There was a time when using a VPN required users to know about the built-in VPN client for Windows or universal open-source solutions such as OpenVPN. Nowadays, however, nearly every VPN provider has its own one-click client that gets you up and running in seconds. There are usually mobile apps as well to keep your Android or iOS device secure over public Wi-Fi.
Of course that brings up another problem. Since there are so many services to choose from, how can you tell which ones are worth using? PCWorld has taken care of much of the legwork with its Best VPN services roundup. [Spoiler alert: I have found NordVPN to be the current best all around VPN provider.]
The bad news for anyone used to free services is that it pays to pay when it comes to a VPN. There are tons of free options from reputable companies, but these are usually a poor substitute for the paid options. Free services usually allow a limited amount of bandwidth usage per month or offer a slower service. Tunnel Bear, for example, offers just 500MB of free bandwidth per month, while CyberGhost offers a free service that is significantly slower than its paid service.
Then there are the free VPNs that use an ad-supported model, which in my experience usually aren’t worth using at all. Plus, free VPNs are usually anything but; in lieu of payment they may be harvesting your data (in anonymized form of course) and selling it as “marketing insights” to advertisers.
The good news is VPNs aren’t expensive. You can usually pay as little as $5 a month (billed annually or in blocks of several months) for VPN coverage.
Features to look for
Here are some issues to consider when shopping around for a VPN provider.
First, what kind of logging does your VPN provider do? In other words, what information do they keep about your VPN sessions and how long is it kept? Are they recording the IP addresses you use, the websites you visit, the amount of bandwidth used, or any other key details?
All VPNs have to do some kind of logging, but there are VPNs that collect as little data as possible and others that aren’t so minimalist. On top of that, some services discard their logs in a matter of hours or days while other companies hold onto them for months at a time. How much privacy you expect from your VPN-based browsing will greatly influence how long you can stand having your provider maintain your activity logs—and what those logs contain.
Finally, does the VPN provider offer their own application that you can download and install? Unless you’re a power user who wants to mess with OpenVPN, a customized VPN program is really the way to go. It’s simple to use and doesn’t require any great technical knowledge or the need to adjust any significant settings.
NordVPN – The best VPN provider in 2018
This VPN goes above and beyond the competition when it comes to keeping your information, online activity, and presence private and secure. Does that lead to a compromise as far as speed and performance are concerned though? We find out in my official NordVPN review. Coming next.
- Being based in Panama, NordVPN falls under the country’s jurisdiction and Panama has no data retention laws;
- A strict no logs policy. We want to ensure user privacy and security, therefore we never log user activities;
- Military-grade AES-256-CBC encryption and a variety of protocols to choose from: OpenVPN(UDP and TCP), PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2/IPSec;
- Risk-free Trial
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Unlimited bandwidth and data;
- +5000 servers located in 62 countries (the server number is always growing);
- Fast speed servers that are also reliable and consistent;
- Multiple ways to contact
- 24/7 customer support (live chat, email, ticket system);
- A CyberSec feature that blocks dangerous websites and lets users avoid annoying ads;
- An automatic kill switch (can kill individual processes or kill whole internet connection);
- 6 simultaneous connections
- P2P friendly;
- Works in countries (China, the Middle East countries) where internet access is restricted, and strong censorship is in place;
- Double encryption to ensure top level privacy and security
NordVPN offers everything we could want from a VPN service: a multitude of security features, nicely coupled with impressive performance, on a service that’s easy to access and able to do just about anything online.