As legislation like the UK’s own Investigatory Powers Bill threatens to undermine the very meaning of a free and open internet, more people are turning to VPNs to help encrypt their internet traffic.
A VPN is short for Virtual Private Network. It’s a simple and efficient way to browse the web anonymously in the location of your choice. When you connect to a particular VPN location, you’re able to take on that location's IP address, thereby encapsulating your network traffic and hiding your real IP address. .
As a growing number of Brits are turning to VPNs, it’s important to know how to distinguish the good companies from the bad.
Here are three things to look for when choosing the right VPN provider.
Look for VPNs that offer multiple server locations
The easiest way to tell if a VPN provider is reputable or not is to see how many VPN server locations they offer. Free services usually only offer one or two options, while paid VPNs tend to boast 100+ dedicated server locations in different countries around the world.
While free services may seem like a great deal, they’re usually more trouble than they’re worth. That’s because ‘free’ VPN providers often sell your personal info to recoup expenses. Keeping logs on your online activity, manipulating your browser to serve specific cookies, and even selling your bandwidth are all methods most free VPN services take in order to make a profit.
If you’re going to use a VPN, make sure you’re paying for the service. Most reputable services cost between $5-15 a month.
Bonus tip: Look for VPN providers that offer different methods of payment like Bitcoin and PayPal. These tend to be the bigger, more reputable services and often offer more bang for their buck.
Make sure the VPN provider doesn't keep logs
VPNs were created to help protect your privacy, so it makes sense that VPN services naturally provide an anonymous service, right? Wrong. A number of services may claim they help keep your internet connection anonymous, but in the fine print they’ll often state how they keep specific records to sell to other companies.
If you’re going to use a VPN--whether it’s to watch content, secure your connection, unblock games like Pokemon GO, or a combination of the three--then you need one that actually protects your privacy. Make sure you check the reviews on different VPN providers, and make an effort to read over the Terms of Service before settling on a specific provider.
Bonus tip: Try to look for VPNs that support nonprofit privacy groups like the EFF and Fight for the Future. While it’s definitely not a dealbreaker, it’s nice to know your VPN is taking an active role in the ongoing fight for privacy.
Check how well the VPN apps work
Look for VPN services that offer apps on a variety of different platforms. While VPNs can be somewhat complicated, the applications themselves shouldn’t be. Being able to customize your network settings and change your VPN protocols (the methods in which your device connects to the VPN) should be easy.
Also be on the lookout for apps that offer unlimited bandwidth and server switches. If you’re currently using a service and don’t have these features, then it may be time to find a new VPN.
Bonus tip: Some VPN providers also offer simultaneous connections, so it’s possible to have the same VPN service installed on your desktop, laptop, and mobile phone at the same time. Again, this isn’t a requirement, but it’s definitely nice to have.
We hope these tips will help narrow your search in finding the right VPN provider. Stay private, stay secure, and stay free.