What to ask when you shop for VPN
Not all VPN services are the same and not all protect your identity. If your only aim is to secure business communications from prying eyes and anonymity is of little importance, most VPN providers will achieve this goal for you. Bear in mind no VPN provider condones illegal activity and using any such service for that purpose is a risk you take upon yourself. Of course activism is one reason to use a VPN and in some jurisdictions, merely criticising your government may be illegal. This reviewer does not condone criminal activity such as hacking, harrasment, illegal porn, selling drugs, spamming, etc but does believe if freedom those who take risks to obtain that freedom.
If you desire anonymity then be aware that not all providers protect your identity. I reliable service that DOES NOT provide anonymity would be HideMyAss (we suggest you avoid this company) but if you read their privacy notice they reserve the right to retain logs of when and where you connect for up to two years. Your actual data and web activities may not be saved however if someone (Court Order etc) demands what IP you were using on any particular day or time, that can lead from your computer to each web site you visited on the other end and to the IP address you used as assigned by your ISP. I consider this a half-measure protection that may be fine for you. It locks down your actual data but not who you are or what web sites you may visit etc.
Most if not all of these services will also work on your smart phone for web access.
None of these will protect voice conversation over your normal cell network! There may be some protection using separate VoIP apps.
If you are going to spend the money anyway, go for the full Monthly!
- Here are some good questions to ask before you buy. ( We have done this research and provide our recommendations below with direct links to their sites )
- Do you keep ANY logs which would allow you or a 3rd party to match an IP-address and a time stamp to a user of your service? If so, exactly what information do you hold?
- Under what legal jurisdictions does your company operate and under what exact circumstances will you share the information you hold with a 3rd party? Keep in mind that while a provider may have a "no logs" policy it does not mean they will not log your specific traffic pursuant to a warrent or court order.
Avoid: USA, UK
- In the event you receive a DMCA takedown notice or European equivalent, how are these handled?
- Which payment systems do you operate and how are these linked to individual user accounts?
Some accept Bitcoin payments which assures they don't even know who is paying for their service.
- Another option offered by some VPN providers is to accept payment via numerous pre-paid gift cards which can be purchased anonymously. Use a temporary or secure email from a provider such as Hushmail or others. A few VPN providers even provide a free email service.
- Ease of Payment. Do you accept recognized payment processors and/or Bitcoin? Some providers only accept other less-than-mainstream payment providers which I personally would tend to avoid.
- Ask your provider about BitTorrent access. Many, due to piracy, are blocking access to torrens in US and England. If you plan to use torrents check before you buy.
- Blocking of SMTP ports. Many block port 25 due to spamming but most permit other ports or provide for whitelisting of your mail server's IP address.
- Do you provide/assist with DNS leak protection?
- Do you provide your own DNS servers?
Of course read their terms of service and privacy notice carefully. It will tell you if they are serious about protecting your privacy. Check several trusted online reviews related to security for their ratings on privacy. Everything is subject to change.
|Provider / Notes||Annual Cost||PayPal||BitCoin|
|PIA, Private Internet Access (Review)||$39.96||x||x|
|Earth VPN (Review)||$39.99||x||x|
|IP Vanish 3||$58.49||x||x|
|NordVPN (Review) 3||$69.00||x||x|
|Slick VPN (Review) 2||$48.00|
|Opera Developer Browser. Provided free built in VPN service. Note this only protects your web browsing but does not provide VPN for any other apps or email on your system. There are a couple of options to add free VPN to Chrome and it's derivatives with similar limitations.||FREE|
|IVACY VPN (Review)||$54||x||x|
|Not all providers bill you in the same way so where there is no annual fee posted on their site we have calculated it for you to the best of our ability. Always visit their site for full details. Price is not necessarily an indication of the quality of service.|
|HideMyAss turns over logs, hacker arrested.|
|Do you want to suggest a VPN for us to review? Click Here and tell us.|
A list of VPN's who do keep some logs.
2. Not Recommended
3. Offer month to month and other alternative payment plans and methods.
4. Smartphone app available (pending)
Strange as it may sound one of the first sites I head to when trying a new VPN is the random video chat site Omegle. Why? Because it seems to be pretty sensitive about VPN connections. I don't know that Omegle itself is doing anything to try to discourage VPN but I find that some VPN's simply will not allow that site to function fully. Omegle uses a combination of Ajax programming and Flash. My feeling is that one of the purposes of any VPN (aside from privacy) is the ability to access sites you may not otherwise access due to your location or embarrasment factor (smile).
This site seems to provide a consistent result for testing because I generally find that if I can fully access Omegle I can pretty much access anything. But note...some may abuse Omegle's TOS via any VPN leaving that particular IP banned for a few weeks.
Some problems encountered were: Flash for video just never loads. Flash loads but cannot connect to server. Connects to server but then the video windows vanish leaving you text-only connections. Occasionally will just say your network is banned.
DNS Leak test. This site will let you know if your VPN connection is exposing your ISP DNS. Of course if you are pursuing security you will change your DNS to use something like Google or OpenDNS instead of your ISP's DNS which makes this test irrelevant.
Always check TOS: Do they promise they keep NO logs or SOME logs? If they do keep logs we will not list or review them.