How To Choose the Best VPN services

  • 05/Apr/2021
  • 11:37 am

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Data security breaches are at an all time high. And the last thing you need to stay protected is an unreliable VPN. But sadly - when it comes to choosing a VPN - it's you against a dizzying array of VPN providers out in the market today.

There are just too many options. Unsurprisingly, you'll find several VPNs actively projecting similar pricing and outstanding features. How do you sort the wheat from the chaff? Seems very close to impossible.

Not to worry, we've taken time to test run several dozens of VPNs and have put together some of the best VPNs you can trust.

But just before we fix you up with these top VPNs in 2021, here are two important questions to ask:

  • Why do you need a VPN?
  • What are the most important features to consider in a VPN?

Providing answers to the above questions will guide your decision in choosing a VPN

Why do you need a VPN ?

Assessing your need for a VPN is the first step to gaining clarity on the ideal VPN for you. You can do this by taking careful stock of your VPN needs. If possible, have the features that are most important to you listed out before you go ahead to investigate.

Point to note: If you're a beginner and you're not sure of your VPN need, you'll find within this article, the most important features to look out for in a VPN.

For instance, if you have 5 devices and want protection across all, it's pointless shopping for different VPNs. Look for one that offers multiple connections with compatibility across several devices.

On the other hand, if you simply want to stream, a VPN with low latency that guarantees top speed is your best bet. In addition to speed, unlimited data bandwidth will be a feature to consider.

If you're a casual browser, just seeking some privacy, there may be little to no need forking out serious bucks for a service. You can simply try out some of the best free VPN recommendations in this article. Or settle for a premium, yet affordable service like NordVPN.

What are the most important features to consider when choosing a VPN?

Having established your need for a VPN, find below some of the compulsory features of a good VPN.

1. Encryption and security protocol

There is nothing - absolutely nothing - more important than security when it comes to VPNs.Yet, not every VPN is capable of protecting your sensitive data from cybercriminals.

Ideally, a VPN is supposed to act as a secure encrypted tunnel between your network and every other part of the internet. But a lot of VPNs fall short.

As you shop for a VPN, consider the encryption and security capabilities of such VPN. VPNs that do not provide strong encryption and security protocols should be completely avoided.

By all means, go for a VPN with OpenVPN protocol. It's the protocol you need if you want to achieve top level security. Some VPNs offer PPTP protocol, which is very dated and vulnerable as it uses a less reliable encryption. This protocol is not considered good enough and should be avoided.

Other VPN providers offer L2TP/IPsec protocol, which is a rather better option than PPTP. L2TP/IPsec may not be as great as OpenVPN, but is a better substitute for mobile devices like Android and IOS.

In addition to protocol, VPNs with strong encryption like AES 256-bit encryption provide extremely reliable security. A kill switch system is also a necessary feature that provides protection from data leaks.

Long and short, a good VPN provides a range of protocols and encryption that ensure zero compromise on user data and privacy.

2. User-friendliness and compatibility

From the point of installation to setup, some VPNs present quite a complex challenge to users. If you’re not the most tech savvy, avoid VPNs that require extra configurations.

Some providers offer virtual setup, others ensure that their service comes with preinstalled setup or setup guides for the best experience. In fact, most stellar VPNs today invest in dedicated clients and native apps for different devices - so you can simply search and download the VPN's client for your device.

3. Unblocking capabilities

If you're an avid internet user, you might have run into a couple of "access denied" sites. This is the concept called geo-blocking.

If your need for a VPN is somewhere around accessing geo-blocked content, you should be on the look out for VPN features such as TCP port 443, multihop, Obfsproxy, SOCKS, SSL tunnels, SSH tunnels.

Point to note: You'll find our top picks for best VPNs. These VPNs are capable of unblocking streaming sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. Some even go further to bypass censorships like the Great Firewall of China.

4. Logs Policy

When it comes to choosing a VPN, you need to be sure that the service you're entrusting your data to will not turn around to hand it to someone else. If you are all about privacy, we advise you steer clear of VPN service providers that store browsing data (logs/ history).

Though some providers may claim to store only a wee bit of data that hardly threatens user privacy, we highly recommend going for VPNs with clear zero logs policy.

Think Twice About Using Free VPNs : Most freebie VPNs are potentially dangerous as they are known to store user information. And some will not hesitate to sell such data to advertising companies.

