A VPN works by routing your internet traffic through a private and secure server instead of that of your ISP. When you connect to websites and applications, they see the IP address of the VPN server instead of yours. This means your internet traffic can’t be tracked and also allows you to access to geo-locked content like regional Netflix and blocked websites by making it look like you’re in a different country.
There exist a plethora of VPN services out there, and it can be difficult to know which provider to go for. This article will round-up the best VPN services: explaining their strengths and why you should check them out.
Locations: 160 across 94 countries
If you’re looking for the fastest, most reliable, and lowest latency VPN service, ExpressVPN is great for users who need the best performance from their VPN connection. Users have reported that ExpressVPN can cover their full network speed without bottlenecking. Speed is very consistent too, with very little in the way of slowdowns when there is a surge of people wanting to connect to the network. It can be used to stream 4K video (it does work with Netflix and other streaming providers), and Express is great for gamers who require a low ping in their competitive games.
Whilst ExpressVPN is a little pricey, with a monthly price of $12.95, you can get that down by committing to a longer subscription length – and even then, ExpressVPN’s speeds and reliability are unmatched in this market, becoming a firm favorite for many VPN power users.
Locations: 80+ across 59 countries
NordVPN is one of the biggest names in the VPN world and deservedly as they stand as one of the best service providers in the market. With up to six simultaneous devices and very fast speeds, power users will also enjoy their versatile service. Based in Panama, NordVPN’s location means their service benefits from very pro-privacy data protection laws. Whilst NordVPN had a comparatively small data breach in one of their Finnish servers in 2018, no customer information was leaked, and they have since pledged and effectively demonstrated a greater emphasis on data security.
NordVPN’s logging policy is assuring, and they are regularly audited by PwC. Their platform support matches that of ExpressVPN’s offering, including support for open-source applications and custom firmware for routers. The speeds of NordVPN, whilst a little slower than ExpressVPN’s, are still very good, but the appeal of NordVPN is its simplicity. NordVPN has put a lot of work into application usability, and thus their service is incredibly easy to use. If you ever get stuck or find your connection drops out or is slow, NordVPN offers 24/7 support.
Pricing their service a little cheaper than ExpressVPN means NordVPN have made some speed sacrifices, and you do give up the ridiculous amount of locations available. But, NordVPN still offers a solid and reliable service, and as a flagship brand in this space, they’re a provider you can trust.
Locations: 51 Countries
Monthly: $5 a Month/$10 a month
ProtonVPN was born from a group of former CERN employees who met to create the self-proclaimed “only community supported secure VPN service.” This ethos drives their pricing model and their privacy-first approach, along with their vast array of features. Rather than differentiating pricing on subscription length, ProtonVPN offers three distinct tiers of service based on the features that matter to you. Their free VPN offering is one of the only services on the market with no data cap, whilst the Basic package starts at $5 a month. With Basic, you get access to servers in all 51 countries it offers – only omitting premium “plus” servers. Bumping up to Plus and paying $10 gives you access to ‘secure streaming’ to stream geo-locked content like Netflix and Hulu. With both the basic and plus package, you get their fastest speed offering.
As you can see, ProtonVPN’s service is very price competitive. If you’re not worried about unblocking streaming services, $5 a month for the basic plan is a fantastic deal. Their network speeds are consistently high and can compete with some of the best in the VPN space. This provider is based in Switzerland, a country with some of the world’s strongest privacy laws. So, using ProtonVPN means your data is secure and away from the prying eyes of governments or third-party advertisers.
Locations: 51 Countries
Monthly: $7.12 a month
PrivateVPN is a relative newcomer to the VPN market and so may not have the same high amount of servers as more established rivals such as ExpressVPN. But, reviewers have commented that despite this, slowdowns are rare, and PrivateVPN offers great network speeds. Users can unblock Netflix and all other major streaming sites and can connect using up to 6 simultaneous devices at a time.
Locations: 60 in 40 countries
Monthly: $10 a month
Based in Canada, Private Internet Access offers a competitive and fast privacy-orientated VPN service for its customers. The network provides 60 locations, and their apps are very user-configurable with plenty of expert-level settings and tweaks. They have apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS – although reviewers have stated their clients can be a little cumbersome to use. Though, automatic kill switching is a plus on the usability front.
