Welcome to the CNET 2018 Directory of VPN providers. In this directory, we're taking a look at a few of the very best commercial VPN service providers on the Internet like CyberGhost, IPVanish, Buffered, Private Internet Access and others. Rather than looking at the wide range of free providers, which often have a lot of limits (and dubious loyalties), we are looking at those vendors who charge a few bucks a month, but put your interests first, rather than those of shadowy advertisers and sponsors. Our VPN rankings are based more than 20 factors including number of server locations, client software, dedicated and dynamic IP, bandwidth caps, security, logging, customer support and price.
Whether you’re you’re sick of your ISP throttling your connection, you want to secure your browsing sessions while on the road, or you just want to download whatever the heck you want without the man on your back, there’s no substitution for a securely deployed Virtual Private Network. Now that you’re armed with the knowledge necessary to pick a good VPN (and with three solid recommendations at that), it’s time to secure your internet traffic once and for all.
Latency: This is closely tied to proximity, but is also affected by the amount of traffic on the networks between you and the VPN server. Latency measures the time it takes to send and receive a request from a server, also called ping time. Many VPN apps will allow you to see which server offer the least latency, usually measured in milliseconds. If not, you can connect to the server and use a terminal or command prompt to ping a website and view the time.
In recent times, VPN services have made giant leaps in growing from niche online products hidden away in a dark corner of the internet to almost must-have services for anyone with an internet connected device. VPN is very much in the mainstream now and luckily that broadened appeal has done wonders for the usability of the services themselves - there are some brilliant options available in 2018.
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 At PCMag, we maintain that this mindset is outdated, especially in the world of virtual private networks, or VPNs.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.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a technology that creates a private tunnel over the internet. All your online traffic is redirected to the VPN server. All data passing between your device and the VPN server you have connected to is securely encrypted. This means that your internet service provider (ISP) and anyone else spying on your traffic cannot see your data. Your ISP is still needed to connect you to the internet, but all it does is connect you to the VPN server. After that, it cannot see which other websites you visit or other internet resources you connect to. For the more techy of you out there, the VPN server acts as a proxy.
For local VPN issues, you have a couple of options. First, consider installing VPN software on your router and not using a VPN on your local machines. Alternatively, many VPN services offer browser plug-ins that only encrypt your browser traffic. That's not ideal from a security perspective, but it's useful when all you need to secure is your browser information.
When you're away from home or the office and you connect to the internet, you'll most often be doing so via Wi-Fi provided by your hotel or the restaurant, library, or coffee shop you're working out of in that moment. Sometimes, the Wi-Fi has a password. Other times, it will be completely open. In either case, you have no idea who else is accessing that network, and therefore, you have no idea who might be snooping on your traffic.
Sorry but NordVPN is slow. I spent hours with these people trying all kinds of things. It always worked out with VPN running my speeds were 2/3 to 1/2 of what I normally got. In my opinion I don’t think VPN is ready for prime time. I’m not willing to sacrifice that much speed for VPN. I work from home and am uploading and downloading all day. I don’t want to spend more time trying to get files back and forth than I need to. Sounds like HMA is the preferred VPN here. I will check them out.
Something pretty great about Speedify is that you can use it for free without even making an account. The moment you install and open the software, you're immediately being protected behind a VPN and can do anything a user can, like change the server, toggle encryption on and off, set monthly or daily limits, and easily connect to the fastest server.
As part of our research, we also make sure to find out where the company is based and under what legal framework it operates. Some countries don't have data-retention laws, making it easier to keep a promise of "We don't keep any logs." It's also useful to know under what circumstances a VPN company will hand over information to law enforcement and what information it would have to provide if that should happen.
All that being said, we currently name TorGuard as the fastest VPN service. It doesn't take the top spot in all of our tests, but has remarkably low latency and had the best performance in the all-important download tests. Fittingly, it offers many add-ons such as dedicated IP addresses that, along with its speed, will appeal to the BitTorrent users it is designed to protect.
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.
Finally, read the fine print to see if they restrict any protocols or services you wish to use the service for. If you want to use the service for file sharing, read the fine print to ensure your file sharing service isn’t blocked. Again, while it was typical to see VPN providers restrict services back in the day (in an effort to cut down on bandwidth and computing overhead) it’s more common today to find VPNs with an anything-goes policy.
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.
IP / DNS leak test – IPVanish does not suffer from any DNS or IP leak problems. This is a sign of the strong security and encryption protocols that IPVanish uses. As such, you can download torrents through IPVanish and rest assured that your IP won’t be leaked. However, in spite of the solid security, I still wouldn’t recommend going the torrent route with IPVanish for reasons highlighted below.
ZenMate has a lightweight app that is really simple to use. It offers good security and connects with any server of your choice almost instantly. The speeds remain fairly stable across servers and is faster than dozens of other VPNs. I would recommend its free browser extensions, as there are better premium apps available for lower rates than ZenMate.
PIA is another great option and offers a 7 day money back guarantee. It keeps no logs, which is a claim that it has proved in court! And although optional, its security can be first rate. Its desktop software supports multiple security options, a VPN kill switch, DNS leak protection, and port forwarding. Up to 5 simultaneous connections are permitted. Its Android client is almost as good, and PIA boasts excellent connection speeds. PIA has servers located in 29 other countries.
