There are a number of things you can do to safeguard access to your computer while online. However, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the surest ways to protect your online privacy and safeguard your pertinent information. Every day, there’s a new story about hackers, Trojans, phishing attacks, snoopers, and other malware attacks. Once you’ve recognized these risks, the next step is to find the right VPN service to offer the protection that meets your needs.
Regardless of how you access the Internet, a good VPN provider should be able to offer adequate protection for your specific device.
Besides privacy and protection from malware and intruders, many VPN users subscribe to a VPN service in order to bypass restrictions to content access while abroad.
That said, there are hundreds of VPN service providers and choosing the best for your needs can be confusing. However, if you know what to look for in a service, you will find it easier to select a good service. Note that every user has unique needs. Some users merely want more privacy because they download a lot of content from the Web while others simply want access to country restricted websites while they travel. On the other hand, some other users want security above all else. Some VPN services offer basic features while others offer a full set of features to make your online experience a breeze.
Whatever you’re looking for, be sure to find out what your prospective VPN service offers in terms of the following features:
Server Locations – One of the defining features of a good VPN service provider is access to country restricted content. The more server locations a service has, the better. If you’re a frequent traveler, this should be one of the most important features to consider. Selecting a server that’s closer to your current location is vital to maintain favorable speeds. The further a server is, the higher the latency, hence lower connection speeds.
In addition, server location is important if you want to view localized content. For instance, if you want to view content delivered in French, you need to connect to a VPN server located in France so that you acquire an IP address from France. The same applies to content localized to any other country or region.
VPN Protocols – VPN protocols are the underlying security technology used to secure VPN connections. These protocols define the level and type of security policies you’ll have when connecting through a VPN. There are several protocols offered by providers but they mainly differ in the way they secure data in transmission over a public network.
Each protocol offers a different level of security. For instance, Open VPN is considered the most secure protocol offering 256-bit encryption. On the other hand, PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) is considered the least secure at 128-bit and it’s generally not ideal for sensitive connections. However, it’s the most popular as it is pretty straightforward to setup and it is natively supported on a range of systems.
L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, and SSL are other VPN protocols that offer considerable security levels. While they are not natively supported on some systems, they are easy to configure.
Note that each protocol imposes different requirements on the system resources. Typically, the less secure protocols such as PPTP impose less demand on resources and, thus, are generally faster. However, protocols such as OpenVPN are more demanding on system resources and therefore, they may have issues with performance.
So when choosing protocols, it’s basically between security and performance.
Performance – Performance is a critical issue when choosing a VPN service. There are a few factors that encompass performance, namely speed, reliability, and server capacity. These factors are inherently intertwined as one can influence the rest, for instance server capacity can have an impact on speed and reliability.
Server capacity is basically the number of IPs that a service can support on their servers. Generally, the more servers a service has, the better the performance. For instance, a service with 100 servers supporting 10,000 IPs will offer better performance than one with 500 IPs and 10 servers.
A server with low capacity will have frequent reliability issues. So you’ll want to ensure that the service you choose has enough capacity that will guarantee speed and reliability.
Some VPN services are rigid when it comes to switching VPN servers. Normally, you’ll need to switch servers when you travel to another location. However, most users that don’t travel a lot will find that one or two high performance servers can meet their needs.
So depending on whether you’re a regular traveler or not, you will want a service that allows you to seamlessly switch between VPN servers and do so for free.
VPN offerings – This refers to the type of VPN accounts offered plus the features that come with each account. Every service has unique offerings structured differently, depending on which users they’re targeting. Typical options include shared vs. dedicated IPs, price discounts on annual subscriptions vs. monthly subscriptions, and unlimited usage vs. metered usage, among others.
There are endless account options offered by services. Some providers can offer temporary accounts if you only need it for a short time yet others give free trials for some of their features. So it’s basically knowing what you want and then compare the different providers to select one that best fits with your needs.
Finally, you may also want to consider VPN routers although this is somewhat advanced for the average user. Basically, a routed VPN account enables you to connect multiple devices via a single account.
The majority of personal VPN accounts offered by most VPN service providers connect only one device at a time. For instance, if you connect your desktop through your personal VPN account, you cannot connect your mobile device through the same account simultaneously. However, with a VPN router, you can go around this limitation. So, if you normally connect multiple devices simultaneously, consider a service that offers VPN routing.
Basically, this is the breakdown of the most crucial factors to evaluate when looking for a VPN service provider. Choose a service that best fits your needs using the above guide.