Whether it’s for added security while browsing the internet, unblocking geo-restrictions, or preventing ISP and government snooping, there are many reasons you would want to install a VPN on your device. With a VPN, “what’s my IP address?” becomes a much more complex question because your location is hidden.
Yet, with the massive amount of choice out there, how can you possibly decide which VPN to opt for and which to pass on? For the people that aren’t technically savvy, this can be a daunting task, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the differentiating features between providers.
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First things first, it’s important to consider why you need a VPN in the first place and what you’re going to use it for. If you travel frequently, work in internet cafes, or like to visit some of the more risque areas of the internet, you’re probably going to need something a little more robust than someone who wants to use a VPN for everyday browsing.
With all that said, let’s take a look at eight of the things you need to look for when choosing your VPN provider.
Check the number of servers
One of the most important things to consider when choosing your VPN provider is the number of servers they have. As a rule of thumb, the more they have, the better.
A larger number of servers mean users will get more bandwidth and faster speeds as fewer people share the same resource. So what’s a good number of servers? Well, it depends on the provider and the quality of the servers. A virtual private network provider that has over 10,000 servers should be more than sufficient.
Location of the servers
The next thing you should look at is the location of the servers. This is important for two main reasons. Firstly, the closer you are to a server, the less lag you will have when connecting to it and the faster your download speeds will be.
Secondly, and more importantly, the location of the server you connect to determines where it will appear you’re browsing from. For example, if you log onto a Japanese server, every site you visit will assume you are viewing from Japan.
If you log in to the United States while in Germany, you will access the internet as an American would. This is handy in several ways, mainly for overcoming geo-restrictions and government censorship.
Transparent about technical security
It’s reported that hackers stole over $2.7 billion in the last decade, with a staggering 63% of the thieves remaining unknown. Unfortunately, this figure looks set to continue rising in the coming years, which is why many people have turned to VPNs to bolster their online security.
If security is your main concern, you should look for a provider that offers AES 256-bit encryption, SHA256 authentication, and RSA-4096 handshake encryption for maximum protection.
Some VPN providers place a data cap on their plans, especially if they offer a free package. This can be frustrating as once the data cap has been used up, you could be left browsing the internet unprotected without knowing.
There are plenty of options out there that offer unlimited data packages, so if you plan to keep your VPN, you are better off going for one of those options.
The number of devices allowed
A recent study showed the average American has access to more than ten internet-connected devices in their household. If that sounds like you and you want your VPN to protect more than one device, you need to make sure your provider allows for this functionality.
The main thing you need to look out for is the number of devices you can connect simultaneously, and not just the number you are allowed to register. It’s very frustrating to keep getting logged out on your phone every time you try and use a VPN on your tablet.
If you have many devices, some VPN providers allow for up to 10 simultaneous connections, which should be more than enough for most people.
The customer service
Customer service is an often overlooked feature of VPN companies, but it shouldn’t be. If you ever have a problem connecting to a server, have technical difficulties, or suspect something is wrong with your payment plan, it’s important that you are able to contact someone who can help.
This is especially true for people who aren’t familiar with VPNs and may need guidance on installation and set up. Look for providers with a high customer satisfaction score and a 24/7 live chat.
A solid money-back guarantee is becoming something of an industry-standard in the VPN world, so ensure you choose a provider who offers one. Most VPN companies provide an attractive discount for signing up for an annual subscription, which is great to save money, but not so great if you sign up and realize it doesn’t offer what you need.
Feel free to try out one of the providers that offer this feature and make sure their servers function correctly, and the speed is up to your standards. If they miss the mark, contact support, and get your money back.
Last but not least we have the price. Fortunately for consumers, the VPN market is extremely competitive, which means you can pick up a great service for a very reasonable price. However, as you might expect, you normally get what you pay for.
The free/cheap options are great if you want a basic VPN, but they usually have limited server choice, low speeds, and do not offer the best security. In fact, some free options have been known to contain malware, which kind of defeats the purpose of installing a VPN in the first place.
The best advice is to go for a top-end provider that offers a large number of servers and a high level of encryption. The market leaders all cost between $10-$15 per month but usually provide large discounts for yearly subscriptions, and of course, a nice juicy money-back guarantee!