How to choose a VPN service

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referfreVirtual Private Network (VPN) services are a fantastic way to improve your safety online. Put simply, a VPN encrypts the internet connection from your device, allowing you to browse the internet safely and anonymously. Whether you just want to improve your network safety in public, watch the latest films and TV series on Netflix without geographical restrictions, or perhaps need safer internet access in countries where censorship and surveillance are more prevalent, a good VPN can help you meet your requirements.

Once you start looking for a VPN, you will quickly find out that there are a huge range of VPN services out there and a lot of them might not offer you the services that you want. Prices can also vary wildly depending on what is on offer, so you will want to make sure you’re getting the best VPN for your money. We’ve put together a quick list of questions you should be asking yourself when it comes to buying a VPN.

What do you want to use a VPN for?

The first thing you should ask yourself is why you want a VPN and what are you planning to use it for? Your answer might be that you want to mask your IP so that it looks like you’re connecting to a website from another location. Great! The good news is there are a tonne of VPN services that allow you to do this.

This is especially helpful if you want to connect to social media sites that are restricted in certain countries, for example if you’re studying abroad in China you would not be able to connect to Facebook without a VPN. If you want to access more content on Netflix or watch services like BBC iPlayer from outside the UK, you can also use this feature to unblock geographical locations. Note however that Netflix takes a harder stance and does block many VPN services, so you will need to do a little more research to make sure the VPN service offers access to Netflix when it comes to choosing your VPN.

Maybe you’re looking for something a bit more serious than catching up with your friends on Facebook or watching unrestricted TV. Staying safe and secure online is a growing concern in a world where hacking and internet snooping has become commonplace. A VPN can be a good way to protect you and your device, particularly if you’re connecting to public Wi-Fi services. Check whether the VPN service you’re interested in offers strong encryption and what protocol they support – for example PPTP is out of date and uses weak encryption, so should be avoided if security is your concern. PPTP also has many known security issues and should be avoided.

Where are the servers based? Where are you?

This is another key question to consider regardless of what you actually want to do with your VPN. If for example you have picked a VPN service with the express purpose of gaining access to the full catalogue of US Netflix content and you’re not interested in what other countries have to offer, you should go for a VPN that is based in the US (Or your country of interest). This will help decrease the time it takes to load your content. A server based further away from the US would logically take longer to load and connect.

Will this keep me anonymous online?

If you’re using a VPN for the express purpose of safety and anonymity online, there are a couple of things you will want to check when considering the right VPN for your needs. One thing to check is whether the VPN service keeps any records of your activity when browsing online. Most VPN services do not keep track of any activity and many of the larger VPN services will tell you this. If the service you’re looking at does not say anything about activity logging or you’re simply not sure, keep looking until you find a VPN that you’re happy with.

Another thing to consider is what payment options the VPN provider offers. Obviously, credit card payments are trackable and will not provide you anonymity but there are other payment options available that can help protect your safety and identity which many VPN providers do accept. One particular method is purchasing gift cards and then exchanging them for credit that can be used to pay for your VPN privately. Again, if you’re looking for something less serious such as just accessing Netflix, you probably don’t need to be too concerned about anonymous payment methods.

A quick recap

These are all important things to consider when looking for the right VPN for you, so here is a quick recap of the points mentioned in this article.

  • Consider what you want to do with your VPN – do you want to watch content online without restrictions, or are you looking for safe and secure online browsing, or maybe both?
  • Take a look at where the server is based – is the location appropriate for what you want to use the VPN for?
  • Will the features offered by the VPN service provide security and anonymity?
Published by Kidal Delonix (763 Posts)

Kidal Delonix is a contributor to Mr. Hoffman's blog. The views and opinions are entirely his/her own and may not reflect Mr Hoffman's views.

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