Is streaming important to you, or do you just want strong security? Will you be file sharing, or are you just looking to access sites blocked in your region? Even if you don’t know the answer to these questions yet, there are seven elements to consider when choosing a trustworthy VPN service.
Speed is a very important factor to consider when choosing a VPN service. In general, VPNs will always slow down your connection at least a little bit. But too much lag is extremely frustrating when you’re doing anything online. The key to figuring out if a service will meet your needs is to find out how well it streams HD video. Even if you won’t be using the service to stream, any service that streams HD video with no lag is fast enough to do most anything else you may require.
Vast Network of International Servers
Next, pay attention to the number of servers a service provides, and the various countries they are located in. A high number of servers in a large amount of countries is good. A VPN service with servers in only 10 countries is probably less robust than a service with servers in 50 countries.
The closer a server is to your physical location, the faster your connection will be. There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s probably not a good idea to choose a service with servers located mostly in the U.S. and Canada if you live in Australia.
Users outside the U.S. should choose a service with servers in at least 30 countries. The U.S. is excluded from this rule because many companies have most of their servers located in the U.S.
Limitless Data and Bandwidth
Choose a service that offers unlimited bandwidth and data. Bandwidth is the speed at which data flows to your computer. You don’t want a service that will slow down your computer after it’s received a certain amount of data. This is called throttling and it’s annoying.
Sometimes, you can only download a certain amount of data over a service before they either cut you off or charge you for more. Anything you do online over a VPN counts as using data, so it goes faster than you think. Unlimited data is a must. When it comes to bandwidth and data, if it’s not unlimited, it’s not for you.
VPN services do not always allow any type of activity. Some services do not allow certain tasks like playing online games or downloading torrent files. Other services are unable to bypass geo-restrictions.
If file sharing and streaming geo-restricted content is something you want to do, read more than one review on the services you are interested in before you choose one.
Multiple Connections and Device Compatibility
No matter what you are using a VPN for, it is helpful to have the ability to connect it to multiple devices. For personal use, two or three connections is usually sufficient, and on average what services allow. Decide what you’ll be using your VPN for and how many connections you’ll need, and choose a company accordingly. You don’t want to be stuck and unable to protect a device when you really need to.
Make sure your VPN can connect to the type of device and software you need it to. Do you need to protect a device running with Ubuntu, or are you just looking for software supported on Mac? Do you need a service that can run on mobile? Make sure all potential operating systems and devices you want to support are covered by the service you choose. Obviously, failure to do so is a big mistake.
An ISP can see what you do on the internet and keeps track of this information; however, with a VPN this information shifts from the ISP to your VPN provider. Your VPN can now log not just your connection and usage, but other real-time data as well. What you want is a VPN that does not keep any logs. This will increase your internet privacy and there will be no impact. Be sure to choose a VPN that is located in a country that cannot ask for logs – such as countries outside the Five Eyes and Nine Eyes organization. Also look into your country’s legislation regarding asking VPNs for log information. For example, in 2011, the US subpoenaed HideMyAss to provide log details for a member of hacker group LulzSec.
Pricing is an important element to look into. Not all VPN providers cost the same. However, many offer tiered programs, so you can order for one month, six, or even a year. The longer commitments often include extra savings over smaller plans. Also, it is essential to ensure the VPN service has a money-back guarantee. If you find that you paid for a VPN that does not offer service – such as they are blocked from Netflix US or don’t allow for P2P file sharing – you will know relatively quickly, and can ask for your money back.
Now when you know the most important aspects to consider when getting a VPN service, put this knowledge into context and read our detailed best vpn services guide.