When it comes to VPNs, choosing one service provider out of many options can be quite tricky. Each company may have different values and offer distinct benefits. For this reason, we have compiled 7 of the most essential features to look out for when looking for the right VPN. With these, you won’t have to spend hours researching.
What to look for in VPNs?
1. Strong encryption
Encryption is the most important feature of VPNs that distinguishes them from proxy servers. While the latter can route your data through third-party servers, it does not offer additional protection as VPNs do.
Connecting to the web through a safe VPN means that the service creates an encrypted, secure tunnel for data packets. It is tough to breach, and a decryption key is needed to read the data.
Therefore, a VPN is a good solution for users who sometimes use public and unsecured Wi-Fi networks, which can be infiltrated by hackers. When searching for a good VPN provider, look for strong encryption techniques, such as AES, which is the most commonly used.
Nothing is completely fail-safe. Sometimes your connection to the VPN server may get interrupted. If this happens and you remain connected to the internet, you will lose all protection – encrypted tunneling, IP masking, etc.
The best VPN providers can guarantee you will be safe even if something happens to their servers or connection. How? By offering you Kill-Switch.
Kill-Switch is a handy feature that completely cuts off your internet when your connection to a VPN server is interrupted. This way, you don’t have to worry about accidentally revealing your data.
3. No-log policy
Many people choose to use a VPN because they do not want to share their data with third parties, such as advertisers. However, this reasoning only works if the VPN provider promises not to keep logs of its users’ online activity.
Most VPN companies collect some data to analyze and improve their services, but some also do it for profit. For example, they may collect data about your activity and sell it to advertisers, who will then use it for targeted marketing.
It is best to look for VPN providers that promise not to collect and keep activity records. Some even use RAM-only servers that are physically incapable of long-term file storage.
4. Obfuscated servers
While a VPN provides a great deal of protection and privacy, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can know that you are using it by analyzing the data you send and receive.
Usually, this does not create any problems, as using a VPN is 100% legal in most places. Your ISP may know you are using a VPN, but it won’t be able to determine what you are doing with it, and that’s all that matters.
However, there are some cases where standard VPN servers will not suffice. If you travel or live in a country with strict internet censorship, you may find VPN services blocked or even illegal there.
This is where obfuscated servers come to the rescue. These specialized servers are designed to “trick” providers into thinking you are not using a VPN at all. They alter your data packets to resemble “normal” ones (not VPN-routed).
If you are worried that your ISP or the government will block or penalize VPN usage, you should check out providers that offer obfuscated servers.
5. Split tunneling
Split tunneling is a handy feature that allows you to choose which applications should use the VPN and which should connect to the internet normally.
This can come in handy if you want to save some bandwidth. Connecting to a VPN server can slow down your internet a bit (especially if the server is far away), but by manually selecting which applications should use re-routed data, this slowdown will be almost imperceptible.
6. Possibility of testing
Even with all these tips, choosing the best VPN for your needs may take some trial and error. Each provider offers slightly different benefits – while one service will be faster, another will allow you to connect multiple devices to a single account, etc.
Our advice is to test several services to find the one that suits you best. How? A VPN free trial is probably the best way to go. If not, look for providers that offer a money-back guarantee.
This will allow you to test the service without risk. Who knows, maybe the first tested one will be the one you will stick with?
7. Bandwidth and data limits
Some VPN providers limit their bandwidth and data in order to offer high speeds to all their users. This is understandable, as hundreds of people using the same network simultaneously will significantly strain it.
However, the best VPNs on the market do not limit their users or offer different subscription plans for different needs. This allows you to choose the plan that suits you best – if you are not going to use the VPN that often, you can choose a cheaper option. If you want to download a lot of data, a no-limit plan would be best for you.