Best VPNs in 2022

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We have been using and testing multiple VPN providers for a long time. Based on our long-term testing, we are bringing you a comparison that will help you choose the best host for you, saving time, and money.

Our review process in a nutshell: We tested, reviewed, and compared all the VPN providers in the market. Pricing and features are checked and customer support is tested. Speed is monitored during browsing and streaming.

The best VPN providers (overall) in May 2022

Here is a list of best VPN services in the market that performed well in the last 12-months:

Provider Overall score Starting from Av. download speed Number of servers Direct link
#1 Reason Why
It's superfast.
9.9 $8.32/mo 128 Mbit/s 3,000 Visit ExpressVPN Visit
#1 Reason Why
Leader in the market with an Adblocker
9.8 $3.71/mo 118 Mbit/s 5,400 Visit NordVPN Visit
#1 Reason Why
Great lowcost solution
9.7 $2.21/mo 41 Mbit/s 3200 Visit SurfShark Visit
#1 Reason Why
Perfect for streaming
9.7 $2.2/mo 6 Mbit/s 6,700 Visit CyberGhost Visit
#1 Reason Why
Emphasis on security
9.2 $1.66/mo 70 Mbit/s 700 Visit VyprVPN Visit
#1 Reason Why
Stores no logs
8.7 $2.35/mo 86 Mbit/s 12400 Visit Private Internet Access Visit
#1 Reason Why
8.7 $2.92/mo 72 Mbit/s 1500 Visit IPVanish Visit
#1 Reason Why
8.6 $10.95/mo 105 Mbit/s 2000 Visit PureVPN Visit
#1 Reason Why
8.4 $1/mo 45 Mbit/s 1000 Visit IvacyVPN Visit
#1 Reason Why
8.1 $9.99/mo Mbit/s 1600 Visit TorGuard Visit
#1 Reason Why
7.5 $/mo Mbit/s Visit TunnelBear Visit
#1 Reason Why
6 $0.10/mo Mbit/s Visit JackRabbit VPN Visit

In this guide we’ll talk about what VPNs are, why you should use them, and how to choose the right one for you. However, for those of you who have more to do than surf the Internet, we can already tell you that for most people most of the time, ExpressVPN seems to be the ticket, read our full ExpressVPN review to find out why.

However, that doesn’t mean you can throw our other VPN reviews in the trash, as there are plenty of other players out there that maybe hit your sweet spot a little better. If you want to see at a glance what kind of features all the major VPN providers have, be sure to check out our VPN comparison chart.

For those of you who are still having trouble understanding the concept of a VPN, let’s take a look at what they are, before moving on to what we think makes them useful and how people can decide which provider is best for them. If you want to skip the wall of text and get straight to what matters most to you, the table of contents will help.

Discover the Best VPN to:

✔️ Make public WI-Fi safer

✔️ Stream regionally blocked content

✔️ Access blocked websites

✔️ Prevent ISP tracking

✔️ Prevent price discrimination

✔️ Avoid censorship

VPN Services compared

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network essentially makes your Internet connection entirely your own. Instead of going through a public server run by your Internet service provider, a VPN will connect you to a different server through a so-called secure tunnel. That server then connects you to the wider network, keeping you protected from prying eyes.

The effect is that your IP address is unknown to any site you connect to, which doesn’t seem all that practical until you think about it some more. Many services on the Internet, Netflix being the most famous example, will limit what you can watch depending on your geographic location. By using a VPN, you can make it look like you are accessing the service from another country entirely, thus circumventing so-called geoblocks.

VPNs are more than entertainment providers, of course. The privacy they offer can protect you from the prying eyes of government agencies, as well as data-hungry vendors and their ISP allies.

While this may seem unnecessary to some who toe the line of “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about,” dissent in Internet-censoring countries like Vietnam and China would be impossible without VPNs (we have an article on the best VPN for China, as well as an article on censorship in China).

In short, VPNs are probably one of the most important tools you have when it comes to protecting yourself from spies and cybercriminals while browsing. While there is not the only precaution you may want to take, read our online privacy guide for more information on that, they are a massive first step in the right direction.

