Best VPN Services in 2017
Torrenting anonymously, using Kodi, accessing US Netflix, Hulu or other geo-restricted services and protecting your privacy online are all common reasons for using a Virtual Private Network, more commonly know as a VPN. There’s no single outright best VPN service for everyone as each provider has pros and cons and which you chose should depend on your intended use. We’ve rounded up some of the most highly rated and popular providers in our comparison table.
|$8.32||Very fast, easy to use, great security & customer service. Worth the extra money.||78||30 Day money back guarantee, 3 months free with 12 month plan||Read review||Visit website|
|$5.75||Great security (zero logs kept, kill switch, DNS leak protection), fast speeds and good value||50+||550+ servers, works with Netflix, Live chat support||Read review||Visit website|
|$5.00||An impressive VPN, competively priced.||64||Free Trial, supports Windows, Mac, Apple and Android, claims to be the fastest VPN.||Read review||Visit website|
|$6.49||Good range of servers, simple to use and no traffic logs kept||59||24/7 Support and a money back guarantee||Read review||Visit website|
|$9.95||With fast speeds and lots of countries covered this VPN is worth considering.||121||3 day money back guarantee, fast speeds, good security features||Read review||Visit website|
Getting started with a VPN
Whether it’s down to the slew of hacking incidents of recent years, the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden, or reading about the latest piece of malware causing havoc, there is an increased awareness around internet security and privacy; much more so than ever before.
Typically, casual internet users were satisfied with installing a high-profile antivirus solution, like Norton or McAfee, and being done with it. That would take care of everything, right? Not quite. Internet users that are serious about their security and privacy need to use multiple tools to protect themselves, namely a virtual private network or VPN.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a network of connected computers over a public network, in this case the internet. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel that re-routes your browsing to a server on the VPN network rather than a public server. In other words, a VPN can mask your internet protocol (IP) address from being identified.
The market is flooded with VPN providers offering security and privacy services, some are free and some charge a monthly fee. There are some that charge a hefty fee while most are quite affordable, in the $10/£7 range per month.
Examples of the most popular or recognised VPN providers include HideMyAss! (recently acquired by AVG), PureVPN, IPVanish, VyprVPN, and Private Internet Access.
Do I need a VPN?
Generally, all internet users should take as many steps as possible to protect themselves and their data but masking your browsing habits and protecting your connection at certain times is very important.
If you regularly use public Wi-Fi spots, you absolutely need a VPN. Public Wi-Fi, even if it is password protected, can be a hacker’s playground where your traffic can be intercepted and scooped up.
A VPN is also ideal for accessing sites that impose geo-blocks such as Netflix or HBO Now. If you’re traveling and would still like to watch your favorite TV shows, you can select an IP based in your home country and log in with no problems. Update: Netflix has banned most VPNs however there is a workaround if your provider is being blocked. You can find here a compatible Netflix VPN and DNS service that should still work to unblock the US service.
Employing a VPN helps in making you more secure online. However nothing in the online world is ever 100% secure and security competence on the user’s end is still vital.
How to choose a VPN provider
These are just a few examples. There are dozens, if not hundreds of options, out there. How do you choose the VPN provider that’s right for you? There are a number of things to consider.
VPN providers offer their services based on the servers they have around the world, usually in data centers. The more servers and locations they have, the more options you have. For example, you will need to access a server and IP address based in the US if you are a UK user and want to access the US version of Netflix.
HideMyAss! has the largest network of VPN servers with 867 servers in 311 locations in 193 countries, which amounts to nearly 120,000 IP addresses that users can connect to. This can include locations across Europe and North America as well as nations a little more far flung like Myanmar and Senegal.
A vast network can be a good thing for the customer but it is not the only thing. Having the servers that matter the most to your specific needs tends to be more important.
A smaller VPN provider may have fewer servers on offer. However, they may be in just the right location for your needs and come at a more reasonable price.
Limited or unlimited features
Some VPN providers place restrictions on the amount of data you can transfer per session or the number of times you can switch between different servers. A couple of VPN providers offer a tiered system where users can upgrade to a new package and enjoy unlimited performance. Other VPN companies offer unlimited performance across the board.
This all depends on what you want out of your VPN experience. How much data do you think you will be using? This hinges on things like streaming video, downloading, or simply just browsing Facebook.
Switching servers can a laborious process too. You may try different servers in a number of locations to find the right one for you. If you have a cap on your server switches, this can be an annoyance.
After you choose your server, you need to have peace of mind that the connection will remain secure too. Technical glitches and lags can cause VPN connections to drop momentarily. When that happens, your real IP address will be exposed. To combat this, many VPNs employ what is known as a “kill switch”.
VyprVPN, for example, uses a kill switch on its Mac and Windows version. The kill switch will block all internet and network communications except for any running through the VPN. For the privacy minded, this is an ideal feature.
Other VPNs that offer a kill switch with their service include: Private Internet Access, HideMyAss! and Cyberghost.
Another feature to consider is warrant canaries. A warrant canary is a page on a website that states the company has not received any search warrants for user data.
Usually when a company receives a warrant it is gagged from telling its users. A warrant is published every week or day and tells users it hasn’t received anything of that nature. When the warrant suddenly stops, it is intended to alert users that something may be awry. BolehVPN for example are one of the latest VPN providers to offer a warrant canary but the jury is still out on the legal efficacy of the practice.
Finally, most VPN services provide some kind of customer support services, whether this is a ticketing service, phone service, or instant chat. If you’re ever having any problems, you will want to reach someone at any time of the day.
The dangers of free services
The cash-strapped user may want to opt for a free VPN program but that brings its own array of risks too. Typically when a product is available for free, you are the product. This usually involves harvesting large swathes of data about your browsing habits.
The latest example saw the browser plug-in Hola VPN land in trouble. The popular browser plugin, with nearly 50 million users globally, was revealed to be selling users’ bandwidth without their permission.
Security researchers made the discovery recently and published their findings. Their website allows you to check if you are being tracked, vulnerable to hacking, or if your computer is being used as an exit node.
Hola itself has even confirmed that it is indeed carrying out this practice on its unsuspecting users.
Other VPN providers, paid or otherwise, look for other ways to monetize such as affiliate programs.
Website can hold links to VPN providers and based on the number of click-throughs and sign-ups, the VPN provider will kick a little money back to the website. In some instances, this may cloud coverage or reviews of a VPN service. Opting for a VPN service that offers a free trial can help you get a better feel for the service you want.
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