Number of Servers
The best VPN providers host multiple servers. Having several servers to choose from allows you to find one with the fastest connection relative to your location. And as the saying goes, the more, the merrier!
If VPN servers are hosted in various key locations around the globe, the more accessible a service becomes to a wide array of users. See, the farther a server is hosted from a user, the slower their connection gets. But having multiple server locations to choose from can help mitigate slow connections because you can simply choose the server that’s closest to you.
The most ideal VPN service is one that does not keep a log of your activity. In reality, however, most providers log a minimal amount of data (usually for troubleshooting purposes, or other technical stuff). The important part is how these companies protect your data. Are their security measures up to snuff? Do they have any history of selling customer data to third parties? All important questions that the best VPN providers can provide answers to.
Maximum Connections Supported
VPN providers usually allow around 3-5 devices per user to simultaneously connect to their servers. If you go beyond the limit your provider imposes, you may find yourself in breach of their fair usage policy! Again, the more, the merrier!
Not every VPN works on every device. For some people, getting VPN only on their Windows PC is top priority, while others may want to use VPN across all their devices. That’s why the best VPNs are those that offer compatibility for a wide range of devices—be it Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, smart TVs, or even game consoles.
There are tons of affordable VPNs out there—and some are even 100% free! But the ideal VPN is not necessarily the one that comes with the lowest price tag. Rather, it should be one that offers a good price-to-feature ratio. One that offers the best features but keeps the monthly cost reasonable. In other words, the best VPNs are the ones that offer the most bang for your buck!
Before You Pay for VPN
Before you ready your wallet, there’s something you should know: using a VPN service will slow down your internet. There are two factors at work here:
- Encrypting a VPN connection requires processing power. The stronger the encryption, the more processing power it will require, and the slower your internet will become. Of course, if you have a relatively beefy computer—not to mention blazing fast internet—the decrease in speed will be relatively negligible.
- The farther the VPN server is, the longer the data needs to travel to and from your computer. Connecting to a VPN server that’s located on the other side of the world can severely slow down your internet, for instance. Companies mitigate this issue by hosting multiple servers across the globe.
Slow internet is a small price to pay for privacy and security though, don’t you think?
Can You Trust VPN Services?
Here's the thing.VPN providers can still know about what you’re doing on the internet. It doesn’t provide anonymity, only privacy. Which is why it’s important to pick out a VPN provider carefully.
Tried and tested VPN providers will go to great lengths to minimize the information collected or logged from its users, for example. On the other hand, tons of cheap or free VPNs don’t employ measures that ensure its user’s privacy.
So, can these “tried and tested” providers be trusted at all? For the most part, yes—especially privacy-orientated providers. These VPN providers have built their businesses on the promise of not keeping any logs of your activity. And if even one word gets out that they failed to deliver on their promise of privacy, they risk losing their entire business.
It should be noted, however, that most countries can legally demand to keep an activity log of some of its users. But this is usually only done in case of suspected criminal activity, so if you’re not up to something illegal, then you need not worry.
What Exactly is VPN?
A VPN, or virtual private network, is essentially a private network that extends across a public one. In other words, it allows users to access the internet as if they were connected to a local network. Essentially, a VPN acts as a filter or a shield, without which you’re exposed to all sorts of privacy risks, such as data sniffers, unwanted tracking, and the like.
Normally, connecting to the internet means that your connection goes through your ISP (or internet service provider) first, which then acts as a bridge to the websites you want to visit. While this may be fine for most people, it does present a potential privacy risk.
Directly connecting to your ISP means that all your internet traffic passes through their servers virtually unprotected, which means that they can be viewed by your ISP. Or another set of prying eyes, for that matter. On the other hand, connecting to a VPN means that all data that passes to and from the VPN server is encrypted.
What Exactly Are VPNs for?
In years past, VPNs used to be exclusive to businesses that needed a secure link between remote offices/branches. Additionally, it was also used to allow roaming company employees to securely connect to the company network whenever they were away from the office. Today, tons of affordable VPN services are available to the public, which are being used for various purposes beyond its original intent.
While VPNs are perfect for keeping your personal information—such as the sites you visit, your location and IP address—private, it can also keep you secured. Thanks to encrypted connections, VPNs can keep malicious websites from tracking you, as well as protecting you from hacking attempts borne from sniffing out your data. So, if you’re using a VPN, connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot becomes safer. It’s not meant as a replacement to dedicated anti-virus software though, but at least you have another layer of security at your disposal.
VPNs can also circumvent geo-restrictions or censorship imposed on certain websites. It accomplishes this by masking your location, making it seem like you are in another country. As many Netflix subscribers can happily attest to, VPNs have been instrumental in allowing access to geo-locked content. Time for some serious binge watching!
And finally, VPNs can also be used to download from P2P networks (also known as torrents) more safely. We don’t condone downloading illegal torrents, but if you ever needed to download legal files over a P2P sharing network, VPN can help you do so privately.
Is It Really Needed?
It’s not really “needed” per se. But with growing concerns over internet privacy—especially after the whole Facebook/Cambridge Analytica fiasco—it’s certainly becoming a more tempting option each day! Of course, it really depends on the user and what he/she is hoping to get out of it. Can your budget handle yet another monthly subscription? Do you need to use it for specific applications, such as accessing geo-restricted content? Only you know whether you really need to get a VPN or not.