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How To Choose a Really Good VPN Provider?

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Virtual Private Networks are indeed the need of the hour. Using a VPN service not only allows you to protect your privacy on the internet but also enables you to bypass censorship at restrictive locations and access premium/local content from a different country. But with hundreds of VPN providers available on the web, choosing a good VPN service is not an easy task. Here are some things to look out for while subscribing to a VPN service:

1) Privacy Considerations

If you want to subscribe to a VPN service to protect your privacy, you need to check the logging policy of the provider, protocols and encryption strength used by the service, type of IPs offered, personal details required during the signup process and the jurisdiction under which the VPN company operates.

a) Logging Policy – The logging policy of the company should clearly state what kind of logs are being kept and for how long. Most VPN providers record connection details (timestamp, bandwidth and duration) for a period of few days but refrain from keeping data or traffic logs. Some VPN companies record IP addresses and location information as a part of connection logs so in theory, your personal details are being logged. You also need to check whether or not your data is shared with third parties (such as advertisers).

b) Protocols and Encryption strength – If you are really paranoid about your online privacy then you must choose a provider that offers at least 256 bit encryption through the OpenVPN protocol. Other protocols such as PPTP and L2TP are not considered as secure (though L2TP is a good alternative to the least secure PPTP protocol) but they do provide compatibility with mobile devices and routers. With the availability of OpenVPN apps for iOS and Android, there is no reason why you should have to subscribe to PPTP only VPN services for your privacy needs.

c) Type of IPs offered – Ideally you should stay away from VPN providers that rely on dynamic IPs to deliver their service. With a dynamic IP, there is a 1-to-1 co-relation between the IP address of a customer and the IP address assigned by the VPN company so it becomes easier for the VPN providers to hand over customer details to law enforcement agencies should the need arise. On the other hand, shared IPs are shared across multiple users at the same time so it is pretty difficult for the providers to pinpoint the online activities of a particular user.

d) Personal Details – A lot VPN companies would be happy to offer you a VPN service in exchange of a working email address but many of them ask for personal details such as your address and working telephone number (or even worse, a Government issued ID). However, there are some VPN companies that allow you to subscribe anonymously (even with a disposable email address) and pay through virtual currencies like bitcoins.

f) Jurisdiction – This is an important consideration since it will help you to understand how the company responds to DMCA notices and judicial requests. Companies based in Europe (except Netherlands and Luxembourg) have to follow EU data retention laws so they can reveal a lot of personal details about their customers. Companies based in US do not have to log traffic but they still have to comply with judicial orders. In such circumstances, companies based at offshore locations are usually safe bets but you still need to read their Terms of Service and Privacy Policy in detail.

2) Performance Consideration

Next, you need to check the speed and bandwidth offered by the company. This is especially important if you plan to use the service for activities like streaming, torrenting, VOIP or gaming. Most big VPN companies promise unlimited bandwidth but you need to read the fine print to check whether the bandwidth is truly unlimited or gets capped after a certain point. If you plan to use the VPN service only for torrenting, VOIP or gaming; consider subscribing to providers offering dedicated plans for these activities.

3) VPN Gateways

This is an important consideration not only for those who wish to unlock On-Demand services from their home countries but also for globe trotters who need access to a reliable VPN service from anywhere in the world. A company with multiple VPN gateway locations should theoretically be able to deliver a faster service since there would be servers available at strategic locations throughout the world.

4) Price

A VPN provider should be able to justify the price that it is charging for its service. Most big VPN companies offer plans from $7-$15 per month and even provide significant discounts for long term subscriptions. However, it is a good idea to evaluate the performance of the service for at least a week before subscribing to long term plans. Check if the company offers free trials or refunds; test the service for a week or fortnight and then subscribe to a half-yearly or annual plan if you are happy with what the provider has to offer.

5) Ease of setup and Customer Support

This is a crucial consideration for those who consider themselves as tech novices. Most big VPN companies offer an easy to install and use VPN client that allows you to use the service with the click of a button. Even if the provider doesn’t offer its own client, it should provide detailed setup instructions for all Operating systems and devices. Also, check whether the provider offers live chat or remote support as it can help to resolve issues faster.

As it is clear from the above paragraphs, you need to do your homework before subscribing to a VPN service. You need to choose a VPN provider that offers great performance and high level of privacy for your needs being unduly expensive.

Some Recommended VPN Services Include:

May 1, 2014

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