More people are becoming aware of the importance of protecting their online privacy and as a result, there is an increasing number of VPN services in the market. This is good for potential customers as they have more options to choose from, but can also make the decision difficult. Core functionality like encryption and the option to disguise your IP address in order to bypass censorship and geo-restrictions are available in all VPNs. However, providers strive to make their services stand out by offering unique features and different solutions. When you are in the process of buying a VPN, it is important to keep in mind some aspects that will help you to determine which is the best option for your needs. Here is a list of the crucial factors that need to be considered when choosing a VPN provider.
No logs and privacy protection
Since one of the main reasons why many people have opted for a VPN is to ensure that their online privacy is protected, it is crucial to opt for a provider that doesn’t keep logs of your activities. If a provider that keeps logs is requested to hand them over to authorities, they are likely to comply and the data available will compromise the privacy of their customers. In contrast, a VPN provider that doesn’t keep any logs will not have any information to provide, even if authorities request it. Choosing a VPN provider that is committed to keeping no records of what you do on internet, is the best way to ensure that your privacy remains safe.
Looking for a VPN that doesn’t keep logs of your online activity is crucial, but in order to be considered as an effective solution to protect your privacy, the provider needs to meet additional criteria. If privacy is at the top of your list, make sure that your provider supports Bitcoin as method of payment and that it allows disposable email addresses during the registration process. This will enable you to enhance your privacy and to stay as anonymous as possible.
In order to enjoy a versatile navigation experience, server locations is another aspect that needs to be checked when looking for a VPN. If you want to access content from geo-restricted streaming services, you need to connect to a server that is located in the relevant country. For instance, BBC iPlayer is only available in the UK so if you are living abroad, you will need to connect to a server in that country. It should be noted that when you try to use a server that is in a country far away from your actual location, you are likely to experience a slower connection.
There are some providers that have a limited selection of servers, which may affect the speed of your connection and may prevent you from accessing content in certain regions. Other services have servers in a large number of locations. This would give you more options to disguise your identity and keep your privacy secure. The main thing is that you have servers in the locations that you are interested in and preferably in countries that are not to far from where you live.
This is a decisive factor for many people and while there are free option available, it is advisable to opt for a paid version, as you will get a better level of security and flexibility. While sticking to a budget is important, getting a good quality service matters more. Thankfully, it is possible to find services that start at around $5 per month and when you pay in advance for an annual subscription, you can save money in the long term. Most providers offer significant discounts when you extend the length of your plan, so the monthly price could end up being less than $4.
One thing you will need to pay special attention to is free trials and money back guarantees. Some providers allow you to test the service without charge, before you commit to a subscription. Others offer generous money back guarantees, giving you the chance to use the service for a month or so and if you are not completely happy, you can still get your money back. Just make sure that you read the terms of the guarantee before signing up.
VPN Protocols and Encryption
OpenVPN is widely regarded as the most secure protocol available. However, many providers also support options like PPTP and L2TP/IPsec. While the latter is a good alternative to OpenVPN, PPTP should be avoided as it is the weakest protocol out there. OpenVPN is the best choice for desktop and there are also OpenVPN clients available for mobile platforms. L2TP/IPsec is easier to configure manually on mobile devices, but as mentioned, OpenVPN also has some mobile support. In terms of encryption keys, most providers support 128-bit and 256-bit. Although the latter is the strongest option, encryption key length of 128-bit would be enough for most users.
Easy to set up and to use
Some of the most popular providers offer their own VPN client software, which makes them easier to configure than those that require third party technology. For instance, setting up OpenVPN manually can be more challenging (particularly for those without technical skills) since the open source client requires setting up with additional configuration files.
Furthermore, custom VPN clients allow users to change between servers and chose their preferred VPN protocol easily. They also offer convenient features such as internet kill switch and auto-reconnect. PPTP and L2TP are built into most platforms and devices and in general, are easy to setup. Before choosing a VPN, it is also important to check the compatibility and the support available for your device. If manual configuration is required, required, make sure that your provider has detailed guides and that customer assistance is available.
P2P Torrent Support
This may not be a deal breaker for many people, but for some, it is the main reason to have a VPN. While P2P can be used for legitimate purposes, this platform is widely used for downloading copyright content. The laws regarding this may vary between countries, but in some cases, offenders could face fines and even jail. It is important to understand the risks of downloading copyright material, but if you have decided to do it, you should use a VPN to defend your privacy. A provider may allow P2P but only in certain servers, in countries where data retention laws are lax or where there are no strict laws regarding copyright in order to avoid issues.
Customer support is essential for any service or product and VPNs are not the exception. All providers offer at least email based/ticket support system and some also support live chat or can be contacted by phone. In general, smaller companies are less likely to offer 24/7 customer support and their responses can take longer. However, many of them offer useful sections on their website such as knowledge base, FAQ or forum. Live chat usually offers the fastest and most effective contact form, but there are companies that only offer email support and still manage to provide prompt and helpful responses.