You may know what a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is; you probably don’t use one. You really should be using a VPN, and even if you don’t think so now, at some point in the future you may consider it as important as your internet connection.
The guide is really for the beginner, although hopefully it will be of some use to everyone.
When we look at what is deemed to be the five favourite VPN service providers, we noticed a few things. First, being the “best” is big business for VPN providers, and they’ll fight dirty to be one of them. Second, there are so many VPN providers that it’s difficult to choose a really good one. VPN’s are not all created equally, and in this post, we’re going to look at what a VPN is, why you want one, and how to pick the best one for you.
So, Let’s get started.
What Is a VPN?
Put simply, a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a group of computers (or discrete networks) networked together through over a public network—namely, the internet. Businesses use VPNs to connect remote data centers, and individuals can use VPN s to get access to network resources when they’re not physically on the same LAN (local area network), or as a method for securing and encrypting their communications when they’re using an untrusted public network.
When you connect to a VPN, you usually launch a VPN client on your computer (or click a link on a special website), log in with your credentials, and your computer exchanges trusted keys with a faraway server. Once both computers have verified each other as authentic, all of your internet communication is encrypted and secured from eavesdropping.
The most important thing you need to know about a VPN:
It secures your computer’s internet connection to guarantee that all of the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and secured from prying eyes.
Whether the VPN’s you’re familiar with are the ones offered by your school or business to help you work or stay connected when you’re traveling or the ones you pay to get you watch your favorite shows in another country as they air, they’re all doing the same thing. For much more detail on what VPNs are, how they work, and how they’re used, check out this How Stuff Works article.
Why You Need a VPN, or How You Can Benefit from Using One
A VPN alone is just a way to bolster your security and access resources on a network you’re not physically connected to. What you choose to do with a VPN is a different story. Usually, VPN users fall into a few separate categories:
Even if none of the above really sound right to you, you can still benefit from using a VPN. You should definitely use one when you travel or work on an untrusted network (read: a network you don’t own, manage, or trust who manages.) That means opening your laptop at the coffee shop and logging in to Facebook or using your phone’s Wi-Fi to check your email at the airport can all potentially put you at risk.
We’ve shown you how to build your own VPN for remote gaming and browsing that also protects your security, shown you how to make a VPN even more secure, and shown you dozens of services that operate free and paid VPN’s you can sign up for and use. We’ve even put the question to you several times to tell us which VPN service providers you think are the best. So how do you pick a solid VPN service?
What Makes for a Good VPN?
The best VPN’s offer a solid balance of features, server location, connectivity protocols, and price. Some are great for occasional use, others are geared towards getting around the location restrictions companies put on their apps and services, and others are targeted at people who do heavy downloading and want a little privacy while they do it. Here’s what you should look for.
Samara Lynn, Lead Analyst for Networking and Small Business at PCMag said:
Whether or not a user shopping for a VPN should shop for one over another. “SSL is what is commonly used these days. All of these protocols will provide a secure connection,” she explained, and pointed out that most solutions are invisible to the end-user anyway. Strictly, each protocol has its benefits and drawbacks, and if you’re concerned about this (specifically, PPTP vulnerabilities,) you’re probably already aware of them. Most users don’t need to be concerned about this—corporate users on the other hand, are probably all using IPSec or SSL clients anyway.
Which VPN’s Are The Best? (how long is a piece of string)
Over the last few months we have been looking at VPN service providers, at the beginning I didn’t think it would take so long to come up with a top five based on our own research whether you’re the privacy advocate, the student, or the downloader.
Private Internet Access
Supports: Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android
Protocols: SSL, PPTP, IPSec, and L2TP. You can also configure Private Internet Access to work on your DD-WRT or Tomato router (via SSL/OpenVPN) for constant security.
Home Country: United States, and has exit servers in the US, Canada, the UK, Switzerland, Romania, and the Netherlands.
Logging Policies: The service keeps no logs of your activity whatsoever (in fact, the only things they do keep are your email address and payment information,) uses shared IPs, and has committed to keeping your data private. Price: Pricing starts at £2.25pm to £24.85/yr, and you can read more about their plans and pricing here.
Supports: Windows, OS X, iOS
Protocols: SSL, PPTP.
Home Country: United States, with exit servers in the US, The Netherlands, Singapore, and the UK.
Logging Policies: proXPN keeps minimal logs of your activity. proXPN collects your email address, payment information (if you’re a premium user,) bandwidth usage, connection duration, and login/logout times. They’ve committed to only keeping those logs for 14 days or less, and promise to never share their logs with anyone, period.
Price: proXPN has a free plan, which limits your transfer speeds to 300kpbs and restricts you to one exit location (Miami) in the United States. Premium accounts unlock support for PPTP (if you want to connect a mobile device or a router,) remove the transfer cap, and allows you to choose from any of the company’s other exit locations. Premium plans start at £3.88 /pm, and you can read more about their pricing and plans here.
Supports: Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, iOS, Android, xBox, PS3, Symbian
Protocols: SSL (they often refer to it as OpenVPN), PPTP, and full SSH tunnelling.
Home Country: 17 countries.
UK, USA, Switzerland, Canada, Spain, Italy, France, Holland, Egypt, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Russia, Singapore, Luxembourg, Poland and Germany (Dynamic) Shared IP VPN Tunneling services. Multi user access VPN accounts! A wide range of accounts are available. A single VPNUK account will give two simultaneous users access to over 100 servers in 17 countries. You can buy an account for your own use or purchase multiple access and share the VPN Account with family or friends located anywhere in the world. You can connect to all of our servers over PPTP, L2TP with IPSEC and OpenVPN. You can also use the innovative VPNUK Smart DNS service on all accounts.
Logging Policies: The service doesn’t log your connection aside from bandwidth usage to compare against your quota, and your payment details. They also are committed to your privacy, and specifically say they won’t surrender their data without a court order.
Price: The cheapest price plan is £5.99 pm, Shared (Dynamic) IP (2 users). Dedicated (Static) IP VPN £9.99 pm.You can read more about their pricing and plans here.
IP Connect UK
Supports: Windows, OS X, Linux, and iOS and Android via built-in VPN
Protocols: SSL (OpenVPN), PPTP, and L2TP, (with 256 bit security)
Home Country: UK.
Price: No pricing available you have to phone for information.
You can read more about their pricing and plans here.
My Private Network
Supports: Windows, OS X, Linux, and iOS and Android
Protocols: SSL (OpenVPN), PPTP, and L2TP, (with 256 bit security)
Home Country: UK.
They support all the main VPN protocols and your one account with us will provide access to :
Price: Single Country Subscription £5.00 pm. Global Subscription £9.00pm
Alternatively, Roll Your Own VPN
We’ve shown you how to roll your own VPN using Hamachi, and even how to set up Privoxy to secure your web browsing once you have your personal VPN setup. Hamachi isn’t the only option: you can also download and configure OpenVPN (a free SSL VPN) on your own home server,, or if you have a router that supports it, enable OpenVPN on your home router so you can connect back to it when you’re abroad. Combined with Privoxy, you get the privacy and anonymity benefits of a VPN without spending a dime.
Both of these options put control in your hands, and while they’re not quite as anonymous as subscription methods or offer international exit locations, they do give you the the most important benefits of a VPN: security, privacy, and anonymity while you’re away from home.