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 At PCMag, we maintain that this mindset is outdated, especially in the world of virtual private networks, or VPNs.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.
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.
Most VPNs won’t keep any logs of user activity. Not only is this of benefit to their customers (and a great selling point) it’s also of huge benefit to them (as detailed logging can quickly consume disk after disk worth of resources). Many of the largest VPN providers will tell you as much: not only do they have no interest in keeping logs, but given the sheer size of their operation they can’t even begin to set aside the disk space to do so.

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.
IVPN goes further than the other leading candidates we considered by being transparent about who runs the service and is responsible for your privacy. The company lists its core team on its website, and its small team has an online presence on a variety of platforms. In contrast, only one employee at ExpressVPN has a public face: VP of marketing Harold Li gave us detailed answers to questions about policies and internal security, but couldn’t tell us much about who else worked there. (We discuss ExpressVPN in more detail in the Competition section—that company was almost our top pick but for this issue.)
OpenVPN: OpenVPN is very secure, open-source and widely used. Most VPN services support it, but except for Chrome OS and Linux, few operating systems do. This protocol can be used in either TCP (web) or UDP (streaming) mode; the latter is sloppier but faster. You'll need either the VPN service's client software or one of the many free alternatives. Either way, you'll still need to pay for the VPN service.

The user’s certificate could be stored on the VPN client computer or in an external smart card. In either case, the certificate cannot be accessed without some form of user identification (PIN number or name/password credentials) between the user and the client computer. This approach meets the something-you-know-plus-something-you-have criteria recommended by most security experts.
If you’re going to bother with a VPN, you should spend money on a good one—don’t trust a free VPN. Security and privacy cost money, and if you aren’t paying for them, the provider has an incentive to make money from marketers at your privacy’s expense. Though price doesn’t always equal quality, a few dollars a month more for a better experience is worth it for something you’ll use on a regular basis.
Then there’s the widespread surveillance by local and foreign governments. Through the Snowden leaks and years of follow-up reporting, we know that the worldwide surveillance structure is vast in scope and reach. While it would be illegal for police officers to search your home without a warrant, your browsing activity, messages, social media content, and other online information can be monitored, retained and shared among various government agencies, including across country borders.
Hotspot Shield depends on a custom VPN protocol that's not been publicly analyzed by independent experts. We don't know how private or secure it really is. The company has been accused of spying on users (it denies the allegations), and complaints abound online about Hotspot Shield software installing on PCs without users' permission. All this, and the company's U.S. location, may scare away customers who want to protect their privacy.
In addition to hiding your online activity from a snooping government it’s also useful for hiding your activity from a snooping Internet Service Provider (ISP). If your ISP likes to throttle your connection based on content (tanking your file downloads and/or streaming video speeds in the process) a VPN completely eliminates that problem as all your traffic is traveling to a single point through the encrypted tunnel and your ISP remains ignorant of what kind of traffic it is.
Tip for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera users: A feature called WebRTC can, in some Web browsers, inadvertently cause your true IP address to leak out even when you’re connected via a great VPN. WebRTC assists with peer-to-peer connections, such as for video chatting, but could be exploited in some cases. You can manually disable this function in Firefox, or use an extension to block most instances of it in Chrome or Opera. For more details and instructions, check out Restore Privacy.
Games are another type of VPN users that don’t compromise on speed (like others). They play multiplayer games that demand a faster Internet connection. When playing a game hosted on a server deployed in a distant location, server latency issue occurs. This is one thing that makes gamers go berserk. For example, you are playing CS Go and you’re about to headshot your opponent, and DAMN you missed it because of high ping rates. That can seriously make you furious and cost you a game. Be aware gamers! Using a fastest VPN service will certainly make you free from all the worries and focus on the game. A fast VPN connection will minimize the lag you experience and give you best gaming experience at a minimal fee. All the major players in the fast VPN category have optimized servers best designed to cater gamer needs. Learn how a gaming VPN can improve your multiplayer experience.
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.
If you need a more affordable VPN than our top pick and don’t have an Apple device—or if you need ChromeOS support—we recommend TorGuard. Its apps aren’t as simple or user-friendly, but TorGuard is a good option for more tech-savvy people or those willing to spend a little more time fiddling with an app. TorGuard’s CEO has built trust by talking with media outlets (including us) and detailing the company’s commitment to a service built around a lack of activity logs. Though the apps aren’t as easy to use as our top pick, the connections were the fastest of any we tested and the company has more than twice as many server locations.
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.
When we took at look at your five favorite VPN service providers, we noticed a few things. First, being the “best” is big business for VPN providers, and they’ll fight dirty to be one of them. Second, there are so many VPN providers that it’s difficult to choose a really good one. VPNs are not all created equally, and in this post, we’re going to look at what a VPN is, why you want one, and how to pick the best one for you. Let’s get started.
Private Internet Access, or PIA, is one of the most visible, privacy-focused VPNs available. Because of its reputation and advocacy concerning online privacy and security, it has also been a Wirecutter staff pick. But whether you prioritize speed and performance or trust and transparency, our top pick is a better bet. If you find PIA attractive because of its low price, note that spending just a little more on TorGuard will buy you much better performance.
MPPE provides only link encryption between the VPN client and the VPN server. It does not provide end-to-end encryption, which is data encryption between the client application and the server hosting the resource or service that is being accessed by the client application. If end-to-end encryption is required, IPSec can be used to encrypt IP traffic from end-to-end after the PPTP tunnel is established.
No company came closer to being a pick than ExpressVPN. It has a huge server network that performed well in our tests, plus easy-to-use applications on tons of platforms, and strong security technologies in place. A representative answered all our questions about company operations at length—except one. As noted in a PCWorld review of the service, ExpressVPN chooses not to disclose the company’s leadership or ownership. The company representative told us that this policy enabled ExpressVPN to build a private and secure product without compromise. “We think that this approach has been effective until now and that coupled with a stellar VPN product, we have succeeded in gaining a solid reputation in our industry. We are fortunate to be trusted by the many users worldwide who choose ExpressVPN.”
Two networks can be connected over an intranet using a site-to-site VPN connection. This type of VPN connection might be necessary, for example, for two departments in separate locations, whose data is highly sensitive, to communicate with each other. For instance, the finance department might need to communicate with the human resources department to exchange payroll information.
A remote access VPN connection over the Internet enables a remote access client to initiate a dial-up connection to a local ISP instead of connecting to a corporate or outsourced network access server (NAS). By using the established physical connection to the local ISP, the remote access client initiates a VPN connection across the Internet to the organization’s VPN server. When the VPN connection is created, the remote access client can access the resources of the private intranet. The following figure shows remote access over the Internet.

