What Is a VPN?
When you switch on a VPN, it creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a server operated by the VPN company. By piping all of your web traffic through this tunnel, it effectively hides your IP address and makes it appear as if your traffic is coming from the VPN server rather than your computer. This makes it much harder for spies, advertisers, and your ISP to track your activities online. That last one is important, as ISPs can now sell your anonymized data for a profit.
VPNs Keep You Safe Online
When you access the internet over Wi-Fi, do you worry about who might be spying on your data—or even stealing it? If not, you're in the majority, and that's a serious problem. Everyone ought to be using a virtual private network, or VPN, whenever they're on a network they don't control. Even among net neutrality supporters—who you might think would be better informed on security and privacy issues—55 percent had never used a VPN.
Who Needs a VPN?
First and foremost, using a VPN prevents anyone on the same network access point (or anywhere else) from intercepting your web traffic in a man-in-the-middle attack. This is especially handy for travelers and for those using public Wi-Fi networks, such as web surfers at hotels, airports, and coffee shops. Someone on the same network, or the person in control of the network you're using, could conceivably intercept your information while you're connected.
How to Choose a VPN Service
The VPN services market has exploded in the past few years, and a small competition has turned into an all-out melee. Many providers are capitalizing on the general population's growing concerns about surveillance and cybercrime, which means it's getting hard to tell when a company is actually providing a secure service and when it's throwing out a lot of fancy words while selling snake oil. In fact, since VPN services have become so popular in the wake of Congress killing ISP privacy rules, there have even been fake VPNs popping up, so be careful. It's important to keep a few things in mind when evaluating which VPN service is right for you: reputation, performance, type of encryption used, transparency, ease of use, support, and extra features. Don't just focus on price or speed, though those are important factors.
Based on the info above, we've identified what we feel to be the top 3 best VPNS that are currently available, check them out below!
Surfshark VPN Review
MSRP: $11.95 $1.99 at Surfshark - 2 yrs
Pros: Unlimited simultaneous connections. Unusual multihop and split-tunneling tools. Well-designed app.
Bottom Line: Surfshark VPN's comparatively high price is balanced against unlimited devices per account and an excellent set of features.
Pricing and Features
As with most VPN companies, Surshark offers different subscription tiers of varying price and duration. The longer the subscription, the bigger the discount. Surfshark currently costs $11.95 per month, $71.88 every year, or $47.76 every two years. That's a very steep discount, but that's not too unusual in the VPN market. I recommend starting with the shortest possible subscription, to make sure it works for you, and then increasing to longer subscription terms if you decide you like the service.
Your Privacy With Surfshark
Speed and Performance
When you switch on a VPN, you're adding more machines and physical distance to your internet connection, resulting in degraded performance. To get a sense of that degradation, I calculate a percent change between batches of tests run with a VPN and those without, using the Ookla Speedtest tool.
Hands On With Surfshark
Surfshark offers a small, stylish app with flat colors and smart design that expands and contracts to show more or less information. Unlike many other VPN clients, Surfshark has a resizable window, and a "mini" mode. It's very clean in the way that the best mobile apps are. In fact, it looks quite a bit like a mobile app, floating on a Windows desktop.
Depending on where you live, streaming services such as Netflix might serve you different content. If you're traveling abroad, you might find that you're unable to continue watching a show that you started at home. With a VPN, you can spoof your location back home to keep watching a show or movie, or jump to a distant VPN location to access content not available at home. For this very reason, Netflix aggressively blocks the use of VPNs.
Fortunately, that shouldn't be an issue with Surfshark. I had no trouble streaming from Netflix while connected to a US VPN server. Keep in mind, however, that Netflix is locked in a cat-and-mouse game with VPN companies. A service that works today may not work tomorrow.
We decided to give Surfshark our top position this time around when comparing the best VPNS for our digital nomad members.
Symantec Norton Secure VPN Review
MSRP: $7.99 $3.33 at Norton VPN
Pros: Affordable, flexible pricing. Robust server network. Integrated ad-tracker blocking. Good speed test scores.
Cons: No P2P or BitTorrent support. Few server locations.
