How to Pick The Right VPN Provider the First Time
Five years ago, VPN's were only considered a necessity for security conscious businesses and hackers. Only recently has the technology become mainstream enough that the general public has taken notice. Not only are VPN's much more accessible than they used to be, they are also much more affordable, usually costing between $5-$15 a month.
A VPN has numerous benefits for even the most casual internet user. You can check out my hub 7 reasons why you need a vpn but I will recap the main points quickly. I VPN can help prevent identity theft, digital snooping, malicious IP based attacks, and will keep your personal information and data safe even when you are using unsecured wireless networks. Most people don't realize how vulnerable their data is when sharing wifi with strangers.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a VPN
VPN services try to differentiate themselves with all sorts of bells and whistles, but when it comes down to it, the end user really only needs a few things: Security, Speed, Features and Affordability. You will be amazed at how widely these can vary between vpn providers and there are always trade-offs when you try to keep costs low. Before picking a VPN provider, it is essentially that you decide which 2 of these features to prioritize because it will make your search much easier. In this hub, we will look at each segment of VPN service individually and I will point out which VPN providers excel at each specific area.
VPNs have many uses. Why do YOU want one?
Price: The Most Affordable Quality VPN Providers
Let me get this out of the way first. If you don't know already, there are a number of FREE VPN providers. They cover the costs of providing you with VPN service in a variety of ways, including forced advertising, upselling you to their premium products, or flat out selling your personal information. I do not recommend any using these services. I've tried several, and they always limit your speed and connection options, and the ads are extremely annoying. Furthermore, several of the free VPN's only encrypt your browsing, not your entire internet connection as a VPN should. When personal security is concerned, it never pays to take shortcuts. VPN's are so affordable these days, there's no reason to make do with an ineffective free version.
There are several extremely affordable VPN's out there that still deliver excellent service. Obviously when you offer your customers the lowest price, you have to cut some features. Budget VPN's generally don't have all the extra software features of the higher priced alternatives. None if these things are essential to the functioning or security of the VPN, they're mostly aimed at power users. Examples of premium features would be: the ability to route specific applications through the vpn instead of all programs. Budget VPN's generally also won't have servers in 40 different countries, you'll have to pick from 5-10 (but most people don't need more than 1 or 2 anyway).
My two favorite budget VPN providers are:
1)Private Internet Access - $3.33 - $6.95 / month
Private Internet access is an incredible value. You can buy a full year of service for $40, but you don't sacrifice many features. They have over 10 U.S. servers as well as a few European and Asian servers. They use 128-256 bit encryption which is comparable to higher-priced vpn's and they still deliver speeds that are fast enough for HD video streaming if using U.S. servers. Even better, they are one of the vpn's that truly value privacy. They keep NO data logs which is especially valuable for habitual p2p or bittorrent users.
2)Invisible Browsing VPN (IBvpn) - $3-$8 / Month
IBvpn is great because they have about 7 different vpn plan options, meaning you never have to overpay for features or servers you don't need. Their plans start as low as $36.95 / year with unlimited monthly bandwidth. I tried their service for a full month while writing a full review for my other website and discovered their service to be plenty fast. They also have excellent tech support for an affordable vpn. They are also p2p friendly, but only on specific European servers.
Speed: The Fastest VPN Providers
After price, most people would say speed is the most important consideration when choosing a VPN. If you want to stream HD video while connected to your VPN, you will likely need at least 4-5 Mbps. This is easily attainable on U.S. servers from many VPN providers, but is rarer on interrnational servers and requires a VPN that makes speed a priority. They tend to be more expensive because faster servers mean less users per server which means they need to charge more per user to cover the additional costs.
While most VPN providers can deliver speeds between 4-7Mbps at certain times of the day, there are a couple providers that deliver 5+ Mbps all the time, even on most international servers. I've even got actual speedtest results for verification.