The Best VPN Overall

ExpressVPN

  • Enhanced security with Kill Switch
  • Good solution for China
  • It is fast and easy to use
  • More than 148 locations
  • 30-day-money-back guarantee

With a streamlined interface that lets you connect to the server you want in just a few seconds, ExpressVPN takes the ribbon in this section. The app is exactly that, a smartphone-style application that you can move around the screen and takes up little space. Connecting to a server is done by pressing the large button right in the middle and server selection is a matter of pressing another button.

Other than that, ExpressVPN doesn’t confuse you with too many options, most of the action takes place under the hood. If you want to change anything, you’ll have to change the configuration files instead. This may take the fun out of using it for some geeks, but most users will probably appreciate the no-frills approach.

Our favorite VPN for many reasons, ExpressVPN’s main attraction is the insane speeds it provides. While not all servers provide the same great mileage, you can always go to the next one if you didn’t like the one you chose; there are over 1500 servers in 94 countries, so one is bound to get it right.

Confusion with the service has shown that speeds drop about 10-15 percent over a few hundred kilometers, and then drop steadily from there, with transatlantic connections (this was tested in Western Europe) dropping from 45-50 percent with the U.S. east coast. This is pretty good by any standard, though it does mean you want high bandwidth if you want to watch Netflix U.S. from Europe.

ExpressVPN may only have one server or so per location, but the machines themselves are powerful and the locations diverse, if not downright exotic. There are not many services that allow you to connect to Algiers or Vientiane. Of course, more regular locations are also offered, such as New York City or Amsterdam, but it’s still pretty cool that you can surf from somewhere you’ll probably never physically set foot in.

Once again we’re leading with ExpressVPN simply because not only does it offer a wide variety of excellent security options, but it also lets you customize them as you see fit, although you’ll have to get under the proverbial hood and mess with OpenVPN’s configuration files. It’s not difficult, but it’s an extra step.

The service lets you choose between several protocols, each with their advantages and disadvantages, as well as types of encryption. On top of that, it comes with DNS leak protection as well as a killswitch, which terminates the connection if the VPN stops working for just one second. The latter feature is especially important for people who evade censorship and torrents, as they won’t have to watch their connection like a hawk, praying that it sticks.

ExpressVPN does not keep any logs, although it does keep track of how much bandwidth you consume without any identifiable data. If we could somehow get a peek at what you’re doing, the service’s IP addresses are shared by multiple users, a ball of string that’s impossible to unravel. If somehow someone could get a warrant for ExpressVPN, their headquarters are in the British Virgin Islands, which have some of the best privacy laws in the world.

Secondly, thanks to a wait time of about five minutes plus, ExpressVPN takes very good care of its users. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable and if for some reason they don’t know the answer to whatever it is you’re asking, they’ll refer you to the next agent with no hassle.

NordVPN

NordVPN probably has the best graphical interface among VPNs. You operate the program mainly through the main screen, which is a map of all server locations. It gives you a great control room feel and will satisfy your hidden ambitions to rule the world, though probably only temporarily. Connecting is as easy as clicking on a location marker.

If you want a bit more detail, NordVPN offers that as well, but the sheer amount of information you get can be a bit overwhelming. This is the main reason we feel a little more comfortable recommending ExpressVPN, as sometimes with NordVPN you spend too much time browsing through server lists.

NordVPN did very well in our testing for our NordVPN review. While it only has about half the servers that ExpressVPN has in just over 50 countries, it generally does well within a few hundred miles of your location. However, its speeds are quite high to transatlantic, so it’s not the best for Netflix or BBC iPlayer over long distances.

Overall, however, speed drops are only a few percentage points higher than with ExpressVPN, meaning it’s still well above the curve compared to most others. Add to your extensive network, and NordVPN, like ExpressVPN and PIA, will keep your connection fast.

