VPNs (virtual private networks) have many different functions and benefits, including keeping your browsing behaviour private, disguising your geo location, bypassing blocked websites and accessing online streaming services.
There are hundreds of VPNs on the market, and every one of them claims to offer you the best service. So I’ve hand-tested several VPNs for speed, price, features, customer support, as well as, of course, privacy and security. I’ve collected stacks of data to create fact-based reviews.
How We Rated the Top VPN Services
Rating the best services requires a deep dive into how individual VPNs perform in terms of speed, security, and privacy. It also requires an analysis of usability, the ability to unblock sites, and value for money, among other external factors.
Jurisdiction and Privacy
Jurisdiction influences how a VPN service approaches privacy issues. The top VPN services are based in countries that are not associated with mass surveillance. Data laws also favor VPNs that are located in these countries. These VPNs also have a no-logs policy.
Security and Encryptions
Encryptions define how strongly a VPN service implements its security. The stronger the encryption, the better the VPN—if the performance is balanced. Stronger encryptions result in slower VPN connection speeds. The elite VPNs offer great security features that don’t affect performance.
This important metric defines how fast the VPN connection is. By default, a VPN should slow your normal internet connection by a small percentage due to encryption overheads. A speed test is used to measure the VPN’s download speed, upload speed, latency, and jitter. The go-to VPN services have consistently high speed test results.
Quality Customer Service
A reliable VPN service offers customers help in multiple ways. This includes customer assistance, a 24/7 live chat, a ticket system, and an email interface.
VPN Protection: Can I Hide My IP Address?
A VPN encrypts and protects your data connection online. What you do online is open for prying eyes, but you can protect and hide your IP address and data by using a VPN. A VPN secures data between you and your business, or you can obtain anonymity and protection for your personal information.
There are loads of VPNs to choose from; and quality is on the rise. The process of choosing a VPN starts with a realistic assessment of your needs: if – for example – you only use Apple products, you must find the best VPN for Mac and Apple products.
How VPN Connections Benefit You
Not everyone has the same priorities, or uses the internet in the same way. If you want to improve anonymity online, VPN providers give you a way to discreetly access the Internet through a “tunnel” service. This type of access masks your communication and displays the VPN’s IP address when you connect to a website, instead of your own.
This means that your private home IP address is hidden when browsing different websites. Using a VPN service will likely impact your computer speed as well. If you are looking for a fast VPN, make sure that it also keeps your privacy through data encryption between your computer and the target server. By using a VPN, you can improve the protection of your data, and stay anonymous on the internet – all while streaming or browsing at top speeds.
Other benefits of VPN are:
- Fast streaming and downloading/torrenting
- Access geo-restricted content
- Anonymous web surfing
- Bypass VPN blocks
Price Matters – But Only up to a Point
Free VPNs may seem attractive on paper, but they often offer a sub-par service and may have significant privacy issues. Always keep in mind that free services are free for a reason. The best VPNs offer a balance between quality and price, and some can be really cheap.
Speed and Reliability
A VPN keeps you safe online by rerouting your traffic through an encrypted server. If this process is done well, the effect on your connection should be unnoticeable. If, on the other hand, the VPN is poor quality, it may grind your internet speed down to a halt.
If you are looking for the best VPN for streaming, for example, look out for services with 99.9% uptime and no speed or bandwidth caps. This ensures your online experience will be smooth – irrespective of how heavy your internet usage is.
How VPN Connections Benefit Your Business
Businesses big and small also benefit from setting up VPN connections. VPN allows employees who are working from home to connect to a private network over the internet while still protecting their IP addresses. A VPN service gives protection to the business and the employee. The software is typically installed on the employee’s computer, and the employee uses the service to perform daily tasks as if the employee is logged in locally.
If you need more help choosing, read one of our VPN reviews and find the best VPN provider for your needs.
A closer look at our VPN rating criteria
To ensure you have the best VPN options to choose from, we considered several factors that each service was offering—we usually start with the features provided.
The type and level of security used by a VPN should also be a priority. Thanks to this, we selected VPNs with military-grade encryption, a considerable range of protocols—including OpenVPN, L2TP, IKEv2, PPTP, and more—DNS leak protection, as well as a Kill Switch.
We also performed several tests of connection speeds of each VPN. Amid the tests, we also checked the number of servers and locations that every VPN offers. Notably, We usually use an online SpeedTest tool to perform the various connection runs. To be more specific, ourprocedure of these speed tests is as follows:
Baseline test: Here we run a speed test of our internet without a VPN connection.
Our second test is done after connecting to the nearby server location.
In our third test, we connect to distant servers.
Optional: You can run speed tests depending on the type of servers offered, including Tor over VPN servers, torrent/P2P servers, streaming servers, virtual servers, MultiHop/DoubleVPN servers, and more.
We then studied and analyzed the different subscription plans and their price rates. Most VPNs offer subscription plans that offer the same features but differ in terms of the billing cycle.
In addition, some VPNs are generous enough to give a considerable time of money-back guarantee that is hassle-free, and an even smaller number offer a free-trial period.