The main selling point for PIA is that you can connect up to ten devices simultaneously. This makes their service perfect for large groups like families or friend groups. If spreading the cost with peers, PIA starts to look like a seriously good deal. Speed is very decent, matching most of the services on this list, and you can take advantage of those speeds using streaming services you may want to bypass geo-locking for (like Netflix and Hulu). Overall, PIA is a solid and reputable VPN provider that is perfect if you’re sharing the service with your family or other groups.
Locations: 110+ in 90 Countries
German-based Cyberghost is another stellar choice for a VPN service. With over 90 countries, there is a lot of options to bypass geo-locking, and with over 6,200 servers available, CyberGhost isn’t as susceptible to surge slowdowns as smaller rivals. Their speeds are also very fast, and their service allows you to use streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. They also support Torrent downloading, so they are perfect if you want privacy whilst you’re using BitTorrent transfers.
Their software is simple and intuitive to use and has a ‘task-based’ system for selecting a server. Simply choose what you want to do, and whether it is browsing privately or unblocking certain services, the application will select you the optimum server. It also blocks ads, trackers, and even looks out for malicious websites: keeping you safe online.
Locations: 130 in 80 countries
Whilst Hotspot Shield is best known for its excellent free VPN service, its premium offering delivers great speeds and reliability for a fair price. Hotspot Shield uses their own proprietary protocol Catapult Hydra, allowing them to optimize their service for some seriously fast download speeds. Their service works on most streaming platforms, making it a great choice for bypassing geo-locked regional content offerings. They have a generous simultaneous device limit of 5, and their apps are available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS – with some support for routers and smart TVs also.
Hotspot Shield is operated by AnchorFree, an American tech company. This means they’re subject to the US’s anti-privacy data protection laws and are required to keep more logs of user information than other providers from countries like Switzerland and Canada. Whilst Hotspot Shield is very fast; if you require the top privacy protection, perhaps other European-based offerings would suit you better.
Locations: 784 servers in 36 countries, 57 cities and 25 providers
If you’re looking for the most secure and private VPN service out there, the answer has to be Mullvad. It’s one of the only providers where you don’t even have to provide any personal information to use. Just download the app, and you can pay with a decentralized currency or even cash. They offer strong encryption, DNS Leak Protection, and an Automatic Kill Switch to keep your unprotected data secure if your connection to the VPN drops out. Mullvad is apps for macOS, Windows and you can use its OpenVPN config files to use on pretty much any modern device. Yes, even Chromebooks. They also allow for up to 5 simultaneous connections.
Mullvad’s network speeds are brilliant, and reviewers note there isn’t much of a drop in download speed from unprotected to using Mullvad. The service allows the use of torrenting but unfortunately, doesn’t work with streaming sites like Netflix. Mullvad has a top privacy record and should be your choice if you’re super serious about staying anonymous online.
Conclusion: do I need a VPN?
A significant question to ask in your search for a VPN is whether you would properly benefit from using one. Premium VPNs can become significantly expensive, especially if you plan on using their services for a long time. Therefore, I’ll end this article by addressing whether you would benefit from using such a service. It’s vital you’re using a VPN for the right reasons before you decide whether to bite the bullet on a VPN service.
Do you want to access geo-locked content? If so, yes – a VPN is one of the only options for you. By routing your traffic through a remote server in a different country, you will be able to bypass any regional restrictions placed on you by your local government.
Want to access regional streaming services and content not available in your country? Again, yes – a VPN is a great choice. Given the VPN supports services like Netflix, routing your connection through that server would allow you to access the streaming catalog available in the country you are masking yourself as.
Worried about your network admin, ISP or government spying on your browsing data? A VPN is a great way to mask your internet information if you want to maximize your privacy and keep snoopers away from what you browse on the web. Install a VPN.
Also read: Best Free VPNs for 2021
Are you worried about your passwords being stolen on public wi-fi? You don’t need a VPN. This is a common marketing ploy used by VPN providers to scare you into using your services. They try to sell you “military-grade encryption” to suggest your banking details and passwords, and other personal data is at risk and for the taking if you don’t use a VPN. The truth is, as long as you are using an HTTPS connection (look for the little green padlock in the address bar of your browser), your data is already using SSL encryption. Nowadays, virtually all log-in pages and payment portals are using HTTPS SSL encryption. Keeping your passwords safe simply means looking out for that padlock and ensuring you don’t give your data away to a site that doesn’t have an HTTPS certificate. You don’t need a VPN to ensure that.