Although no provider has the reach of ExpressVPN, few can beat the sheer volume of servers that NordVPN offers. Almost every country on NordVPN’s map has multiple servers (usually dozens, if not more), giving you plenty of options to choose which one works best for you. Add to that a decent server extension, and you’re in business.

Another great provider for sure, NordVPN offers fewer options than ExpressVPN, but offers them directly in the application itself rather than through configuration files. The downside here is that NordVPN’s excellent security slows down the service a bit, with no way to configure it yourself, as, say, PIA does.

NordVPN’s greatest strength is its so-called double-hop encryption across its DoubleVPN servers, which means that it runs a tunnel through one server before running it through another. This slows down your connection somewhat horribly, but makes it virtually unbreakable.

The service is based in Panama (you know, that country where the rich and powerful keep their money because they know how to keep a secret…) and therefore cannot serve most warrants; however, even if a warrant is served, there is nothing to serve since NordVPN is strictly no registration.

NordVPN has another customer service team that appears to be in possession of scientific degrees of excellence. Responses are delivered in about fifteen minutes and are always on the money.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost takes a different tack than the other two in this section: instead of giving you an interface and letting you figure out where to connect, it gives you “profiles”, expected Internet behaviors, and then tailors a server to your choice. Of course, you can still do it the old-fashioned way, but CyberGhost obviously expects the not-so-savvy to use their service and we’d bet this approach could work very well.

However, we’ve ranked it third because more experienced users may be a bit disadvantaged by profiling. Also, it’s not always clear what certain options in the settings do, so it’s necessary to go to the support section of the website. That said, however, as you can read in our CyberGhost review, the service still beats most of the competition by a mile.

CyberGhost may not be the best represented in North America, Asia or Latin America, but no other service has as many servers in European countries. Not only are every single country on the continent covered – even exotic locations like Bosnia and Moldova have multiple servers – they’re all in good shape, too, which means you’ll get some great speeds.

The third is CyberGhost, which offers 256-AES straight out of the gate like the previous two, but doesn’t have the range of options they offer. That said, it’s still an excellent service that makes it a solid choice when it comes to using it, especially when connecting to their torrenting servers or through specialized servers for people living in democracy-free countries.

CyberGhost has yet to leave us hanging while processing a request: they offer both live chat and email support and always respond quickly and thoroughly. During the writing of our CyberGhost review we encountered some technical difficulties and the answers we got allowed us to get back to using the application in a matter of minutes.

This Romanian service is also only $5 per month, although since its suite is a bit less crowded than the other two, we ranked it last. That said, with its great speeds, CyberGhost is definitely worth the money.

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is one of the staunchest soldiers in the battle for the network and is one of the fastest VPNs. During our latest PIA review tests, the service easily outperformed all others except ExpressVPN. This is partly because PIA uses a lighter encryption protocol than the other two entries on this list, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

The downside here, however, is that outside of the US, server coverage is a bit sparse, so you lose some speed simply because you’re connecting to a more distant server. However, if you have a PIA server around the corner, you will find that there is no drop-off.

For a little over $3 a month, PIA is an absolute steal, considering you get a full service with all the bells and whistles. If you’re low on funds, don’t accept any substitute.

VyprVPN

Another service with a strict no-logs privacy policy, VyprVPN collects some data on usage volume and that’s it. Like ExpressVPN, it is also based in a British overseas territory, the famous St. Kitts and Nevis, and also offers its special Chameleon protocol, which prevents you from being detected while using the VPN.

VyprVPN’s basic package, which comes to $5 a month when you subscribe for a whole year, is much cheaper. For a few dollars more per month, you can also bring on board some extras, which may or may not be what you’re looking for; we’re happy to be given the option.

How does a VPN works?

TL;DR: Using a VPN to ensure the security of your personal data works like this:

  1. Once you connect to the internet with your VPN service switched on, you will be connected to one of the VPN provider’s servers
  2. At the same time, they will provide you with the IP address (a unique set of numbers that identifies your device) of that particular server. Instead of using your own IP address, you are using one that belongs to the VPN provider.
  3. Your internet connection is also encrypted (the process of converting data into code to prevent unauthorized access) between your device and the server you’re connected to.
  4. Hiding your IP address allows you to access the internet privately and helps to prevent your browsing from being tracked or traced. You are then able to surf the web privately and securely.

