When we ran our recent Hive Five on VPN service providers, we heard from VPN providers begging to be included, angry CEOs who claimed their company was maliciously left out, and others accusing some of the contenders of illegal or unethical behavior. We took at look at the poll and the claims, and while there’s no definitive proof the poll was gamed, we decided to come up with our own top five, based on our own research rather than reader feedback, that are great whether you’re the privacy advocate, the student, or the downloader.
With Kodi, you can access your media over a local connection (LAN) or from a remote media server, if that's your thing. This is, presumably, where concerns about VPN enter the picture. A device using a VPN, for example, will have its connection encrypted on the local network. You might have trouble connecting to it. Using Chromecast on a VPN device just doesn't work, for example. Kodi users might have the same issue.
PPTP - PPTP has been around since the days of Windows 95. The main selling point of PPTP is that it can be simply setup on every major OS. In short, PPTP tunnels a point-to-point connection over the GRE protocol. Unfortunately, the security of the PPTP protocol has been called into question in recent years. It is still strong, but not the most secure.
Because it is impossible to update separate user accounts on separate servers for the same user simultaneously, most administrators set up a master account database at a domain controller or on a RADIUS server. This enables the VPN server to send the authentication credentials to a central authenticating device, and the same user account can be used for both dial-up remote access and VPN-based remote access.
So, having stated that, there are VPN protocols that are fast (implies no, or minimum encryption) and some are slow (implies stronger encryption). PPTP is a protocol which is one of the less secure but fastest protocols out there. Similarly, other protocols such as OpenVPN or L2TP/IPSec are way more secure. So, it all comes down to your own priorities. Do you want more speed or more protection? And if you want best of both worlds, we have already suggested Fast VPN providers that have all the options and protocols to get accustomed to your priorities.
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, since 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.
CyberGhost, Romanian-based VPN that stands out as a free service without any restrictions. While reviewing Cyberghost VPN we found that the service is transparent with no hidden agendas of keeping logs or information. The company offers 1319+ servers across 61 countries; isn’t the network is larger enough to fulfill all our streaming needs. The company has secured its position in the VPN industry recently, with its feature-rich yet easy-to-use software, AES 256-BIT Encryption protocols and offers seven simultaneous connection.
The IVPN app’s default settings are great for most people, who should be happy just smashing the Connect button and not fiddling with settings. The desktop app defaults to a secure OpenVPN connection with AES 256-bit encryption (what we consider the standard at this point), and the mobile app can (and should) be toggled to OpenVPN as well. Our budget pick, TorGuard, defaults to the weaker (but also acceptable) AES 128-bit encryption unless you manually change it, and hasn’t added OpenVPN support on its iOS app.
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.

VPN servers work by routing traffic through a series of external servers before they reach the server, and a traffic flow from one server to another is called a “hop.” To maximize the connection speed, you want the least hops possible. If you do not have a specific reason to connect through another country, your best course of action should connect to the server closest to your current location. For many, it means choosing your country home (and closest to the city,) if you are in a country with multiple VPN servers available. For others, i.e. selecting the country closest to your own.


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.

Once on the public internet, those packets travel through a bunch of computers. A separate request is made to a series of name servers to translate the DNS name ZDNet.com to an IP address. That information is sent back to your browser, which then sends the request, again, through a bunch of computers on the public internet. Eventually, it reaches the ZDNet infrastructure, which also routes those packets, then grabs a webpage (which is actually a bunch of separate elements), and sends all that back to you.
TunnelBear has some strong supporters among Wirecutter’s staff. The company has a public history of transparency, staff listings, and the clearest privacy policy of any VPN service we’ve found, plus TunnelBear is one of the only VPNs to release a public audit of its system. But the service was one of the least reliable we tried. In four of our 18 connection tests, we managed broadband speeds; in a handful of others TunnelBear was well below the average, and in even more it failed to provide a usable connection at all. As we were writing this guide, security giant McAfee announced that it had acquired TunnelBear. Fans of the service should keep an eye out for changes to its privacy stance and transparency as the US-based firm takes over.
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.
Given the aggressive pricing and marketing of other services that don’t measure up to our picks, IVPN’s most obvious downside may look like its price: At the time of this writing, the regular price for an annual IVPN subscription is $100 (about $8 per month). Promotions regularly bringing that down to $70 to $80 per year, but some services have regular pricing of half that. But you shouldn’t pay for a VPN you can’t trust, or one so slow or confusing that you avoid using it at all. We think IVPN’s combination of trust, security, and performance is worth the price. But if it’s too expensive for your needs, consider our budget pick instead.

