Imagine this: You open your Netflix account to binge-watch your daily fix of Friends, just to find that Netflix removed the show from your country’s library. You throw your device in a fit of rage and lament over the fact that people in other countries can still watch your favorite show. Well, we have all been there, but do not fret! There is a simple solution to this problem and much more. You might have heard the term “VPN” before, and, after a simple search, you discovered that it can mask your location. However, maybe you do not fully understand the concept and have trouble choosing the best VPN service that fits your needs.
You will find answers to all your burning questions in this article, as we have compiled a comprehensive list of the 10 most important factors you should take into account before signing up for a VPN service.
What is a VPN?
Before you get a VPN subscription, you need to know a few basics about VPNs first. The term “VPN” is short for Virtual Private Network. A VPN basically lends you an IP to hide your real one. That means you connect to the internet through the VPN service instead of the IP provided by your ISP. This way you cannot be tracked online.
Why do you need a VPN?
The example cited at the beginning of the article is just one of the many versatile uses of a VPN. A VPN service can be used for the following set of reasons:
- Privacy – Do you know that your ISP can see all your internet activity? This alarming fact is one of the reasons why you should invest in a VPN. Through subscribing to a VPN service, you can keep your online activity away from prying eyes.
- Censorship Avoidance – Some countries block some websites and prevent their citizens from viewing them. We can all agree that such a choice should be up to us, not anyone else. Through a VPN service, you can avoid censorship and access blocked websites.
- More content based on location – A VPN service allows you to bypass geographic restrictions or Geo-lock. As mentioned, you may want to access the library of other countries on streaming websites and services like Netflix. Another example of this is Spotify. You may not be able to log in and access your account if you travel abroad because Spotify will sense a contradiction between the geographic information you signed up with and your current location. By using a VPN, you can connect to your country’s server and regain access to your account. Moreover, some countries cannot access some websites. This is different than censorship, as it is determined by the owner of the website and not your government. In any case, a VPN will be of great help.
- Protection – If you value the safety of your information, then having a VPN is essential for you. Hackers can access all your data if you connect to an insecure, public network like that of a coffee shop. If you do not use a VPN in this case, you are leaving the door open for hackers to steal your private information, including your credit card data. When you are skeptical about the security of a network, use a VPN.
Now that you know the pros of using a VPN service and are convinced that you need one, you should check the list below to understand the 10 most important factors you should know before getting a VPN.
No one likes having a slow internet connection. If you connect to a VPN only to find that you are waiting for 10 mins to watch 5 seconds of a video, then that might put you off using VPNs altogether. It can be absolutely infuriating to wait around for a video to buffer or wait more than 4 seconds for a page to load. Before you choose your VPN, make sure that it gives multiple options and configurations to make sure that your speed does not drop down all of a sudden. You need a VPN you can rely on for all your internet activities, such as streaming and peer-to-peer file sharing.
VPN services come at different prices to fit everyone’s needs and budgets. Before you buy the most expensive VPN, thinking that the higher the price, the better the service, you should know that there are free VPN services out there. You do not have to break the bank to get the protection you need. Nevertheless, if you decide to invest in a premium VPN service, then you should definitely scour the internet to find the best deals. Sometimes, VPN companies offer discounts at certain times throughout the year like Black Friday deals. You should snatch the opportunity and get the service at a lower price because you can try it that way to see if it works for you without any regrets regarding the money you spent.
Before we delve into specifics, you should be aware of a general rule of thumb: The more servers your VPN offers, the better experience you will have using it. The VPN you choose should have many servers spread over different countries. For example, some VPNs offer servers for all countries, and others offer more than one server for every country. In addition, you can even find VPN services that have servers for all 50 states of the US. If you believe this is too excessive, then you need to think again. This flexibility is what constitutes a great VPN service. You never know when you might need a certain server to meet your browsing and streaming needs.