We’ll start at the beginning: when you access the Internet, you do so through a connection between your IP address (which stands for Internet Protocol and is basically the Internet’s addressing system) and another. Just like sending a message via snail mail, whatever you’re doing only works if everyone is using the right address.

However, as with mail, you may not always want people to know who you are. We shouldn’t forget about people who send private or confidential information through the mail; you don’t want your neighbors to know online orders or your finances through a particular bank.

We solve this dilemma with blank envelopes and anonymous PO boxes in the real world, whereas on the Internet we can, for example, encrypt our emails. However, when visiting sites, or streaming or torrenting, you’re better off using a VPN and erasing all traces of your presence.

Instead of accessing a site directly, your Internet connection is routed through the VPN service’s server, tricking the recipient into thinking that you are indeed at that address. This is how, for example, you can watch U.S. Netflix (which has a much larger offering than other countries) despite being in Britain or Australia. You simply route your traffic through a VPN server in the United States.

Note that this reveals the biggest weakness of VPNs: they slow down your traffic. The fastest VPN services can only slow you down by 10 to 20 percent, while the slowest services can take up to 80 percent of your speed (ouch). The best way to keep Mbps high is to not only find fast providers, but also those with a large geographic distribution of servers; that way there’s always one near you (distance matters).

VPN Security

Now that we’ve talked a bit about tunneling, let’s talk a bit about how exactly you secure your Internet traffic. We have, of course, an in-depth article on VPN security, but here’s the rundown.

While it’s of course not a physical tunnel, it’s useful to imagine it as such, connecting your computer to the server of your VPN service. Your Internet traffic passes through it and arrives safely and soundly at the server, where it is transmitted to the Internet as a whole, more or less.

Anyone who wants to see what you’re doing can only see the VPN server’s IP address, because yours is more or less hidden behind that. However, the key here is that the encryption has to be strong, or people could just look in whenever they wanted to. This is a very important thing to take away: Internet traffic is inherently insecure.

The only way to make sure that what you’re doing on the Internet stays private is to have a tunnel and then encrypt it. This is also how you distinguish good VPNs from bad ones (what’s that PureVPN review doing here?): the latter will sometimes have no encryption at all – which makes them technically proxies – or are so weak that anyone with a will can crack them (check out our article where we compare VPN vs proxy vs TOR for more information on the differences between them).

The best VPNs, on the other hand, will have high-strength encryption or even double-hop encryption, where anyone looking to eavesdrop will basically keep running into a wall of code that will keep them out. There are several of these encryption protocols, some more widely used than others, with the most popular being IPSec, L2TP, OpenVPN and PPTP.

We have an article on the differences between PPTP and OpenVPN if you want to know more about how the protocols do what they do, but for this general article we’ll skip the merits of all these different types of encryption to avoid burying it in technobabble. Laymen will probably be glad to know that there is a tunnel between your computer and the VPN server that keeps your data safe from prying eyes.

Encryption, what does that mean?

Encryption is the process of taking some information (your data) and scrambling it so that it can’t be read. When you connect to the internet using a VPN your connection is what becomes encrypted, which means that if cyber criminals were to intercept the stream of your data, all they would get is gibberish code.

You can consider encryption a form of secret code. The way your data is scrambled is called a cypher, and there is a key (or logic) that allows you to decypher the message so that it makes sense again.

The highest encryption standard available is known as AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 256-bit and is used by the most recommended VPN providers. What does 256-bit mean? It’s the size (or complexity) of the cypher used in the encryption. The bigger it is, the more possibilities there are, and the harder it is to guess the key. In the case of 256-bit encryption, there are more combinations than there are stars in the universe. In fact, this level of encryption is so secure it’s used by banks and governments worldwide to ensure the security of their data.