Bottom Line: Norton Secure VPN offers VPN protection from a trusted name in security in addition to flexible pricing. That said, it lacks advanced security features and doesn't allow BitTorrent.
Even before the US government opened the gates for internet service providers (ISPs) to sell your information, the big names in antivirus software rightly identified virtual private networks, or VPNs, as the next frontier in security. Symantec's Norton Secure VPN has a strong security pedigree and an affordable, flexible pricing scheme that places it well within impulse-purchase territory. A continued aversion to BitTorrent and a dearth of advanced features may limit its attractiveness to some, however.
Pricing and Features
Norton lets you choose a subscription that refreshes monthly or annually, with a discount for the longer of the two. You can also choose a plan that covers one, five, or 10 devices. Five is the industry average for the number of devices included in a subscription. I appreciate this level of flexibility, since it lets customers tailor the offering to their needs.
Monthly plans start at $4.99 for one device, $7.99 for five devices, and $9.99 for 10 devices. Annual plans start at $39.99 for one device or five devices (that's right, both plans cost the same), and $59.99 for 10 devices. That sounds like an incredible deal, but note that annual plan pricing changes after the first year. Once that passes you'll pay $49.99 for one device per year, $79.99 per year for five devices, and $99.99 per year for 10 devices. Monthly plans do not change after the first year.
I prefer VPN services that use the OpenVPN protocol. Not only does it have a reputation for speed and reliability, but its open-source pedigree means that it has been picked over for vulnerabilities. Norton Secure VPN uses OpenVPN for its Android, macOS, and Windows apps. iOS devices connect via the IPsec protocol, which isn't unusual, as Apple requires iOS VPN apps to jump through approval hoops if they want to include OpenVPN. Still, I'd like to see Norton work to support newer and more secure protocols across all devices.
Norton's Servers and Server Locations
Norton offers VPN servers in 73 locations in 29 countries. If a VPN company has a diverse offering of server locations, you can be assured that no matter where you go, you'll find a server nearby for better performance. It also means you have several locations to choose from when spoofing your location.
Your Privacy With Norton Secure VPN
Hands On With Norton Secure VPN
It took just a few minutes to install and set up and was ready to work immediately out of the box. Most VPN companies have opted to create an app that stands apart from the operating system, as any other app would. The Norton Secure VPN app, however, is anchored to the System Tray. That's a little annoying for me, as someone who needs to fiddle with every possible setting, but most people will probably leave their VPN out of sight and out of mind.
Norton Secure VPN and Netflix
Netflix in the US isn't the same as Netflix in the UK, or any other country for that matter. The content that's available is dictated by deals cut by Netflix, and sometimes that means content will be available in one country and not another. As a result, Netflix and VPN companies are locked in a cat-and-mouse game, with Netflix blocking VPN users and VPN companies finding ways around the blockade.
Speed Test Results
The testing found that Norton Secure VPN increased latency by a mere 25 percent. I also found that it reduced download speeds by 83.6 percent, and upload speeds by 76.7 percent.
A Reasonable VPN Choice
Just about everyone needs a VPN, and Norton Secure VPN makes a strong case for itself with flexible and affordable pricing options. Including bundles for the company's popular antivirus software doesn't hurt, either. The service certainly lacks the bells and whistles of competitors, but its set-and-forget approach is probably a great match for existing Norton customers. If that sounds like you, give Norton Secure VPN a whirl. We still recommend our choice Surfshark, which offer a little bit more of everything.
ProtonVPN Review MSRP: $10.00 $8.00 at ProtonVPN
Pros: Excellent free version. Flexible, low-cost plans. Focus on physical security. Excellent privacy policies. Slick, accessible client. Multi-hop VPN to secure locations and Tor connections. P2P friendly. ProtonMail bundle available.
Cons: Few servers and locations. Difficult to find fastest servers. Full access to servers and features only at highest pay level.
Bottom Line: ProtonVPN doesn't have as many servers as much of the competition, but its focus on exacting security at an affordable price tag makes it a compelling choice. Plus, its free version is the best we've tested so far.
