Using a VPN service is arguably the single most effective measure you can take to improve your online privacy and security. In addition to making our pick of the Top 10 best 2017 VPN services out there, this post explains why you need a VPN.
Why should we use VPN Services?
Privacy – a VPN will hide your internet activity from your ISP. This also makes it very effective at preventing blanket surveillance of the kind carried out by the NSA and GCHQ.
Security – a VPN encrypts all your data as it travels between your device and the VPN server. This means that you can use public WiFi networks and hotspots safely, because even if these have been compromised in some way, your data remains securely encrypted.
Hiding your real IP address – when you visit a website, that website will see the IP address of the VPN server you are connected to, not your real IP address. This provides privacy when visiting websites, and can help prevent you being tracked as you surf the internet.
Geo-spoofing – a side-effect of this is that with VPNs you can access geo-restricted services such as Netflix and torrents simply by connecting to a VPN server in the relevant country.
Top 5 Free VPN Services
The free CyberGhost service is subsidised by the Premium customers, according to CyberGhost. The company has servers in the UK and the USA plus many European countries stretching east to as far as Russia and Ukraine.
The free service offers access to 14 countries, while the Premium and Premium Plus ones allow users to choose from a range of 24 countries. CyberGhost assures us that it doesn’t limit bandwidth for free users.
There are some ways in which you’re disadvantaged with the free product. When you are connected, you’ll be logged out after three hours of browsing, for instance, although you can always try to login again immediately.
Hotspot Shield is one of the most popular free VPN services but the restrictions, compared to its subscription service, are quite severe. First, the free version is funded by advertising and although this isn’t uncommon, many users find that the display of advertisements in a web browser to be quite obtrusive.
Second and most importantly, although the company also has servers in the UK, Australia and Japan, as a free user you’re assigned to one of their US-based servers at random. This means that you can’t use it to access UK-only information while you’re abroad. Worse still, if you try to use it to access popular sites such as Hulu that are available only in the US, many such sites are blocked in the free service.
However, there is no limit on data usage and the measured download speed was 6.5Mb/s.
Note, though, that installing HotSpot Shield will also change your default search engine, as well as change the adverts you see to those now sent by your VPN sponsor.
Tunnel Bear operates servers in US, UK, Canada, Germany, France and Japan, plus there’s also one in Australia but this is only for paid customers.
The difference between the free and the subscription services are mostly concerned with your data allocation. The free service gives you 500MB per month although you can request an increase to 1GB via Twitter. Apparently, bear-related puns increase your chances of success. Beyond this you can pay either monthly or annually for unlimited data. The download speed was reported as a respectable 12Mb/s. Definitely one of the best free VPN services.
SurfEasy, is a Canadian free VPN provider, that is very similar to TunnelBear. Except, of course, that SurfEasy is owned and operate by Opera.
The SurfEasy apps are extremely easy to use, provide you with a solid protection, and we didn’t notice any speed issues on the free or paid plan. The free version provides you with 2GB of data transfer, but you can increase this by recommending the service to friends and family. Their paid plan is, of course, significantly better and pricing starts at a reasonable $6.49/month.
Although everybody likes getting something for free, truly great VPNs quite rightly charge a subscription fee. For that investment, users get top-of-the-range encryption and access to a network of lightning fast international servers.
Although there are many free VPNs out there, most of those make money out of their users’ data. This runs in complete contrast to the privacy that top VPN providers pride themselves on giving their users. The difference is truly black and white.
This is a huge security risk and is one reason that we cannot recommend many of the free VPNs on the market.
Now we will give you suggestions for Paid VPNs
ExpressVPN is a high-profile market-leading VPN provider. In the past, I have had a couple of reservations about minor technical aspects of ExpressVPN’s service. But in this new ExpressVPN review, I find myself very impressed.
ExpressVPN is a very professional service that is dedicated to ensuring customer satisfaction. 24/7 customer support, a 30-day money guarantee, and software that has been designed to be as easy to use as possible amply demonstrate its customer-facing philosophy.
Recent improvements have made what was already a very good (and popular) service even better. The encryption is now among the best I have encountered in the industry. And although a few minimal logs are kept, these are very minimal. ExpressVPN now provides an excellent service.
NordVPN is a Panama-based VPN service owned and operated by Tefincom S.A. According to NordVPN’s official website, the service is over ten years old, and offers “military-grade protection online.”
NordVPN has its servers located in nearly 50 countries (49 is what the website currently says) around the world. Some of these locations include Austria, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, South Africa, Romania, Brazil, Poland, Australia, Sweden, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Russia, Lithuania, Canada, Singapore, and Germany.
NordVPN supports a total of five protocols, including PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, SSTP, and IKEv2/IPsec. It’s worth mentioning that support for IKEv2/IPsec started rolling out recently (in late June). It’s currently only available by default on the latest iOS app. “Coming soon to other apps. Set-up instructions and tutorials for other devices are coming soon,” the company says on its website.
Based in the United States, IPVanish is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider with an especially strong reputation. The company claims to be the only Top Tier VPN service around, boasting more than 500 servers located in over 60 countries, and providing users with more than 40,000 different IP addresses.
As with other VPN service providers, IPVanish’s pricing plans allow customers to choose different subscription lengths, with a bigger discount for the longer plans. A one month subscription costs $10, a three month subscription costs $26.99 ($8.99 per month) and a one year subscription comes to $77.99 ($6.49 per month).
PureVPN is based in Hong Kong, which has the advantage of being out of view of the prying ’14-eyes’. It uses 256-bit grade encryption and boasts more than 500 servers across 141 countries. While it makes a big play of the fact that it does not monitor or record any activity that passes through its servers it does admit to keeping record of connections and bandwidth, which it says is in order to optimally manage its servers. It also offers the more secure OpenVPN protocol and maintains its own DNS servers.
Pricing is reasonable at $4.99 a month, and you can pay via anonymous payment methods such as cards, and there is a 7-day money back guarantee, as long as you don’t exceed 3GB. There’s also a 24/7 support available.
The Elite version is an ad-free browsing experience, with improved encryption and keeps all your activities online secure and private. Elite also gives users a secure gateway to access censored and blocked sites worldwide.
A great advantage of upgrading to the premium VPN service is the availability of a dedicated customer support. Hotspot Shield also promises a complete cloud-based malware protection, high speed connections and unlimited bandwidth to Elite users.