Security is all too often considered a zero-sum game. You either make the effort to protect yourself and lose out on performance and shiny new toys, or you choose an easier life with the understanding that you may end up making ransomware payments for the rest of your life. At PCMag, we maintain that this mindset is outdated, especially in the world of virtual private networks, or VPNs. These services protect your data within an encrypted tunnel, keeping bad guys, ISPs, and snooping spies at bay. Using a VPN will certainly have an impact on your internet connection, but the good news is that it needn't be a big one.
ExpressVPN is incredibly fast and super secure, and it can unblock just about any site or service on the internet - including Netflix, Hulu, BBC, and more - with impressive streaming capabilities. It offers servers in over 90 countries, and the 24/7 live chat support is one of the friendliest and most professional. ExpressVPN gives a strong fight to NordVPN, while other VPNs lag behind.
Max Eddy is a Software Analyst, taking a critical eye to Android apps and security services. He's also PCMag's foremost authority on weather stations and digital scrapbooking software. When not polishing his tinfoil hat or plumbing the depths of the Dark Web, he can be found working to discern the 100 Best Android Apps. Prior to PCMag, Max wrote... See Full Bio
Hotspot Shield is the free version of the popular Hotspot Shield Premium VPN. You don’t need to input any information to download and begin using their app. Although the service is totally free, you will stumble upon ads only on the Android app. Other platforms are ads free. This is a major advantage, due to security aspects. Same as on the Premium version, Hotspot Shield committed to a zero log policy. They even confirmed their zero log policy by a 3rd party independent test.
Yes and no. Why would we say that? Well, there are very few VPNs out there that ticks all the boxes of a VPN users’ requirements. Some users want a Fast VPN for streaming, some want a VPN that’s best suited for high encryption and some just want a VPN that doesn’t keep logs. But as far as all the above requirements are concerned, ExpressVPN is a clear winner and have been praised by every VPN user who ever had an experience of using it. It is one of the Fastest VPNs out there and totally recommended.
When it comes to VPNs, however, speed is one of the most difficult factors to accurately quantify. We always run speed tests as empirically as possible when we review a VPN provider, but the fact of the matter is that the fastest VPN for where you live is not necessarily the fastest VPN for where I live. The fastest VPN for streaming video might not be the speediest for online gaming. Even the fastest VPN service at noon probably isn’t the quickest at midnight.
Jump up ^ Cisco Systems, Inc. (2004). Internetworking Technologies Handbook. Networking Technology Series (4 ed.). Cisco Press. p. 233. ISBN 9781587051197. Retrieved 2013-02-15. [...] VPNs using dedicated circuits, such as Frame Relay [...] are sometimes called trusted VPNs, because customers trust that the network facilities operated by the service providers will not be compromised.
If you’re a Mac user, don’t trust the software developer so blindly and take your cybersecurity in your control, the best way to control your digital life is using the best Mac VPN. All the above-mentioned VPNs have dedicated Mac apps and are potential enough to bypass geographical restrictions, access blocked content, and keep your Mac protected without compromising your connection speed. We suggest you go with ExpressVPN rather than others.
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.
For building applications for mobile macOS and Windows platforms, the OEM VPN Unlimited SDK allows users to build feature-packed custom apps or beef up their existing applications with new functionalities. Meanwhile, VPN Unlimited White Label allows for an easy VPN market entry, as KeepSolid will cover the infrastructure, development, and maintenance while supercharging your network security. Lastly, OEM VPN Unlimited Router API enhances network security by shielding your wireless network on an impregnable router, allowing you to save from purchasing multiple VPN subscriptions and giving your customers peace of mind when engaging with your business.
NordVPN also nudged out ExpressVPN in terms of speed, with a few caveats. Most VPN apps select a location, and then the app automatically selects the best server in that location. NordVPN is not so good at this. The auto-select on a couple occasions put us on servers that were complete duds, which resulted in a test result so bad it qualified as a statistical outlier and had to be thrown out. Thankfully, the app allows you to manually select a specific server and view the load capacity on all servers, where we had much better luck. Servers are optimized for specific streaming channels, torrenting, or security measures.
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.)
NordVPN, for example, has well over 4,800 servers across the globe. If you live in the US, you're likely to find a nicely uncrowded server close by. The ubiquity of its servers also means you're likely to find a server nearby no matter where you travel. Private Internet Access and TorGuard are notable for being the only VPNs we've yet reviewed that have more than 3,000 servers.
