With technology ever changing and evolving more quickly than we can keep up with, using a VPN to help us surf the net from anywhere, is just one of the software decisions that we need to make. From the get-go, we need to decide which VPN provider to go with, and then whether we should use a free VPN or a paid VPN. But if VPNs are free, why would anyone pay for them?
This guide looks at paid VPNs versus free VPNs, and what you need to know about each one.
What Is A VPN?
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network that allows you to access the internet while all your online data is encrypted. Additionally, your IP address is kept secret from the websites you are trying to access or simply anyone that is trying to find a way into your computer files.
A VPN is created by you connecting to one of your VPN provider’s servers which are located in many different locations around the globe. You take on that server’s IP address so the computer’s actual address can remain hidden.
With a VPN you can safely and securely access VoIP applications, access restricted content, keep your details private, make financial transactions and much more.
Using a Free VPN
Anything labeled as ‘free’ can be very tempting, but, as the saying goes: “you get what you pay for.” In the case of free VPN’s, you might want to think twice.
To provide a VPN for free, providers have to cut costs elsewhere to optimize their revenue. Even the best free VPN providers do this by employing the following tactics:
- Throttling: Many free VPN providers limit the bandwidth of their users once they have passed a certain threshold. These thresholds are inevitably so low they are used up incredibly quickly, leaving users needing another VPN provider in a short space of time.
- Poor Security: A key reason to use a VPN becomes null and void if you use a free provider. To keep their margins competitive, even the best free VPN providers often cut corners on their security which means that the VPNs they provide are still infinitely hackable and traceable. This is the opposite of what users want.
- Selling Private Information: While we always look for a no logs policy for a VPN provider to be deemed worthy of use, some free VPN providers do the exact opposite and actually sell the data they have on their VPN clients, let alone simply keep a record of it.
- The consistency of Service: If being honest, free VPN providers cannot provide a consistent VPN connection let alone a consistently high VPN connection speed with 24/7 VPN availability. They simply do not have the capacity to supply such a service within their free VPN servers.
So What Makes A Good VPN?
Before looking at specific VPNs, whether they are paid for or freely available to download, it is good to know what to look for in a reputable provider so that they answer your needs resolutely. Below are four features that we look for as standard to be rated highly and worth using:
- Military Grade Encryption Techniques: Using the best encryption techniques to protect users’ data is essential for any reputable VPN provider to have. We like to see AES-256 encryption keys as standard as we believe this is the best way to maintain user privacy.
- Huge Network of Servers: For a VPN to be useful, a provider should have a big network of servers so that users can be certain of a connection that is quick and powerful. Without one, users are likely to have a scant connection which interrupts browsing sessions or video streaming.
- Many Server Locations: To access any internet content around the world, a provider needs to have countless country locations so that users will never be restricted as to what they can see.
- Anonymity and Privacy: Any reputable VPN provider should seek to maintain their users’ privacy and anonymity. Not only can they do this by making use of the most up to date encryption techniques and technology, they can also keep a no logs policy so that they never record user activity that can then be seized at a future date by authorities.
The Best Paid VPNs
The following three subscription plan VPN providers are ones that we consistently rank highly for use across the board for all manner of reasons and uses. ExpressVPN, as ever, remains our top pick but the other two are also of an excellent standard should you not be able to use ExpressVPN for many reasons.
ExpressVPN is always a reliable VPN for its users. When compared to free VPNs, the difference in quality is astounding. It has a whole raft of features that make it worth the money to subscribe. They include:
- Fast VPN connection speed: It is so frustrating waiting for your computer to connect your VPN provider’s servers, only then to go to have your connection suffer from an abundance of buffering issues. ExpressVPN helps avoid this problem with their fast servers.
- Excellent VPN Availability: Some VPN providers do not have a big enough network to answer the demand of its customers. This can mean it isn’t always possible to connect to a server so that you can start making use of your own Virtual Private Network. This is particularly the case with even with the best free VPN providers. ExpressVPN has a large enough network to match its customer demand.
- Top notch VPN Customer Support: Even the best paid VPN provider will sometimes need to answer customer queries sometimes. ExpressVPN’s customer support is second to none with its live chat function that is available 24/7.
- Stringent VPN Protocols: Security is another area where the best paid VPN providers really stand out and ExpressVPN employs the best of the best encryption techniques.
- Multiple connections: Not even all paid VPN providers provide multiple connections. ExpressVPN allows three devices to use its servers at one time.
However, if for some reason you are unhappy you can get your money back, no questions asked, within the first 30 days of use.
- One month: $12.95/mo
- Six months: $9.99/mo
- 15 months: $6.67/mo (3 months free)
For more information on ExpressVPN features, read our extensive ExpressVPN review
CyberGhost is our second choice and remains one of the best paid VPN providers on the market. It is a well priced alternative to ExpressVPN as it too has an excellent range of features that makes it worth the monthly or annual subscription cost even in comparison to the best free VPN providers. It can now even be used to unblock Netflix content.
- Quick VPN connection speed: Cyberghost can be used anywhere in the world very quickly owing to its lightening fast servers.
- VPN Protocols that protect its users: Cyberghost has a no logs policy so that users never have their online activity recorded which is a key feature of only the best paid VPN providers.
- Wide Network: Even the best free VPN providers cannot boast the wide network locations of the best paid VPN providers. Cyberghost has servers available which are located all over the world.
- Watertight privacy settings: User data is always private thanks to Cyberghost encrypting all data using a military-strength AES 256-BIT encryption which uses a 2048-BIT RSA Key
- 2 Years: $2.90/mo
- 1 month: $10.99/mo
- 6-months: $7.99/mo
- 1 year: $4.99/mo
Every plan you sign up for comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
For more information on CyberGhost features, read our extensive CyberGhost review.
NordVPN remains in our top three best-paid VPN provider list as we like how user-friendly it is in addition to the stringent security that it is able to provide users. NordVPN is one of the few VPN providers that employs several VPN Protocols at the same time so it is one of the safest paid VPNs out there. Other features we like are:
- No logs policy: Yet another string to NordVPN’s bow and dedication to customer privacy is its decision not to maintain any logs of customer online activity.
- Double data encryption technology: This form of encryption further protects users from unwanted prying eyes and hackers. Additionally it also has a kill switch so that should the VPN drop out, NordVPN simultaneously cuts your internet connection to uphold your anonymity.
- Large amount of VPN Servers/Nodes Location: With over 1000 servers around the globe, NordVPN has one of the largest amounts of servers helping make it one of the best paid VPN providers.
- VPN connection speed is fast: with that many servers, NordVPN is able to provide a ludicrously quick connection that is pretty much always be guaranteed.
- Live chat feature: VPN customer support is not always forthcoming, yet NordVPN offers excellent customer service with its live chat feature. It means that customers can freely query anything they are not sure about when using the software.
- 1 month: $11.95/mo
- 30-day money-back guarantee
For more information on NordVPN features, read our extensive NordVPN review.
Paid vs Free VPNs: The Bottom Line
We would never recommend using a free VPN for the reasons that we have stated above. Quite simply, we do not believe using one is worth the risk for the sake of saving a few dollars every month. This is critical if you are using a VPN to access content in countries that are otherwise banned as you will be opening yourself up to surveillance by authorities and could well be charged with a punishable offense.
If you must use a free VPN, the following VPNs are free and satisfactory to use, though nothing more.
However, we believe that ExpressVPN is worth every penny of its subscription plan with customer satisfaction always being high. Users never regret working with the company.