Your privacy and information matter a lot, and you need to do everything in your power to protect them. All VPN services offer encryption to secure your information, but not all of them do a good job regarding this. You should look for a VPN service that provides more than one encryption mode. VPNs you can depend on sending your internet traffic through more than one server to ensure utmost anonymity. Furthermore, one of the best features a VPN can have is an automatic connection. This allows the VPN to activate whenever you connect to a network. Another essential feature is the much-appreciated kill switch. A kill switch blocks your connection when your VPN stops masking your IP for any reason. This prevents you from unknowingly using the internet while your privacy and real IP are exposed.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) support
Now, let’s talk about peer-to-peer sharing and how a VPN service might help you. Peer-to-peer technology is mostly used to share files or media among many people. This technology forms a network of users who equally share and receive the file in question (think torrents). Nonetheless, this practice is frowned upon by ISPs, and you might find your connection getting throttled. This means that you cannot reach your full download/upload speed when you use peer-to-peer file sharing. This is where a VPN service enters the picture. You should find a VPN that supports peer-to-peer activities and does not throttle your connection. A good VPN has no bandwidth threshold and offers you an impeccable peer-to-peer experience. This is a feature that is worth looking for.
Static IP address
A static IP is a special IP address solely assigned to you. If you do not know why this might be important, then let us briefly explain—a static IP is more foolproof than a dynamic one. A dynamic IP might change every once in a while; that means the server can assign you a new IP every few days or weeks. Dynamic IPs are more prone to failures and security issues. VPNs work better with static IPs because they offer more security and stability; thus, they lower the chance of disconnections. It might not be an absolutely essential feature, but it is pretty handy if you value your security and want to enjoy a more stable online experience.
Available tech support
A VPN is a sophisticated piece of technology; however, the more complex a thing is, the more likely that something will go wrong. A great VPN service offers 24/7 tech support to aid you in case anything goes south. You should be able to rely on the tech team to answer your questions and promptly solve any problems you might encounter. Thus, we highly recommend that you do your research before making any commitments. Read customer reviews to get a thorough idea about how the tech team operates and what you should expect. Also, before you decide on the VPN you will use, you can email the company to know more details about the support they offer. Some companies offer a chat service where you are immediately connected to an expert who can help you while others use forums and emails to communicate with their customers. You should find the VPN provider whose means of communication is the one you are most comfortable with.
Cross-device use is a measurement of how flexible a VPN service is. Given that you may pay a hefty amount every year to foot your VPN bill, you should find one that offers support to all your devices. Your VPN service should be able to operate on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, and so on. It should not limit your use in any way, which means that you should be able to enjoy your secure service whenever and wherever you like. It would be a downer to discover that the VPN service you emptied your pockets on does not have an application that can be used on your smartphone, leaving you in a tight spot and forcing you to find another VPN for your phone. Therefore, some research would do you good; you need to know how versatile the VPN you intend to get is.
You do not want to invest much time and effort to learn the intricacies of your VPN, and you should not be required to as well. The VPN service you choose must be easy to use; this means that you can set up your connection and start using the service in a few minutes. You definitely do not have to be a tech expert to use a VPN. If you find that you cannot easily use the service, then you should look into using another VPN. Hundreds of VPNs, including free ones, offer the same service and do not have a steep learning curve. Your time and effort are too precious to waste on such matters when you can find easier and better options. So, make a smart choice.
Finally, you should look for what security experts are saying about the VPN service you want to get. Sure, customer reviews are great, but there are certain aspects that can be assessed only by an expert. Expert reviews are usually thorough and straightforward. They will also warn you of any security hazards that might be linked to the VPN in question. Some seedy VPN services keep and track your information and sell them to other companies for money, which is exactly the opposite of what you are looking for. Such VPN services make use of the way most of us forget to read the “fine print.” We are all guilty of checking the “I have read and accepted the terms and conditions” box without even sparing the terms a second glance. An expert is able to pinpoint such things and steer you in the right direction. Thus, do not overlook their advice.
Although VPNs might seem complex in the beginning, they are not rocket science, and they definitely do not require you to be an expert to effectively use them. A VPN service is essential if you are someone who values their privacy and wishes to enjoy what the internet has to offer without restriction and pesky, enforced censorship. However, you should be careful when choosing your VPN service; read the fine print, understand your needs, and do your research. When you find the perfect VPN that is tailored to your needs, you will experience online freedom like never before!