Subscribing to a VPN service is a great idea. You protect yourself, and potentially others in your household, from hackers or being ‘spied’ on by Government authorities, depending on the country you are in.
However, not all VPNs were created equal. Some are not worth the money you are spending on them as they slow your computer down, making using the internet - for whatever reason - unworkable. But if you do get a great VPN, you should notice no discernible difference in the service you receive from your internet provider. Instead, you can be content and confident that all your security needs are being looked after.
So what makes a great VPN service provider that does actually offer a VPN worth using? Here, we look at the must-haves that VPNs should exhibit to make them worthwhile purchasing.
The following characteristics are in no particular order. They’re all important to have, but to you, that will be for differing reasons. Some you may not think are necessary, but we personally wouldn’t purchase a subscription from a VPN provider without all of the following included as standard. It’s more than possible to find a service that does manage to offer every single one of the below.
If you want your data to remain private, military-grade encryption must be used as standard with your VPN provider. Most of the time that means ensuring that they employ AES 256-Bit encryption. Doing so means that it is nigh on impossible to intercept your data and then have the ability to decrypt it to make it legible. As a result, only the person or entity for which your data was intended can use it. That makes your time when using the internet far safer without your sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.
Without a doubt, your VPN has to have lightning-quick connection time and fast speeds when you are connected. If your VPN lacks this, it is almost unusable. At best, you will be frustrated by how slow your time online will be, at worst it will materially impede anything you want to achieve. Anyone that wants to stream content from a video library, get involved with gaming or any other high data usage activity will find that their fun is constantly interrupted by buffering - if there is a connection at all. Some VPN providers are so bad that they have far too much downtime - something that reading some of our reviews will ensure never happens to you.
VPNs don’t need to be expensive. In fact, if they are, it should act as a massive red flag. The best ones do not cost more than a coffee or two a month. That’s it. Any more, and it’s likely that you are signing up for a service that is unnecessarily costly. On top of not paying the earth for your VPN, it’s important that you get value for money too. That means including all of the must haves on this list as standard. It’s infinitely achievable for a VPN provider to offer everything mentioned here, and if they don’t, it’s likely you’re not getting as much bang for your buck as you otherwise could.
People use VPNs, in part, to keep their time online private and away from prying eyes. For your time online to be truly secret, it’s imperative that your VPN provider does not maintain any logs - either of your connection or your traffic. If they do, the VPN almost becomes null and void as it’s possible at some point in the future for your data to be sold to a third party or given to an authority.
One of the ways that VPN providers can ensure that you always get a connection every single time that you sign in, is to have a large number of servers. It’s important to check that any potential VPN provider you are signing up to has a network that is large, with servers that are optimised for use. Without a large network, you run the risk of not being able to establish a VPN connection at busy network times. The majority of us will want an internet connection at peak hours of the day, so it’s not really something you can scrimp on unless you really do have a nocturnal way of life.
A VPN provider’s server network not only needs to be large in terms of number, it needs to be in many different places too. With more and more countries available, you will have more opportunity to make the connection you need to access the sites that you want. Geo-restrictions can only be overcome if a VPN provider has a server in the right country that you require. For example, if you want to access content that is blocked outside of the UK, you need your VPN provider to have a server based there.
To keep you safe when online, it’s good for a VPN to have something known as a kill switch. A kill switch will cut the internet connection to your device, if the VPN suddenly drops out. It means that you will never roam unprotected with no private network established without you knowing. Without a kill switch, it’s easily done - especially with VPN providers who do not offer VPNs that are stable and reliable. Kill switches keep you safe by meaning your connection is never exposed unwittingly.
With the amount of data that we all consume on a daily basis, it’s essential that your VPN offers you unlimited bandwidth. It means that your usage is not capped and that you never have to pay for a costly extra week’s protection or data top up. Instead, you can just keep streaming, downloading or uploading as much as you need, without having to keep an eye on how much data you have consumed. No one likes to have their internet usage curtailed due to lack of data and, when it comes to VPNs, there really is no need either. Plenty of highly respected VPN providers offer this as standard, so don’t be lured into a product that does employ bandwidths, even if the price does seem absurdly low.
This is a two pronged issue. Firstly, you will likely need protection across many devices requiring simultaneous connections. Think about your phone, computer and any other smart devices you use at the same time. Secondly, you need to ensure that your VPN works across different devices and different operating systems - particularly if you are part of a wider household trying to access the internet at once. The likelihood is that not all these devices will be android or iOS or Linux - but instead a mixture of all of them.
If you sign up to one of the best VPN providers around, you’ll likely not need a customer service department and simply you’ll just use your VPN with no problems. However, once in a while issues do occur and, if that’s the case, you’ll need a customer service department that is useful. So often, people who man call centres are not fully trained in the product they are supporting which can amount in frustration for customers. As a result, ensure that any potential provider for you has a customer service department that has long been touted as five star.
Often, to get the best price possible each month on subscription, customers have to sign up to a lengthy contract. That can make people understandably nervous and hesitant when purchasing a VPN. For that reason, it’s a good idea to try a VPN provider with a money back guarantee. The most reputable companies do this - often with no quibbles if you ask for your money back within 30 days. Some may go for 60 days. It offers peace of mind and is such an easy win for a company. Plus, it means that they have to ensure that their product really matches up to the promises it makes - resulting in a better, more consistent VPN service overall.
Picking a VPN may sound like a boring piece of administration, but spending just an extra five to ten minutes of research, to ensure that your final provider offers the majority, if not all, of the above is time well spent. It means you’ll never have to worry about slow connections, which are unstable and that you can only use for a certain amount of time before a paltry amount of monthly bandwidth runs out.
Get a VPN provider right, and you’ll not notice it running in the background at all. Instead, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your time online remains private and safe, with no prying eyes trying to access your data or sensitive information.
Luckily, the market has plenty of providers who do offer such a product. Our reviews will be able to help you pick the one most suitable for your needs - fast.