Speed should not be all you consider when shopping for a VPN. For one thing, your internet experience will almost certainly be faster without a VPN. For another, speeds depend so much on which server you use, where you are, what your network environment is like, and so on. You might find that the service that's lightning fast today is dog slow tomorrow.
A Virtual Private Network is a connection method used to add security and privacy to private and public networks, like WiFi Hotspots and the Internet. Virtual Private Networks are most often used by corporations to protect sensitive data. However, using a personal VPN is increasingly becoming more popular as more interactions that were previously face-to-face transition to the Internet. Privacy is increased with a Virtual Private Network because the user's initial IP address is replaced with one from the Virtual Private Network provider. Subscribers can obtain an IP address from any gateway city the VPN service provides. For instance, you may live in San Francisco, but with a Virtual Private Network, you can appear to live in Amsterdam, New York, or any number of gateway cities.
Update: We’ve received some feedback that 10Mbps is too slow to get good test results. We would argue that 10Mbps is quite average for home internet across the world, and we run tests for average people.  While our tests might not be a good indication of speed if you’re paying for a 50 Mbps or 100 Mbps connection, the results are varied enough to get a statistically significant indication of overall performance. Furthermore, all the VPNs on the list officially offer unlimited bandwidth, so if you happen to be on an uncongested nearby server, chances are you’ll still be able to max out your available bandwidth. Finally, there is no point in having a fast VPN if it is unstable, doesn’t protect your privacy, doesn’t unblock the content you want, or doesn’t have a good range of servers to connect to. We excluded providers like TotalVPN which were very fast but had awful customer service, for example.
Nevertheless, the point of a VPN is to remain private and to have your internet activity kept as private as possible. For that reason, we’re choosing Mullvad as the best overall VPN (see our full review of Mullvad). The interface needs a lot of work, but the company does a great job at privacy. Mullvad doesn’t ask for your email address, and you can mail your payment in cash if you want to. Like many other VPNs, Mullvad has a no-logging policy and doesn’t even collect any identifying metadata from your usage.
The only downsides to Private Internet Access are that you can't select your own username — you've got to stick with an assigned random ID — and that you've occasionally got to reinstall a balky driver in Windows. (There's a button to do this.) Selecting Private Internet Access as our VPN service of choice was almost a no-brainer, but because it's based in the U.S., anyone wary of the FBI may want to consider another service.

