Providers can also log less-specific data about when or how often you connect to your VPN service. In some cases, these logs are a routine part of server or account management, and can be responsibly separated and scrubbed. In other cases, VPN providers take note of every connection and use that information to actively police individual customers. Though it’s reasonable for companies to protect their networks from abuse, it becomes a dealbreaker when companies keep extensive connection data for a longer period of time. Some VPN companies we spoke with explained how a log might note your current connection for authentication purposes, but that log is deleted as soon as you disconnect. This kind of “live log” isn’t a concern, and even those culled every few hours—or as long as the end of each day—shouldn’t be confused with logs of your traffic and online destinations.
To verify that each service effectively hid our true IP address, we looked at a geolocation tool, DNS leaks, and IPv6 leaks. When connected to each service's UK servers, we noted if we could watch videos on BBC iPlayer, and using US servers we noted if we could stream Netflix. We also visited the sites of Target, Yelp, Cloudflare, and Akamai to check if our VPN IP addresses prevented us from accessing common sites that sometimes blacklist suspicious IP addresses.
Most services provide perfectly adequate internet speed when in use, and can even handle streaming HD video. However, 4K video and other data-intensive tasks like gaming over a VPN are another story. Some VPN services, such as NordVPN, have started to roll out specialty servers for high-bandwidth activities. And nearly every service we have tested includes a tool to connect you with the fastest available network. Of course, you can always limit your VPN use to when you're not on a trusted network.
When using the OpenVPN protocol, many VPN apps will give you the option of using either the TCP or UDP protocol. TCP is the protocol that you normally use to browse the web and download files. UDP is more common for streaming applications such as video, music, and gaming. The difference is in how computers and servers send network packets, the unit of data used to exchange information over the internet.
Of course that brings up another problem. Since there are so many services to choose from, how can you tell which ones are worth using? PCWorld has taken care of much of the legwork with its Best VPN services roundup. [Spoiler alert: It found Mullvad to be a great all-around VPN for its above-and-beyond commitment to user privacy, and NordVPN to be the current choice for watching U.S. Netflix from abroad.]
Servers – IPVanish has a moderately-sized server network of 1,000 servers. Geographically, it covers 60 regions around the world. Although this is relatively small than the VPNs provided above, this is still better than many other VPN providers. IPVanish provides a lot of control to the user when it comes to selecting a server. You can filter VPNs by country, city, and latency. The best thing about it is that IPVanish is remarkably fast in establishing a connection with any server location of your choice.
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 of our questions about the company's internal security, and even described the tools the company uses to limit and track access to secure servers. IVPN goes further than the other leading candidates we considered by being transparent about who runs the service and who is responsible for your privacy.
Torrenters use VPNs to hide their downloads and uploads, but are all VPNs suitable for BitTorrent? No, some don’t provide sufficient leak protection to protect you from copyright trolls, some are bad actors, and some don’t provide at all. If you want to enjoy private and protected torrenting, make sure your Torrent VPN is the best at its job. To figure out the fastest VPN for torrenting, let’s decide the criteria to judge them. Being a Torrent and P2P file sharer, what you want the most? Privacy, fast download speed, and no data caps, isn’t it?
Using Wi-Fi on the Windows laptops, we timed how long it took to connect to websites, measured latency times (how long it took a server to respond), and recorded upload and download speeds with Ookla's Speedtest meter, both with and without the VPN activated. We also timed how long it took to download a large video file, both with and without VPN activation.
Even if a company is at fault for deceptive marketing practices, it still has to comply with legal requests for whatever information it does have. Jerome told us, “In the U.S., however, there is a big difference between a request for data regularly stored for business purposes and a demand that a company retain information. VPN providers are not required to keep records just in case law enforcement might need them some day.” That means many companies could provide a list of their customers, but if they practice what they preach when it comes to no-logging policies, innocent customers looking for privacy shouldn’t get swept up in these requests.
Our Findings: During the test we found HMA delivering a pretty decent volume of speed. However, we noticed a bit of throttling and interruptions in the connection. Overall, the fast VPN test was fine, and we didn’t experience much downstream. We discovered that due to highly encrypted protocols tied up with HideMyAss network, its connection is slow compare to ExpressVPN and IPVanish.
Mobile VPNs are designed and optimized to ensure a seamless user experience when devices are switching networks or moving out of coverage. It generally has a smaller memory footprint, and because of that, it also requires less processing power than a traditional VPN. Therefore, it enables your applications to run faster while the battery pack is able to last longer.
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). Every VPN we considered had to operate its own DNS servers in-house and not rely on ISP servers or public options like Google’s, which give third parties a chance to log or analyze the sites you visit. IVPN currently disables all IPv6 connectivity, though the company is looking at solutions to securely support it soon. Most companies we considered do the same; OVPN was the only company to support IPv6 addresses at the time of our testing.
Remote-access VPNs come in two forms. One is a network access server (NAS), which is a dedicated server, or an application running on a shared server. In this case, users need to connect to the NAS over the Internet to access the VPN. Users key in their credentials to access the VPN, which is validated by the NAS either by using a separate authentication server or its own authentication process.
Despite some of the drawbacks, ZorroVPN is a very interesting service if you are looking for advanced online anonymity. With their OpenVPN file config generator, you can create unique VPN chains with the Tor network and proxies (up to four hops). Unlike with Perfect Privacy, however, these multi-hop configurations cannot be dynamically changed within the VPN client.
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.
Are you so used to your data traveling over Wi-Fi that you've stopped worrying about the security of that data—and about who else might be spying on it, or even stealing it for nefarious purposes? If so, you are—sadly—in the majority, and you ought to consider using a viritual private network, or VPN. In fact, when PCMag conducted a survey on VPN usage, we found that a dismal 71 percent of the 1,000 respondents had never used a VPN. Even among those who support net neutrality—who you might think would tend to be well informed on technology and privacy issues—only 45 percent had used a VPN.