We’re inclined to say there are only two types of VPN – good ones and bad ones. Fundamentally, that’s true, but we recognize that some VPN services have to specialize in order to provide a good service. Let’s break it down a bit:
· Free or Paid. This is one type of categorization we can agree with – some VPNs are indeed free and others cost money. With that said, the set of “free VPN services” roughly coincides with the set of “bad VPN services”. There are very good reasons why this is true. Primarily it’s that “nothing in this world is free”, meaning you’re paying for it one way or another. Free VPNs (and some paid ones) have been caught tracking their users’ activity and selling it off, using malware to steal information, and engaging in other malicious activities. While there are plenty of bad expensive VPNs, at least we know that they don’t need to do shady things to pay for the service. VPN is expensive to run – beware!
· Some VPN service providers are more focused on business, while others are more concerned with pleasure. The first category is more likely to have particularly strong security features, because their client base deals with sensitive issues. The entertainment-focused VPN services will be more concerned with passing geo-blocking restrictions and good performance, and less concerned with copyright laws. This is by no means a rule – what we said in the beginning is completely true. A good VPN will be just as good for business as it will be for pleasure.
When you choose a VPN, don’t fall for the illusion of VPN types!
Rating the best VPNs
Deciding on what the best VPN is – in general and for specific purposes – takes a lot of work, and we’re constantly making sure our ratings are up-to-date.
While we’re excited to read about exciting new features, we need to focus on the primary reason for a VPN: privacy and security.
That’s why we score so highly for VPNs with great data policies, leak-free connections, and strong encryption – and that also why we take off huge points if they fall short. After that, we can look at the other important aspects of the best VPN providers available.
Here’s what we look for in our VPN reviews and rankings:
- World-class privacy and security
- Reasonable pricing options
- Industry-leading speeds and performance
- Torrenting and bypassing geo-blocked content
- Reliable customer support
How we decide on VPN ratings: an in-depth look
We don’t take your privacy and security lightly, so we work hard to make sure our VPN ratings are always accurate and up-to-date. But we also understand that every user has different needs, and so we have to think of how a particular VPN provider can be used in any and every situation. That’s why all of our VPN ratings will look at our list of required features and aspects so we can decide how well they will perform in any given situation.
With that said, we also know how important it is to keep our reviews up-to-date, so that we don’t give low VPN scores for a brand that actually has improved their product.
When deciding on our rating requirements, we firmly believe that VPN service providers must first make their product secure. Only then can we think about all sorts of luxuries – torrenting, Netflix, Kodi, etc. But privacy, security, and anonymity are the life-blood of a VPN, and the best VPN services make this the heart of their products.
In fact, all VPN providers emphasize these aspects as much as possible, but sadly, not all of them are able to deliver on their promises. That’s when we’re forced to cut down their ratings a bit.
Being in the VPN space for quite a while, we understand the VPN providers’ situation: there are lots of boxes to tick, and ticking them can be very expensive or otherwise difficult.
Security and privacy require a high level of commitment to a set of principles. Therefore, really strong security credentials mean a lot more than just that – they mean the VPN service provider can be expected to make ethical decisions on a wider scale. And then, to make their offers appealing, they’ll have to be functional.
Here are some questions we ask before giving out ratings for the VPNs we review:
- How well does it work around the globe? The number of servers means very little without context. Some VPN providers have a lot of them, but they are mostly concentrated in a couple of regions, largely ignoring others. Furthermore, some countries restrict VPN use and not all VPN providers find ways to function regardless of blocking efforts.
- How good is it against geo-blocking measures? (Netflix, BBC iPlayer, etc.) We recognize that many people use the services of VPN providers purely for accessing geo-blocked content, whatever that may be.
- Is it good for torrenting? Some VPN providers block P2P traffic, others are simply not safe enough for P2P. Torrents are one of the main reasons for using a VPN around the world.
- Is it good to use on a variety of devices? Most VPN service providers offer apps for the 4 main platforms – Windows, Mac, Android, iOS. Some of the stronger tools have additional custom clients – for Linux, routers, and various other device types. However, a VPN may not have an app for a particular platform, but the platform may still be supported.
- Does the service offer good support? We separate this into two sections. There are self-help resources – guides, FAQs, forums, etc. Usually, there is also some sort of customer support system in place – live chat, support tickets, etc.
- How easy is it to use? We look at how intuitive the GUI is, how well-structured is the website and other such questions.
All these factors helps us to decide whether the product is a good or bad fit for the average user.
What type of VPN gets our top score?
Over the past decade, we have seen hundreds of tools emerge and fade away. A select few of these improved their offerings and became known as the best VPN providers – ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and others. There is a qualitative difference to these companies, which boils down to a lot more than just the number of servers or features.
So what makes a top VPN provider? The very best VPN services on the market have one thing in common – they are committed to the vision of a free internet. They believe in the right to do things freely and anonymously, and they believe in the potential that only true liberty can unlock. Once you let this vision guide you, the path is clear:
- Make sure your encryption is unbreakable, and there are no other ways to get to the user.
- Don‘t become the same thing you‘re protecting people from – know as little about them as you can.
- Open all borders, not just the border between Europe and Netflix. The internet should be as free in China as it is in the US.
- Make your service available on as many devices as possible!
If you accomplish this, you can be one of the top rated VPN providers.
The digital world is evolving, and soon enough, the right to internet access will become universally accepted. Becoming one of the best VPN providers requires a combination of technical prowess, understanding of the context in which VPN exists, and accessibility.
However, to be the very best you must add something extra as well – a forward-thinking approach. The digital space is evolving just as much as it is expanding, and all of the most powerful players are shaping it in a way that‘s most beneficial to them.
Hopefully, our reviews, comparisons, VPN ratings and other resources can steer you out of harm‘s way and toward a borderless, unlimited digital world!