6 Tips for Choosing the Right VPN (Virtual Private Network)
When it comes to securing your Internet activities, protecting your personal information such as passwords and account numbers, and preventing hackers from gaining access to documents and files you would rather not make public, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a modern day necessity.
Yet with the hundreds, or even thousands, of different VPNs to choose from, how can you be sure you are choosing the right one?
We have come up with a list of 6 criteria you can use when comparing one VPN with another. Once you apply these six tips to your search, you should be able to narrow down your selection from thousands to a handful of VPNs that meet your specific needs.
Do They Keep Logs?
The whole purpose of using a VPN is to protect outsiders from accessing your computer network, from learning your critical information, and from discovering your secrets (corporate or personal). Some VPNs keep logs of everything you do online, which sort of defeats the whole purpose. If hackers can manage to get into your VPN, these logs usually are one of the first things they are going to look at. After all, they contain practically everything they want to see in a neatly organized, instantly accessible package!
When choosing a VPN, determine if they maintain logs of your activities. While most don’t anymore, some still do. Avoid those ones and select only VPNs that “secretly” keep your secrets secret!
Are There any Additional Policies that Support User Anonymity and Privacy?
Again, it should be obvious to VPN creators that their customers want their privacy protected and their anonymity ensured. That’s why they are using VPNs in the first place.
While most VPNs use encryption and other security measures, look for services that offer additional protections – especially ones that offer them at no additional charge.
Do They Permit P2P Torrent Downloading?
Peer-to-Peer Torrent downloading falls into a grey area of Internet usage. It’s when you use P2P file sharing protocols to share large amounts of data over the Internet, such as spreadsheets, reports, audio files and even videos. While widely used (as of Februrary 2013, BitTorrent, the largest such program, accounted for an estimated 3.35% of all the Internet bandwidth … in the world!), because these protocols are often used to share copyrighted music, TV shows or movies, some VPNs prohibit or inhibit their use.
That’s sort of like taking the engine out of a car because your are afraid the owner might use stolen gas! Not permitting P2P Torrent downloading should be a deal-breaker for selecting a VPN.
Where are their Servers Located?
VPNs use servers all over the world. You could be using it to protect you as you type away on your laptop in Milwaukee, for example, and the actual server could be located in Perth Amboy, New Jersey … or even Perth, Australia, for that matter!
The physical location of their servers is unimportant … unless it could potentially impact your service or your security. Some national governments are less restrictive (or have less control) over the companies that do business there. Others are so volatile that trusting your network to a VPN in Syria or Libya, for example, is a gamble. You might want to avoid choosing a VPN that uses servers in places like Russia, Nigeria and other nations that tend to be magnets for Internet hackers.
How Much Does It Cost?
We left this criterion second to last for a reason. You can buy the cheapest VPN you find – and there certainly are some affordable ones out there – but like anything else, you generally get what you pay for.
The security of your computer network – whether it’s at your home or your business – is pretty important. You wouldn’t put a burglar alarm made out of tin cans filled with marbles on your doorways, would you? So why would you buy a cut rate VPN just to save a few bucks? The best plan is to purchase a VPN that you can afford, but that still provides all the features and includes all the services you need to ensure the safety and security of your network.
What Kind of Encryption Does It Use?
Not all encryption programs are created equal. Some are great, such as OpenVPN. Others are not so great, such as PPTP.
These six tips should help you narrow down your search considerably. Other factors to consider include how easy is it to use? What kind of tutorials does it come with? Do I have to purchase anything else in order to use it optimally? How responsive is their customer support? What kind of guarantees do they offer should something go wrong?
Looking at one or two of these factors can help you eliminate some VPN options, but applying all of them to your search will lead you to the best possible VPN for your specific needs.