choosing the best vpn
Written By Paul Arnesen - August 8th 2019.

How to choose the best VPN

When you are looking at how to select the best VPN provider for your need, you should be aware of a few essential factors.

The virtual private network market is significant, with hundreds of providers out there. It is easy to get confused, and without proper research, you might end up sharing info your thought you were protecting as there as plenty of suspicious VPNs out there.

What happens when you visit a website?

When you click on a link to a website, you will with your computers default settings share a lot of information with that website, and the people (and third parties) that are connected to it. You will also share what you clicked on with your internet service provider, ISP because they can see all traffic that goes in and out from your network.

They will be able not only to see what you are searching for a visiting, but they will know where you are located, how much time you spend online, what you purchase, who you contact, etc. Without any form of encryption, you are basically like an open book online.

A VPN hides you

That is what being online behind a VPN does, it hides you. The ISP and the website you are visiting will see online traffic, but this traffic does not locate you. It will come from the location that you VPN is running from.

As an example, if you live in Chicago, your IP address will be from Chicago, and this is the first clue someone has to figure out who you are. With a VPN, you can set your location to be Los Angeles or even Japan for that matter. Then the site you visit will see they had a visit from Japan and not Chicago.

With the VPN turned on, you have a mask on, and your real identity is, in essence, hidden.

7 Factors in choosing a VPN

  1. Understand why you need a VPN

    I have nothing to hide, so why should I care? You might believe this, but I am sorry to say it is not true. We have all something we want to hide from everyone else to see.

    If you are traveling a lot, you might not want your bank details to be open for the world to know if you have to do some online banking. And what happens your dating life? Is that something you don't mind sharing with strangers?

    In reality, you need to see that being exposed as we are today online is not beneficial for you. Your decision to choose a VPN should come from your understanding that you have information that in the wrong hands can hurt you or be embarrassing to you.

  2. Read the VPNs Privacy Commitment

    You really need to consider what your chosen VPN service are you sharing your data with. The first thing is to look at their privacy policy if they even have one.. And you should read it, and understand what they will do to protect your data. Do they have a data protection officer, when was it updated, does it confuse you, or is it easy to read?

    When you connect through a virtual private network, you will send data to a server that is maintained by the VPN service provider. This creates a log about you and your online usage. Basically, this log contains your online activity from your real IP location. This is the data you are trying to hide.

    Therefore they should state that they explicitly never store or share your logs. In essence, it means that they have systems in place that automatically deletes your log the second you turn off the VPN, or that the logs have never been saved. Look for a no-logs policy.

    Also, consider where the servers of the company are located. You want to avoid servers that are located in the 14 eyes countries. An outstanding company to benchmark against is protonVPN that are based in Switzerland that has robust privacy laws.

    Be aware also that even though a company is based in the EU and have robust privacy regulations, such as the GDPR, it doesn't mean they won't share logs.

  3. Check device compatibility

    What device you use is essential to understand. Most VPNs today have compatibility with most devices, but if you are unsure if the one you want works on your device you need to check this.

    Also, you might want to use it on both your computer and your mobile devices, even if you use an iPhone (Apple) and a Windows computer. Make sure you can use it all the devices you want to protect.

    Also, be sure to check that you can use the VPN on more than one device at once. Most providers today give you only 1 device for one price and additional devices for a higher cost.

  4. Make sure your locations are covered

    The speed and reliability of a VPN often depend on how far you are from the server yourself. For example, if you live in Hong Kong, you might want to use servers that are located in Asia and not the US. If you are living in Asia and the provider you want to use does not cover much of Asia, then this is worth considering.

    Also if you travel a lot, you might want access to servers in the countries you visit. In fact, there is no need to connect to a server in another country to stay hidden. You will also be protected if you connect to a server in your country.

    Another thing to consider here is that if you are traveling and you need to connect to a VPN in your home country check that your country is covered. Reasons for connecting to your home country can be for online banking, streaming or reading and watching online content from home.

  5. Look for a user-friendly VPN

    Using a VPN should be fast and easy. You should be able to connect as soon as you open the app or the program on your computer. It should also work "out of the box," meaning that setting up should be easy. Some providers are very technical and might not be for you.

    Look for something that has an easily understandable user interface. That is easy to navigate and don't make it hard to use.

    Besides, you should see if the VPN has a free and accessible customer service. Many providers do offer chat options and email communication. Whenever a problem strike, you should be able to resolve the issue without being a detective.

  6. Decide what you pay for and how

    There are free VPNs out there, I would avoid them as they most likely sell your data to make money. The only exception is the free option from ProtonVPN.

    Companies might give you a VPN for free, but it will be slow and less accessible than their better paid version.

    So when you have found your preferred choice look at what methods they ask you to pay in. Do you want to pay in bitcoin some providers offer that. Maybe you want to pay in your local currency with a local payment system, then look if they accept this.

    What you pay for will also depend. If you only want to use it on your home computer, you don't need to pay for a package where you can use it on several devices.

    Also, most providers today offer long term contracts for a lower monthly cost. Be sure to check what you are signing up for by reading their terms & conditions.

  7. Check speed and reliability tests

    When you connect to a VPN, your speed will be lower. That is just a fact. The traffic is being led through a tunnel and back to you, causing to slow down. However, some services are faster than others. It is actually a good idea to look up on speed tests online to see if anyone has done tests for you.

    Another critical aspect is reliability. If you are using a VPN because you want to hide your real location, then you want it to be working without fault. The second it fails you will be exposed. Some VPN services have implemented a kill-switch which turns off the Wi-fi if the VPN should fail. Not all are equal here, some are more reliable than others. Read reviews and see what others are saying.

    An option you have is to take advantage of a money-back guarantee. Commonly, most providers offer 15 to 45 days of a money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied with the speed and reliability when you use it, cancel it and try another one. In the end, you will find one that fits your need.

Summary

In order to choose a VPN you should consider why you need one, if they have a healthy and good privacy policy, if it is compatible with your devices, that all your preferred locations are covered, that the VPN is user-friendly, that you know what you pay for and that it is fast and reliable.

We at PrivacyNow and the people we work with are pleased with ProtonVPN, which scores high on all these points.

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Last update 8. August 2019

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