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.
Some VPN services will limit the total amount of data you can send and receive, either in one connection session or over the period of a month. Other VPN services will limit the speed of the data, effectively sharing less of their pipe with you than might be optimal. That could slow your browsing experience to a crawl or completely prevent you from watching streaming video.
We’ll get to the implications of a VPN’s location in a moment, but first, let’s get back to our secure tunnel example. Once you’re connected to the VPN and are “inside the tunnel,” it becomes very difficult for anyone else to spy on your web-browsing activity. The only people who will know what you’re up to are you, the VPN provider (usually an HTTPS connection can mitigate this), and the website you’re visiting.
Tunneling protocols such as PPTP and L2TP are implemented at the data-link layer of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model and provide data security by helping to create secure tunnels. In contrast, the IPSec protocol is implemented at the network layer and helps secure data at the packet level. IPSec provides two security protocols: Authentication Header (AH) and ESP.
The first step to security is usually a firewall between the client and the host server, requiring the remote user to establish an authenticated connection with the firewall. Encryption is also an important component of a secure VPN. Encryption works by having all data sent from one computer encrypted in such a way that only the computer it is sending to can decrypt the data.
Protocol: When you’re researching a VPN, you’ll see terms like SSL/TLS (sometimes referred to as OpenVPN support,) PPTP, IPSec, L2TP, and other VPN types. We asked Samara Lynn, Lead Analyst for Networking and Small Business at PCMag, whether or not a user shopping for a VPN should shop for one over another. “SSL is what is commonly used these days. All of these protocols will provide a secure connection,” she explained, and pointed out that most solutions are invisible to the end-user anyway. Strictly, each protocol has its benefits and drawbacks, and if you’re concerned about this (specifically, PPTP vulnerabilities,) you’re probably already aware of them. Most users don’t need to be concerned about this—corporate users on the other hand, are probably all using IPSec or SSL clients anyway.
Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) is an encrypted authentication mechanism that prevents transmission of the actual password on the connection. The NAS sends a challenge, which consists of a session ID and an arbitrary challenge string, to the remote client. The remote client must use the MD5 one-way hashing algorithm to return the user name and a hash of the challenge, session ID, and the client’s password. The user name is sent as plain text.
ExpressVPN is also one of the best VPN services available for streaming. Whether you are using a VPN with Kodi or streaming Netflix with a VPN, ExpressVPN offers great apps for streaming devices and high-speed bandwidth for HD videos. Their customer service is also top-notch, with 24/7 live chat support and a 30 day money-back guarantee with all subscription plans. [Learn more >]
Avast SecureLine and Avira Phantom VPN are run by antivirus companies as complements to their primary businesses. These services are also limited to Windows, Mac, iOS and Android and don't work without client software. But they offer few features, have a couple of dozen servers at most and don't let you pay anonymously. However, the companies are known quantities, and the services are handy for occasional travelers.