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VPN technology is more popular than ever these days.
Though the ability to maintain anonymity and privacy online has been compelling for companies around the world for some time, it grew more essential during the pandemic. According to one study, VPN usage increased in the USA by around 124% just during the first few weeks of March 2020.
What’s more, around 68% of adults in the US now use a free or paid VPN service.
As companies continue to encourage remote and hybrid working practices, and people around the world rely more heavily on their internet connections, the best VPN is becoming a must-have investment. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best VPN.
How to Choose the Best VPN
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network,” a tool used in the digital world to protect individuals online, and keep their details as hidden as possible. VPNs encrypt your internet use and trick your device into thinking it’s in a totally different location.
Choosing the right VPN service means considering the specific features you need from a virtual private network. There’s more to this decision than just finding the tech that meets with your budget. Here are some of the points you may need to consider.
Speed: Speed is absolutely essential for a good VPN. You need to be able to connect to your network and the subsequent sites or environments you want to visit as quickly as possible. You can usually test the performance of a VPN by examining its best upload, download, and ping speeds.
Budget: While budget isn’t the only thing to look at when choosing a VPN – it is something you’ll need to consider. There are free VPNs out there, but we wouldn’t recommend using them, as they’re generally not as reliable or secure.
Privacy: Having a VPN active on your mobile or computer device is crucial to ensuring you have more privacy when you browse. A no-logs VPN means the technology will retain as few logs as possible and make them as anonymous as possible too. However, even VPNs without logs won’t be totally anonymous.
Transparency: Look into the VPNs offering you the highest level of transparency possible. You should have plenty of information on which information is collected, how the VPN works, and where your VPN will have limitations. For instance, in the US, VPNs won’t have many choices if feds show up with national security letters asking to go through their servers.
Features: Many VPN options come with extra features for customer convenience and peace of mind. You can access things like firewalls and anti-malware protection, among other security measures, which is great for all kinds of browsing.
The Top VPNs for 2021
Whether you’re using your VPN to access public Wi-Fi more safely, watch foreign versions of your streaming services, or just work from home, it’s important to consider all your options carefully. The right product will give you the speed, security, and versatility you need to thrive. Here, we’ve collected some of our favorite VPN options based on speed, features, and performance.
If you’ve heard of VPN services before today, you’re probably familiar with ExpressVPN already. One of the most popular products on the market for privacy, speed, and flexible browsing, this service has it all. Express VPN is one of the number one leader in trusted performance, with sensational ratings from customers around the globe.
There’s access to more than 3,000 servers with ExpressVPN, located in 160 locations throughout 94 countries. The five simultaneous connections available from the service should be more than enough for most users, and you’ll even have access to things like dedicated apps on Android, Mac, Windows, Linus, iOS, and Android systems to help you out.
ExpressVPN also works well for your games console, Amazon Fire Stick, smart TVs, and other tools too. Perhaps most exciting of all, ExpressVPN is also wonderfully fast – perhaps quicker than any other VPN on the market today. The connection speeds are excellent among multiple companies. Access to a unique protocol called Lightway also makes it easier for the system to increase reliability and speed dynamically.
If you’re using a VPN specifically to unlock banned websites, or get around restrictions on your TV streaming services, Express VPN has you covered on this front too.
Fantastic data retention transparency
Great ratings for excellent high-speed service
Unique technology for reliability
Ideal for accessing servers around the world
Only five simultaneous connections per subscription
No specific browser extension or internet explorer
NordVPN is another name in VPN services gaining a lot of attention lately, particularly thanks to the wide range of deals and great offers it has for new users. The NordVPN system is excellent for encryption purposes. While it offers AES-256 encryption as standard, you can also turn on the double VPN protection system, which encrypts all of your traffic twice.
NordVPN is likely to be the most attractive choice for companies offering VPN services to their employees. If you need to ensure your internet anonymity is absolutely protected, NordVPN is a great choice. This service is also excellent when it comes to server count too. You’ll have around 5,000 servers to choose from throughout 60 countries. Plus, you can connect up to 6 simultaneous devices.
Like its primary competitor, ExpressVPN, NordVPN also comes with a host of extra features to enjoy, like proxy extensions for your Firefox and Chrome browsers, and kill switches. There are protection options for your DNS, and you can even pay for your service via Bitcoin. NordVPN also puts the peace of mind of users first by bringing in third-party companies to audit its no logging policy. The company even introduced NordLynx to make connection speeds faster than ever.
Although NordVPN can be a little complex in some areas, like making it harder to search for destination cities for your connection, it’s definitely worth the small learning curve.
Excellent non-logging service with third-party auditing
Access to a huge range of different streaming services
Rated as one of the top VPN providers by companies like TechRadar and CNET, Surfshark is a strong swimmer in the industry. The award-winning solution is affordable and secure, with pricing starting at as little as $2.50 for your connection. You’ll also get unlimited connections with each package so that you can use your smartphones, smart TV, desktops, and anything else at the same time.
