L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with Internet Protocol Security): L2TP is not secure itself, so it's generally paired with the IPsec secure-networking standard. The combination of the two was once thought to be very secure when properly implemented, but some VPN services suggest that you use OpenVPN instead. L2TP/IPsec has native support in Windows, OS X/macOS, Android, Chrome OS and iOS. Most VPN services support it.
The sheer amount of VPN jargon can be overwhelming, even if you are pretty tech-savvy. Do look out for OpenVPN though, as this connection protocol offers the best overall blend of speed and security. Ignore talk of military or bank-grade encryption and just look for AES-256, as that’s the gold standard. Unless you know your DNS from your IPv6, a VPN killswitch is the main thing to look out for among security features as it will protect you from exposing your real IP address should your connection drop unexpectedly.
We contacted each of our finalists with simple questions about its service and troubleshooting. Most VPN companies provide technical support through online ticketing systems, meaning you'll need to wait for a response. This means that self-help support sites are even more important, because waiting for a reply while your connection is down can be frustrating. Response times to our support inquiries ranged from 20 minutes to a day.
To narrow the hundreds of VPN providers down to a manageable list, we first looked at reviews from dedicated sites like vpnMentor and TorrentFreak, research and recommendations from noncommercial sources such as That One Privacy Site and privacytools.io, and user experiences and tips on various subreddits and technology-focused websites like Lifehacker and Ars Technica. We settled on 32 VPNs that were repeatedly recommended. From there, we dug into the details of how each one handled issues from technology to subscriptions:
For two years running, Private Internet Access has performed the best in our network tests and remained the cheapest full-fledged VPN service we've tried. It has more than 3,000 servers worldwide, supports platforms ranging from Windows and Mac to open-source routers, and lets you customize your tunneling and encryption protocols. You can pay in bitcoin, and you don't have to provide your real name.
Downloads took four times as long as they did without the VPN switched on, but even then, ProtonVPN was far from the worst among the nine free services we tested. You'll also be limited to VPN connections in only three countries, as opposed to the paid complement of 25, and you won't have access to ProtonVPN's "Secure Core" of super-hardened servers.
Multi-hop cascades + NeuroRouting – Perfect Privacy’s apps give you the ability to create multi-hop VPN cascades across up to four different servers in the network. This protects you against the possibility of a rogue data center logging traffic, targeted monitoring, and other threat scenarios. Additionally, the NeuroRouting feature takes this concept further by dynamically routing all traffic through multiple hops in the server network, corresponding to the location of the site you’re visiting. (No other VPN offers this.)
PrivateVPN is a zero-logs Swedish provider. It features a firewall-based system Kill Switch and application-level kill switch, which is great. Full IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection is also built-in to its client. We have been particularly impressed by PrivateVPN’s high level of customer service, which even features remote installation for technophobes! A cracking 6 simultaneous devices, port forwarding, HTTPS and SOCKS5 proxies all make PrivateVPN a very enticing option for those that want to get the most out of their VPN.
In addition to running a local test using the server closest physically to my location, I also run tests on US, UK, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, German and French servers (assuming, of course, the VPN provider supports that country). These seven are the locations to which users most commonly connect. You can find the results on each provider’s speed test page.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a virtualization technology that empowers you to operate desktop operating systems in virtual machines existing on servers in place and being managed in a data center. By managing the desktops centrally, your company obtains control of your data security. This also means fixing is only required in a sole system…
Some VPNs will also let you define the specific context in which the VPN functions. TunnelBear VPN, in particular, lets you mark a network as trusted and will only activate when you're not connected to one of these trusted networks. This will protect you from bad guys, but it will leave you open to tracking and surveillance by governments and your ISP when you're on trusted networks.
Some VPN services provide a free trial, so take advantage of it. Make sure you are happy with what you signed up for, and take advantage of money-back guarantees if you're not. This is actually why we also recommend starting out with a short-term subscription—a week or a month—to really make sure you are happy. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited offers a one-week Vacation subscription, for example. Yes, you may get a discount by signing up for a year, but that's more money at stake should you realize the service doesn't meet your performance needs.