To choose the most suitable VPN, you must first answer two simple questions:
Question 1: What do you use VPN for?
There are multiple reasons to use VPN in your daily and professional life. Statistics show that the highest number of VPN users comes from Asia-Pacific region (30%) and Latin America (23%), followed by Middle East and Africa (19%), and Europe and North America (17% each). Interestingly, these indicators seem to count all countries east of Turkey (including Turkey itself) as ‘Asia-Pacific’, and split Russia between Europe and Asia. Nevertheless, TheBestVPN survey shows that access to better entertainment content is the leading reason for VPN usage globally (50%). Regionally, this motivation dominates in the Asia Pacific region (55%), while North America and Europe are most preoccupied with online privacy and anonymity benefits of VPN access (37%).
In this article, we will have a look at 3 popular paid VPN providers, and use them as an example to compare several parameters you should always consider when choosing a VPN service.
Multiple device support. IPVanish supports 10 devices simultaneously, while ExpressVPN only supports 3, VyprVPN allows you to choose between 3 and 5 supported devices depending on your subscription plan.
Kill Switch. Good VPN providers incorporate a so-called ‘kill switch’, designed to protect your traffic and IP address if your VPN connection drops.
Blocking. Although VPN blocking it not an issue that can be tackled with one-fits-all solution, most major VPN providers strive to adapt their operations in order to bypass the blocking. VPN blocking is imposed, for example, in China, and some countries in the Middle East, to prevent access to ‘blacklisted’ websites and online services. Video content providers like Netflix block VPN to maintain their location content restrictions. ExpressVPN, IPVanish and VyprVPN are all equipped to bypass blocking.
Physical location. VPN by definition is supposed to put your privacy and anonymity above all. However, on many occasions, even VPN providers are restricted by the laws of the country they are based in. The territorial jurisdiction of user metadata kept by VPN providers, and how long they keep it, may have a huge impact on your privacy. A solid VPN provider will be transparent about the physical location(s) of their servers, and how hey respond to requests for data disclosure from authorities.
Traffic logs. ExpressVPN, located in British Virgin Islands, claims they do not log any metadata of their users. They do, in fact, log something, but never keep any data about the IP addresses (source or VPN), your browsing history, traffic destination, or DNS queries.
IPVanish, a US-based VPN service, has always claimed they had a zero log policy. Nevertheless, a recent criminal case showed that IPVanish, in fact, kept rather detailed logs of user activity and could provide it to security services under a court order. Minding that this particular case regarded a serious crime, it was, nevertheless, unsettling to see the amount of data IPVanish logged on their users. In 2017 the provider was acquired by another company that once again promised ’no logging’ policy, so there is a chance the situation has changed.
VyprVPN, based in Switzerland, do log metadata on every user for 30 days: IP address that you used in every particular session, total number of bytes exchanged, and connection start and end time.
P2P access. Torrenting is becoming a major issue in many countries that block websites distributing pirated content, or impose fines on torrent users. Accessing uTorrent client without the risk of getting caught is one of the reasons to hide your IP address. Major VPN providers like ExpressVPN support uTorrent and have step-by-step instructions on safe P2P download; IPVanish also guarantees unlimited P2P traffic – meaning that your connection will never be slowed down by the use of P2P services. VyprVPN P2P protection is, to put it mildly, insufficient, because of the metadata they log on the user activity. A country with strict copyright laws and prompt implementation thereof (for example Germany), having intercepted an IP address used to download content that infringes copyright laws, and having identified this IP address as belonging to VyprVPN, can send a legal notice to VyprVPN. While the provider will not (and supposedly cannot) disclose your personal information to the authorities, they will likely shut down your account.
Question 2: Paid, free, or freemium?
There are other factors to consider that may be important to you: do you need VPN for mobile, desktop of tablet; do you require 24/7 customer support; are you after the fastest speeds? Sure enough, you will have a better choice of services if you are ready to pay for your VPN. But even free or freemium VPN providers can give you enough privacy protection and flexibility: ProtonVPN, SurfEasy, or TunnelBear offer free versions that are usually limited by speed, or by a monthly data cap. However, if you only use VPN occasionally, for example, to protect your data on public WiFi, this may as well be the best option for your privacy needs.