Now that you understand a few reasons why you might want to use a VPN service, the next step is to decide which features are important to you before you choose a VPN provider and download the software.
Step 1: Decide Which Type of VPN is Right for You
Ask yourself: Why do I need a VPN and how am I going to use it? One reason could be that you want to watch Netflix shows not available in your home country. Another reason may be that you travel for work and constantly connect to free Wi-Fi networks to stay caught up on work.
TIP: At this stage of the process, it’s a good idea to write down the features that matter most to you in a VPN service. You can refer back to the list you created to figure out whether a particular VPN is right for you as you move forward with your search.
The right VPN service depends on your situation and priorities. Here are a four factors to consider:
- Video Streaming
Some people use VPNs because they want to access content that is blocked or not available in their country. Soccer matches, for example, may not broadcast in your region but can be viewed by tunneling through a VPN provider’s server in another country. If streaming content from abroad is your top reason for a VPN, focus your search on providers with servers in the countries you want to stream video from that also support your devices.
- Multiple Devices
The best VPN for you might come down to the number of devices that can simultaneously connect to a VPN service. Five device connections is the standard for most VPN companies, and up to 25 devices is a possibility. An alternative option would be to connect a VPN to a router, which protects more devices at once. Connecting a router, however, may require the purchase of a new, compatible router.
Peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P), also known as torrenting, is useful for exchanging large files without the need for a centralized server. Torrenting requires the use of a P2P client, such as BitTorrent. Some ISPs block BitTorrent and similar services out of concern that users illegally share copyrighted material. Top VPNs clearly mark servers that are best for a particular use, such as torrenting or streaming.
- Free vs. Paid VPNs
As you begin looking for a VPN, you’ll see there are free and paid VPN options to choose from. Due to our VPN research and testing, we always recommend paid plans, but free VPN services are available with security features that are comparable to paid services. However, you’ll need to do your homework and decide if you’re willing to accept a few tradeoffs:
- Ads: If a company doesn’t charge for its VPN services, it may display a hefty amount of ads to recoup costs and turn a profit. If the last thing you want is to see more internet ads, it is best to stick with a paid VPN.
- Data collection: Certain free VPN services may even sell off data about you in order to finance server expenses. This defeats the purpose of a VPN, but a free VPN might be better than no VPN in certain situations. If you choose a free service, make sure you understand its privacy policies.
These aren’t the only factors you’ll want to consider when deciding on a VPN. Keep top of mind where the VPN company is located, its customer trust levels and how well it performs in speed tests. These are all elements we considered in our list of best VPNs.
Step 2: Sign Up For a VPN Service
Now you’re ready to start looking at your specific VPN options. There are lots of brands for you to consider, each of which will have its own set of pros and cons. Here’s a list of some of the most widely used VPNs to get you started: