VPNs (or Virtual Private Networks) are becoming increasingly popular thanks to the increase of cyber crimes, hackers, government spying, and companies who restrict access to content based on location.
We are all looking for ways to protect ourselves and our browsing activity and don’t want others able to see what we do or how we do it online. VPNs offer that solution to allow your connection to be private and comes with benefits such as being able to bypass some Netflix country restrictions and YouTube geo-blocked videos.
If you’re looking into setting up a VPN of your own, here are some tips on finding a good one.
Figure out exactly why you need or want a VPN
Before you can start looking for a VPN, you first must outline exactly why you need it. Are you trying to appear in a different country than the one you are in so you can access sites such as Netflix or blocked YouTube videos?
Certain VPNs are designed to do things better than others. For example, some VPNs are designed to allow you to switch countries to view YouTube or Netflix from a geo-blocked country, while others are designed to keep you safe while you’re on public wifi.
Find a server that is located in several places around the globe
Depending on your VPN needs and desired usage, you will likely want to find a VPN solution that has servers distributed in various locations around the globe. This helps making jumps from country to country easier.
This is important if you’re trying to get around geo-blocking such as with Netflix and YouTube. Being able to pick a location that isn’t being blocked allows you to view your favorite Netflix shows or those popular YouTube videos.
Speed is important if you’re streaming video
VPNs often degrade your internet speed since there’s a lot that has to be done to send and receive info securely. When looking for a VPN provider, find one that advertises a speedy connection so that any degradation in your VPN’s speed is minimized or subtle.
Check out which protocols are offered
Next on your list of looking for a great VPN is looking at the encryption protocols offered. Generally L2TP/IPSec or OpenVPN are the best options currently, but others exist too such as PPTP and SSL (although PPTP has some known vulnerabilities). Finding a VPN that offers several different ones allows you to pick the one that fits best and keeps you secure.
Is the VPN provider logging you?
While one of the many reasons to have a VPN is to keep from being tracked or spied on, the very VPN provider you may choose might keep a record of what you’ve been doing online. If this is something that bothers you, look to see if your VPN provider keeps a log of your activity online. It’s best to find one that isn’t keeping a log like your ISP may.
Be prepared to pay a monthly or yearly fee
Most, if not all, solid VPN solutions you must pay for either monthly or annually. If you’re paying for it, make sure you’re getting everything you need and that it is reasonably priced. Some VPNs even offer the ability to pay with Bitcoin, allowing you to stay completely anonymous by not handing over your credit card information.
There are free VPN providers out there, but most of them defeat the purpose of keeping your information secure. For instance, some of the free VPN services log your activities and where you go. They may also serve you ads while you’re browsing as well. Just remember you get what you pay for.
VPNs aren’t just for your desktop or laptop
VPNs don’t just cover computers. There are apps and services that allow you to protect things like your smartphone and tablets too. This is particularly important for those who are on the road a lot and frequently use public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi leaves you open for prying eyes by anyone on the same network, so using a VPN stops this even on your phone.
Look for a provider that offers solutions to your other connected devices as well, such as your smartphone and tablet. Some VPNs offer complete solutions, while others only work on your desktop or laptop.