Let’s talk protocols

A VPN protocol refers to the technology a VPN provider uses to ensure you get a secure and fast connection between your device and their VPN servers. A VPN protocol is a combination of encryption standards and transmission protocols.

The most widely used VPN protocol is OpenVPN. Being ‘open’ may not sound like the best thing for something designed for privacy, but it’s the safest and most secure option there is when using a VPN service. Why? Because it’s exactly that: It’s open-source, which means its source code is available for anyone to verify. So if any security holes were found they’d be picked up quickly by the community of developers that support it. You can also be sure that the code isn’t being used to do anything funny, because it’s available for all to see.

Another commonly known protocol is PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) which is mainly used on free VPN services and is much less secure. It’s been around for much longer (circa 1995) and while it’s easier to set up, it’s full of known security flaws and should be avoided if you’re looking for anything like a secure connection.

Why are IP addresses important?

Your IP address is a unique set of numbers that identifies your device when you connect to the internet. Think of it as a home address for your device that usually looks something like this: 123.4.567.89. Every device has one, and when you connect to a website, the address you typed in to get to it gets translated into the IP address of that website’s server. But just like your computer is collecting that server’s IP address to connect to it, so are the servers of every website you connect to collecting your device’s IP address.

Your IP address links your device to your ISP, and also to the region that you are operating in. This is how services go about restricting content by region: your IP address flags the region you’re in, and if the content you are trying to access is restricted where you are then you won’t be able to see it.

When you connect to a VPN server, you effectively get the IP address of one of their servers in whatever region that server may be — hiding your IP address behind it in the process. Anyone who comes snooping around on your activities will only be able to find the IP address of your VPN provider. Not yours.

Team that with the encrypted internet connection between your device and the VPN servers, and your browsing habits are private from ISPs, hackers and government surveillance.

Related: How to Change IP Address by Device with/without a VPN?

VPN Privacy

Now that we know how a VPN works and how it keeps your traffic secure, let’s talk a little more about why. The fact is, we’re being spied on. We’ve known since the Patriot Act was passed that much of the world’s traffic was being monitored in the name of fighting terrorism, but since Edward Snowden spilled the beans, there’s no question: we are being watched.

In addition to government monitoring, you also need to be concerned about your Internet service provider. The modern world may not exist without ISPs, but they have proven time and time again that they are not our friends when it comes to our data. European lawmakers have shown themselves to be remarkably forward-thinking when it comes to protecting citizens’ data from being sold off by ISPs, American lawmakers have chosen the side of Comcast, Time Warner, et al.

Combine to this the very real possibility that net neutrality could be repealed in the U.S., and it is practically imperative that anyone in that country use a VPN (although it is unclear how any FCC decision regarding net neutrality would affect VPNs), just to make sure that your personal information does not become another bargaining chip in whatever game the poker corporations and politicians are playing in the United States.

If multinationals and spies weren’t enough to worry about, criminals are also always interested in getting their hands on your data, either to use it for their own purposes (think credit card numbers) or to sell it to vendors (not the cleanest profession). A good example where a VPN will help protect you from criminals is the use of hijacked public WiFi: no matter how hard they try, hackers won’t be able to get their hands on your data.

So far the benefits of cloaking your data with a VPN, now let’s go back to how it is useful to be able to hide your location from any website you are visiting.

VPNs and Geoblocks

Generally speaking, the main reason most people first get interested in VPNs is not to protect themselves, but to watch Netflix. While it would be easy to sneer here, the fact is that any reason to start using one is a good reason, which is why we’re always happy to recommend our best VPN for Netflix and best VPN for BBC iPlayer picks.

VPN and Streaming Services

Netflix is a great example of geo-blocking because it’s one of the best-visited sites in the world – there are about three countries where the service isn’t available and none of them are exactly vacation spots – but it also has very different libraries from country to country.

Netflix USA has around 5,000 shows and movies available, for example, while Netflix in most European countries has more than around 3,000. It’s not just quantity, either: Netflix USA has few or no Marvel movies, while Netflix in the Netherlands has all but the latest releases on prominent screen.

