VPN is an abbreviation for "Virtual Private Network," and it refers to the ability to establish a secure network connection when using public networks. VPNs encrypt your internet traffic and conceal your identity online.
This makes it more difficult for third parties to follow your internet activities and steal information. It’s essentially just a type of digital tool that you can download as computer software or as a smartphone app.
If you’ve looked into getting a VPN before, you’ve probably heard of the usual popular choices, from SurfShark to NordVPN, and maybe even ExpressVPN. But each of these VPNs has something in common; they all cost money to use.
Can you get a VPN for free?
Yes, technically you can use a VPN free of charge. This will usually involve using a free VPN or a paid VPNs “Lite” version of their service. While we all would rather get something for free rather than paying for it if possible- be careful when it comes to VPNs.
Remember, if you skimp on a VPN, you’re skimping on your own internet safety. If you want a VPN that’s going to keep your internet activity anonymous and protected, then we recommend paying for a good one. However, if you’re just looking to try out a free VPN so you can browse a little more securely when connected to public WiFi, then a free VPN may be enough.
The Disadvantages of Using a Free VPN
Free VPN services may cost you nothing at all, but there is typically a good reason for that: it implies the provider will make a profit in some other way, either through invasive advertising or by selling your browsing data to third parties, thereby negating the whole purpose of anonymity in the first place.
Furthermore, free services tend to limit the amount of data you can use and the speed at which you can use it, making them completely useless for streaming video, torrenting or providing an extra layer of dependable protection in your day-to-day online life. Also, don't expect the kind of simple access support or server range that commercial providers provide.
Another drawback with using a VPN with free service is that you will have to put up with advertisements. As they say, nothing is ever truly free. However, if you don't mind pop-ups, this could be a decent choice to save money while still getting the protection of a VPN.
What are the advantages of using a free VPN?
Despite the fact that it is completely free to use, you will have access to secure servers. This means that your IP address will conceal your location and identity. This allows you to remain anonymous online while also being more secure than having an open connection. While free VPNs will only get you the basic standard of protection.
How is a paid-for VPN better than a free VPN?
This is the most important question to ask yourself before committing to a monthly or annual payment for a service. Of course, you'll have the security of an encrypted connection, but you'll also have access to a limitless amount of data. That means you could go abroad and still watch all of your favorite Netflix shows without worrying about running out of data.
Another thing to bear in mind is that with a subscription VPN, you will benefit from being able to choose the server of your choice. This is a major benefit because you can connect to US Netflix while in Europe, for example. This is also very useful if you are in a country where VPN use is limited and you may need to try a few server locations to go online.
Paid VPN services provide the added benefit of multi-platform compatibility and access, no bandwidth limits, and a variety of additional features that will improve your online security.
Also, paid VPN services usually offer round-the-clock customer service and support via email, live chat, phone, or an online contact form. While you are unlikely to be obliged to employ customer service.
Are there any disadvantages to using a paid VPN service?
Apart from the obvious pitfall that you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for your VPN service, these can also come with a few other downsides. For example, just because a VPN provider charges for their services does not mean that they are all completely trustworthy.
Some providers will keep hold of logs of all of your information and even sell it to third-party companies. Many providers also will not hesitate to share your information with the authorities if necessary.
An example of this happening is in the case of PureVPN, which promised users that it kept no logs of their information, but actually shared users’ private information with the FBI back in 2017.
Many paid VPN providers are based in shady jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Granada, and so on. The regulatory conditions in these places are murky at best, and no one knows who controls these companies. If you have complaints against the company, you may have difficulty getting your money back.
It's important to note that you must input your biographical details and payment information for all paid VPN services. This is a security risk in and of itself.
So paid or free- which VPN service is best?
Naturally, the concept of a free VPN is tempting. However, when the ultimate cost of accessing the service is compromising your privacy, exposing your device to cyber threats, or having limited access and unreliable connectivity, the attractiveness quickly fades.
A reputable paid VPN, on the other hand, provides significantly superior security and performance, as well as a wide range of user-friendly features.
What's even more terrible is that not all paid VPNs can be relied on to keep you safe or to provide fast, consistent connections. This is why we would always recommend opting for a paid-for subscription service over a free VPN.