VPN or Virtual Private Network is a group of discreet networks connected together over the internet. Both individuals and businesses can benefit from accessing a VPN; individuals are able to access the internet when they are not within range of their Local Area Network (LAN) or as a way of securing and encrypting their data when they are on a public network that is not trusted. Businesses on the other hand use VPNs to access information from remote data centers.
Having established why a VPN is an important asset to own for people who use the internet frequently, the challenge is how to find the best VPN provider. Imagine a scenario where you are in a cyber café and you are connected to free Wi-Fi. If you are surfing the net for confidential information or information that is very sensitive, you may not help but wonder if your connection is secure. After all, if anyone can access the free Wi-Fi, anyone can eavesdrop on your online communication and hack into your emails and retrieve sensitive and private data. This is why you need to find the best VPN provider using the following criteria.
How to Evaluate A VPN Provider
The amount of cash that you have to spare will determine the kind of VPN provider that you will work with. Remember that the amount of cash that you pay will not necessarily determine the effectiveness of the services that you will receive. Paying a very high amount for a VPN service doesn’t necessarily mean that you will receive quality services and neither does paying a lower price mean that you will receive poor service.
Most VPN service providers offer their customers yearly, monthly or quarterly subscription fees. Yearly rates are the cheapest but require you to commit to a one year contract before your provider offers you their services. They will also require you to pay the entire fee upfront. If you do not plan on using their VPN services for that long, you can subscribe to the other costlier options.
2. Mobile Apps
Your VPN provider should be able to give you a consistent experience across all your devices. This is to say that your VPN service should not be working perfectly on your PC but receive poor reception on your iPad or iPhone. Most providers however offer both mobile and PC solutions to their customers so you shouldn’t have to subscribe to two different agreements or policies.
3. Quality Customer Service
If you have ever experienced poor quality customer service when you had an emergency, then you would know the value of choosing a good VPN provider with quality customer services. They should provide round the clock customer service to their clients because a client may have a problem with their VPN at any time.
In addition to being able to contact customer support at any time, your VPN provider should offer services that are easy to navigate and use so as to avoid problems. Ask your provider if they offer any kind of technical support and if they do what kind do they offer? Ensure that their support is included in the price and not charged as an extra service.
4. Anti-spyware/ Anti-malware Features
A VPN doesn’t mean that it cannot be hacked or your information cannot be accessed. You should be careful about what it is that you download and you should also use HTTPs whenever possible. There are some VPN providers that offer their clients anti-malware scanners to ensure that they are not downloading Trojans and viruses. Therefore, when you are shopping around for the best VPN service provider, you should check to see if anti-malware scanners are included in their packages.
5. Logging and Privacy
A VPN should provide you with complete privacy regardless of where you or your provider is located. When you utilize the services of your VPN provider, you are basically entrusting your data with them. The information that you communicate over the internet may be safe from potential eavesdroppers and hackers but your VPN provider can decide to access that information if they want.
Some providers can access potentially harmful information which can be traced back to the IP address of users. Logging is the process of storing clients’ information such as the websites that the user visits, their IP address, etc. Most of the companies do not keep such data for malicious use later on but may be compelled to do so because of their jurisdiction or for service and security purposes. You should therefore read the company’s terms and conditions for logging and privacy before signing on the dotted line.
6. User Agreement
Most people pay little attention to the user agreements on any services that they receive. They usually look at the price and if it fits in their budget they sign on the dotted line without reading the user agreement. Before choosing the best VPN, you should read their user agreement with open eyes so that you know exactly what you are getting.
In summary, you should check your provider’s logging policy, price, malware and spyware features, their support system, and their user agreement. A free VPN provider may offer decent services but they are likely to log your activities and serve contextual ads when you are connected to the internet. They will not respect your privacy and have few exit locations. Content owners who are overseas will quickly block such providers the moment you try to use their services to access data so you will keep switching free providers more often. Most of these free services are great if you only plan to use your VPN for general usage and you do not wish to spend money. For these reasons, it is generally not a good idea to use the free services when you intend to keep your online activities confidential and secure. It is basically handing over your online data to a third party that could use it any way they see fit.
These 6 criteria form the foundation for identifying the best VPN providers. Use it to get the most out of the company you sign up with.