As we discussed in our article on the Netflix VPN ban, this may seem a bit unfair, especially since everyone pays roughly the same amount to Netflix (between currency exchange rates and all Europeans are about 15 percent worse off than Americans, while Asians pay slightly less).

The solution, therefore, is simple: get a proxy, route your traffic through there and, voila, Netflix is the same for everyone. Not exactly: Netflix has deals with distributors around the world, each of which has its own deals with different theaters, which means that if you log on to Netflix in another country and watch a movie you couldn’t watch otherwise, you’re causing someone else to lose that revenue.

While few readers are likely to let the poor movie moguls rip, this opens Netflix up to potential disagreements, which in turn has led to the development of one of the most advanced VPN prevention systems in the world. Netflix quickly and easily detects whether or not you are where you say you are.

Most VPNs are not up to the Netflix challenge, which means that only a handful, as we linked above, are up to the task. Even then, however, it may be necessary to go through the servers from time to time to avoid getting caught by Netflix (and getting the dreaded Netflix proxy error).

VPN and Censorship

This cat-and-mouse game between consumers and Netflix reads like an old-fashioned children’s book where the hero needs to stay ahead of some evil teacher or something. In the end, though, it’s all pretty harmless and Netflix doesn’t censor your account or anything when you get caught; all you have to do is disconnect the VPN and be a good boy, instead (or, you know, try another server).

However, things are a bit different in other climes, especially in places with a more authoritarian view of what can and can’t be said on the Internet. The example that usually comes to mind is China, with its two million censors searching through all online communication, although it could be Iran or Vietnam, where someone gets in trouble for disagreeing with the government in an online forum.

For people in these countries, VPNs are much less a case of whim and more a case of survival, whether they are human rights activists, business people or simply people who want to exercise their universal right to speak their minds. In fact, as VPN detection systems get smarter, there is a real threat to these groups who need to use them to live a life comparable to that of the Western world.

What to look for in a VPN

Taking all of the above considerations together, what kind of criteria might you use to decide between different VPN providers? Let’s take a look at what we here at Cloudwards.net think are the most important things to consider, as well as some providers that will serve you well in each regard.

Ease of use

It doesn’t matter how secure, private or fast a VPN is unless you can easily figure out how to use it, so we’ve put usability as our first criteria. As we all know, some apps and programs are just plain messy, with buttons in illogical places, strange terminology and oddly layered menus that make you question the designers’ mental health and respect for humanity.

All of the vendors below have put some common sense into their interface design, making you use their program like a professional with a few hours of experience. For examples of how not to do this, see our ZenMate and TunnelBear reviews.

Speed

When we talk about VPN speed, we actually mean how much they slow you down; no VPN will speed up your connection, painfully enough. The best VPNs will only see a slowdown of a few percent when connecting to a nearby server, while the worst ones can drop 60-80 percent, even for a server a few hundred miles away.

The trick seems to be to make sure that the service you like also has good servers in all the right places, or at least close to them. The only good way to test this is to just try a service and then mess with all the different locations they offer, or have people like us do that bit of heavy lifting for you. That said, let’s take a look at three very fast VPNs.

Server location

We let it shine a bit in the last section, but in a way server locations and speed are directly related, simply because closer servers mean better speeds. Also, having more geographically distributed servers to choose from means you’ll have more options for circumventing geoblocks as well as getting rid of eavesdroppers. Keep in mind, however, that having many servers is not enough: wide networks are where it’s at, especially if you travel a lot.

Security

Not to be confused with privacy, which we’ll talk about in the next section, security is about how a provider keeps your data safe. Some of the worst VPN providers won’t even bother to encrypt the tunnel, leaving you thinking you’re safe when you’re not (the worst, like Hello VPN, can even enslave your computer into a botnet).

The following three providers guarantee a high level of encryption, plus additional features that will keep you safe while browsing and downloading.

Privacy

Securing a connection is one thing, but protecting your data is quite another. As we said earlier, a VPN is in an excellent position to collect all your data and then sell it themselves, which is why you want a service that is proven not to keep logs. Logs, in this case, are basically the sign-in sheet for the Internet and can show where you were and what you were doing at any given time.

