VPNs are a highly sought after and discussed topic within the realms of internet security and utility. Oftentimes it can be hard to split the difference with all the information you are given about each provider, why you should pay, which providers you can trust, and how and why their prices differ.
In this guide I will list the best provider of VPNs, and why each provider has its own merit, so that you are back in the loop when it comes to talking about and purchasing VPNs.
ExpressVPN is a highly regarded VPN provider, and is one of the most popular out there.
ExpressVPN boasts some pretty interesting security features such as a kill switch if anything goes awry, split tunneling to bounce your IP address to two locations, DNS leak protection to secure your internet searches, and military-grade encryption to protect both your data and your location from hackers. These are the industry standard features when it comes to VPNs.
ExpressVPN is also really practical, it is applicable across a wealth of devices and operating systems – even your phone, TV, and games console can all be supported by ExpressVPN.
One drawback is that it will only work on 5 devices simultaneously so if you have plans to use it on more devices than 5 you might want to consider another provider.
As a newbie you can easily trust ExpressVPN, it comes with a 30 day money back guarantee and free trial if you aren’t sure, which is perfect as ExpressVPN deems its features as premium within the market as they charge some of the highest rates.
Although with this high rate you can guarantee the fastest internet speed out there, 24/7 live customer support, and 160 VPN locations in 94 countries.
NordVPN is one of the premium VPN services when it comes to securing your internet privacy. Alongside the usual VPN features such as a kill switch and split tunneling, NordVPN has some extra bits that will appeal to the security minded internet user.
In 2018, unfortunately, NordVPN suffered a well publicised server hack which leaked a lot of people’s data and was near fatal for the company. However, some clever marketing and a strong response from the company has reaffirmed them as a leading security-focussed VPN provider.
Since 2018, NordVPN has issued regular independent audits which confirm the provider’s now no-log status which is a real treat for the security minded customer.
With a fresh independent security audit in 2020 you can guarantee that you have internet safety, don’t be shy to check with the 24/7 customer support team.
If something more mundane such as streaming is your main usage, then NordVPN does have one of the fastest internet speeds on the market, rivalling ExpressVPN, with approximately 820Mbps depending on your location.
Some drawbacks with NordVPN is a potentially clunky and annoying server list display that uses a map rather than a written list, this can make choosing locations a little annoying and unclear in comparison to other providers.
This bleeds into an awkward mobile interface which makes the VPN frustrating to use on a handheld device. Although NordVPN does allow simultaneous use on 6 devices which is handy. If security is your focus, then NordVPN is the provider for you.
If each bell and whistle feature and setting isn’t important to you, and you simply want a value priced VPN provider that gives you easy access to the essential features, then Surfshark is for you.
Surfshark supports multiple operating systems and is as easy to use across all of them including their mobile device apps. Even more, with paid subscription, Surfshark will cover all your devices guaranteeing that every device in your house is sufficiently protected. All you have to do is set up and forget with Surfhsarks easy to use service.
While Surfshark has pretty reliable and standardised features, including the regular privacy guarantees with encryption, if you want to have optimal control of configuration and settings then Surfshark isn’t the best VPN provider for this. As Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands they are not subject to any data retention laws or legal government surveillance.
Value is the biggest draw with Surfshark VPN as you can get 24 months of subscription at a value price of only $1.83 per month.
So if you’re a worried dad and you want to make sure your kids and family are protected while surfing the web, while covering every device in your house with a simple swipe or click, and not breaking the back for security, then Surfshark is the perfect provider for the modern American family.
The Romanian based CyberGhost VPN is a hugely popular and pretty cheap VPN service that is used all over the world. CyberChost is loaded with features and settings that can be changed and optimised for your specific usage.
One particularly valuable feature is that CyberGhost’s team takes the time to list which servers are the best for torrenting and streaming.
If you are torrenting, CyberGhost lists the servers which are P2P based and which aren’t which allows you to share files in a centralised server which is safe, secure, and anonymous. In addition CyberGhost has one of the biggest server pools to dip into with over 6100 servers in around 90 countries.
While it’s app creation can leave much to be desired, CyberGhost doesn’t scrimp when it comes to privacy. As CyberGhost operates under Romania’s data protection laws, you don’t even need to provide a real name to sign up as Romania refuses to comply with the regular data retention laws of the European Union.
On top of this CyberGhost has some respectable transparency reporting for their company, including listing every member of their team with pictures as a move towards transparency – while a little gimmick, this is an interesting approach that will be appreciated by certain privacy fanatics.