There are reliable VPNs out there that stand by their commitment to keeping no logs. In recent times, VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN have undergone some independent tests that confirm that they maintain a strict zero-logs policy.

5. Where's the VPN service situated?

In addition to a strict no logs policy, it is equally important to consider where your VPN provider is situated. Some providers happen to be at the mercy of a privacy intrusive jurisdiction. This makes them susceptible to certain unfair laws. For example, depending on the country a VPN provider is based, it could be mandated to hand over users information to the government anytime.

For countries under the 14-eyes alliance, it's safe to say you risk potentially sharing your data to 14 countries when one country gains access.

Find below a table showing countries under intelligence alliance practice

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Intelligence Alliance Countries
Five Eyes alliance US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand
Nine Eyes alliance US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Holland, Norway
Fourteen Eyes alliance US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Holland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain.

6. Does the VPN support a refund policy?

To ensure you don't pour money down the drain, choose a VPN that offers money back guarantee. Stellar providers like NordVPN and ExpressVPN allow users a refund within 30days, with no questions asked. We confirmed this during our tests.

But be sure to read your choice VPN's terms of service to find out about their refund policy - and possibly conditions attached.

7. Is customer service reliable ?

Some of the best VPNs available offer 24/7 customer service. During our review, we found VPNs that offer live-chats more responsive. Replies were averaged at 2minutes for some of our recommended VPNs.

Top Best VPNs in 2021

As earlier stated, here are our top VPN recommendations you can try.

NordVPN

NordVPN in brief:

  • Business Location: Panama
  • Number of servers: 5,300+
  • Number of country locations: 59
  • Cost: $3.71/month – 2year plan
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux, Android
  • Privacy: strict no logs policy
  • Unblocking capabilities: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Great Firewall of China
  • VPN Protocol: OpenVPN (default)
  • Data encryption: AES-256 bit-encryption
  • Customer service: 24/7 live chat support
  • Refund policy: 30-day money back guarantee
  • Allows up to 6 simultaneous connections

NordVPN made it to this list for its many outstanding offerings and unparalleled performance. Not only does it support P2P and torrenting, unlock Netflix and other international streaming sites, it does so without compromising speed. During our VPN review, we recorded some best VPN speeds - all thanks to its high server count in 59 countries.

NordVPN combines standard security infrastructures in such a way that hackers and intruders are kept at bay. It has a strong DNS leak protection, kill switch, 256 bit-encryption and malware blocks. Its double VPN hides your traffic behind two servers instead of one - talk about top level security!

Also going up a notch with privacy and security, the provider operates a transparent zero logs policy and keeps no logs of data that could point back to any user.

Overall, NordVPN ticks all the boxes of VPN needs. And considering the caliber of the product, it won't be wrong if we say it offers one of the best prices in the market.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN in brief:

  • Number of servers: 3,000+
  • Number of IP addresses: 30000
  • Number of country locations: 94
  • Business location: British Virgin Islands
  • Cost: $6.67 per month
  • Privacy: Zero logs policy
  • Unblocking capabilities: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Great Firewall of China
  • VPN protocol: OpenVPN
  • Data encryption: 256-bit encryption
  • Customer support: Responsive 24/7 live chat support
  • Refund policy: 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Compatibility: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Chromebook, routers, Linux

ExpressVPN is one provider that has proven itself time and again. If you're interested in an easy-to-use yet reliable VPN provider for any device, ExpressVPN is a front-runner.

With ExpressVPN, you can expect excellent download speeds, unlimited bandwith, top-of-the-line encryption protocols that ensure safe torrenting and P2P.

You don't have to worry about your privacy with ExpressVPN because its no logs policy has stood up in both independent testing and real life situations.

Like most of the VPNs on this list, ExpressVPN has the ability to bypass censorships and offers userfriendly apps and clients for any notable device type.

With ExpressVPN you can rest assured of a generally pleasant experience.

IPVanish

IPVanish in brief

  • Location: United States
  • P2P allowed: Yes
  • Number of servers: 1500+
  • Number of server location: 75+
  • VPN protocol:OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IKEv2
  • Data encryption:AES 256-bit encryption
  • Cost: $6.49/month
  • Privacy: no logs policy
  • Customer support:24/7 live chat support
  • Refund policy: 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Compatibility: User friendly apps for all devices including Fire TV
  • Unblocking capabilities: Access to censored apps and websites

Ipvanish is a very popular VPN provider. Notably one that delivers all it advertises - and more. It is user friendly and very tough on security. In terms of security, IPVanish uses a 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default.

