What Makes a Good VPN?

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Protect yourself and loved ones from hackers, geo-blocking, and nosey folks.

Use this quick and easy-to-read guide on how to choose the best VPN that’ll give you the best bang for your buck.

I’ve assembled this VPN guide to define a VPN meaning, its perks, and a checklist on choosing a VPN that best suits your needs. Furthermore, I included a list covering the best VPN providers in 2021.

What Is a VPN?

A VPN (virtual private network) offers a private network and uses advanced encryptions to transmit your data securely over the internet.

What Does a VPN Allow You To Do?

A VPN allows you to:

  • You can bypass most censorship filters
  • Removes region-blocking—for example, Netflix
  • It helps you find cheaper flights and rentals
  • Provides enhanced security on the public Internet
  • It helps avoid getting speed throttled by internet service providers.
  • Improved overall anonymity
  • Better security when transferring files

Don’t just purchase a virtual private network plan because some stranger told you to do so. Consider the benefits of having a VPN and what you usually do every day and decide if you should invest.

Related: An Enormous List of Travel Tips You Should Know About

How Do I Choose the Right VPN?

What purpose do you have for your VPN? Do you need improved security when you’re out-and-about and on unprotected WiFi? Perhaps, you need it to do search engine optimization (SEO) research.

Read along and use the following criteria to choose the right VPN.

Look At Each Providers’ Qualities

For anyone who needs to navigate through any software requires an excellent user interface. Otherwise, you might compromise your digital safety if you click the wrong thing.

To find a perfect VPN for your needs, you need to understand their devices and operating system compatibility. Otherwise, you’re casting your money into the void.

If you have concerns about your service, your VPN provider should provide easily accessible customer service. Furthermore, if a company doesn’t have good customer service, does that mean they don’t appreciate their users?

Ensure they have a money-back guarantee to get a refund if you’re not fully satisfied with their service. Aim for this perk because it allows you to test the VPN and see if it’s really for you before making a long-term commitment.

The country they’re based in matters a lot. If your provider operates within one of the Five, Nine-, or Fourteen Eyes countries, they’re obliged to share your data. Moreover, some countries have data retention laws that could put your information into the hands of those who request it.

It’s crucial to know whether hackers have penetrated the VPN provider with data breaches. Previous data breaches showcase the security you should expect with the provider. With that in mind, opt for paying anonymously. Doing so mitigates the risk of your information getting into the hands of a crafty hacker.

A VPN provider with an anonymous payment system truly gives your information the privacy that you deserve.

Make sure that the company isn’t notorious for selling users’ information to third parties. While this sounds silly, it does happen frequently and can cause trouble if you don’t do proper research.

The Ultimate VPN Comparison: What Is The Best VPN?

You’re not going to know how to find a VPN the right way if I didn’t cover the current most trustworthy virtual private networks out there. Learn a bit about each VPN, their pricing, and whether they fit into our checklist of required conditions to meet.

Update (Feb. 2022):

NordVPN and Surfshark VPN’s parent companies have merged to form a new company named Cyberspace. As of now, this merger won’t affect either service’s operations. Nor will they share servers.

ExpressVPN: Best Overall

ExpressVPN provides a virtual private network service. The provider’s one of the most popular ones available and does what it does exceptionally well.

express vpn

Does ExpressVPN Fit Our Criteria?

With their software, they offer a speed test for each of their servers, mitigating the speed issues related to the distance of VPN servers. While their settings don’t let you fine-tune your preferences—a lack of dark mode, for example—they do at least let you select your encryption method.

According to Express’ website, they support the following devices:

  • Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux
  • Routers
  • Kindle
  • Chromebook
  • Wireless routers
  • Consoles (Apple TV, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, or Xbox 360)

You can contact ExpressVPN’s customer service VIA email or 24-hour live chat.

ExpressVPN offers customers a 30-day money-back guarantee to test their service.

Where is ExpressVPN located? The provider’s based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), outside the various Eyes groups of countries.

Does this provider have known data leaks? Nope. From what we know, no one has hacked ExpressVPN.

You can use Bitcoin (BTC) to pay for ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN, like many providers, operates with a no-log policy. They don’t store, record, or see any data from places you’ve visited.

Here’s an in-depth review on ExpressVPN if you like what you see.

NordVPN

nordVPN

If you haven’t heard of NordVPN, you should take a look around. Nord’s everywhere, and for a good reason, too.

On top of their VPN service, Nord also offers a premium password manager, which I highly recommend to keep your passwords out of the hands of thieves.

They also have NordLocker, an encrypted cloud locker service to keep your files safe.

Does NordVPN Fit Our Criteria?:

While I don’t recommend it, you could probably hand your phone with NordVPN running to a two-year-old, and they could set everything up. Nord made things simple to set up and navigate.

