Choosing a VPN can sometimes seem like playing a lottery. There are so many options to pick from, and all of them have slick marketing operations. The more you look, the more confusing things become, as you compare huge lists of features. And that’s before thinking about price, ease of use, and what reviewers think.
But there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Actually, choosing a Virtual Private Network isn’t that hard. But you do need to choose well, as poor quality providers can leave your data open to all sorts of malicious actors. To help you make a decision, here are 6 factors to look for when making your decision.
Good VPNs make security a key priority. They are called Virtual Private Networks for a reason: without ensuring that users’ data remains private at all times, what would be the point of subscribing?
Encryption is absolutely crucial here. Why? Because it creates the secure “tunnels” that data passes through as it leaves your computer or smartphone. If these tunnels aren’t built from strong materials, they are easy to crack, allowing outsiders to access whatever you send.
Look for providers who offer 256-bit AES encryption, not 128-Bit alternatives. And check the protocols they use as well. Some VPNs have great encryption, but use outdated IPSec protocols. Instead, check for OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPsec.
Low-quality VPNs fail badly when it comes to speed. They may tick all of the boxes you need regarding encryption and have a great client, but struggle to get out of first gear when you fire them up. There’s no excuse for this. It’s most likely down to the poor investment in their server architecture.
When you check out VPN websites and reviews, you may see speed measured in Mbps (Megabits per second), with both download and upload speeds brought into the equation. This can be misleading, though. Download and upload speeds vary depending on location and your connection.
Because of this, speeds are usually calculated based on how much a VPN slows down connections. In this case, expect some slowdown, but nothing more than 10% is acceptable.
3. Server Numbers.
Another metric you’ll come across constantly when hunting down a killer VPN is how many servers the VPNuses. For example, NordVPN (one of the leading premium options) has 4,400 servers in 62 countries.
With such a huge range of servers, there’s more chance of finding a fast, local option. And you can route your traffic through many locations, working round geoblockers across the world.
However, don’t assume that the headline server number is the end of the story. Not all VPNs are straight with customers regarding how much server capacity they have to offer.
In 2017, the website Engadget reported that some providers were using “fake” servers to inflate their total numbers. This included some elite companies like ExpressVPN.
Some also rent server space from third party services, leading to performance and security issues. This can be a real problem with cheaper VPNs, potentially leaving user data exposed to the companies who host their servers.
So if you come across a bargain VPN advertising thousands of servers, take a step back and assess its all-round reputation. There may be more going on here than meets the eye.
P2P downloading and VPNs should go together naturally. Torrenters crave a way to ensure that their activities are protected from copyright holders and malicious actors, while there’s a huge market for VPNs catering for P2P needs.
But things aren’t so simple. Relatively few Virtual Private Networks are actually optimized for torrenting. Some avoid P2P for capacity reasons, fearing that their servers can’t cope. Others are wary of legal challenges, particularly in places like Canada or the USA.
And some make promises to torrenters that don’t measure up to reality. For instance, while VPNs might have great DNS/IP protection for web browsing and email, when it comes to torrent clients they start leaking information all over the place.
So, if you need a VPN for torrenting, choose carefully. Look for top notch DNS protection, excellent speeds, and a clear statement that P2P traffic is welcome. And be sure to avoid providers in countries prone to copyright challenges.
Unblocking services like Hulu or Netflix is another major reason to purchase a Virtual Private Network subscription, and there are several things to think about here as well.
Not all providers are as reliable as they claim when it comes to working around Netflix geoblockers. This matters because the range of content available on sites like Netflix varies dramatically from country to country.
So if you want as much choice as possible, you need to neutralize these barriers.
And here’s the issue. Netflix are skillful at updating their blockers to enforce their rights. And not all VPN developers are able to match them. However, some can, and these are the providers to look for.
Companies like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Cyberghost have a solid track record when it comes to unblocking. But speeds may vary for different users. So be sure to take advantage of their trials and guarantees to find a service that definitely works for you.
Finally, price is something that all VPN buyers need to think about. And it’s not an easy decision to make. Ideally buyers should balance costs and features, finding a blend that works for them.
One thing that you probably shouldn’t do is opt for a free VPN. These services are almost always dependent upon ad revenues to survive, and use tracking cookies prolifically. They tend to have poor encryption and are much more likely to log your activity than paid alternatives. Some hardly even qualify as VPNs, providing virtually no protection.
When choosing between paid-for options, don’t automatically go for a premium package. Not everyone needs unlimited speeds, email protection, malware filters, NAT firewalls and the ability to connect multiple devices.
But whatever you do, make sure that the essentials are covered: good encryption, competitive speeds, attentive support, and zero logs. If you get stuck, read some reviews to get a feel for what the experts think.
And remember: you can usually try before you buy thanks to free trials. So take up the offer. It’s a great way to find the perfect VPN for your requirements.