Thinking about joining over 1.1 billion VPN users worldwide? Or maybe you’re trying one out right now, and you just want to know if your provider is sticking to their promises. In either case, you’ll want the best bang for your buck – so here’s what to look out for.
Reviews – a Great Starting Point
Seems pretty obvious, right? The most reliable way to know if your VPN is worth its salt is to check what third parties are saying about it. There’s a catch, though. Reviews could be sponsored by providers themselves, which inevitably causes bias. Consider multiple perspectives and take everything you read online with a grain of salt.
What should you take into account when reading these reviews? Here are some pointers.
Let’s be honest, nobody enjoys slow Internet speeds. Considering how many factors may affect your VPN speed – from encryption strength to the distance between you and the VPN server – well, you see where this is going.
Check the reviews for speed tests, and make sure your VPN provider has servers close enough to your location that your connection doesn’t suffer. This is especially useful for those of you that travel frequently and need to access geo-blocked content in other countries.
Never sacrifice your online security in the name of speed. It’s no use being able to watch 1080p YouTube videos without hiccups if the encryption strength leaves you open to easy hacking. Having additional features that protect you from online snoopers is also a big plus. Things like:
A kill switch – to interrupt any network activity if the VPN has any connection issues, preventing any unencrypted communication from reaching third parties like your ISP, for example.
A no-logs policy – if you’re going to prevent your ISP, government and so on from spying on you, make sure your VPN provider doesn’t keep tabs on your browsing activity instead.
Robust mobile support – nearly two thirds of all Internet traffic comes from mobile devices, so a top quality VPN will need to work on Android and iOS, at the very least.
No matter how great the speeds or how feature-rich the VPN client is, having poor customer support can be a deal-breaker. Ideally you’d never need their help, but for those crucial times that you do, they should be ready to go. Thankfully, reviewers usually point out if support services are slow to respond or lacking in other areas.
Free vs. Paid Services
When you’re just starting out, you might believe testing a free VPN is a safe bet. You’re not wasting any money so there’s nothing to lose, right? Well, that’s not exactly true. Free VPN providers need money too, and selling valuable customer data is just one of the ways they can fund their services.
A good VPN will strike a balance between price and quality, or offer cheaper pricing plans depending on your needs. The top contenders already offer cheap enough plans that it’s just not worth the risk of a “free” VPN.
In the end, the best way to decide if a VPN is a good fit for you is to try it out yourself. Many providers have free trials and money-back guarantees in place if you truly want the risk-free option.
Just be sure to read the fine print (or what the reviewers are saying) about these trials. Some VPNs may impose a data limit that would make you ineligible for a refund – say, 10 GB of downloaded data, or 10 hours of total usage.
We’d like to say that using a VPN is a 100% foolproof solution for online privacy and security. Unfortunately, there are several ways the software on your system could bypass its protection and anonymization.
A great example is the smart multi-homed name resolution (SMHNR) feature that was introduced with Windows 8, and is also present in Windows 10. Its main purpose is to speed up the process of Dynamic Name System (DNS) selection. DNS translates web addresses (such as www.google.com) to their IP address counterpart (e.g. 126.96.36.199 for Google) and vice versa.
Unfortunately, the feature could also lead to what is known as a DNS leak. Cybercriminals could use DNS cache poisoning (aka spoofing) to redirect you to fake websites designed to trick you into using your login or payment info. Of course, you won’t be able to log in, but the hackers have now gained access to your account(s). The only way to prevent this is to disable SMHNR or use a VPN that has leak prevention implemented.
Other types include IPv6 and WebRTC leaks, both of which can reveal your real IP address and thus your online identity.
Trying Out a VPN? See If It Leaks
Not all providers include leak prevention in their clients. Others may have it, but if it’s poorly implemented you’re back to square one. Don’t get caught off guard – use this simple tool from ProPrivacy and test your VPN now.