A Virtual Private Network, or a VPN, can be a very useful tool when you are browsing the internet. Due to heightened awareness about the need to keep personal information and data safe online, their popularity has increased exponentially in the past few years. Through the use of a VPN, your internet activity is encrypted, protecting it from hijackers or snoopers. Aside from data security, there is a wide range of reasons why people use VPNs – it may be to securely access internal intranets for work or school, to be able to watch television shows when you are abroad or to avoid internet censorship. Whatever your reason for using one, you may find that there are a huge number of different VPN providers and it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you.
Reliability & Speed
One of the key aspects of a VPN that you should consider is how reliable the service is. You don’t want to end up with a VPN service that cuts out constantly or is down most of the time because you didn’t do your research. Make sure to read reviews, especially reviews from trusted technology blogs or websites, as this can give you a good idea of how good a service is.
You should also think about how important the speed of your VPN connection is. Although the speed of a VPN service is related to the speed of your internet provided by your ISP, it can also be influenced by other factors. The connection speed can be affected by the server location of the VPN service, the closer your proximity to the server – the faster your connection.
When choosing a virtual private network service you will need to find a provider that has a good balance between the number of servers they own and the quality of their servers. It will be no use to you to have a provider who has hundreds of servers that are badly maintained as the VPN they will provide will be patchy and unreliable. Equally a provider who has one or two fast and well-maintained servers may have speed and connectivity issues. You need to find a provider with a good amount of well-maintained servers.
Price & Bandwidth
Price may or may not be an important consideration, depending on your budget. Luckily this is an area that many providers will compete with each other. As there are so many VPN providers, they all want to stand out from the crowd by being the cheapest and the best. Have clear ideas about how much you want to spend on the service – don’t subscribe to a six-month service without trying it first. Most providers will allow you to pay for a month’s worth as a trial.
Another important aspect to consider is what you will be using the VPN for. If you are planning on streaming video and music or downloading large files you should check whether the VPN provider you are considering has a bandwidth limit. Unlimited options are available but you should be aware that going for unlimited will up the price.
Security & Support
If security is a big concern for you then you may want to look into what protocols different providers use. PPTP will be enough security for simply streaming media or browsing the net, but for those with higher security requirements, L2TP, IPSec or SSL may be more appropriate. In addition, you should find out whether your VPN provider logs your data as this could be a security issue for you.
If you don’t feel particularly tech-savvy about VPNs it may also be worth looking at whether the VPN providers you are deciding between have good tech support. A good VPN provider will often have 24/7 support that is manned by a knowledgeable team. The support should also be swift and proactive. If you only have a beginner level knowledge of VPNs it can be helpful to look for a service that has a simple set up process.
Other Areas To Consider
Other areas you may want to look at could include whether a provider offers any extras like anti-malware and anti-spyware tools, whether you can use the same service for your smartphone or tablet and if the company offers a money-back guarantee. You should also always check whether the VPN is compatible with your operating system – a simple thing to do but one that can get overlooked. In a similar vein, if you are using a VPN to watch television shows that are restricted to certain countries you should check that the provider has servers in that country. For example if you wanted to watch a BBC show while you were on holiday you should use a UK VPN, i.e. a VPN service that has a server in the UK. If you think carefully about why you want a VPN and do some research, you will often be able to find a VPN provider that is best for your needs.