Why do people use VPN (virtual private network) services? There are several compelling reasons. First, we should form a basic understanding of how the technology works.
In short, having VPN software allows you to create a secure tunnel between your device and an external server. You can usually pick from a variety of servers in different parts of the world. From there, your internet connections will be routed through the VPN provider, thus masking personal details such as your IP address and location.
Some do this to bypass filters and access government-censored or region-locked content. Others do it to maintain their privacy and stay anonymous while browsing. No matter the reason, it’s important that you find an affordable, effective, and trustworthy VPN company.
To aid in this effort, keep the following six considerations on top of mind as you begin your search.
The majority of VPN services are paid, typically in the form of a monthly subscription. However, there should always be a trial period over which you can test the software to decide whether it’s worth your money. This is critical, as you have to know whether the VPN meets your needs and lives up to the provider’s claims.
In general, companies with longer free trials are more reliable, as it shows that they’re confident in giving you ample time to test the full capabilities of their product. That said, not all good VPNs come at a cost.
You might be interested in trying out a free VPN service. Here, it’s even more crucial that you do your homework, as free VPNs are difficult to provide without any compromises. The good news is that some companies in this space do offer useful VPN tools for free.
For example, check out the free VPN on the atlasVPN website. You can choose from three locations, use it on numerous devices, and not have to worry about speed limits. It’s also ad-free and secured with AES-265 encryption.
Visit any VPN provider’s website and you’ll find an array of numbers related to their service. This includes the number of countries, servers, users they have, and so forth. To some degree, this information can indicate the scale of their network and give you an idea of how established they are.
At the same time, you shouldn’t base your decision on impressive figures alone. If you just want a VPN to safely use your laptop on the cafe’s Wi-Fi network, then the number of IP addresses and locations the service provider has is irrelevant.
The most important number is usually the number of simultaneous connections the VPN allows for. This determines how many devices you can have connected to your account at once. If you have a phone, tablet, and laptop, for instance, then you’ll want an option that permits at least three devices.
This brings us to our next consideration, which is the platforms where the VPN software is available.
Fortunately, nearly all leading VPN companies have apps for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows. Getting a VPN for Linux also isn’t difficult. You can even find vendors who cater specifically to set-top boxes and routers.
If you want all of your internet traffic at home to go through the VPN without downloading the client on every device, then look for a service that will be compatible with your router. Keep in mind that installing VPNs on anything outside of the four main operating systems might require some technical expertise with configuration files and special software.
Of course, not all VPN apps are made equal. A service might have an excellent VPN for Windows, but a poorly optimized Android app that lacks essential features. Again, it’s just a matter of doing your homework and checking before buying.
VPN services make use of different protocols, and some are better than others. OpenVPN is generally regarded to be the most efficient and secure protocol, while PPTP sits on the other end of the spectrum, being outdated and unsafe. The protocol known as L2TP/IPsec is a significant improvement over the latter, but not as fast and secure as OpenVPN.
You don’t necessarily need to know all of the technical details about these protocols. What matters is that you ensure the vendor you’re considering doesn’t use PPTP and preferably uses OpenVPN. One exception is with Android and iOS devices, where L2TP/IPsec is the better choice because OpenVPN isn’t supported on mobile just yet.
This is a common term among VPN providers and it refers to the ability for the VPN software to immediately stop sending data when your connection to them ends. The best kind of kill switches run at the driver or operating system level, so look for those when choosing between vendors. If there’s no kill switch, to begin with, avoid that service entirely.
VPN providers typically log two types of details about their users. This includes basic connection and billing forms, and surfing information. Most users avoid companies that log the latter, as this surfing data can be given to governments or sold for marketing purposes.
The problem is that you can never be entirely sure as to what kind of information the vendor is collecting about you. VPN companies are seldom assessed by independent parties or audited by reputable verification organizations. You basically have to trust what they say.
However, it can be helpful to consult online recommendations and user reviews. This will give you a better read on the validity of the vendor’s claims. If you find a lot of complaints and rants about security, then you know to look elsewhere.
One final consideration is price. Unless you’re opting for a free VPN, be it for the time being or because it adequately suits your needs, the cost will play a role in your decision. The general wisdom here is that you should put functionality and performance above all, including fees. So, take the time to find a quality VPN. Your diligence is sure to pay off.
ALSO READ: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR VPN INFORMATION