1) PureVPN - $13+ / month
PureVPN delivers top in class speed as well as a premium feature-set that you don't find it most other vpn services. They also have top notch customer support, and they even have a live-chat tech support window built into their software. They are a bit pricier than most ($18/month if you choose month to month or $13 / month if you buy a year in advance. For the bandwidth hungry though, the extra speed is well worth the price. Check out these actual speed tests from my PureVPN review:
Vypr VPN Speed Test Results
Vypr is another vpn provider that is serious about speed. They operate all their own servers themselves instead of outsourcing them from other providers. Moreover, the utilize server clusters instead of individual servers, so your speed is faster and disconnects are extremely rare.
Beyond speed, Vypr also offers free encrypted cloud storage and is one of the only VPN providers have their own smartphone app, so protecting your Android or Iphone has never been easier.
Security: The Safest VPN Providers
Security takes several forms when it comes to vpn providers. All VPN's provide some level of encryption, usually 128-bit or more. This is essentially a cryptographic encoding of all data that flows between your computer and the vpn server, so that others cannot intercept, decipher or steal the data. Most quality vpn services will offer at least 256-bit encryption, which is much harder to crack.
Encryption level is not the only consideration. Anonymity online is also one of they key selling points of a VPN. People do not want their internet usage to be traced easily back to them. There is an entire industry of organizations that monitor, log, track, report, and sell internet usage data without your knowledge.
Believe it or not, many VPN providers also monitor and record your internet usage as well, but there are a few that do not keep monitor your data or even keep connection logs, allowing you to remain completely anonymous online.
The best Anonymous VPN Services are:
As you may guess from their name, Torguard appeals specifically to the p2p community, but their service is useful for anyone who places a premium on anonymity.They do not keep usage logs of any kind, and they offer a number of vpn plans as well as responsive customer support. If you are a p2p or torrent user, they should be a top choice.
2) Private Internet Access
Private internet access is not only one of the most affordable vpn providers, they're also one of the safest. They keep no logs at all, offer 256-bit AES encryption and are p2p friendly. $40 a year is a pretty spectacular price for complete online security.
IPvanish is one of the fastest growing vpn providers in the world. They now have servers in over 30 countries and some of the fastest speeds around. They also take privacy very seriously. They don't track vpn usage. They do make temporary connection logs but they are routinely recycled. They also utilize shared IP addresses on their servers which means that dozens of users will be sharing a single IP address simultaneously. Because of this, no usage can be tracked from the IP address back to a specific user. IPvanish also stands out for their excellent customer support.
Other Features (Like unblocking content)
One of the critical things that differentiates VPN providers, is their custom software and feature list.
Most of the top VPN services create their own custom VPN client, which often has unique features such as:
- A kill-switch (prevent IP address leaks)
- DNS/IPv6 Leak Protection
- Custom DNS servers (specify your own)
- 'Favorite' Server lists
- The ability to Unblock streaming services like Netflix/Hulu
Of these, the most popular feature is The ability to Unblock websites and streaming services:
Unblocking Content (and SmartDNS)
Due to licensing constraints, some VOD (Video-on-Demand) services require you to connect from a specific location to access their content library.
For example, if you subscribe to Netflix in the USA, but you go on a European vacation, you may be extremely disappointed to discover an ERROR MESSAGE when trying to stream from you Netflix account, stating that access isn't allowed from your location.
As a paying customer, you should be entitled to stream your content from anywhere, so several VPN providers have built workarounds that will allow you to access your favorite streaming sites from anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately only a few VPN providers are actually Netflix Compatible, and it's a constant technical challenge to continue unblocking streaming sites, as they sometimes blacklist IP's or services used to access them.
See what a VPN can really do!
There are many VPN options out there, but only a few exceptional VPN services. Each vpn provider tends to specialize and excel in a few specific areas so it's up to the user to identify the features that are most important to them and choose accordingly. I wish you the best of luck in your search for the perfect VPN!