Opera VPN works only through the Opera web browser, and it shouldn't be used for sensitive communications. Once very fast, Opera's VPN connections were painfully slow in our most recent tests. The Opera VPN mobile apps, which were full-fledged VPN services that performed decently in our 2017 tests, unfortunately closed up shop at the end of April 2018.
The VPN services market has exploded in the past few years, and a small competition has turned into an all-out melee. Many providers are capitalizing on the general population's growing concerns about surveillance and cybercrime, which means it's getting hard to tell when a company is actually providing a secure service and when it's throwing out a lot of fancy words while selling snake oil. In fact, since VPN services have become so popular in the wake of Congress killing ISP privacy rules, there have even been fake VPNs popping up, so be careful. It's important to keep a few things in mind when evaluating which VPN service is right for you: reputation, performance, type of encryption used, transparency, ease of use, support, and extra features. Don't just focus on price or speed, though those are important factors.
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.
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.
Tunneling protocols such as PPTP and L2TP are implemented at the data-link layer of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model and provide data security by helping to create secure tunnels. In contrast, the IPSec protocol is implemented at the network layer and helps secure data at the packet level. IPSec provides two security protocols: Authentication Header (AH) and ESP.
There is a PPTP control connection between the IP address of the PPTP client using a dynamically allocated TCP port and the IP address of the PPTP server using the reserved TCP port 1723. The PPTP control connection carries the PPTP call control and management messages that are used to maintain the PPTP tunnel. This includes the transmission of periodic PPTP Echo-Request and PPTP Echo-Reply messages to detect a connectivity failure between the PPTP client and PPTP server. PPTP control connection packets consist of an IP header, a TCP header, a PPTP control message, and a data-link trailer and header as shown in the following figure:
The download speed indicates how fast data can be pulled from the server to you. Since the majority of online activity – like loading web pages or streaming videos – consists of downloads, most connections are designed to download much faster than they upload. Download speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and, generally, the higher the number the faster the connection.

For inbound traffic, when the tunneled data is decrypted by the VPN server it is forwarded to the firewall, which employs its filters to allow the traffic to be forwarded to intranet resources. Because the only traffic that is crossing the VPN server is traffic generated by authenticated VPN clients, firewall filtering in this scenario can be used to prevent VPN users from accessing specific intranet resources.
Well, yes, it does. How? Because of the data encryption and server proximity. It’s always advisable to connect to a VPN server through the automatic server selection option that your VPN software has. Normally, it chooses the fastest VPN server near to you to give you better speed and a fast VPN connection. So, suppose if you have a 50 MB internet package when connected to a VPN server, you might face a little speed reduction of about 5-10 MB depending on the VPN server location and your own geographical location.
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.
One way to resolve the issue of trust is to be your own VPN provider, but that’s not a feasible option for most people, and it still requires trust in any company providing the hardware that your VPN would run on, such as Amazon’s cloud services. Multiple projects can help you cheaply turn any old server into a VPN, including Algo, Streisand, and Outline. By encrypting all the traffic from your home or mobile device to a server you manage, you deprive your ISP and a potentially villainous VPN of all your juicy traffic logs. But most people lack the skills, patience, or energy—or some combination of the three—to do this. If you don’t manage servers or work in IT, it may be harder to manage perfect operation and performance better than trustworthy professionals. Lastly, though you remove one threat from the equation by cutting out a VPN service provider, you also lose the extra layer of privacy that comes from your traffic mixing in with that of hundreds or thousands of other customers.
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?
My recommendation, and the protocol I most often choose to use, is OpenVPN. OpenVPN is a non-proprietary, open-source implementation of a VPN communication layer protocol. It's well-understood, well-regarded, generally quite secure, and robust. In addition, it has the benefit of being able to communicate over port 443, which is the standard port for https communication, which means almost all firewalls will allow OpenVPN traffic -- and most won't even be able to detect that a VPN is being used.
Some users will also want to research a VPN provider’s peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing policies. There are VPNs that block torrents. Others turn a blind eye to them, but will sell you out in a heartbeat should you be up to no good. P2P is not our main focus here, but we will note in each review whether a particular provider allows file sharing or not.
While you're connected to a VPN, all your network traffic passes through this protected tunnel, and no one—not even your ISP—can see your traffic until it exits the tunnel from the VPN server and enters the public internet. If you make sure to only connect to websites secured with HTTPS, your data will continue to be encrypted even after it leaves the VPN.
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