Deciding to use a VPN for Internet browsing and keeping your network data safe creates an additional problem to solve: choosing the best VPN provider in a growing marketplace that has started to resemble a war zone. As VPN providers compete for your hard earned dollar it has become more difficult to navigate the minefield and choose a service option that will provide legitimate value.
Choosing a VPN is tricky
You could rightfully say that a large number of people now recognize how important it is to use a VPN when accessing the Internet. From desktops to laptops, smartphones to tablets, and even popular gaming systems like the PS4 and Xbox One, almost every device capable of accessing the Internet comes with a pre-installed VPN client. A big part of this is that desktop computers no longer account for the greater part of Internet use, even at home where they have been dominant. According to a recent survey by Nielsen, the company responsible for television ratings, the average person spends over 34 hours each month accessing the Internet from a smartphone while spending just 27 hours using a computer to browse. These figures are up sharply from just one year ago.
The message is clear: we are a mobile society. The mobile-driven Internet landscape has fostered a boom in the VPN market as users realize they need to take precautions when using unsecured public networks. A market surge is both good and bad. It is good because it forces providers to offer competitive pricing. It is bad because it also results in a large number of providers appearing that simply do not match up well with their competitors. This makes choosing the right VPN tricky.
What makes a good VPN?
We’d be lying if we said most people don’t think about price first, but there is a big difference between cheap and affordable. A cheap VPN provider might be able to offer service for almost nothing…even free in some cases…but there are always consequences to choosing this type of provider. They may offer limited server locations, maintain logs of customer data, or, even worse, sell the browsing preferences or email addresses of their customers to marketing companies.
What you really want is an affordable VPN. Reliable VPN service should cost something but it doesn’t have to dent your pocket book. Most legitimate VPN providers will also offer discounts when you purchase a year of service at a time. This can save you a significant amount of money in the long run.
You will also want a VPN provider that offers servers in multiple locations, especially if you are an expat that does a lot of traveling to different locations. The ideal VPN should give you servers in the US and abroad so that you can connect anywhere at any time without restrictions.
Customer service is a big part of selecting the right service. When you have a problem with your VPN you want someone to give you help in a timely fashion. Many “free” VPN accounts do not even have customer service personnel on the payroll. When your VPN is working this is not a big deal, but when you need help with an issue while you are in Egypt because you need to use Skype to contact your family back home it becomes a huge deal.
What is the VPN provider’s policy about logs? Do they keep records of user’s activity? What if some agency comes knocking asking for user logs? How will your provider respond? The best providers have nothing to turn over because they do not keep logs.
These are important questions to ask as you enter the VPN war zone and try to become more informed before you select a provider. It is easier and better to answer these questions now than it is to realize you have made a poor choice and must now look for a better VPN.
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