Additionally, we checked the compatibility of each VPN I’m reviewing, testing every popular aspect that they’re supposed to tick. This includes compatibility with various devices and platforms, ability to stream and torrent various sites, and workability in heavily censored regions like China, Russia, and Singapore.
There’s also the bit about the level of customer service the VPN offers. We check and test the workability, availability, and reliability of the various sections of support available on each VPN. For instance, a good VPN is supposed to provide an unbeatable 24/7 live chat service,that is run by actual humans—not bots—as well as an alternative ticketing system. A vast library of the knowledge-based system and FAQs is also handy.
What do I need to know before I subscribe to a VPN service?
Before you subscribe to any VPN service, there are key factors to consider. These factors seek to answer how a particular VPN will help you. The VPN services that we highlighted were carefully selected based on the following factors:
VPNs are meant to keep your information private from the rest of the world when you surf the internet. The best services have a strict no-logs policy, located in a jurisdiction with no data retention laws. They should also implement security features that protect your privacy.
- Security Features
Security goes hand in hand with privacy. The elite VPN services should have strong, unbreakable encryptions. The VPN service should implement other security features such as a kill switch, protection against leaks, a firewall, and obfuscation technology. Robust security features allow VPN services to bypass restrictions easily.
- Speed, Performance, and Bandwidth
Besides privacy, you might want to use a VPN for speed intensive tasks such as downloading files or even streaming. In this case, the best VPN to consider is one that offers lightning speeds without any buffering. The VPN should also have unlimited bandwidth and should not be laggy or slowing your connection to unacceptable levels.
- Simultaneous Connections
The best VPNs give you the best value for your money. Therefore, you should consider one that offers many simultaneous connections. The simultaneous connections should not affect the performance of the VPN. This way, you can use multiple devices with only a single subscription.
- Server Coverage
Server coverage dictates which locations you can access services from. This is important in bypassing geo-restrictions. Therefore, it’s wise to consider server locations when choosing a service.
How do I choose the best VPN?
There are numerous choices when it comes to VPN services. Narrow down those choices by focusing on the most important features, including:
- Strong encryption
- Ease of use
- P2P functionality
Look for a service with fast speeds, so your connection is smooth, strong security features, so your connection is private, and easy functionality, so you don’t hate your VPN. Also, look for one that offers P2P file sharing, and make sure the price is right.
What are the advantages of using a VPN?
VPN services provide an invaluable service for anyone using the internet. While people will opt to use a VPN for different reasons, some of the main benefits you can gain are:
- Online privacy
- Unblocking websites
- Unblocking Telegram
- Safe torrenting and streaming
- Bypassing censorship
- Saving money online by changing your geo-location
Whether you’re looking for more privacy or security or you want to access content that is geo-blocked for some reason, share files or stream a game, a VPN provides you with the advantages you are looking for.
Can you trust a VPN?
In a word, yes…and no. A reliable VPN can be trusted, while questionable services are better left alone. How can you know? Look for privacy and encryption standards. A good VPN service will have strong encryption protocols, clearly stated privacy policies (like no logging), and strong security features, like DNS leak protection.
Is using a VPN legal?
Yes! VPNs are totally legal to use in the vast majority of the civilized world. Of course, what you do with your VPN is subject to all laws governing your country. If you are doing something illegal with your VPN, that’s your business. VPN usage though is totally legal.
How can I use a VPN for streaming?
Streaming with a VPN is very simple.
- Sign up for the service and plan of your choice
- After logging into your account, turn on your VPN
- You can either manually choose a server/country to stream from or let the service choose the appropriate one for you
- Visit your favorite TV show streaming site, and enjoy your show!
How can I use a VPN for torrenting?
Torrenting is another great use for VPNs. Here’s how to set it up:
- Get the VPN plan that fits your needs and budget
- Log into your account
- Connect to one of the dedicated servers for torrenting, or let the service pick the best server for your location
- Use your regular torrent site or app like uTorrent, and you’ll be completely protected while you download your torrents
Are free VPNs safe?
Another one-word answer, no. Free VPNs do not have or use the resources to ensure that your connections are secure. This leaves you open and vulnerable to spammers, hackers, government agencies, geo-restrictions, and other issues you are trying to avoid with a VPN. Only a dedicated VPN service with reliable security protocols can be trusted to get the job done. Plus, free sites usually limit your bandwidth, making for sluggish connections.
Connecting to a VPN before surfing the internet, is essential. A good VPN will encrypt your browsing activity, reroute your online traffic through a secure tunnel—thereby masking your true identity from encroaching eyes of governments, ISPs, as well as cybercriminals. Furthermore, a good VPN will allow you to enjoy maximum speeds, overcome heavy censorship, and unblock geo-restricted websites.
To get the most out of a VPN service, here are some tips to follow:
- Always go for premium VPNs—because they don’t have limits.
- Consider a VPN depending on your needs. If you want privacy, choose the VPN service with robust security features and strong encryptions.
- Finally, not all VPNs offer what they claim, choose carefully!
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