VyprVPN is one of very few providers to own and control its network infrastructure. Most VPN providers use 3rd-party companies to host their VPN servers, but not Vypr. This is a big draw for privacy concious users because their data is protected from end-to-end and never leaves VyprVPN's site. We strongly recommend avoiding its PPTP-only basic plan, but VyprVPN otherwise offers a great selection of features, such as a SmartDNS service, robust customer support and port selection. VyprVPNs “Chameleon” stealth technology is great for defeating censorship in places such such as China or Vietnam.
This awesome Malaysian VPN provider has an excellent free service. Although users are limited to just three server locations (Singapore, the Netherlands, and Canada), users get a whopping 2GB per month of free use at up to 80Mbps. When reviewing hide.me, we found the lack of server locations means it isn’t good for unblocking content from all over the world. If you need US or UK servers, please look elsewhere. On the plus side, this VPN has a strong privacy policy and provides robust encryption to keep your data secure.
When we tested other aspects of IVPN's performance, it also satisfied our requirements. On the default settings, our real IP address didn't leak out via DNS requests or IPv6 routing, let alone a standard IP address checker. The DNS-requests check indicated that the app was using the company's internal DNS servers and that they were correctly configured. None of the 12 services we tested disclosed our true IP address (though some showed mismatched IPs).

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.


Due to licensing restrictions, iOS developers previously couldn’t implement OpenVPN connections directly inside their applications. Since that changed in mid-2018, a few providers, including IVPN and PrivateInternetAccess, have added native OpenVPN support to their apps. This makes a secure connection on any Apple device much easier than the old method that required a clunky third-party application and complicated connection profiles. Though we haven’t done performance tests on any updated iOS apps yet, our limited use of the updated IVPN app worked without any problems. Going forward, we wouldn’t consider a VPN provider that doesn’t include native OpenVPN support on iOS.


VPN connections help provide the required security to enable the network segment of the human resources department to be physically connected to the intranet. In this configuration, a VPN server can be used to separate the network segments. The VPN server does not provide a direct routed connection between the corporate intranet and the separate network segment. Users on the corporate intranet with appropriate permissions can establish a remote access VPN connection with the VPN server and gain access to the protected resources. Additionally, all communication across the VPN connection is encrypted for data confidentiality. For those users who are not authorized to establish a VPN connection, the separate network segment is hidden from view.
VPN use, for example, allows an IBM employee to work from home in a Chicago suburb while accessing the company intranet located in a building in New York City, as if he was right there on the New York office’s network. The same technology can be used by consumers to bridge their phones and laptops to their home network so, while on the road, they can securely access files from their home computers.
Because few VPN companies offer live support, we appreciate when they at least provide easy-to-follow resources on their websites. Detailed setup guides with step-by-step instructions are available for every platform IVPN supports, and it breaks down troubleshooting advice into language that’s easy to understand. ExpressVPN also has clear, helpful support articles, but other services aren’t as straightforward. It’s harder to find the right information on TorGuard’s support site, and its articles aren’t as novice-friendly. If you need to submit a ticket for a specific problem, you can expect a quick response from all the companies we tested—IVPN and TorGuard both responded to us in minutes, and PIA took the longest at one day. ExpressVPN was the only one of our finalists that offered tech support over live chat. (Other companies provide live chat only for sales and signup support.)
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.[3] 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[4] provided by new technologies such as digital subscriber line (DSL)[5] and fiber-optic networks.
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.
We didn’t find any problems when we tested other aspects of TorGuard’s performance. Each time we checked our location via IP address, it accurately resolved to the location of a TorGuard server. Neither our true IP address nor our location was exposed when we tested for DNS leaks and IPv6 leaks. TorGuard runs its own DNS servers—a requirement for all the VPNs we tested—so the routing that happens when you go to a website isn’t released to your ISP, Google, or anyone else. And since TorGuard doesn’t support IPv6, the app disables it completely, just like IVPN.
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!
ExpressVPN attempts to build trust in other ways, even without a public face. Court records from 2017 demonstrate that when Turkish authorities seized ExpressVPN servers in the country looking for information, they found nothing of value, as promised by ExpressVPN’s no-logging policy. ExpressVPN also highlights initiatives such as open-source leak-testing tools, developer content about how the company implements different technologies, and support for the efforts of OpenMedia and the EFF. The ExpressVPN representative even offered to arrange a confidential call between our writer and the owners of the company. However, without being able to discuss their identities or learn about other senior leadership, we believed that wouldn’t have been enough to change our recommendation, so we declined. In the end, trust is such a crucial part of deciding which VPN to use that we had to pass on ExpressVPN.
The initial PPP payload is encrypted and encapsulated with a PPP header to create a PPP frame. The PPP frame is then encapsulated with a modified GRE header. GRE is described in RFC 1701 and RFC 1702 in the IETF RFC Database and was designed to provide a simple, general purpose mechanism for encapsulating data sent over IP networks. GRE is a client protocol of IP using IP protocol 47.
ExpressVPN sets the bar when it comes to download speed. It’s always near the top of the rankings, albeit never at the peak. Consistency is a defining factor of Express; volatility is rarely an issue that affects the outcome of test results. Connections drop a little more often than we’d like them to, but the company has done a remarkable job considering the size of the network it manages.
Given the aggressive pricing and marketing of other services that don’t measure up to our picks, IVPN’s most obvious downside may look like its price: At the time of this writing, the regular price for an annual IVPN subscription is $100 (about $8 per month). Promotions regularly bringing that down to $70 to $80 per year, but some services have regular pricing of half that. But you shouldn’t pay for a VPN you can’t trust, or one so slow or confusing that you avoid using it at all. We think IVPN’s combination of trust, security, and performance is worth the price. But if it’s too expensive for your needs, consider our budget pick instead.
Business security and strength. Businesses aren’t immune to hacking and someone getting into your system to access consumer records could be a catastrophe and lead to significant losses for everyone involved. Some businesses operate on multiple networks, potentially leaving entryways for thieves. Remote businesses are becoming the norm and employees could become targets for passage into large and secure systems. Using a VPN helps prevent such situations from happening, regardless of whether or not you’re on a public network. Your network will be encrypted, and your business will remain secure.