Here are three services that, under no circumstances, will keep logs of any kind, not even so-called metadata (which is information about what you were doing, not always completely anonymized).

Customer service

All of the above is fine, of course, but what to do if there is a problem of some kind, or if you have a question? There are few things as annoying as having to wait for a response or having to deal with a carousel of clueless technicians before you finally figure out the one thing you need to start using a service again.

Again, not all services are equal, but among our usual suspects are a few services that do very well in dealing with customers, offering 24/7 service and with well-trained staff (note that time of day can affect our results below).

Pricing

We’ve saved the bottom line for the end of the list: how much does it cost to use a service? Unfortunately, our favorite ExpressVPN didn’t make this section as, at just over $8 per month, it’s quite expensive.

Below are the three providers that offer the lowest monthly price, though note that is when you sign up for the annual plan. Also, note that we have not included any of our top free VPN services, nor any cheap services with a bad track record; so please read our SaferVPN review or our VPNUnlimited review.

Conclusion

And there you have it, six criteria for deciding which VPN works best for you, as well as some general guidelines on what to look out for. Generally speaking, we recommend that you always go with a service that offers a Kill Switch, is guaranteed to offer a secure tunnel and does not keep logs. These three requirements will always lead to a secure VPN, and security in this case is key.

If on top of that you are also looking for ease of use, speed and value for money, we can always recommend ExpressVPN, NordVPN and PIA; all three services offer great ease of use, wonderful customer support and will be relatively friendly to your wallet.

FAQ

Can I still be traced online when using a VPN?

When you purchase a VPN you will often do so with your credit card details, so your VPN provider will likely know who you are. There are untraceable methods of payment such as certain cryptocurrencies similar to Bitcoin — Bitcoin isn’t as anonymous as you may think — but that’s a discussion for another time. But practically speaking, while they may know who you are, the most information a VPN company should ever have on your online activity is your IP address and the IP address of the server they connected you to.

Look out for a VPN that offers shared IP addresses: this means that when you’re connected to a server, you share its IP address with any other person connected to it. This makes it almost impossible to tie you to anything that is accessed from that IP address. In short, your internet browsing history should not be traceable by your VPN provider.

There’s also more at stake than whether your VPN service can trace you. You have to remember that there are plenty of ways for your browsing to be tracked whether you’re using a VPN or not. Advertisers can (and will) follow you online if you have a cookie in your browser — using a different IP address won’t change that. If you’re connected to Facebook in one tab then all your other tabs are monitored too. The same goes for Google.

What does “no logging” mean?

Whenever an activity happens on a computer, that event is logged in a record. These logs are useful for a variety of things. They can help IT experts figure out what operations a computer was doing when it crashed, for instance. Well, servers are computers, and so technically they are capable of keeping logs of the communications that go through them.

Every server collects information by default when it is accessed by a device. The extensiveness of what information the server collects on you when you connect should be outlined clearly in the privacy policy of the VPN service you are using. It’s important to always read the privacy policy of the VPN provider to ensure you know exactly where you stand. After all, if they are able to log your browsing history then this defeats the purpose of using a VPN service for internet privacy and security.

When a VPN provider claims that it has a “no logging” policy, it means that it doesn’t keep logs on what you do online. All reputable VPNs have such a policy. All they should know is your payment method, your IP address, and the address of the server you connected to in their network – and that’s all they should be able to provide if they are compelled to release information.

Are VPNs free?

Yes, some VPNs are free. But be wary: Free doesn’t always mean secure. A free VPN service has to make its money somehow, and it’s often at the expense of your data and security.

Weak protocols — Most free services only provide PPTP ( Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol) VPN which is an old-school method built in the 1990s and widely regarded as obsolete. Several vulnerabilities have been discovered over the years and the encryption can be broken easily using widely available tools online.

Slow speeds — Everyone loves a freebie — and that means tons of people slowing down servers and delaying connections. Enjoy watching that spinning wheel on every page you load.