Hotspot Shield VPN
If you’re willing to sacrifice a little internet privacy for some of the best internet speeds on the VPN market, then Hotspot Shield is a provider worth noting.
Most notably, there is a fair bit of session logging going on at Hotspot Shield, although they’re not trying to hide it. An independent transparency audit would certainly clear up a lot of these issues with the security worried user.
The headline with Hotspot Shield is their 400Mbps internet speed which even on congested servers offers the highest we’ve seen from a VPN service. This makes it the perfect VPN provider if you want to stream and torrent.
Hotspot Shield is easy to use even on mobile apps and offers simplicity for beginner VPN users, but lacks the configuration which will make it lose out to other market competitors.
Private Internet Access VPN
Private Internet access has some impressive speeds and server access for the VPN buff. It’s main calling card is the impressive selection of over 32,000 servers available to the user, with 17,000 of those available in the US alone. This means that connection isn’t an issue in the location you want.
In addition, the app design, on over 10 different mobile and desktop devices at one time, offers a great level of customisation when it comes to settings and configurations. Private Internet Access has been verified by the iotX alliance who supports market competitors such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
Privacy only gets better with Private Internet Access; as other users pointed out potential privacy flaws Private Internet Access have changed their encryption methods and rules in a move to have a more configurative and protective service.
Certain security features such as handshakes have been lost but most users won’t utilise that well anyway.
We generally found these to be the most popular and best providers of VPN services right now. ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark are usually the big three when it comes to VPN providers. This is largely because of the services quality and financial backing, so see what these services have to offer for your specific needs.
Although some would claim that these services simply have the largest advertising and marketing budget, with companies such as NordVPN even having the sponsorship of some sports teams, some users find that other services do provide potentially better features that should also be researched to a fair degree.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, a Virtual Private Network encrypts your data, such as your IP address, location, time, by rerouting your internet traffic to a virtual server rather than directly to your own IP address.
This means that if someone were to monitor your internet traffic, your location, and other bits of data, will be hidden and falsified. VPNs have many uses, both mundane and security based, from being able to access British Netflix, to being able to better hide your internet history.
You don’t have to be a tech nerd to use a VPN, and many popular providers now provide simple and easy VPN services that even the most tech resistant person could operate. But it is also really important to be aware of the limitations and potential issues of VPNs as well as their usage.
What are the potential risks of using a VPN?
Some free VPN services will sell your encrypted data to advertisers, while this sounds malicious it’s actually a pretty common practice by huge tech firms and doesn’t compromise much of your internet safety, but the idea can turn some people off. This should encourage you to seek quality when using a VPN and be prepared to pay for this quality in return.
A VPN is not anti-virus software. When used correctly, a VPN will certainly help protect your data and general security when surfing the web, but this doesn’t mean you are safe from viruses and hackers all together.
While your IP address and other information is encrypted you are still vulnerable to hackers and other internet dangers. VPNs should be used in combination with other antivirus software and general good practice when it comes to internet privacy and protection.
In the same manner, a VPN is not a foolproof approach to becoming anonymous on the internet. Your ISP (Internet service provider) can still see your history if they wanted, so if you are looking at something illegal the government will be able to court order your ISP to provide your internet history.
So when you are travelling the internet now packaged with the right VPN provider, you should still remain careful and alert online.
How are VPNs used in streaming?
As a VPN can change your IP address, while many have used this for security purposes, there is the sleek advantage that being able to bounce your IP address in this way enables you to view geographically censored material.
One particular use of this feature, and one of the most popular uses of a VPN, is to have unlimited access to a streaming services full catalogue, even the geographically specific shows that are released on different dates.
So if you want to get ahead of the film reviewers, and ensure you get first access to the best streaming services have to offer, consider a VPN provider such as NordVPN to enable quick and safe streaming.
How are VPNs used in torrenting?
When sharing files online, some find that using a peer-to-peer (P2P) approach, i.e. directly downloading a file from another user’s device, can be the safest. VPNs are often used when torrenting files, as downloading directly from someone’s device can be potentially risky if you don’t know them. Using torrenting services, which de-centralise internet traffic, can mean that you can share material without having to abide by censorship and geographically specific sharing laws.
Is it illegal to use a VPN?
Using a VPN has throughout history been affiliated with illegal internet piracy, but using a VPN is not illegal and some internet service providers even encourage it.
As mentioned, VPNs have become more and more popular as the modern age progresses, some even have sports team sponsorship, so the myth of VPN illegality is often a historical one that holds no weight. Often, VPNs actually discourage pirate activity and can potentially protect you from it.