Picking an ideal VPN is not an easy feat, despite what incessant ads suggest. In fact, that’s one of the reasons our website exists. For that reason, before you shell out your hard-earned moolah because your favorite YouTuber or blogger said so, take a pause. Ensure that you fully understand what is VPN and why and when to use it, then how to use it. Now, start analyzing your habits and needs by asking yourself where and how you fit into the functionality and features VPN services offer. Don’t worry, we’ll ask questions to help the answers crystallize in your mind. Let’s dive straight into how to choose the perfect VPN.
1. Disregard free VPNs
Unless you have money to burn, you don’t walk into the store and pick the first thing you see. Moreover, you tend to be wary of the free stuff at the counter. Both apply to VPNs. Don’t rush; deliberate on your VPN service choice, but ignore free VPN software. While certainly useful in some cases, its use is risky, limiting, and even dangerous if you think no one is tracking your activity. Don’t skip VPNs that offer a free trial, though. The providers have an incentive to make your experience memorable and top-notch. It’s a great way to test premium features without committing or even providing your payment information.
2. Check headquarters and logging policy
3. Investigate leaks and ensure kill switch availability
You should never find IPv4, IPv6, DNS, or WebRTC leaks on VPN test sites while trying to choose the perfect VPN. Granted, not everything is up to them. Your native Internet connection can drop at any moment, leaking your identity and location even for a split second. To prevent that, reputable VPNs use a kill switch feature.
4. Inspect VPN server details
This is one of the most frequently discussed VPN-related topics. Here are 3 key factors regarding the number of available servers:
Will you use the VPN on a home network or public Wi-Fi/untrusted private wired or wireless networks? In both cases, it’s inconsequential if a VPN provider has thousands of servers worldwide if only a few are in your country. In contrast, a VPN provider with a small international server network can have tens of servers within the country. The same applies to VPN for travelers. Discover if the provider has servers in a specific location, how many are there, and what their status is.
Investigate how many of the VPN servers are physical (located in a data center in a specified country) and virtual (hosted somewhere else, and simulating an IP address from a specific country). The former is better. It usually means that a VPN provider owns some of them or even the entire infrastructure. This eliminates third-party risks and thus “man in the middle” attacks. Even a service rents the majority of physical servers, they’re better configured and closely monitored, and thus faster and more reliable.
Speed and bandwidth
Are you a casual Internet user who does light browsing? In that case, speed and bandwidth shouldn’t concern you too much. However, if you plan on downloading and uploading large files, with or without torrenting (P2P transfer), or gaming or streaming, you need to check our list of the fastest VPN services, all of which come with unlimited bandwidth.
5. Inspect VPN app compatibility and GUI
How tech-savvy and curious about the advanced VPN features are you? This will determine whether you should set up a VPN manually or install dedicated software that supports your operating system. Luckily, the leading VPN providers offer extensive app compatibility, covering all major operating systems. Some of them also support devices such as Smart TVs, smart TV boxes, routers, consoles, and even VPN browser extensions. The ease of use, available built-in options, and overall visual appeal of the apps are equally important. So, check screenshots or video demonstrations first.
6. Check the number of simultaneous connections
Will you be the sole user? If not, how many members of the household or friends need to use a VPN? How many devices do you or your family and friends plan to use a VPN on? The answers will help you choose the perfect VPN by deciding whether you need a VPN for multiple devices or not.
7. Ensure encryption is suitable
AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with 256-bit long keys is the golden standard cipher in the VPN industry. Unfortunately, the added protection comes at a cost of slowing down your Internet connection. While there’s no getting rid of encryption (or else you’d be picking a proxy), some VPN services allow you to downgrade to 128-bit or 192-bit keys. That way, you don’t sacrifice protection, yet increasing speed using a VPN. Alternatively, look for a split tunneling feature. It allows for routing some apps through the VPN tunnel while letting others use the native Internet connection.
8. Go over payment plans and price
What’s your budget? Can you afford an upfront payment for longer subscriptions in exchange for a discount? Based on these two answers, pick a VPN whose price and payment plans fit your needs the best. Give preference to services that allow for anonymous modes of paying while attempting to choose the perfect VPN. These include masked or gift cards, anonymous payment apps, cryptocurrency, and sending money in an envelope.
9. Check the money-back guarantee policy
Experimenting is one surefire way to choose the perfect VPN. And to do that, you need money, time, and opportunity to conduct tests. VPN providers provide exactly that via a money return guarantee, which starts at the purchase date and frequently lasts 30 to 45 days.