ProtonVPN is a bit of a puzzle. It's not the biggest, or the flashiest, or even the cheapest of VPNs. It provides a small number of servers, but divides them up uniquely among subscribers and offers server features seen in only the biggest competitors. It places an enormous emphasis on security and user privacy, but has an excellent client that's very easy to use. It restricts some of the features I've come to expect in the best VPNs to its most expensive tier, but the tiers below it are still very good and very competitively priced. For all that, and its amazing free version that has no limit on data usage, If you're dipping your toe into VPNs, it's a great way to start with no risk.
ProtonVPN Pricing and Features
Most VPN services offer the same set of features across all pricing tiers. For those services, the tiers are less about upgrades and more about longer-term subscriptions at a reduced rate. ProtonVPN goes in the opposite direction. There is a 20 percent discount for annual versus monthly subscriptions, but more generous features are unlocked as you move up the four price tiers.
VPN technology has been around a long time, and there are lots of different flavors of encrypted tunnels to choose from. I prefer VPN services that make use of the OpenVPN protocol, which is thoroughly vetted by virtue of being open source and has a reputation for being fast and reliable. ProtonVPN tells us that it uses OpenVPN UDP/TCP and IKEv2, another good protocol, in all of its Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows apps. That's great, and especially praiseworthy since many VPN companies do not include OpenVPN in iOS application as doing so invites extra scrutiny from Apple.
Your Privacy With ProtonVPN
It's important that every VPN company respect your privacy and protect your personal information. After all, the main reason to use a VPN is to limit access to your personal information. A representative from ProtonVPN assured me that the company keeps no logs of user activity.
The only information we keep about the user is a single login timestamp which contains the username and time when the user logged into their account. This is done only as a security measure in order to protect accounts from brute-forcing. We do not log, track, or record any other information.
The representative also said that ProtonVPN only makes money through subscription sales, not by selling user information. ProtonVPN is owned by the parent company Proton Technologies AG, and is based in Switzerland and operates under Swiss law. As such, it only responds to requests for information from an approved Swiss court order, which also requires that the individual who is the target of the investigation be notified. That's in stark contrast to the practice of the US sending National Security letters to companies, requiring information and preventing them disclosing the request. Even if ProtonVPN were required to respond to a request, it would only supply login timestamps. This is all excellent from a privacy and security standpoint.
Hands On With ProtonVPN
When you start it up, it appears as a skinny window similar to a mobile app showing a button that, when clicked, quickly activates the VPN. I really appreciate when VPN companies make getting online easy. The app also shows your connection status, a selection of servers so you can quickly change VPN location, and a toggle switch for the Secure Core servers. Clicking the small grey arrow in the upper right expands the window to reveal ProtonVPN's servers spread out on a map along with a real-time assessment of network traffic.
You can search or browse the available servers, and I particularly like that you can drill down to the specific servers within a location. The app also displays how much load a particular server is experiencing, whether they are Plus servers (that is, servers reserved for Plus users), and which are specialized servers for Tor, streaming, file sharing, and so forth.
Speed and Performance
When you use a VPN to secure your web traffic, your data won't be taking the optimal route to and from the internet. Jumping through the extra hoops of a VPN server and the extra data cables involved tends to increase latency while reducing upload and download speeds.
In the testing, we found that ProtonVPN increased latency by 857 percent, reduced upload speed test results by 96.9 percent, and reduced download speed test results by 98 percent.
Does ProtonVPN Get Faster if You Pay More?
ProtonVPN is unique in that it makes more servers available at higher pricing tiers. It also has a limited free option, and Core Servers, all of which have an impact on speed. The rightmost result is from when the initial speed tests along with all the other VPNs. The results to the immediate right of that were the result of using the Fastest profile to select a server.
Smart and Flexible
At first blush, ProtonVPN's restrictively tiered pricing plans might seem a bit off-putting, but those tiers do provide price flexibility. We've also seen compelling evidence that using the lower-tiered plans doesn't necessarily result in poor performance. The company also offers a rare, truly free experience that doesn't limit your bandwidth or push ads. ProtonVPN has staked its reputation as a privacy-focused company, which is a refreshing change after seeing so many other VPNs emphasize speed and video streaming. It also has a remarkably good-looking client, which is not something every VPN can claim. All that, coupled with the company's focus on technological excellence, is a powerful combination.
This content has been adapted from a post over at: https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/296955/the-best-vpn-services