Wi-Fi networks are great because they allow you to access the internet. However, they do pose a real problem, likely one you have never thought about: the possibility that someone is spying on you, or stealing confidential information about yourself. That is a major problem, which is why you should always take some time to look for the best VPN services.
However, choosing the right one is not the easiest task. Some VPNs will claim to give you great security for free, only for you to discover that they are actually selling off your data to third parties. Some will not give you as much protection, and some are really expensive for your budgetary limits. This makes it important to do a VPN service comparison and make sure you select the right product for you – but what are some of the criteria to use when choosing a VPN service? We look into that in this article and hopefully provide much-needed answers.
Considering your VPN requirements
Every VPN user will have different needs, so what works for so many people surfing on the internet will not necessarily work for you. The best method of selecting a good VPN service is to consider your own needs carefully before you even start shopping for a service to use. For instance, you might not shop for a VPN, because you eventually find out that the in-home solutions you use are good enough to protect you, such as the router solutions you might have.
There are a number of questions you will need to answer before comparing different VPNs, and know whether the one you want to use meets your needs.
Do you require secure access when using your home network?
If your major need when accessing the internet from your home network is increasing your online security, then you will not require a VPN provider in most cases.
When you think about it, it is not just an issue of the overkill that a VPN will provide in this case, but rather the VPN itself becoming the wrong tool to use in this task. Any remote VPN provider (the legitimate ones) will not give you access to your own network, but instead secure access to remote networks – for instance, an exit node that is located in Switzerland.
In order to access your own networks, you will have to get a VPN server that operates either on an attached device (for instance, an always-on desktop computer) or your home router. The VPN server you choose should also ideally be at the router level, in order to decrease power consumption, as well as increase security.
Because of this, it is best to flash the router to a DA-WRT state (this supports client mode and VPN servers) or buying routers that have an in-built VPN server.
Whether you require security during casual browsing
Even though you might not be the biggest fan of researching about VPNs, internet security or boosting online privacy, it is very important to have a VPN in your device if you are using a public Wi-Fi network. For example, when you want to use the Wi-Fi network in public transportation, the local coffee shop, the hotel you are staying at, or at the airport – you have no idea whether the Wi-Fi network in these places is secure, and it is better to be safe than sorry.
This is because there are chances that the router is using compromised and outdated firmware. Other than that, the router might be malicious, and might be logging your data and sniffing packets actively. The owner of the router might have configured its security settings improperly, and other users on the same network use the loopholes to steal your data.
At the end of the day, you might not have any guarantee that unknown Wi-Fi hotspots are safe, either because of poor configuration, security loopholes, or malicious activity. Using them without protection risks exposing your data. It is also important to note that just because the public network has a password, does not make it secure; if you need to enter a password to access the Wi-Fi, you might experience any security issue once you log in to the network.
In these cases though, you do not need to have a beastly-scale of a VPN provider in order to secure your browsing activity. What is great though, is that the home VPN server model we have outlined in the point before will still serve you as well as any paid VPN solution. The only point when you consider a paid solution is when you require a high bandwidth service that the home connection cannot solve, such as watching a large volume of streaming videos.
Whether you need to geo-shift
If your goal is appearing as though you are browsing in another country in order to access geo-restricted content (such as Netflix USA when you are not in the US), then a VPN service that has a server in the geographic region you want is always helpful.
If you need a US-based show that gives content only accessible from there, make sure the VPN provider has USA servers. Even if a provider is highly rated among users, it will hardly be of help if it cannot help you access the content you want or need.
Whether you require plausible deniability and anonymity
If your surfing requirements are more serious than accessing geo-restricted content or keeping snoopers on public internet networks away from your activity, then a VPN might not be a good option to use. The problem is that many VPNs will promise you an anonymous surfing experience, but the truth is that very few of them will keep this promise – so trusting your VPN provider to give you anonymity, it is not the best scenario.
In a case like this, it is better to use something that is similar to Tor, which is a better choice for anonymity compared to a VPN network.
However, many users tend to rely heavily on VPNs to make for some plausible deniability when they are sharing files, such as on BitTorrent. In this case, you will want a provider that has a no-logging policy and has a wide user base (this will increase the people using different exit nodes and make it harder to isolate specific users).
Choosing a VPN service can seem like the most daunting task, but these questions (and many more) will help you make a good decision.
Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!