VPNs can seem complicated at first, but are actually easy to use. Plus, we’ll give you some recommendations along the way to help you pick the best VPN for your needs.
What is Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that lets you access the web safely and privately by routing your connection through a server and hiding your online actions.
VPN is an increasingly popular tool that will help secure your network and open up a whole new world of online possibilities. Surfing the web or transacting on an unsecured Wi-Fi network means you could be exposing your private information and browsing habits. That’s why a virtual private network should be a must for anyone concerned about their online security and privacy.
back to menu ↑
How to choose your VPN provider?
There are now simply scores and scores of VPN providers to choose from. Finding the one that’s right for you comes down to a few basic considerations:
- Cost versus security. In general, the more security a VPN service provides, the higher the cost will be. Most users will be just fine using an affordable mainstream VPN provider that offers solid service from about $4.99 to $12.99 per month. While an evaluation of different VPN providers is beyond the scope of this article, examining reviews of different providers and going with one that has a long-standing reputation for protecting its users is always a good place to start. One Reddit user even put together a massive list that evaluates different VPN providers.
- Logs vs no logs. On the subject of security, one factor that separates providers is whether or not they keep logs of user data and browsing activity. If they don’t, then you get an extra degree of anonymity. If they do, then those records could become a way to track you down if someone wanted to put in the time.
- IP sharing. Another quick way to evaluate a potential VPN service provider is to find out if they give out the same IP address to multiple users. It’s harder to pinpoint one user if many are surfing from the same IP address, so IP sharing offers another level of protection.
- Location of servers. With the advent of near ubiquitous WiFi, it easy to forget that the internet is still a thing connected with cables and wires. So a service that offers a wide range of VPN sites can be advantageous. If you regularly want to stream content from the UK, and you live in Kansas, for example, then you’ll want to see if your provider has a hub on the east coast of the US as well as a server in London. Server location can also be important based on your needs. If, for some reason, it’s advantageous for you to have an IP address in Japan, then make sure your provider will let you tunnel there.
- Server quantity. A VPN provider that has more servers will mean that you won’t be crammed onto an overcrowded server where your connection times will be slowed down.
- Multiple device support. Once you sign up for a VPN service, you’ll not only want to connect your own computer, but you might have other computers, tablets and phones on which you’ll want to install the software. Most providers let you connect up to five devices, but be sure to check into that before you sign up.
- IP leaking. One relatively easy way to evaluate a VPN provider is to see if they offer a free trial. If they do, sign up, tunnel in, and then visit this site. It will help you determine if you have an IP leak, meaning that your true location is somehow being leaked. If you see your ISP or your true physical location on this page, then you’ll want to move on and find a more secure VPN provider.
- User Interface. Finally, take a look at the way in which a VPN provider’s software actually looks and operates. Does it seem relatively straightforward to operate? Is it easy to turn on and off? Is it easy to quickly change the location into which you’re tunneled? While you likely won’t be using your VPN software a lot, it’s good to know that when you need it, you won’t mind accessing it and you’ll have the control you want at your fingertips.
back to menu ↑
Free VPN versus Paid VPN
Running a good VPN service costs serious money — robust servers, data transfer, infrastructure, employees, and so on. If the service is offered for free, consider what compromises may have been made. Are they logging activity for their own reasons? Are they displaying their own ads? Is your data being sold to a third party?
Paying for a VPN isn’t a huge investment. We’ve tested some great solutions for as little as $2-5 per month, which doesn’t seem a lot in exchange for peace of mind and improved online privacy.
back to menu ↑
Can I Use a VPN for Torrenting?
In general, yes, but that depends on the specific service you’re using and also the kind of things that you are torrenting.
Most of the quality VPN solutions in the market allow torrenting. According to our research, you can torrent with all popular VPNs – NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Surfshark, PrivateVPN and others.
When it comes to the security aspect of torrenting, it all comes down to the VPN’s policies regarding things like logging or sharing your user data. In general, if a VPN doesn’t keep logs overall they also don’t keep them for your torrent activity.
Another aspect worth considering when choosing a VPN for torrenting is the download speeds that the service can offer. Of course, this sort of information can be hard to come by; most of the time you only find out after you buy the VPN. We did some testing of our own and based on it, we can recommend these VPNs for their good download speeds: ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
back to menu ↑
Can I Use a VPN to Watch Netflix and Hulu?
Yes. But like with most things on this list, it all comes down to the specific VPN that you use.
The problem with Netflix overall is that even though it’s now available in over 130 countries, not all shows are distributed on every market, various TV stations retain the rights to even some of Netflix’s own shows, which effectively prevents Netflix from legally making those shows available on their platform. Fortunately, VPNs can help here!
The way Netflix and Hulu block some of their content in parts of the globe is based on location filters. VPNs make this easy to fix. Since you can select the server that you want to connect with, all you need to do to unlock certain Netflix shows is connect to a server in a country where that show is available. That’s all.