If you’re unsure about whether you should get a VPN, check out our post that explains what a VPN is and when one makes sense as a privacy and security tool. But most people leave their privacy and security vulnerable in ways that can be addressed with methods other than signing up for a VPN—methods that are potentially more effective. If you have a drafty house with paper-thin walls and halogen light bulbs, you’d get far more value out of every dollar by sealing up cracks, insulating, and switching to LEDs than you would by putting solar panels on your roof. Similarly, before you rush to sign up for a VPN subscription, you should consider these other ways to up your privacy game.
Prices – PIA offers monthly, yearly, and two-year subscription plans. The two-year plan is the cheapest at $2.91/month. PIA is a personal favorite VPN of mine that falls in the cheap category because it is easy to trust this VPN. It does not make any exaggerated claims: everything about the VPN is transparent. Its reliance on physical servers only (which are far more costly than virtual servers) also makes it an appealing choice with its low-priced subscription.
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.
However, network performance is another thing entirely. First, keep in mind that if you're using a VPN, you're probably using it at a public location. That Wi-Fi service is likely to range in performance somewhere between "meh" and unusable. So, just the fact that you're remotely working on a mediocre network will reduce performance. But then, if you connect to a VPN in a different country, the connection between countries is also likely to degrade network performance.
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.
Servers – ExpressVPN has a large server network that spans more than 94 locations across the world. The total number of servers of ExpressVPN has crossed 2,000. You can connect to servers in available locations in a matter of mere seconds. All servers are encrypted with the AES 256 standard, ensuring the security of user traffic. With these servers, you can gain access to any website, no matter how strong a firewall has been put up to prevent user traffic from accessing it.
Jurisdiction – Gibraltar is territory that is controlled by the United Kingdom to some extent. Nonetheless, the internal affairs of the country are governed by itself. Censorship of certain websites is present in Gibraltar. As such, the jurisdiction of IVPN lies in a region with limited online freedom, but privacy in the region is still much better than in Europe.
The Overplay Smart DNS service, on the other hand, routes internet connection using a different DNS to give the illusion that one is located in a different country, without significant speed reduction. This is very useful to those who want to access sites that are blocked in their own countries. The service supports PCs, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, Wii, PS3, XBOX360, among other devices.
The biggest advantage of RIP is that it is extremely simple to configure and deploy. The biggest disadvantage of RIP is its inability to scale to large or very large networks. The maximum hop count used by RIP routers is 15. Networks that are 16 hops or more away are considered unreachable. As networks grow larger in size, the periodic announcements by each RIP router can cause excessive traffic. Another disadvantage of RIP is its high recovery time. When the network topology changes, it might take several minutes before the RIP routers reconfigure themselves to the new network topology. While the network reconfigures itself, routing loops might form that result in lost or undeliverable data.
TorGuard offers applications for every major platform, including Windows, macOS, and Android. And unlike our top pick, it also supports OpenVPN on ChromeOS. (Though TorGuard does offer an iOS app, it doesn’t natively support the OpenVPN protocol that allows for the easiest and most reliable secure connections.) Using these apps, you can manually select a server, click Connect, and not worry about the rest. But otherwise, the applications aren’t as refined or easy to use as IVPN’s. New users are likely to find themselves out of their depth when modifying anything but the most basic functions, such as auto-connecting at launch or minimizing the app.
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.
A VPN is created by establishing a virtual point-to-point connection through the use of dedicated connections, virtual tunneling protocols, or traffic encryption. A VPN available from the public Internet can provide some of the benefits of a wide area network (WAN). From a user perspective, the resources available within the private network can be accessed remotely.
Even if none of the above really sound right to you, you can still benefit from using a VPN. You should definitely use one when you travel or work on an untrusted network (read: a network you don’t own, manage, or trust who manages.) That means opening your laptop at the coffee shop and logging in to Facebook or using your phone’s Wi-Fi to check your email at the airport can all potentially put you at risk.
PureVPN has a huge choice of 750 servers in 141 countries and counting. The sheer volume of features, toggles, and tools they provide makes it a top contender for the advanced users. There is a stealth browsing mode, online banking security, secure FTP access, multiple protocols and more. They have server lists optimized for P2P and video streaming, so switching is easy.
ExpressVPN earns a spot on our list thanks to its feature-filled service that is easy to use for both technical and non-technical users. ExpressVPN consistently ranks as one of the fastest VPN providers in our official BestVPN Speed Test. This makes it a fantastic option for streaming HD content. Robust encryption keeps hackers at bay and no usage logs means the company can’t share your personal browsing data. With servers in plenty of countries around the world, “stealth” servers to help users in China bypass the firewall, and Smart Domain Name System (DNS) service that keeps streaming sites like Netflix running smoothly, you can see why ExpressVPN continues to impress our experts and remains one of our most popular VPN providers. Try ExpressVPN today with a 30-day, no-quibble, money-back guarantee.
We also dove deeper into the desktop apps of the top-performing services. Great apps have automatic location selection, easy-to-use designs, and detailed but uncluttered settings panels. We set up each service's Android app on a Samsung Galaxy S8 running Android 7.0 Nougat. We took into account how easy each one was to set up and connect, along with what options were available in the settings pane.
TRY THE FASTEST VPN RISK FREE: ExpressVPN is currently running an offer of 3 free extra months with their 12 month plan here, this works out as a 49% discount on the monthly price. This deal includes a risk free 30 day money back guarantee, so in the unlikely event you are unhappy with the speed, or want to cancel for any other reason you can get a full refund.
Perfect Privacy’s network is composed entirely of dedicated, bare-metal servers that provide you with fast speeds, more security, and plenty of bandwidth at all times (you can see real-time server bandwidth here). Like ExpressVPN, Perfect Privacy has also passed real-world tests that verified their no logging claims, when one of their servers were seized by Dutch authorities (customer data remained safe).
Torrenting/P2P Support – IPVanish makes all torrent websites and clients accessible. There is no problem with IPVanish as far as support for P2P networking is considered. However, the fact that IPVanish is based in the US and subject to its laws makes it a poor choice if your main purpose of having a VPN is to download torrents. This is because companies have no power against agencies and if they are trying to monitor a specific user, the company would probably have no choice but to comply and leak user data. In short, do not use IPVanish for torrenting to ensure your safety.
In short, it's time to start thinking about protecting your personal information. That's where virtual private networks, or VPNs, come in. These services use simple software to protect your internet connection, and they give you greater control over how you appear online, too. While you might never have heard of VPN services, they are valuable tools that you should understand and use. So who needs a VPN? The short answer is that everyone does. Even Mac users can benefit from a VPN.