The provider also offers unmetered connection. This means you can afford to protect every device you own simultaneously(up to 10devices). In addition, you'll experience some of the best speeds when connected to IPVanish.

We did try a couple of servers for torrenting and we were impressed with the brisk connection and download speed.

More so, IPVanish is compatible with a great variety of devices - which is a huge plus.

Though this VPN is located in the US - raising eyebrows when it comes to privacy - the provider states that it has a zero logs policy. We found another issue - its iOS app has no kill switch and may leak your data in the event of a connection drop.

Lastly, if you happen to run into any problems, you can easily access IPVanish's support from your Android and iOS applications.

Surfshark

IPVanish in brief

  • Business location: British Virgin Islands
  • Number of servers: 800+
  • Number of country locations: 49*
  • Cost: $72 (billed annually)
  • VPN protocol: IKEv2/OpenVPN
  • Data encryption: AES-256 bit-encryption
  • Customer support: 24/7 live chat
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
  • Unblocking capabilities: Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Hulu
  • Refund policy:30-day money-back guarantee
  • Unlimited number of devices covered

A stripped-down interface that literally displays only a "quick connect", “all locations” and "settings icon" hardly takes phenomenal away from Surfshark.

Surfshark impressively houses top encryption protocols, kill switch, DNS leak protection and a double VPN hop in one outstanding service.

Aside from its sheer all-round security, Surfshark has strong unlocking capablilities as we had no trouble unblocking Netflix during our testing.

Take the plunge with Surfshark VPN and if for any reason you're unsatisfied, you can get a full refund within 30days.

Need a Free VPN? Find some of the best free VPNs below

Hotspot Shield VPN:

If security is all you need in a VPN, Hotspot Shield's free VPN will come in handy. It gives you access to top-rate privacy and security features - at zero cost.

Hotspot Shield’s free plan however offers a limited 500mb per day. This may be quite restrictive if you're looking to binge-watch - but good enough for a freebie.

Hotspot Shield has a very user-friendly platform with a simple on/off switch to connect and disconnect.

In terms of speed, its free version maintains fairly steady speeds over distant locations but its support may not be the best out there.

If you want to try its premium features? Take advantage of its 45 day money back guarantee.

2. ProtonVPN:

Proton VPN won plaudits in our testing for being the only free VPN with zero logs, no ads, no malware, and no bandwidth limits. A premium giveaway at its best!

With Proton VPN's free plan, you have limited access to three servers but will enjoy unblocking popular streaming sites including Netflix. However, with every free plan subscriber hooked on either one of the three servers, don't be surprised if you encounter glitchy speeds.

Furthermore, if you're thinking of torrenting, you should consider an upgrade as torrenting is not supported on their free plan.

In summary, ProtonVPN is great if you want to stay protected and enjoy some rare premium privileges.

3. Windscribe VPN:

Windscribe free VPN is good for keeping you anonymous and avoiding censorships.

Free plan allows users a generous 10GB data monthly. And excitingly it comes with data rewards when you tweet about the service or refer a friend.

With windscribe free plan features such as ad and malware blocker are open to users, however you have limited 10 servers access.

Speaking of more limitations, you cannot unblock Netflix with Windscribe freeVPN but you may have access to HBO GO and YouTube.

Want to unlock a world of limitless possibilities? Try upgrading to its premium service.

4. Hide.Me VPN:

Hide.me is known for its excellent speeds and effectiveness in masking IP addresses.

It has an easy-to-understand interface and a trustworthy privacy policy - It stores no log. Even its payment method allows users for a good amount of anonymity.

Hide.me is a good service and one that even beginners will have no trouble getting around.

1. Why do I need a VPN?

Simple answer - A VPN helps to tighten your online security. It does so by encrypting your browsing data across tunnels, masking your location and keeping your activities private and secure.

2. What is the best VPN 2021?

Indisputably, NORDVPN steals the crown for the overall best VPN in 2021. This verdict is coming from months of dedicated testing by our experts, based on performance, reliability, security and in general, excellent service.

With over 8million customers and an incredible 4.5star rating on Play Store - need we say more - NordVPN stands undefeated.

During our review of NordVPN, it performed swimmingly - as we were able to torrent, unblock Netflix, access tough censorship including the Great Wall of China.

It's chock-full of impressive security features, privacy and unbeatable speed makes it a tool worth having in 2021.