How to Choose the Best VPN

Virtual private networks, better known as VPNs, are valuable tools for internet users. Offering privacy and an extra layer of protection online, VPNs are used around the world by everyone from major corporations to gamers.

For those new to the world of VPNs, getting started can seem a little overwhelming. With so many paid and free options available, it’s not always easy to find the right fit for individual needs. This is what you need to know to choose the right VPN for you, no matter why you want a VPN or what you are trying to accomplish.

What to Look for When Picking a VPN

There are a number of factors that go into choosing an appropriate VPN. Some of these elements are recommended for all VPN users while others may be a matter of personal preference. From safety to server location, there are plenty of things to keep in mind when weighing the pros and cons of different VPN services.

Privacy and security are top priorities.

For many, the main driver behind choosing to use a VPN is addressing privacy and security concerns. By encrypting data transmission and masking identifying information, using a VPN can make web use safer, easier, and more private. However, not all VPNs offer the same level of security and protection. When choosing VPN options, it’s important to evaluate things like encryption keys to ensure protection is adequate. For example, some VPNs use 128 bits or even 256-bit strings to make encryption virtually impenetrable, while others employ ciphers like Blowfish, Twofish, and AES. By knowing what these terms mean and how they apply to safety, users can ensure the VPN they select can properly protect personal information and data transmissions.

Consider the cost and be wary of free options.

VPN costs can vary from free to around $30 per month for personal use models; corporate products can cost significantly more. Pricing often varies based on things like security measures and servers available. VPNs that can accommodate things like streaming and gaming can be more expensive, and those that prioritize basic functionality are more affordable. There are free products on the market, but some free VPNs can be more problematic than beneficial. Some free products contain malware while others lack the security necessary to keep your devices protected. Even the FBI warns against free VPNs, so if at all possible, stick with paid options that provide trusted services and proven security.

Server accessibility and locations.

Server location can affect what sites and services are accessible; many sites, particularly streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, have geographical restrictions. Before choosing a server, VPN users should be sure there are adequate servers available in their chosen locales. In general, a single server isn’t enough. Should something go wrong with one option, having others available can be critical. For example, U.S.-based web users who want to ensure all U.S.-specific sites and services are available when using a VPN should select a product with a focus on domestic servers versus one with a strong overseas presence.

Determine performance parameters.

VPN performance can also differ in a few ways from one product to another, including things like speed, device compatibility, and data limitations. Before choosing a VPN, it’s important to know the specifications surrounding performance. Some VPNs do things like limit the amount of data that can be used or offer membership tiers that restrict use to a single device without an increased monthly fee. The extent to which performance matters can be a personal issue. Web users who require a fast connection to do things like stream media or play online games, for example, are encouraged to choose a VPN that can meet these needs.

Choose the right connection protocols.

A VPN, in essence, creates a tunnel between public networks and a private one. This is the basis for the security that can be provided. However, not all VPNs do this in the same way. The connection protocols in use, which include options like PPTP, L2TP and SSTP, can affect things like how data is routed and the security of a connection. The wrong connection protocol may negatively affect use, so understanding how VPNs connect and why can be valuable criteria to assess in the selection process.

Why Do You Need a VPN?

There are several reasons why a web user may feel they need a VPN, including functionality that goes above and beyond securing data transmission. For many individual web users, VPNs are most commonly selected to hide movements online or prevent the chances of cyber attack through an unsecured network. However, others may choose a VPN to hide activity like torrenting from an ISP, access web content that is restricted based on location and improve lag times and ping when gaming by using a faster server connection. Businesses that employ VPNs may have other priorities. In a corporate setting, VPNs are often used to let users access a business network remotely. This prevents the likelihood of an information breach while giving employees the flexibility to work outside of a company’s physical location. The reason for choosing a VPN is by and large a personal one. Some web users feel the protection provided by their own network or anti-virus software is adequate and are not concerned about additional security while others are highly concerned with privacy and protection.

What Is a VPN?

A VPN is a virtual private network or a tool that encrypts data transmission to protect against attack and the release of identifying information. By shielding your information and providing a secure way to transmit data, a VPN offers privacy and protection in an easy-to-use, affordable manner. Normally, your computer uses the connection provided by your internet service provider, or the provider of any network you may be using, to send and receive data. A VPN circumvents this, creating a tunnel between your personal connection and a private network that shields the information available about your network and device. By essentially replacing this connection with that of a server located elsewhere, VPN users can hide identifying details about devices and networks and create a secure connection that reduces the likelihood of a data breach.

How Does a VPN Work?

A VPN is a virtual connection created between a device and the internet. Instead of connecting directly to a network like normal, a VPN creates an encrypted virtual tunnel that adds an extra layer of security to web use. Usually, a web-enabled device uses the connection provided by a personal internet service provider, or ISP. However, doing this essentially tags your device with the information provided by this connection, also known as an IP address. IP addresses are effectively pieces of identifying information unique to each internet connection point, much like a phone number or address. This means that the information associated with your IP address is communicated to every site you visit or email you send. However, using a VPN will route your standard internet connection through a secure, encrypted alternative, displaying a different IP address and making it much harder for anyone to track your online activity or breach your device through data transmissions. VPNs can be used to hide data anywhere but can be most effective on unsecured networks, like public networks available in retail stores or restaurants where the risk of use is much higher.

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