We all know by now how important a VPN is. The internet is not a safe place, no matter how innocuous it can sometimes seem. Identity theft happens daily, and taking no measures to prevent it borders on irresponsible.
But knowing you need a VPN is just the first step. As soon as you start looking, you face the question of which VPN to choose. There are hundreds of them out there, all promising similar things. Yet not all VPNs are equal.
If you’re comparing ExpressVPN vs NordVPN, you’re on the right track, as the well-established companies should be your first port of call. This is not a case where you want to place your trust in an unknown provider.
What else should you look for in the best VPN? Here are some tips to guide you along the way.
This is first and foremost. A good VPN is one that is reliable as a safety net between you and potential identity theft. This is a major problem these days. Some VPNs, even though they have good security systems, nonetheless log your data. Even if they don’t use your data, their systems might be breached in a major, targeted hack, or they might hand it over to authorities. Find out if a VPN logs your data before you commit.
A good VPN has hundreds of servers to choose from. They provide options around the world, both near you and far away. This allows you to choose based on a range of options, whether to avoid censorship, beat geo-restrictions, or focus on speed.
It also means that when one server is down, there are many more to choose from. VPNs that have only a few servers might have other pros but are not worth it.
VPNs inevitably slow down your connection. But the difference does not have to be significant. Some VPNs are notably slower than others. Another factor that plays into this is whether they have servers close to you. The closer the server, the quicker the connection.
If you’re going to be streaming content, you need a fast connection, and a slow VPN can ruin your experience.
Streaming websites provide different content depending on location. This means that some countries have very restricted access to Netflix’s library, despite the service costing the same price. In some instances, even long-running Netflix originals are restricted, as they’ve been optioned to local networks before Netflix went global.
An external server can get you around geo-restrictions. However, streaming services have worked hard to ban VPNs. Nonetheless, many good VPNs have found a way to beat the ban. Make sure the VPN you choose allows you to stream on your favorite platform.
Finally, pricing does make a difference, but it shouldn’t be your number one concern. Most VPN providers charge around US$10 a month, which is certainly reasonable. If you pay for a whole year, you’ll get significant discounts.
Whatever you do, don’t go for a free option. Even the good ones will give you a very limited amount of bandwidth a month. You’ll simply end up going online without a VPN a few days in.