Secure connections for business: For businesses who operate at multiple nationwide locations, or for employees who travel on the road, a VPN can provide a fantastic means of security. Instead of connecting to your work network via the public internet, you can instead connect via the FreeVPN.se connection. This will encrypt your data, hide your devices IP address and ensure that any sensitive business information remains untouched and private. Learn More
Trust and transparency issues are the foremost concerns in choosing a great VPN, and if a service doesn’t have enough locations to be useful to you, all the security features won’t make a difference. But after those concerns have been satisfied, we recommend that most people use connections based on the OpenVPN protocol, because of security flaws and disadvantages in the PPTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols. (Experienced users may consider IKEv2, but because it has its own debated pros and cons, we ruled it out.) Though AES 128-bit encryption is fine for most purposes, we prefer services that default to the more-secure 256-bit encryption and still offer good performance.
In the past, Google has always stuck to a basic design of trapezoidal design of its tabs. But a new design in the Chrome Canary showcases a slope-shouldered look with curved corners. Now, the inactive tabs can be seen merging with the browser itself by graying out in the background, separated by thin vertical lines. Moreover, the address bar and the Chrome new tab search bar has changed into a gray oval shape as compared to the earlier white square box.
To help ensure confidentiality of the data as it traverses the shared or public transit network, it is encrypted by the sender and decrypted by the receiver. Because data encryption is performed between the VPN client and VPN server, it is not necessary to use data encryption on the communication link between a dial-up client and its Internet service provider (ISP). For example, a mobile user uses a dial-up networking connection to dial in to a local ISP. Once the Internet connection is made, the user creates a VPN connection with the corporate VPN server. If the VPN connection is encrypted, there is no need to use encryption on the dial-up networking connection between the client and the ISP.
In compulsory tunneling, the client computer places a dial-up call to a tunneling-enabled NAS at the ISP. For example, a corporation might have contracted with an ISP to deploy a nationwide set of FEPs. These FEPs can establish tunnels across the Internet to a tunnel server connected to the organization’s private network, thus consolidating calls from geographically diverse locations into a single Internet connection at the organization network.
Whereas most providers say they log nothing, that’s not always the case. Some record very little data like the day you subscribed, the amount of data you’ve consumed, and delete those logs when you end the session. Other providers log your IP address, the servers you used, and store those logs. If they’re based in the US, UK or any other country with data retention laws, they can be compelled to hand over that data to law enforcement.
Known for its speed, ease of use and native clients, HideIPVPN supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android platforms. Its Smart DNS service is known to be able to unblock some sites. The service supports a variety of protocols, which include SSTP, OpenVPN, SoftEther, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec. With the service, torrenting is allowed although only on German and Dutch servers, this is due to the fact that it only has seven server locations in North America and Europe.
With multiple clients, rich with different features, it’s no wonder this VPN service handles more than 10 million users. It covers Microsoft’s and Apple’s operating systems, but also iOS and Android. The interface is not the best out there and could definitely use some work, but these disadvantages are easily overshadowed by the awesome features this VPN offers.
Access to restricted websites: Some websites and streaming content may only be accessed in certain countries. For example a TV program might only be broadcast in the UK – Trying to stream this program outside the country will return an error. Through the masking of your IP address, and thus your physical location, free VPN will allow you access to this restricted content and make it appear that you are located in the required region. Learn More
A lot of people started using a VPN to evade geo-restrictions. But despite its forbidden benefits to users outside the US, a VPN is a great tool that can protect you and enhance your online experience over the internet by providing you with sufficient security and privacy. When it comes to selecting the best VPN, you have plenty of choices. There are many cost-effective VPN options, and all of them will vary in monthly offerings. Choosing the best VPN is easier once you narrow down the competition. The best indication of a good VPN service provider is that they have the right security and the right support in place for you.
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.
If VPN connections get blocked by your network because of strict network management or government censorship, TorGuard offers a “stealth” connection to avoid deep packet inspection. Specifically, TorGuard uses Stunnel (a clever portmanteau of SSL and tunnel) to add an extra layer of encryption and make your traffic look like normal, secure Web traffic. If you’re having connection issues, you can enable Stunnel with a checkbox on the main application window, but only if you select TCP from the protocol list. (Otherwise, the box is unclickable, with no explanation as to why.)
That said, many VPN providers are based outside the US, which complicates enforcement. Jerome continued: “Users can file complaints in a local jurisdiction, and local data protection laws may have more effective enforcement mechanisms. For example, privacy and confidentiality of communications are fundamental rights in the European Union. Data protection authorities in EU-member states are empowered to handle complaints brought by individuals and then provide users with information about the outcome of any investigation. But it is unclear how effective any of these remedies will be.”
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 because 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.
Everything you do on the Internet has to pass through your own ISP before reaching the destination. So, when you request Google, for example, the information is sent, unencrypted, to your ISP and then passes through some other channels before reaching the server that holds Google’s website. Basically, VPN services privatize information that can be read by ISPs or any other agency that inspects your traffic.
The VPN server can be configured to use either Windows or RADIUS as an accounting provider. If Windows is selected as the accounting provider, the accounting information accumulates on the VPN server for later analysis. Logging options can be specified from the properties of the Local File or SQL Server objects in the Remote Access Logging folder in the Routing and Remote Access snap-in. If RADIUS is selected, RADIUS accounting messages are sent to the RADIUS server for accumulation and later analysis.
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.