The success of the Surfshark VPN isn’t just based on cost. You’ll also get the peace of mind that comes with knowing this company runs an independent audit every year to prove it’s sticking to its logging policies. Two-factor authentication is included to help build peace of mind, and you get an in-built ad-blocker with the experience too.
The Surfshark VPN offers a simple and clean interface, with options for things like “Quick Connect”, so you don’t have to worry about a learning curve. There’s a new protocol called WireGuard built into the OpenVPN, and Surfshark also has a private DNS, along with double VPN for further safety.
Once again, you’ll have no problem getting through the location walls restricting various streaming services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix. Surfshark even gives you a thirty-day money-back guarantee just in case you’re not entirely happy with everything. For torrenting purposes, the service is also based in the Virgin Islands, far outside of surveillance alliances like Nine Eyes and Five eyes.
Excellent for avoiding surveillance alliances
Unlimited access to device connections with each subscription
Most VPN services work on virtually any operating system, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about finding something that works with your Mac. However, the CyberGhost solution is particularly well-rated for Mac users, with access to a beautifully straightforward customer interface, and more than 5,500 servers around the world.
If you’re looking for a VPN solution offering quick access to more than 90 countries for your internet connection, you’ll love CyberGhost. It’s easy to set up and use, and the company is based in Romania, so it doesn’t fall victim to any of the annoying data retention laws you get in the US. For extra peace of mind, you get AES-256 encryption as standard, and an anonymous IP address.
Although CyberGhost is pretty affordable as standard, you’ll also find a lot of great deals available for this service too. There are tons of discounts offered throughout the year. Plus, if you order VPN services from CyberGhost, you can usually also access freebies like CyberGhost ID Guard – a service for protecting your emails and password security issues.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of CyberGhost is its excellent customer service. Many VPN providers don’t offer the best customer service – perhaps because they’re located in such remote environments. However, CyberGhost has things like 24/7 live chat and access to quick email service too. There are also blogs and help guides available on the website.
An excellent and affordable choice for VPN services in the US, IPVanish offers access to more than 40,000 IP addresses, 1,600 servers, and 75 server locations. Though it doesn’t have the highest number of server options worldwide, it does give you the option to manage unlimited connections from different devices all at the same time.
One of the things making IPVanish so impressive is its convenient, configurable interface, which makes it ideal for anyone who hasn’t got a lot of experience with VPN tech but wants to learn more. There’s also multi-platform flexibility, which makes IPVanish great for things like Netflix.
Another impressive feature of IPVanish is access to Kodi, an open-source media streaming service. This is great if you’re largely using your VPN for entertainment purposes. It costs much less to get IPVanish for the entire year, but you can get pretty decent pricing every month too, and there’s a money-back guarantee.
Unlike most VPN solutions, IPVanish also comes with amazing customer support, with 24/7 guidance from professionals over live chat, phone, or email. This is pretty uncommon as most VPNs will only have email support for a specific number of hours each week.
A relatively new VPN service gaining a lot of attention around the world, PureVPN represents one of the best security and privacy options for people who travel frequently. There are more than 6,500 servers available to access in over 180 countries, including Australia, the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Singapore, and many others.
Because it’s based in Hong Kong, PureVPN doesn’t have to follow the rules of groups like Five Eyes. However, the torrenting services are a little messy at times. Overall, logging policies are excellent, and your VPN will only collect things like email addresses, names, and total bandwidth consumed, rather than focusing on what you do and where you go.
Although you do get a static VPN with PureVPN, there’s the option to access a dedicated address if you prefer. The dedicated VPN does cost a little extra. However, it means websites can remember who you are, without actually accessing information about you.
PureVPN has extra-fast speeds and helps users to bypass problems like ISP throttling and buffering. You’ll also have easy access to plenty of downloading options on your Windows, Mac, iPad, Chrome browser, and a host of other supported platforms.
Great encryption for global VPN use
OpenVPN protocol with 6,500 servers over 180 countries
One of the most common reasons for people to access a VPN these days is they want to access streaming services outside of the geographical restrictions these platforms have in place. If you’ve ever gotten excited about an ad for a new Netflix series only to discover it’s not playing in your region, you’ll know exactly what we mean.
HotSpot Shield is one of the best tools for streaming through geographical walls. You can access some of the fastest speeds on both Windows and Mac computers, so there’s no massive delay in your Netflix service. You’ll also be able to reset assured that you’re staying anonymous, with military-grade encryption so no crucial information is tied to you.
With more than 115 virtual locations to choose from, HotSpot Shield is a great choice for gaming, streaming, and downloading. Unfortunately, it’s also based in the US, which means there are going to be limitations on how much of your data the service can keep hidden. The good news is that you do get annual transparency reports from HotSpot to demonstrate the company doesn’t hand over customer data – even under pressure.
