People tend to love free stuff, be it a quick bite or Wi-Fi! We get relatively excited over anything without a price tag. However, have you ever wondered if something is credibly free? We are sorry to burst your bubble, but most “free” stuff in our daily lives is not actually without cost. Instead, we can claim most of them have hidden charges, drastically more exuberant than their original price. This statement is a perfect introduction to our free v/s paid VPN study.
Don’t get us wrong! We also love free stuff with relatively lighter baggage, like a complimentary sample for advertisement purposes. However, when it comes to our online safety and privacy, we would never compromise them by relying on “Free VPNs” associated with frightful hidden agendas. That’s why we, a security-oriented group of individuals, decided to bring you, readers, an article on free v/s paid VPN. It will help enlighten the differences between the two types and the potential threats associated with using “Free” VPNs.
Note — Free VPNs are a risk and a potential hotbed of malware. Thus, we advise users to avoid employing such fraudulent products for their safety. However, we have a curated list of “Free” VPNs that are worry-free and come from reputable, premium VPN brands. Furthermore, they are either a result of subsidy, free advertisements, or a social cause. Please, check our list of the best free VPNs for PC.
What is a Free VPN?
A free VPN, as the name suggests, is a gratis service, or at least it claims to be. However, research and user experience show that such VPNs do not exist. Either the service isn’t completely free, or if it is, it is marred by potential threats that can jeopardize your online safety. Then, the question remains, why do people use Free VPNs? Honestly, users try these services because they seem attractive and contain a trigger word: free.
We know premium paid VPNs are costly to employ. Thus, if a casual user wants to try a VPN for the first time, they mostly go after the free one in hopes of understanding the product before proceeding forward. Therein lies the problem, though. Such a hurried approach not only blemishes the quality experience for users but also tarnishes the name of VPNs as a whole.
Free VPNs are full of malicious tricks and set-ups that can bring your online security down. You may be trusting and use the provider’s so-called free application. In reality, your data will be subject to monitoring and VPN data logging. Afterward, they would auction off the data to either marketers or anyone interested. Besides losing privacy and data, you risk being targeted for advertisements by relying on such shoddy applications. Most free VPNs operate without any substantial payment method. However, it doesn’t mean that they do not strike towards profit. What sort of company will forgo profit in favor of their customers in a capitalist society, right?
These VPNs rely on third-party ads for their revenue. In return, the advertiser has rights to your data. Thus, you encounter the same issues you were trying to subvert by relying on a VPN. Many advertisers actively participate by infecting the user’s device with adware for more extensive data collection.
What is a Paid VPN?
On the other hand, a paid VPN ticks all the right boxes for a safe and healthy browsing experience. It provides a stringent security measure and ensures the secrecy of your data. Paid VPNs engage in the practice of offering a no-logging policy. In other words, they do not lean towards data monitoring and avoid recording users’ online activities. Since they do not have any records regarding a user’s online exploit, there is nothing to worry about. Thus, paid VPNs are more trustworthy.
Most of these VPNs take this trust seriously and go a step further by employing an independent and authoritative audit to prove their commitment to data privacy and security. However, paid VPNs aren’t limited to top-notch security and privacy. They have lots to offer, such as Tor over VPN, obfuscated servers, geo-unblocking, exclusive servers for P2P, online gaming, double VPN, and so on.
These value-added services and features help providers compete with one another. Recent studies show that more and more users are employing a VPN for purposes separate from security. We agree that a paid VPN can be expensive. However, by the same logic, it is value for money if you can get your hands on the right one. If you want to experience a VPN in all its glory, go for a paid one.
While they may cost some money, most providers offer a 30-day-long (or higher) money-back guarantee, which is enough for you to experience a VPN and decide if you want to use one or not. For reference, you can also give articles on our lists of the best VPNs a look.
Free v/s Paid VPN — Pros and cons
We will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of Free v/s paid VPN in this segment. Remember that we strongly advise users to stay away from the so-called free VPNs.
|Free VPN||Paid VPN|
|Free VPNs help users remain anonymous on the internet.||Paid VPNs can hide your IP address behind a VPN server and effectively make you anonymous while granting remote access to any public or private network.|
|The sole benefit associated with free VPNs is the price tag.||Paid VPN service provider has an extensive network of servers and a reliable infrastructure. It can facilitate safe access and provide much-needed assistance.|
|Free VPNs are prevalent in app stores like the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.||Paid VPNs are popular in both consumer and commercial markets.|
|Paid VPNs have tons of features and add-on services to offer.|
|They have the latest security protocols (WireGuard, OpenVPN, PPTP, IPsec, IKEv2, L2TP). Paid VPNs can support almost every platform, be it mobile, desktop, or IoT (Internet of Things).|
|Numerous networking devices and products work alongside them, such as a VPN router, concentrator, gateway, and more.|
|Paid VPNs have round-the-clock customer support available for users.|
|Free VPN||Paid VPN|
|Free VPNs are often associated with hidden costs.||It can be costly.|
|They limit the user experience, whether usage data, time limit or the number of available servers.||Some paid VPNs are not trustworthy.|
|Due to their nature, the servers tend to be congested and slow down the connectivity.||Even with a no-logs policy, some paid VPNs are subpar as they maintain logs by hiding behind the fine print.|
|The free service is subject to errors, issues, and inadequate features.||Sometimes Paid VPNs demand PII (Personal Identifiable Information) which is absurd and defeats the purpose of a VPN.|
|The hidden costs behind a free VPN can land users in trouble.|
|Most free VPNs get riddled with adware. The providers might engage in data mining, retaining, and selling.|
|Some third-party apps can gain control of your data via the free VPN and land you in trouble.|
Free v/s Paid VPN — Comparison
|Bandwidth limit/Throttling||It limits data bandwidth via throttling.||It claims to have unlimited VPN data bandwidth, which is untrue. It still has enough for numerous users, however.|
|Stable VPN connection||Free VPN is seldom steady in connectivity.||Paid VPN offers a stable connection.|
|VPN server density||Few servers and has a limited scope.||From hundred to thousands, paid VPNs do not lack servers. These servers are spread out globally.|
|Data encryption||Free VPNs are more like a proxy than a VPN. Some do not even have the basic level of encryption while others have outdated ciphers.||Paid VPNs are renowned for their state-of-the-art, military-grade encryption.|
|Logging policies||They rely on your data to earn profit. As such, they maintain logs.||They do not have any logs or at least declare so.|
|Safety & security||Poor||High|
|Specialty servers||None||Depends on the provider. It can range from special P2P servers for torrenting to online streaming.|
|Multiple simultaneous connections||No||Yes, but the number depends on the provider. Alternatively, you can install a VPN on a router.|
|24/7 customer support||Unavailable||Available|
|Hidden IP address||None||They have the capability.|
|Dedicated IP address||None||Yes, and offer it to users separately.|