You want to skip PPTP if at all possible. It’s a very dated protocol that uses weak encryption and due to security issues should be considered compromised. It might be good enough to secure your non-essential web browsing at a coffee shop (e.g. to keep the shopkeeper’s son from sniffing your passwords), but it’s not up to snuff for serious security. Although L2TP/IPsec is a significant improvements over PPTP, it lacks the speed and the open security audits found with OpenVPN.
VPNs can be either remote-access (connecting a computer to a network) or site-to-site (connecting two networks). In a corporate setting, remote-access VPNs allow employees to access their company's intranet from home or while travelling outside the office, and site-to-site VPNs allow employees in geographically disparate offices to share one cohesive virtual network. A VPN can also be used to interconnect two similar networks over a dissimilar middle network; for example, two IPv6 networks over an IPv4 network.[6]
Some countries don't have the same protections for freedom of press, speech, and expression that most democratic countries have. In fact, some regimes resort to oppressive measures to monitor and take action against those they see as threats to the government. People who dare to stand up have to take extra precautions to protect their communications. Journalists and researchers also send messages containing data that some people may want to try very hard to intercept.
Protection of your IP address and private data: When surfing the web, there is no guarantee that your personal information is secure. Furthermore, when you go online, your IP address can be obtained – This creates a direct link back to your personal devices and can be used as a means of entry by hackers. free VPN hides your IP address and ensures there is no traceability back to you. Furthermore, your personal information and device will remain untouched. Learn More
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.
We recommend against using any so-called free VPN. Free VPN services tend to be significantly slower than their premium counterparts. Their servers are usually congested and the apps often impose bandwidth limits or data caps. Server selection is more limited as well. Besides speed, free VPNs often use shady practices to make money, such as collecting your browsing data to sell to third parties and injecting ads into browsers. Some even carry malware payloads to infect your device.

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.

There’s currently only one scenario where you would entertain using L2TP/IPsec instead of OpenVPN and that’s for mobile devices like iOS and Android phones. Currently neither Android nor iOS supports native OpenVPN (although there is third-party support for it). Both mobile operating systems do, however, support L2TP/Ipsec natively and, as such, it’s a useful alternative.
A mix of features and price make a good VPN, but plenty of bad VPNs masquerade as good ones. Look for articles written by trustworthy sources that discuss the merits of each service based on its features, versus simple rundowns and user testimonials, which are almost always polluted by a combination of fanatical users and corporate bootstrapping in attempt to get their names out to potential customers.
Final Verdict – PIA is a reliable VPN service that only uses physical servers in its VPN network. It does not make any exaggerated claims of its qualities and clearly describes its policies and features. Moreover, the low price is another positive attribute of the VPN. In a nutshell, PIA is a VPN you can trust, though it is not an ideal VPN for torrenting.
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!
There are some minor disadvantages to using a dynamic IP. If someone who previously had the IP address you've been assigned did something nefarious on a service you use, it's possible that IP address might be banned. Usually, VPN providers are very careful about checking their IP addresses against blacklists, so the chances of this being a problem for you are slim.
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.
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