There are many things a VPN must do well to be useful, and one of the most important ones is to be fast. You can likely get around many other shortcomings. But if your VPN is slower than a dial-up modem (for those of us who remember them), there will be trouble ahead. Not only will you be less likely to use your VPN, but you will probably also curse it every time you do. It’s money well wasted.
When you activate a VPN, your web traffic is routed from your computer, through an encrypted tunnel, and to a server controlled by the VPN company. From there, your data exits and enters the public internet. These extra steps generally degrade your internet connection speeds, simply by adding more fiber, more computers, and more physical distance to the equation. In exchange, using a VPN helps protect your data and personal security.
Since VPNs route your traffic through another network, you can also make it appear as if it’s coming from another location. That means if you’re in Sydney, Australia, you can make your traffic appear to come from New York City. This is useful for certain sites that block content based on your location (like Netflix). It also allows some people (we’re looking at you, Australians) have to deal with insanely high import taxes on software that see them paying twice (or more) what US consumers pay for the same products.
Classless static routes are implemented using DHCP scope option 249. Using classless static routes, each DHCP client can be configured with the route to any destination on the network, and the subnet mask can be specified. Because each scope represents a physical subnet, the scope can be viewed as the start location for any message that is to be sent by a client to another subnet. The parameters used to configure option 249 are Destination, Mask, and Router. One or more static routes can be configured with option 249. All DHCP-enabled clients on the network can be provided with routes to all other subnets using option 249.
VPNArea is one of the few providers that offers dedicated IP addresses in various countries around the world, as listed on their website. It also allows account sharing (six simultaneous connections permitted). VPNArea continues to improve and remains an excellent choice for privacy-focused users. Check out their discount pricing for annual plans. [Learn more >]
Well, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We all know it all too well, right? The same can be said for VPN services – you always end up paying one way or another. You might be bombarded with pop-up ads or discover you can’t use your VPN for streaming or torrenting because your connection is excruciatingly slow or your data usage is extremely limited.
Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) can tunnel an entire network's traffic (as it does in the OpenVPN project and SoftEther VPN project) or secure an individual connection. A number of vendors provide remote-access VPN capabilities through SSL. An SSL VPN can connect from locations where IPsec runs into trouble with Network Address Translation and firewall rules.
Mullvad is not that easy to use, with a bare-bones desktop interface and, unlike every other VPN service we've reviewed, no mobile client apps. (You do get instructions on how to manually set up OpenVPN apps.) This service's network speeds were far from great in our tests, and it's fairly expensive, with no discount for paying yearly instead of monthly.
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).
In addition to logging concerns, an even bigger concern is the type of VPN protocol and encryption they use (as it’s much more probable a malicious third party will try and siphon up your traffic and analyze it later than they will reverse engineer your traffic in an attempt to locate you). Considering logging, protocol, and encryption standards is a great point to transition into the next section of our guide where we shift from questions focused on our needs to questions focused on capabilities of the VPN providers.
Voluntary tunneling occurs when a client computer or routing server creates a virtual connection to the target tunnel server. To accomplish this, tunneling client software and the appropriate tunneling protocol must be installed on the client computer. For the protocols discussed in this technical reference, voluntary tunnels require an IP connection (either LAN or dial-up).
VPN servers work by routing traffic through a series of external servers before they reach the server, and a traffic flow from one server to another is called a “hop.” To maximize the connection speed, you want the least hops possible. If you do not have a specific reason to connect through another country, your best course of action should connect to the server closest to your current location. For many, it means choosing your country home (and closest to the city,) if you are in a country with multiple VPN servers available. For others, i.e. selecting the country closest to your own.
Many VPN services also provide their own DNS resolution system. Think of DNS as a phone book that turns a text-based URL like "pcmag.com" into a numeric IP address that computers can understand. Savvy snoops can monitor DNS requests and track your movements online. Greedy attackers can also use DNS poisoning to direct you to bogus phishing pages designed to steal your data. When you use a VPN's DNS system, it's another layer of protection.