There’s a free VPN service for Android when you get your package, but you will have a bandwidth limit of around 500 MB a day. It’s not ideal for torrenting or streaming large files – but it will be a good option for quick internet use. As mentioned above, on any platform, the speeds are excellent too. Download speeds can decrease by around 30% on Windows devices, while upload speeds improve by around 26%.
ProtonVPN is one of the top providers of VPN technology on the web today. Offering sensational speeds with connections in over 55 countries, it’s a top choice for many users. One thing this VPN is particularly great for, is streaming video – so you’re likely to love it if you’re spending a lot of time in Zoom and Teams meetings these days.
Located in Switzerland, ProtonVPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and it has a super-fast connection too. The ProtonVPN base speeds are actually much better than many of the competitors on the market. Like market leaders such as ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN can be a little costly, but it’s definitely worth the price if you’re looking for high security standards and transparency.
You shouldn’t experience any unwanted lags or delays on Zoom when you’re using the app on your computer, Mac, or even an Android or Apple device. Many companies started adopting ProtonVPN specifically for the purpose of meetings when the pandemic hit in 2020. However, you can only connect one device at a time if you’re on the free plan, so be warned. The good news is the free option does come with unlimited data.
ProtonVPN also offers regular transparency reports. This means you can see evidence ProtonVPN isn’t handing your information over to the companies or feds who ask for it. There’s also no IP address collection or online activity logging.
Private Internet Access promises it won’t log your information, no matter where you go, and there are multiple encryption options to choose from, including handshakes, automatization customization, and more. There’s even an option for dynamic IP addresses every time you connect to the internet. Dynamic IP addresses are definitely the better option of static alternatives, as you get a new address every time you appear online.
With Private Internet Access, you’ll also enjoy the added benefit of apps for Android and iOS phones so you can continue to protect your data on the move. Unfortunately, it’s worth noting this solution is located in the US, so there are some restrictions on how much information the company can keep secure.
The perfect VPN will depend on many different factors, including what kind of protection you want to access when browsing online, which devices you’re using, and more. Ideally, you’ll need a service with high-quality transparency and logging policies, as well as powerful fast speeds.
If you’re still not sure which VPN is right for you, the following questions might help.
Q: How do VPNs work?
A VPN is intended to anonymize your data when you’re online. The technology works by creating a kind of middleman connection between you and the service you want to access. Rather than logging into a website directly or visiting Netflix through a direct internet connection, you connect to the VPN servers, which then re-route your connection to where you want to go.
The middle-man component of using a VPN means you can convince websites and other environments you’re coming to them from somewhere else in the world.
Q: What can you use a VPN for?
There are a lot of ways you can use a VPN. Many people turn to VPN technology for data security when they’re out and about – connecting to public Wi-Fi. Your VPN solution can speed up your internet by making sure you don’t have to deal with throttled speeds from your Internet Provider, and it protects you from issues when you’re torrenting or downloading from Peer-to-Peer sites.
A lot of people also use VPN technology as a way of accessing the services they can’t get in their regions. For instance, you can use a VPN to connect to Netflix from a different part of the world, and therefore access a wider range of shows and movies.
Q: Should you pay for a VPN?
While there are free VPN options available, you’ll generally get a better experience by paying for your service. Most free VPN services are extremely limited in the service they can offer. Some will only allow you to manage a certain amount of data or connect one device at a time. Free VPNs can sometimes be suitable for a small amount of browsing on a smartphone, but that’s about it.
Free VPN providers are also more likely to log some of your information, and less likely to give you the service you need when something goes wrong.
Q: Are VPNs legal?
Mostly yes, there are some countries that ban the use of VPNs, like China, but many parts of the worlds will allow private network browsing. The bans against VPNs are generally designed to stop people from hiding their activity online. In countries restricting VPN use, there will often be a major distinction between approved and unapproved options.
If you’re travelling somewhere new and you’re not sure about the VPN rules in that location, it’s best to do some research. Sometimes, using a VPN can come with serious repercussions.
Which is the Best VPN for You?
Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to VPN connections. In a world where we’re connected almost all of the time, it just makes sense to explore your virtual private connections, and find something capable of giving you the right peace of mind.
Check out some of the options above and see whether the features suit your needs. You can always switch your VPN provider if you decide you’re not happy with a service. Right now, the top-performing VPN on the internet for most companies is ExpressVPN. It’s a great choice because it’s extremely secure and very fast. NordVPN is another excellent product.
Although you’ll pay more for NordVPN than ExpressVPN, you’ll also get a wider network that’s constantly improving from Nord. If you want something that’s super budget friendly, you can check out Surfshark, with it’s affordable packages, and access to unlimited device support.
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At Findstack.com, our research is meant to offer general software recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.