Not all VPNs are created equal, and they certainly don’t all cost the same. So what makes a premium VPN worth the money?
Here are the key questions to consider when settling on a VPN provider and trying to decide whether it lives up to its price.
What should I look for in a safe VPN?
If you are already using a VPN, or considering doing so, you are probably well aware of the benefits, such as ensuring your privacy on unfamiliar networks, preventing outsiders from logging your browsing history, keeping your internet service provider from monitoring your activity, and opening up censored content.
A VPN confers these benefits by acting as a middleman between your device and the websites and apps you visit. VPNs set up an encrypted tunnel and route all your internet traffic through it, making it impenetrable for hackers, snoops, your ISP, or other pesky entities.
When you’re connected to a VPN, websites and services see the VPN’s IP address instead of your actual one, enhancing your privacy, anonymity, and security.
Here’s what to look for when picking a VPN:
Policy on logs
Whenever you connect to a VPN server, you’re trusting the company with your digital footprint. With all your internet traffic now routed through that VPN server, it has the potential to track and monitor what you do online, unless the company takes pains to make this impossible.
A VPN should never record any of your online activity or keep tabs on when you connect. It should be fully transparent about exactly what data it collects, and why. And you may also want to consider a VPN that is based in a jurisdiction that does not have data retention laws, so that it cannot be compelled to keep records of customers’ online activity.
Choice of protocol and additional security measures
When discussing the encrypted protocol that VPNs set up, it’s important to understand the technical specifications.
VPN protocols define how two devices talk to each other. The choice of protocol will determine the underlying encryption standard, resulting in differing levels of speed and security. One widely used protocol is OpenVPN, which is open-source—making it subject to oversight and scrutiny by cybersecurity experts. Similarly, the core codebase of the Lightway protocol has also been made open-source.
Additional security measures such as an internet kill switch are also crucial. A kill switch keeps your data safe even if your VPN connection drops, preventing leakage of internet traffic outside the encrypted tunnel until protection is restored.
VPN costs: How much should you pay?
To provide private and secure traffic, a VPN must have a connection to a large internet backbone. The bandwidth required to service hundreds of thousands of users is huge and costs a lot of money.
Not only that, a VPN also has other costs to consider, such as maintenance, office expenses, staff salaries, and other operational overhead. How could anyone offer all this for free?
Premium VPNs, those that zealously guard your privacy and make it their utmost priority, need to spend money to do so. Only then can they hire the best and brightest, invest in the most secure infrastructure, and have a stellar customer support team to address your concerns.
VPN costs should, therefore, range between 8 USD and 10 USD a month.
To recap, a good, risk-free VPN service should include the following things:
- A transparent policy toward logs
- Registration in a country without data retention laws
- Leak protection and an internet kill switch
- Use of superior VPN protocols
- Customer support team
At the end of the day, a VPN can be an essential tool in your arsenal if you wish to enhance your privacy on the web and remain secure.