The Best VPN Services in 2020
As millions of people sign up for internet plans to access everything from their banks to streaming services, having a secure connection becomes increasingly more critical. With each passing year, security attacks and hacks grow in number, all while software struggles to keep up. And even if a user has the latest version of McAfee security software, it doesn’t mean that users are entirely safe on public platforms, or that they are unhackable.
What are the Best VPN Options?
After spending weeks and months testing virtual private networks (VPNs) like NordVPN, SaferVPN, Surfshark, Mozilla VPN and StrongVPN, we found that each one offers a high-quality security product for your internet needs.
Almost all of them provide military-level encryption and a variety of protocols for keeping your data safe, and almost all of them are easy to use. The key decision to make when choosing a VPN will be what matters most to you. Will you emphasize price or security? Is speed a priority, or is the number of servers what matters?
Depending on how you answer, there are a multitude of options for you.
What is a VPN?
One of the more powerful tools available to users today regarding cybersecurity is that of the virtual private network or VPN for short. What a VPN does is connect your computer to another computer or server that offers the appearance of being somewhere else. This sort of software can be particularly helpful while maintaining security or anonymity in certain situations.
As internet users have grown in spread and market presence, VPNs have also grown in similar levels of popularity (to the point of appearing on your favorite podcast), which means that customers now have options available to them. Are all VPN services the same? Or will one fit the specific needs of the consumer better than the other?
Some standard VPN functions to consider as you invest in and subscribe to a VPN service includes:
- Accessing a Business Network while not in Office
- Accessing a home PC via Remote Desktop
- Hiding browsing activities while on public networks
- Accessing Geoblocked websites (e.g.: Netflix in Canada may have different videos than Netflix in the U.S.)
- Bypassing Censorship (such as accessing websites that are in countries like China)
- Downloading/Torrenting files
But are all VPNs comparable? Will they all protect you equally and provide similar internet connections? That might not seem evident to the everyday user. The key variables that we considered in our deep review include:
Reliance on Personal Information
The core function of a VPN is to protect your information. But how much of your information does it keep? Does it require complex login information? Does it keep records of your activity through logs or IP addresses? Could they make that information available to government officials if it was demanded? We hope users are not engaging in illegal conduct, but these questions about data security matter when it comes to the growing presence of government surveillance. Almost all of the VPNs we reviewed had reliable no-log policies, from NordVPN to Surfshark.
Will the device you own be compatible? Most VPNs are compatible with Apple or Windows devices, making them fairly flexible. But considering the options available, it may be worth considering how it can be used with other devices. Perhaps your favorite streaming platform, or your mobile device isn't available. In our investigations, we found that Surfshark offered the most options for devices.
While the original function is safe in itself, that doesn’t mean that hackers cannot find ways to breach or get in. Look for tools that can reinforce the security of the device, from no-logs and anonymity policies to protection mechanisms like IP hiding and kill switches. See what each package might offer regarding said security options. It is also worth checking to see what sorts of encryption protocols are available. NordVPN was our preferred option when it came to security, as they provide the most protocols.
An interface can often feel overwhelming, particularly for the laymen. We believe it is important to ask questions about how easy it is to understand how a system works, and what it would take to modify or update it. Is the interface simple? Does it offer simple explanations and interfaces? Can you connect and secure your connections with less than five clicks? In our experience, the simplest and most user-friendly VPN was IPVanish.
Is your connection with the separate server reliable and fast? Are you able to stream or download the content reliably? In our reviewing of the VPNs, we found that most of the VPNs were able to handle the most basic connections, although this changed depending on how well wired a country's internet connection was. SaferVPN is our preference when it comes to the best connection.
Many VPN providers will have servers dedicated to certain cities and countries. Check to see how many servers and countries are available. Do they offer multiple servers in a single location? Are the servers unique and customized for particular functions? The options on this will vary depending on how connected the country is to the world wide web, and what sort of fiber is available for said country. We found that places like the UK had better connections than South Africa. But each VPN will vary. We found that NordVPN has the most servers available.
Does the VPN allow you to maintain a single signature IP address? Is there peer-to-peer sharing functionality? Do they provide fast and reliable tech support? Or are there other goodies attached to the membership? We found that many VPN providers keep the packages fairly basic. However, NordVPN has the most bells and whistles when it comes to specialized servers, specific encryption methods and customer support.
Should You Trust a VPN Provider?
One of the more considerable difficulties surrounding VPN creation is determining trustworthiness. Are the companies that claim to protect a user’s privacy going to do that? Or is there something else at play? Some VPN providers are scams, out to make money for minimal security benefits to you. There is also a multitude of accusations between VPN providers about how one client might be questionable compared to another.
There are certainly issues regarding the ownership of several VPN providers. Many VPNs are Chinese-based. However, without full disclosure of who owns such software, it is difficult to determine whether or not they are being used as tools for international espionage or data theft by international entities, even though there have been Congressional pushes to investigate it. But for the moment, there is significant reason to believe that many of the significant VPN companies are trustworthy and worthy of cooperation.
Limits of a VPN
Now, VPNs are quite capable of a lot when it comes to torrenting and data protection. But it is crucial to understand their limits:
- VPNs cannot stop viruses. If a user opens a phishing email or downloads a malware-infested program, then they will get infected. So it is imperative to maintain a sense of hesitance and carefulness when it comes to questionable forms of software.
- Replace Internet bills: VPNs cannot replace a Comcast connection or a Wi-Fi program. They require a user to purchase access from an ISP. They change the IP address.
- Protect you from employer surveillance: Want to play Call of Duty at work through your VPN? You certainly can try, but VPNs are unable to breach or protect users from remote-administration users taking over a system and accessing it.