TorGuard’s signup and payment process is also fine but not stellar. Compared with that of IVPN, the checkout process is clunky, and using a credit or debit card requires entering more personal information than with our top pick. The easiest option for anonymous payments is a prepaid debit card bought locally. Otherwise, like most providers, TorGuard accepts a variety of cryptocurrencies, PayPal, and foreign payments through Paymentwall. That last service also allows you to submit payment through gift cards from other major retailers. We don’t think this method is worth the hassle for most people, but if you have some money on a fast-food gift card you don’t want, turning it into a VPN service is a nice option.
There are a number of ways to use VPN. The most common scenario is when a remote user accesses a private network across the Internet using a remote access VPN connection. In another scenario, a remote office connects to the corporate network using either a persistent or an on-demand site-to-site VPN connection (also known as a router-to-router VPN connection).
So, having stated that, there are VPN protocols that are fast (implies no, or minimum encryption) and some are slow (implies stronger encryption). PPTP is a protocol which is one of the less secure but fastest protocols out there. Similarly, other protocols such as OpenVPN or L2TP/IPSec are way more secure. So, it all comes down to your own priorities. Do you want more speed or more protection? And if you want best of both worlds, we have already suggested Fast VPN providers that have all the options and protocols to get accustomed to your priorities.

Unlimited broadband enhances user experience. Another advantage is that you can use up to 5 devices on the same VPN account simultaneously. P2P sharing is allowed, since there is no control over what you do on the internet. Tailor-made applications for Windows, iOS and Linux work like tight clocks, but that’s not all. The interesting ‘door open’ tool searches for unlocked doors on other secure networks, so you do not need to be greedy and ask for the password in a hotel or buy a super-charged bottle at an airport terminal.
CHAP is an improvement over PAP because the clear-text password is not sent over the link. Instead, the password is used to create a hash from the original challenge. The server knows the client’s clear-text password and can, therefore, replicate the operation and compare the result to the password sent in the client’s response. CHAP protects against replay attacks by using an arbitrary challenge string for each authentication attempt. CHAP protects against remote-client impersonation by unpredictably sending repeated challenges to the remote client throughout the duration of the connection.
Our Findings: During our VPN speed test, we have switched in between different ExpressVPN servers to determine the latency; however, UK was the one we tested several times. We noticed that despite choosing a distant location, ExpressVPN servers manage to deliver fast VPN speed, and the drop was not more than 15%, which is normal. Also, we didn’t experience any connection interruption throughout the test phase. It clearly states that ExpressVPN’s server are smartly optimized to give best streaming experience for Netflix, Hulu, HBO, BBC iPlayer and other media websites.
When we test VPNs, we generally start with the Windows client. This is often the most complete review, covering several different platforms as well as the service's features and pricing in depth. That's purely out of necessity, since most of our readers use Windows (although this writer is currently using a MacBook Air). We currently use a Lenovo ThinkPad T460s laptop running the latest version of Windows 10. We periodically upgrade to a newer machine, in order to simulate what most users experience.
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