If you have evaluated your needs and have concluded that you need to subscribe to a VPN service, you need to consider and evaluate a few different providers to ensure you choose the one that is best suited to meet your requirements, before you get tied in on a contract.
As with any service, you’ll find a whole host of providers on the internet that promise unmatched security and anonymity, but not all providers deliver on that promise. Furthermore, the more features and services a provider offers, the higher there fee is going to be, and you might not even need all the features they have to offer. Therefore, we’ll provide you with an outline of what to look for when in the market for a VPN service provider.
Below we have outlined a few factors you should consider when evaluating a VPN service provider, and determine the extent to which the information they have provided satisfies each of the factors. This will help you sift the good from the bad, leaving you with an ideal provider for your needs.
The quality of a provider’s VPN service can be determined by the protocol they support, as not every protocol is as effective and secure as the other. The protocol you should look for and give preference to is OpenVPN as it allows for minimal processing overheads while assuring security.
The protocol that you would want to avoid is PPTP. Since technology has evolved quite rapidly over the past couple of decades, PPTP has become considerably redundant as it is riddled with security flaws and employs weak encryption. It might cost you a lot less than a service that employs OpenVPN and is sufficient to get the job done if you want to secure regular browsing activity at a cafe, but we wouldn’t put much stock in it if you’re looking to secure sensitive data.
A level up from PPTP is L2TP/IPsec, which certainly provides better security than its predecessor but doesn’t match up to OpenVPN due to slow speeds and the absence of open security audits that OpenVPN incorporates.
In a nutshell, what we’re trying to say is that, OpenVPN is the protocol you should be looking for, and any provider that offers it clears the first test.
Number of servers and locations
Where in the world the VPN provider has most of their exit servers is an important consideration if you’re looking for geo-shifting features in addition to securing your online activity. For example, being a resident of the US, if you want to spoof your location to that in another country for, let’s say, file-sharing purposes to avoid being ground under a copyright legislature, a VPN provider with most of their exit nodes within the country isn’t going to be of any use to you.
Considering how popular and widely used VPN services have become, a good provider will offer hundreds of evenly spread servers, at the very least, in different countries across the globe. Therefore, any provider that fails to offer an abundance of servers in several countries should be rules out by default.
Another important consideration, and this comes into play in circumstances like you trying to avoid prosecution by the local government, is to check which country the VPN provider operates out of. You would be wise to avoid a provider with their base of operations in your country or a country friendly to yours. No particular legislations obligate a provider to reveal any user information, but if you want to cover all loopholes, this would be a good consideration.
Maximum concurrent downloads
Unless you’re overenthusiastic about downloading, you’ll only download one thing at a time to avail the best speed, so you may be think considering the provider’s concurrent download limit shouldn’t be very important. But it will be if you’re setting up VPN on more than one device, or on the router for the entire household, in which case many people may be using it at the same time, and the amount of concurrent connections your provider allows will become an important factor.
If you’re not the only person that will be using the VPN service, or if you have multiple devices you’ll be setting it up on, you should consider a provider that offers at least 3 concurrent connections, or more based on the number of devices and the number of people that will be using the service.
Connection, bandwidth, and service limitations
Internet Service Providers are in the habit of throttling connection for a number of reasons on a number of occasions, which is a primary reason why people get a VPN service in the first place. So, if you are paying your broadband bill and the VPN service charge on top of that, you don’t have need for a VPN service that will act like your ISP and throttle your connection every now and then.
Many VPN providers won’t mention it clearly on their services or information page if they throttle connections, or it will be hidden somewhere in the fine print, so it’s always a good idea to have a look on forums and search on google to discover what people are saying about it and get more information.
There was a time when you used to purchase movies and music on CDs but in today’s time when everything is being streamed online, you’ll be surprised how quickly all the videos, movies, and music you stream eat through your bandwidth. Which is why you need to consider providers that won’t limit your bandwidth to a nominal amount.
Payment methods accepted
Chances are this won’t be an important consideration if your needs for a VPN service are pretty basic and unobjectionable, like securing your browsing activity against snooping to prevent identity theft, or to route your traffic back to your home country if you’re away. You should be perfectly okay paying with your credit card or PayPal and won’t have much use for anonymous payment methods.
If, on the other hand, your use for a VPN service is to have complete anonymity or avoid persecution by the government, you’ll be a bit more careful when considering a VPN provider and select one that offers anonymous payment methods like cryptocurrency, bitcoin, or gift cards.
A majority of VPN providers today acknowledge the needs of the user and have set up systems to accept gift cards from major retailers, which can be exchanged for VPN credit. This is particularly helpful as it will allow you to purchase a gift card from a supported retailer in cash, and then redeem it for credit on the VPN provider’s website, leaving no credit card or personal information trail.