Download limits — Free VPN services will restrict their users with very small download limits.

Fewer locations — A free service rarely supports as many locations as paid services.

Advertising — Like we said, they need to make their money somehow. Be prepared for pop-ups and spam galore. This can even be a security risk — such as when they inject their ads into otherwise secure websites like your bank.

If you’re not sure about whether a VPN is for you but want to give a try we suggest getting a free trial first. Some of the VPNs listed above offer a trial completely free of charge before you commit to the paid service.

Are VPNs secure?

Remember that encryption stuff we were talking about earlier? That’s what makes a VPN secure. The AES 256-bit encryption used by the best VPN providers means that all the data shared on your internet connection is secure and private. If it’s good enough for military-level government operations, then it’s good enough for us.

However, you need to be sure that you know what you’re working with when you pick a VPN service. Choosing the wrong one is like handing over the keys to your entire kingdom. They can potentially see everything that goes through their servers. Read that Privacy Policy and then read it again to make sure you know what you’re signing up for.

Okay so VPNs are secure, but are they legal?

VPNs are 100% legal. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a little bit of privacy online. But using that privacy to commit a crime is definitely illegal — a crime is a crime, no matter how you commit it. Some governments do view using a VPN as a hostile act as they demand more control over what is accessed online within their regions. Because of this we advise that you always check the country – specific laws on VPNs when you are traveling, as they can often change with new governments and bills (remember what we were saying about how what is acceptable behavior isn’t yours to define?).

You may, however, find that some services will detect the use of a VPN and block you from accessing their services. Netflix, for example, will see your VPN and disallow access.

What about using a Smart DNS or Tor instead of a VPN service?

A Smart DNS is a much simpler technology geared up for users who just want to access restricted content around the world — most commonly streaming services.

But there are fundamental differences between a Smart DNS and a VPN. Use a Smart DNS will not encrypt your internet connection, which means there’s a total lack of privacy online — don’t even think of using it on public Wi-Fi.

However, an advantage of using a Smart DNS is that all your internet traffic doesn’t have to be routed through another server, meaning the speed is normally much better. If you’re not interested in protecting your privacy or security (WHY?!) but are looking to virtually hop around the world, then you might want to consider using a Smart DNS.

The Onion Router (Tor) is free software that’s meant to anonymize you over the internet. Unlike a VPN, which routes your traffic via a single server, Tor routes you through many servers maintained by volunteers. Each server adds another layer of encryption to disguise your IP address so it isn’t traced back to you.

However, it’s not completely secure: The NSA are widely known to have back door access to Tor and seeing as it’s a browser, it’s much more prone to man-in-the-middle attacks from hackers and governments. Very few VPN services allow you to use their software through Tor.

Can I use a VPN on multiple devices?

Um, YES. I mean how often are you carting around the one device to connect to the internet? This isn’t 2007 and we’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. We’re using the internet more than ever before in more ways than we even realize, and that means more devices at risk of exposing your personal data.

Reputable VPN services will offer you protection across all of your devices, often with the most secure and up-to-date protocols in place per platform. Look out for ones with dedicated VPN apps for your individual devices such as VPN for iPhone and Android.

What should I look for in choosing a VPN?

Well, we’ve been through all the details on why you need one and what you can use it for. So let’s lay out some simple points to consider when choosing a VPN.

Paid VPN —Like we said, free versions are not secure, and they’re vulnerable and spammy. If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.

Shared IP — If a VPN service offers you access to shared IPs then you know you’re on to a winner, because that means multiple users are accessing it at the same time. That means it’s impossible to pinpoint that IP traffic to any one user.

Logs — A good VPN service will have a no logging policy. Remember, that means that they are unable to track, trace, or view what you access online. The only information they will have on you is your IP and the IP of the server you connected to.

Multi-device — Smartphones and tablets basically make the world go round these days. Make sure you choose a VPN that offers protection for all your devices.

We recommend the VPNs listed above since they meet all the points highlighted above.