Logging Policy – This is a tricky subject. The record of PureVPN is not quite clear of controversy, as the company was involved in a case of handing over a particular user’s information to the FBI. However, the particular incident in question was an ethical conundrum, where human rights of a bullied individual were at stake. I can’t really condemn PureVPN for playing its part in helping agencies catch a suspect of reprehensible cybercrimes. In fact, PureVPN has responded admirably to the whole incident with a change in its policies to prevent similar ethical dilemmas in the future. The company probably doesn’t enjoy playing Aristotle and resolving convoluted ethical problems for its own sake as well as for its users’.
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.
Two networks can be connected over an intranet using a site-to-site VPN connection. This type of VPN connection might be necessary, for example, for two departments in separate locations, whose data is highly sensitive, to communicate with each other. For instance, the finance department might need to communicate with the human resources department to exchange payroll information.
TunnelBear is the undisputed best free VPN service available today. It's a serious VPN that's serious about customer satisfaction, privacy and security. So the upside is that you're getting a VPN that works, and can be trusted not to hold loads of data on you and sell you out at the earliest opportunity! The downside is that the free tier of TunnelBear only gets you 500MB bandwidth each month. That means for many people having it always-on will leave you caught short well before the end of the month, and absolutely rules out using it to stream endless episodes of Rick and Morty on Netflix. The free VPN tear at TunnelBear is certainly designed as a gateway to the paid tier which offers unlimited data but will cost you real money. If you're going to pay for a VPN we'd suggest getting a premium one like Express, but if you're only interested in a free option then TunnelBear is the one for you unless you need loads of bandwidth.
IPVanish wasn't the top performer in our 2017 round of testing, falling in about the middle of the pack. But it was one of the most reliable VPN services, connecting smoothly and staying connected every time we used it. IPVanish has excellent client software, although you can connect to the company's servers manually, and a decent array of about 850 connection points in 50 countries. However, its subscription price is kind of high, and its U.S. base may be a negative for some potential customers.
Tunneling protocols can operate in a point-to-point network topology that would theoretically not be considered as a VPN, because a VPN by definition is expected to support arbitrary and changing sets of network nodes. But since most router implementations support a software-defined tunnel interface, customer-provisioned VPNs often are simply defined tunnels running conventional routing protocols.
IVPN also performed well in our speed tests. Though it wasn’t always the fastest in the 54 measurements we took on each service, it ranked near the top on many servers at different times of the week—especially compared with the most trustworthy services. Private Internet Access, one of the most visible, privacy-focused VPNs, had slower speeds when connecting to most servers and less reliable connections than IVPN. For US servers (which we expected to be the fastest locations since we tested from California), IVPN ranked behind only OVPN and TorGuard. We liked OVPN—especially its speed results—but we thought that company’s small team and small selection of servers and locations were too limiting for some people. (Read more in the Competition section.) Though TorGuard edged out IVPN in this test, the difference wasn’t big enough to affect our everyday browsing. And because we tested each application at its default settings, TorGuard’s faster speeds were partially thanks to its default 128-bit encryption; IVPN offers only more secure, but often slower, 256-bit encryption.
VPN protocols play a significant role in connection speed. A VPN offers PPTP, L2TP, SSTP and OpenVPN protocol, all of them are dedicated to bypassing geo restrictions. PPTP and L2TP protocols are undoubtedly the fastest VPN protocols among all, but it depends on the location you are connected from. If you are experiencing slow VPN speed, then try switching between different protocols to ameliorate your VPN connection and turn it into a high-speed VPN.
It’s also fast with impressive 830+ server locations, which makes it an excellent choice for P2P file-sharing, online gaming, and HD streaming. There are no annoying bandwidth caps here, and you can connect to Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, or France’s Canal+ if you wish – there’s a server for every need. The double encryption will understandably slow things down.
As used in this context, a VPLS is a Layer 2 PPVPN, rather than a private line, emulating the full functionality of a traditional LAN. From a user standpoint, a VPLS makes it possible to interconnect several LAN segments over a packet-switched, or optical, provider core; a core transparent to the user, making the remote LAN segments behave as one single LAN.
ProtonVPN is a superb service provided by the developers of Proton Mail. It is a secure VPN provider that lets people use the service on an unlimited basis. This makes it perfect for privately surfing the web on a daily basis. On the downside, it throttles free-users’ bandwidth. This means that the free ProtonVPN service will not provide the speeds necessary for doing data-intensive tasks such as streaming in HD. ProtonVPN is a superb VPN that many people may find useful for unblocking censored news.
Early data networks allowed VPN-style remote connections through dial-up modem or through leased line connections utilizing Frame Relay and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) virtual circuits, provided through networks owned and operated by telecommunication carriers. These networks are not considered true VPNs because they passively secure the data being transmitted by the creation of logical data streams. They have been replaced by VPNs based on IP and IP/Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) Networks, due to significant cost-reductions and increased bandwidth provided by new technologies such as digital subscriber line (DSL) and fiber-optic networks.