers a free version with unlimited bandwidth. This makes it one of the few free VPN services with unlimited bandwidth. Its paid versions are categorized as Basic, Plus, and Visionary, each of which progressively offers more advanced features than the one before it. The basic version costs $4/month, while the Plus and Visionary plans cost $8/month and $24/month respectively. Yep, it is quite expensive.
TorGuard also lacks extra features that are nice to have, like automatically connecting to the VPN when you’re on an unknown Wi-Fi network (which IVPN offers) or split-tunneling to choose which apps do and don’t route through the VPN (which ExpressVPN supports). And it offers no option to automatically connect to the fastest server, a feature our top pick lacks as well. But if you have above-average knowledge of networking, you’ll appreciate TorGuard’s more in-depth settings pane, which allows you to add scripts or kill specific processes when the VPN disconnects—neither our top pick nor popular services like Private Internet Access allow that kind of control.
Logging Policy – IPVanish has been involved in a case where the company handed over user information to Homeland Security. The user was suspected of involvement in child pornography. Again, commenting on the decision of IPVanish to assist agencies in catching a suspect is an ethical gray area that I choose my readers to discuss on what they think in the comment section. However, the brand has since changed ownership with the company StackPath. The CEO of the company clearly stated that they are committed to the no logs policy. I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt considering that they weren’t a part of IPVanish when the case occurred.
Trusting a VPN is a hard choice, but IVPN’s transparency goes a long way toward proving that its customers’ privacy is a priority. Founder and CEO Nick Pestell answered all our questions about the company’s internal security, and even described the tools the company used to limit and track access to secure servers. The top VPN services gave us a variety of answers to these questions, some of which were frustratingly vague. ExpressVPN was the only other company to outline these controls and assure us that these policies were well-documented and not half-practiced.
That said, there are many other ways to track movements across the web. There may be, for example, a tracker inside an ad on website A and another tracker from the same company on website B. By correlating data from both of those trackers, it's possible to assemble a picture of an individual's browsing history. Installing a tracker blocker such as TrackOFF or Privacy Badger from the EFF is a good idea. Fortunately, many VPNs also say they block ads and trackers on the network level.
Some virtual networks use tunneling protocols without encryption for protecting the privacy of data. While VPNs often do provide security, an unencrypted overlay network does not neatly fit within the secure or trusted categorization. For example, a tunnel set up between two hosts with Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) is a virtual private network, but neither secure nor trusted.
We use the most trusted and widely used VPN protocol available, OpenVPN for your Windows device. This protocol is open source which means you have the reassurance that no unknown proprietary codes can access your data. And to boot we use OpenSSL libraries and run the whole operation over UDP ports so you always get the best speeds when using our free VPN trial. Our VPN protection for Android is built on OpenVPN, the most widely used and trusted VPN protocol available. It’s the most trusted protocol because it’s open source meaning no unknown proprietary codes can do anything with your data. We also use OpenSSL libraries as well as running the whole thing over UDP ports. The result? The best speeds possible for you when using our free VPN trial. Our VPN protection for Android is built on OpenVPN, the most widely used and trusted VPN protocol available. It’s the most trusted protocol because it’s open source meaning no unknown proprietary codes can do anything with your data. We also use OpenSSL libraries as well as running the whole thing over UDP ports. The result? The best speeds possible for you when using our free VPN trial. We use the IPsec protocol for our iOS implementation which is built entirely on Apple’s proprietary stacks. The result? A super fast connection speed each time you switch on your AVG Secure VPN for iPhone. Our macOS implementation of AVG Secure VPN uses the IPsec protocol and is built entirely on Apple’s proprietary stacks. Which means that you get the best in performance and compatibility for your Mac when you connect using our free VPN trial.
TunnelBear is designed for a very specific group of people: people who want a VPN service but don’t want to mess around with configuration or become IT experts to make their connections more secure. And it caters brilliantly for that market, with a very straightforward interface and jargon-free writing. In truth, all of the VPN services these days do this but TunnelBear tries very hard to stand out. It’s not for power users - there isn’t much you can change - but with up to five simultaneous connections, servers across 20 countries and decent performance on US and Canadian websites. Longer connections can be slower, though: it’s when the relatively small number of server locations makes itself obvious. There’s a free version that limits you to 500MB of monthly traffic, and if you pay annually the price of the full version drops from $9.99 to $4.99 per month.
Ping Rate: Ping rate is the time it takes for your connection to communicate with a desired server. The faster response time between your PC and the server, the more responsive is your connection. Ping rate is measured in milliseconds (ms) and is critical for applications where timing is important. Therefore, you should select a VPN that offers the lowest ping rates.
IP / DNS leak test – PureVPN’s security mechanisms are based on the AES 256 bit encryption. This is the modern industry-standard of encryption that every VPN worth buying uses. Together with this mode of encryption and PureVPN’s DNS protection features, the possibility of IP or DNS leaks is all but completely ruled out. With security becoming a matter of utmost importance for users all over the world, PureVPN delivers just the right combination of speed and security for the users’ peace of mind.
Likewise, if you're connecting via a nation's local carrier, that carrier may be intercepting your traffic, particularly if you're a non-native of that nation. In that situation, if you must connect back to applications and services at home, using a VPN is quite literally the least you can do. Also, keep in mind that if you use your phone's hotspot to connect your computer to the internet, you'll want to use a VPN on your computer as well.
It is possible to create Windows-based L2TP connections that are not encrypted by IPSec. However, this does not apply to a VPN connection because the private data being encapsulated by L2TP is already not encrypted. Non-encrypted L2TP connections can be used temporarily to troubleshoot an L2TP over IPSec connection by eliminating the IPSec authentication and negotiation process.
First and foremost, using a VPN prevents anyone on the same network access point (or anywhere else) from intercepting your web traffic in a man-in-the-middle attack. This is especially handy for travelers and for those using public Wi-Fi networks, such as web surfers at hotels, airports, and coffee shops. Someone on the same network, or the person in control of the network you're using, could conceivably intercept your information while you're connected.