In my previous article, I’ve covered the topic of why commercial VPNs are becoming more popular each year. The emergence of geographical blocks and a vast amount of data-leaks, and online privacy issues have contributed to the spike of the VPN market. However, tense competition and an abundance of advertisements can make the process of selecting a suitable service a bit tricky.
Furthermore, VPNs are primarily a cyber security technology, and it’s best to do careful research before making a long-term commitment. In this article, I’ll present six short tips on how to choose the right VPN provider.
1. What do you need a VPN for?
First of all, you need to know precisely what you need a VPN for. This software has a lot of different features, and some providers tend to focus more on security, while others prioritize speed, and some work on the amount of servers and so on.
If you mostly want to unlock streaming content, then the server amount and good speed are paramount. Also, it’s advisable to double check user reviews online, because some providers either fail to unlock blocked content or are frequently targeted by streaming providers, resulting in a botched service.
If you care more about privacy, anonymity, and security, you might want to look for a VPN that has more customization options. The variety of protocols offered, tracking disabler, adBlocker, and other privacy-oriented features need to be there for you to be satisfied with the software.
2. Jurisdiction and logging practices
This one is far more important than most users think. Almost all VPNs are advertising they keep no logs, but not all of them can back such claims. Jurisdiction is the first line of defense against logging requests. A service provider based in Germany or the U.S. can be forced into logging browsing information because they are obliged by law. On the other hand, providers based in Panama or The British Virgin Islands can maintain logless servers because there are no data-retention laws.
Avoiding VPN providers based in 14-eyes countries is crucial for privacy protection.
3. Free trial periods or money-back guarantee
It’s essential to try the software out before making a decision. Usually, commercial VPNs offer two to three-year plans, the longer being cheaper per month, and you don’t want to be stuck with a service that doesn’t do the job. It might not even be providers fault, each user has a unique software/hardware setup, and some networking features work better on their devices than others.
Same goes for speeds, some users might enjoy excellent speeds while others experience lag with the same VPN provider. Either a free trial or a 30d. money-back guarantee is an advantage to check the performance. Just be sure to double check the money back guarantee rules, some providers have restrictions, like amount of data used, which terminate the ability to request a refund.
4. Device support and simultaneous connections
Even though most top-quality VPNs have developed native Apps for all major platforms, you might want to double check on that. Is there an Android App? Does it work on iOS? What kind of features do different Apps have and are they stable on all platforms? This information is easily accessible since most providers outline which platforms they support.
Another thing is the simultaneous connections. Maybe you’re planning to only secure your PC and mobile phone, so you don’t need more than three simultaneous connections. Some VPNs offer family-friendly plans, with seven or more simultaneous connections. And only a rare few offer unlimited simultaneous connections, meaning you can secure all of your devices for no additional cost. However, check the account sharing policies of the provider you choose, some of them have strict rules.
Independent audits are a recent phenomenon in the VPN industry, but it might be the new standard. Up until now, many VPNs functioned on a promise-like basis, trying to earn your trust through engagement, marketing, and development. Over the last few years, some VPN service providers chose to submit their software to the test willingly. Some decided to test their no-logs policies, while others went through a browser extension security audit. All in all, this is a reliable and professional way to prove that they offer top-notch service and deliver on their promises.
6. Price and features
Last, but not least, is what you get for what price. Expensive VPN does not automatically mean the best service, as I mentioned before, the competition in this industry is phenomenal, and some might work more on marketing, than the product itself.
Before making a long term commitment, look for features like a Kill Switch, number of servers they provide, number of countries they cover. Furthermore, adBlocker, tracker disabler, and malware protection needs to be there if you’re paying above average price.
Frequent updates also is a must. Cyber criminals are developing new hacking methods, and surveillance agencies are continuously improving their tracking capabilities, meaning that your cyber security App needs to be updated with the latest protection standards.