Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are becoming a common choice to many individuals who need to conceal browsing activities and bypass geographic censorship as well as all sorts of restrictions associated with one’s actual location.
The internet is no longer safe and it worsens with the evolving technology. However, with more industries migrating to the internet world, it is almost impossible to avoid using it altogether. In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission raised many eyebrows by reversing a law which enforced Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to first acquire permission before retrieving user personal information.
With that put into consideration, most people now opt for VPNs in an attempt to cloak their
activities online such as who they chat with, where they are, and what they say. Sounds like the
issue is solved, right? Hold your horses before taking off. There is a catch when it comes to
VPNs. Remember, VPN providers are as good as ISPs. Therefore, it’s just a matter of forking
your data from one company to another when you opt for VPNs to shield you against ISPs. So,
with the VPN providers having access to your browsing history covert, it becomes indispensable
that you select a service judiciously. You shouldn’t be alarmed though, because this guide is
specifically designed to teach you prominent tips on how to select the best VPN. Before diving
in too deep, let’s first touch base on the basic knowledge concerning VPNs.
What is a VPN?
In layman’s terms, the use of a VPN is to connect your device (PC, mobile phone or tablet) to
another device that is connected to the internet but located in another region. This feature allows
you to surf the internet using the other device’s actual location. For instance, if the server you are
connected to via a VPN is located in Sweden and you’re physically located in Thailand, your
activities online will appear as someone located in Sweden.
Why Should you use a VPN?
The answer lies within the VPN name: surf the internet in apocryphal mode by connecting to a
private network. The chain goes this way, instead of directly connecting to the internet through
your ISP, you go via a VPN. So, what are the benefits of this? Well, you can utilize a Virtual
Private Network to:
- Access geographically restricted web content
- Stream media that is not available in your region such as Netflix and HBO Now
- Avoid being a victim of untrustworthy hotspot connections
- Surf the internet in anonymous mode by masking your real location
- Prevent logs while torrenting
The main use of VPNs is for remote corporate members to access the business’s private network
without having to go to the office. This increases the level of security as it encrypts PC traffic
that goes to and fro.
How does a VPN Work?
When installed on your device, be it a computer or smartphone, the VPN software creates
encrypted, secure, as well as a trusted connection to the VPN provider’s servers. It then relays
what you need to the web via its servers. However, although it may be difficult for a third-party
to intersect the connection between you and your VPN provider, the VPN company is capable of
keeping the history of your activity just like the way an ISP does. Despite most of them
promising not to keep logs since it is conspicuously the logic why you would want to use them;
you should be vigilant in probing the fine print for in-depth info.
One important thing to note before jumping into the wagon is that VPNs cannot entirely hide
your location. Platforms, such as Facebook and Google, will always track your sign-in activities,
regardless of the VPN service you are on. Moreover, websites can also plant cookies into your
device to track your browsing activities in a particular browser. Considering that VPN services
log data of your activities, law enforcers can propel a VPN provider to hand over records related
to your data or directly monitor your device.
Another downside related to using a VPN connection is a slowed down internet speed. The
download and upload speeds are reduced since you will be appending an intermediate phase to
your internet connection. However, some VPNs provide faster servers, hence adding another
logic why you should be selective.
Choose the Best VPN
There is no beating around the bush when it comes to selecting a VPN; it can be stressful. The
idea of placing trust in a company with the hope of it being upstanding when it comes to security
and privacy is scary. To make matters worse, there isn’t clear regulation on who can set up and
offer VPN services.
Theoretically, VPNs are supposed to serve your needs and interests. However, when reality sets,
it gets more complicated than anticipated. Many negative factors indicate a bad VPN service, but
if you come across any of these three listed below, run for your life!
1. A VPN service with complicated fine print
2. A VPN service with kindreds to regions that have regulations that don’t support privacy
3. A VPN service with traits similar to scam platforms designed to obtain data and sell it
Taking these into consideration, you can find excellent VPN services just by implementing some
detective work. Now, here is what you should consider when choosing the best VPN service:
In most cases, you need a VPN connection to access content that is accessible from the specified
location. Thus, it is important for the VPN service you select to have servers in a country that
will let you unlock the content you wish to view. Moreover, take note of the number of servers as
well as IPs provided in a country. The more, the better.
Internet speed is everything when it comes to obtaining quality experience while surfing the internet. A good VPN service should be able to pass the three basic internet speed metrics which are upload and download speed, and ping time. Download and upload speed determines how fast an internet connection can send data to and from your device when connected via a VPN. So, if you are looking to stream high-quality videos or download big files, high download speed is what you need. If you want to send large files, then your concern should be about getting high upload speed.
For online games, VoIP, Skype, etc., ping time is what matters the most. This metric measures
the time taken by a packet (lone unit of data) while travelling from your device via the VPN
connection to its final destination before coming back to your device.
Therefore, you should identify your priority reasons to connect to a VPN service to understand
which metric matters the most. Once figured out, it will be feasible to pick out the best VPN
service that best suits your needs.
Internet privacy is a major concern to many. Thus, if this is the primary reason you are
connecting to a VPN service, you need to find out whether or not it keeps logs. These can be
identified by a standout tagline ‘zero logs’ or ‘logless service.’ Moreover, you should pay
attention to the information needed by a VPN service when registering an account with them.
The more personal it gets, the better it becomes for you to walk away.
Most of the people couldn’t care less to worry about this, however, there is still a significant
chunk out there that values a particular VPN protocol, such as OpenVPN, PPTP or L2TP. If that
is something beyond your worries, then opting for an OpenVPN protocol is advisable. Also, you
should check for the encryption level applied by the VPN service.
Another important feature that you should consider is a kill-switch. This is an important feature
that avoids your activities being exposed in case your VPN connection suddenly drops. With a
kill-switch, whenever your VPN connection malfunctions or runs into problems, this feature
barricades internet traffic ensuring that your system does not track back to utilizing its default
Depending on the device you are on, ensure that you are getting the best VPN service version
dedicated to the platform. In most cases, VPN services tend to tone down their features when
jumping to other platforms. Therefore, don’t be quick to assume that what they say is best or
available on your PC will also be the same when used on a smartphone.
In most cases, VPN service limitations come in the number of devices that can be concurrently
connected to the servers. Consider the number of devices that you may reasonably need to stay
connected simultaneously, and then see if the VPN service you are considering can
accommodate it. Usually, the average limitation when it comes to the number of devices lingers
Costs & Payment Methods
A good VPN will cost you money – whether you like it or not. However, your budget can be limited leading to the elimination of some amazing options. That doesn’t mean you will end up digging in a well of VPN services. Therefore, you should consider going in for long-term plans as they tend to bring down the price compared to month-to-month subscriptions. If you are not sure of the service you want to go with, check their refund policy first before committing.
As you can see, it's not a skill demanding task to find a good VPN service but you need to be circumspect to come up with the best results. Not all VPNs give what they promise. Apply these tips carefully before committing your money and time to the wrong guy; jeopardizing your sensitive data.