So you have decided that you need a VPN. Congratulations! VPNs are useful tools for protecting your data in the 21st century, keeping you safer from malicious attackers as well as nefarious data collectors like websites, internet service providers and even governments. Almost anyone can use a VPN successfully, which is why VPNs are such popular and effective security tools.
However, there is a step between deciding to get a VPN and using your VPN to keep your data safe: choosing which VPN is right for you. Here are a few questions to help guide you through the VPN selection process, so you can find the best VPN for your needs:
What Do You Need a VPN for?
The purpose of a VPN is to encrypt your data as you access the internet — and this can be useful for a variety of reasons. Before you obtain a VPN, you need to think of what activity you hope to perform on a VPN, which will help guide you toward the best VPN for your needs. Some common reasons for using a VPN include:
You are a remote worker, contractor or freelancer. Data created for business use can be sensitive in nature, so if you are using your device and internet connection to complete work, you might want to take advantage of a VPN. Your employer should be willing to compensate you for the cost of a VPN if they cannot provide you access to their own VPN services; if you are self-employed, you can count a VPN as a business-related expense for tax reasons.
You regularly rely on public Wi-Fi. We have known for years that public Wi-Fi isn’t secure. Anyone on a public Wi-Fi network can see anyone else’s device and monitor the data they send over the network. A VPN encrypts that data, making it much safer to use public Wi-Fi networks.
You don’t trust your ISP, app developers or government. All sorts of entities benefit from monitoring your data, not just the odd cybercriminal in a coffee shop. Your internet service provider, software developers and even government agencies could be watching what you do online and using that data in ways you don’t approve of. To stop all prying eyes from seeing your data, you can use a VPN.
You want access to online content in other locations. Netflix, Hulu and other online media sources vary the content they have available to audiences in different locations. You don’t have to travel to gain access to all the media available online; you can merely log onto a VPN, which disguises the location of your device.
Which VPN Qualities Matter?
Once you have identified why you want a VPN, you can start to understand which VPN qualities apply best to your needs. Some qualities that typically matter to home users include:
Cost. VPNs rely on both software and servers, which require consistent upkeep. Thus, no quality VPN is free. Still, there are more and less affordable VPN options; expensive VPNs might have more robust security and other useful features.
Coverage. What devices can utilize the VPN? You can find VPN browser apps that protect only the data generated in that browser, there are VPN software options that protect all data on a particular device, or you might want a VPN-ready router that keeps all data on the home Wi-Fi network encrypted.
Ease of use. Many VPNs are developed with beginner VPN users in mind, but some fall short of being easy for users to implement. If you aren’t exceedingly tech savvy, you might want to prioritize user-friendliness among your VPN features.
Speed. Devices must connect to the VPN before they connect to the internet, so VPNs can have a significant effect on page load speeds. If you are using a VPN for streaming media — or if you get easily frustrated by slow internet — you need a high speed VPN.
What Is the Customer Service Experience?
Whenever you are going to invest in a tech service, you need to consider the quality of the company’s customer service. Even if you feel confident in your ability to download, install and use a VPN without assistance, you also need to be confident that your VPN’s customer support team can guide you through issues that might arise with your VPN. Before you buy any particular service, you might spend some time chatting with the customer service team about details like how the VPN secures user data or which devices are covered; their willingness to offer such information will clue you in on how they will treat you when you are a paying customer.
It took you some time to decide to acquire a VPN, and you shouldn’t rush to use the first VPN you find. The reason why you need a VPN should guide you toward the most practical features for you, so you can weigh the pros and cons of different VPN options and gain access to the perfect VPN for you.