NordVPN works on Android and Android TV, Windows, Linux, Mac operating systems, and iOS.

Unlike many companies on the internet, NordVPN offers various ways to contact their customer service. Whenever you have questions or concerns, they have a help center, email, and even live chat.

As with every VPN listed, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

What country is NordVPN based in? Panama. It has no mandatory data retention laws.

Back in 2018, a hacker used an exploit to breach NordVPN; however, it appears nothing became of that.

You can use BTC through CoinPayments to pay for your subscription anonymously.

Is NordVPN known for selling information? Nord claims to have a strict “zero logs” policy, which means they don’t collect, track, or share your data. The no-logs policy also protects your data from potential breaches in NordVPN’s servers in the future.

Private Internet Access (PIA)

PIA—a shortening of the longest VPN name out there, Private Internet Access. It’s a very secure VPN that also offers free email breach monitoring.

It’s a great virtual private network for those who want a quality VPN that, per month, might cost less than a daily cup of coffee.

private internet access vpn

Does PIA Have What We Need?

Let’s explore our criteria to see where Private Internet Access fits:

  • Private Internet Access offers the most straightforward user interface with a dark mode out of most of the list.
  • PIA works on any device that runs Windows (8.1 and 10), macOS (64-bit and 10.13+), Linux (64-bit only), Android (5.0+), and iOS 11 or newer (64-bit).
  • From the information provided, they offer 24-hour customer service in addition to some self-service areas.
  • They offer a 30-day guarantee.
  • Private Internet Access operates in America, a member of the Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes partnership.
  • As far as we know, no hackers touched PIA.
  • Private Internet Access allows payments through Bitcoin. They also accept major brand gift cards from companies like Starbucks and Best Buy.
  • While they will never sell your information, their website states, “we may share your personal information with third-party service provides that we may engage to improve the Service.”

SurfsharkVPN

someone using surfshark VPN on a phone

Surfshark.

Want to know how to find a VPN that’s affordable with a built-in adblocker? And one that supports an unlimited number of devices at once? Surfshark’s circling you as we speak.

How Does Surfshark Fit Into Our Criteria?

Surfshark VPN offers a simple-to-use user interface.

On which devices can you use Surfshark? Playstation, Xbox, Smart TVs, macOS, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS.

They offer 24-hour live chat customer service or through email.

Guaranteed money back? Yep, 100% money-back for your first 30 days of use.

Surfshark VPN is located in the Netherlands. While the Netherlands is a part of the Nine Eyes, the country’s laws don’t force companies to disclose their users’ information.

Here’s some good news; no one has hacked Surfshark!

Surfshark VPN allows payments through cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Ripple (XRP).

Does Surfshark VPN sell your information? They won’t sell your information.

FAQ: What Makes a Good VPN?

Still have questions about virtual private networks? Dive into our FAQ and explore common questions revolving around VPNs.

Does a VPN Hide Your Activity?

A VPN hides your activity because they come with the feature to mask your Internet Protocol address (IP) to potentially hide it from internet service providers (ISPs) and websites.

Can Your Internet Provider See Your History With a VPN?

Your internet provider can’t see your history with a VPN due to encryption methods that hide what you browsed. 

Can You Go to Jail for Using a VPN?

You can’t go to jail for using a VPN unless you’re in a country where their government forbids using a virtual private network.

Are VPNs Illegal?

VPNs are legal in most places. However, don’t forget to research your country’s laws if they’re illegal where you live. For example, in China, Iraq, and North Korea, it’s illegal to use a VPN.

Does a VPN Slow Down Internet?

Absolutely. A VPN will slow down your internet. How much it slows your service depends on various factors. Some include the encryption method, location of the VPN’s server, ISP throttling, and server load.

While you can’t eliminate all these factors, you could look into finding a VPN server closer to where you live to raise your speeds. For example, if you live in Japan, you’d have faster service by opting for servers in Japan rather than using one in Germany.
You could opt for lower encryption standards to raise your speed.

However, lowering your defenses would defeat the purpose of investing in a VPN in the first place because it would lower your security.

Throttling may come from your ISP if they can’t see what you’re doing.
If you can, use an ethernet connection to increase your speeds because VPNs work through any internet connection. Be it WiFi, data, ethernet, hotspot, etc.

Can You Be Tracked if You Use a VPN?

Yes, companies and individuals can track you if you use a VPN.
Keep in mind that some websites retain your IP in a database and compare it to known VPN servers.
Accessing certain websites could raise a red flag and notify them you’re using a virtual private network.
IP blocking can kill productivity if you’re trying to do gig work for a website while overseas.

Did you Choose the Best VPN?

After your adventure through this guide, you should better understand what to look for when choosing a VPN. Furthermore, you might have a better idea of what the best VPN providers offer and if they can accommodate your needs.

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