A VPN (virtual private network) service is a great way to ensure you have a secure network connection while online. It also allows you to protect your browsing history, torrent, and access content that is blocked or regionally restricted.
What Does a VPN Do?
Each of your devices (your computer, smartphone, etc.) have their own unique IP address, which tells services who, what, and where you are. A VPN sits in between your device and however it connects to the internet, spoofing your device’s IP address. Anything you do online goes first through the VPN, then to the router, causing your router (and everything outside of your device) to think you have a different identity.
VPNs are great to have when you are planning on hopping online over an unsecured connection (a network that does not ask you for a password), like at a cafe, as it keeps your information (such as your browsing history and any data you transfer) safe from prying eyes. A VPN offers other benefits, like accessing content that may be restricted geographically, as they allow you to interact with the internet as though you were doing so from the VPN’s location, not your own. You can do a variety of other things with a VPN as well, including access your work or home network while traveling, bypass internet censorship, and download files.
What to Look for in a VPN Service
If you need to use a VPN, it’s easy enough to get started: simply choose a service, sign up on the company’s site, and download the client. Here are a few things to look for when picking a VPN.
- Lots of Servers: The more servers a VPN has, the faster your connection speeds are and, typically, the more country connection options you’ll have. This means you likely won’t have to deal with buffering or throttling issues.
- High Simultaneous Connections: If you need to connect more than one of your devices to your VPN at the same time, more power to you. The best VPN services allow you to connect five of your devices simultaneously, if not more.
- Great Ease of Use: For those who are new to VPNs, having a clean and clearly abeled interface, as well as easy access to customer support, is what’s important. For veteran users, this may mean an app that’s configurable and loaded with extras like a kill switch, data compression (for mobile), and automatic HTTPS redirection.
- Excellent Security, and No Logging: Good VPN services won’t monitor, log, or sell any of your personal info, like which websites you visit. They also ensure they are protecting you with strong encryption (AES 256-bit) and regular security audits. This is a surprisingly hard thing to find out about most VPNs, too, which is why we’ve made sure you can trust all the picks on our list.
Best Overall VPN: ExpressVPN
That’s even more impressive when you pair that with its extensive platform support: native clients for Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS. Want your smart TVs, routers, and gaming consoles covered? They’ve got custom firmware options for them, plus browser extensions. The Android app even works on Chromebooks, so you’re covered across the board.
ExpressVPN doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to advanced features either. It offers split tunneling, a Network Lock kill switch, server speed tests, zero-knowledge DNS, and unlimited bandwidth. For beginner VPN users, no need to worry: ExpressVPN has tons of tutorials and guides you can use, as well as 24/7 live chat support so you can be up and running in no time.
Best Budget VPN: Tunnelbear
Tunnelbear (Free) isn’t just easy on your wallet, it’s easy on the eyes. With cute bears and an extremely user-friendly interface, it’s a great option for anyone new to VPNs. Its free service is limited to 500 MB per month, and should you want more, subscription options start at $4.95 per month, giving you unlimited secure browsing for five devices and priority customer service.
Tunnelbear is a simpler and less powerful VPN than leading options like ExpressVPN, but it’s still a solid option for new users and those that don’t care too much about having lots of customization and advanced features. It only has about 22 server locations and 1,800 servers, so it’s fine for working at a coffeehouse but probably not ideal for heavy users. Tunnelbear offers apps for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android, and browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. For being a free VPN, Tunnelbear is a solid choice.
Best VPN for Multiple Device Connection: IPVanish
The VPN service has user-friendly apps for all devices: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Fire TV, and routers. The apps are solid and feature-rich, with options like automatic IP address cycling. The one major downside to IPVanish is that its interface isn’t quite as approachable and intuitive as others are, so it might not be the best choice for novice users. However, with its 24/7 customer support, users can quickly get answers to questions and issues when they need them most.