What are the best Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)?
A VPN can be described as an encrypted tunnel that shuttles your internet activity between your computer or phone and a host server. While the internet is a public space, a VPN works by extending an invisibility cloak across the user's activity and allows people to send and receive data in a mostly anonymous manner. In the simplest terms, a VPN makes it hard for someone to track your activity.
There are many different reasons people would want to use a VPN. In some countries, VPNs become a journalist's main tool to get around government censorship and geo-blocks.
It's true, there are plenty of free VPN services out there, but none that you can truly trust. You need a service that has fast speeds, even when streaming video, and you want a service that doesn't keep logs of its users' activities. To help you decide which VPN is best, here are some great options that are available now.
NordVPN is operated in Panama, which means it has no legal obligation to record any of the activities of its users. You're free to connect to any of the 1,109 VPN servers in 61 different countries, and you can use NordVPN on up to 6 different devices at once. To get around this restriction, however, it can be set up on your router, in which case it will handle any devices connected to your network.
Windows Central awarded NordVPN a near-perfect score in its review, focusing on the large set of extra features available to users. Want to watch Netflix from a different country? No problem. You can also take advantage of a double VPN, P2P-dedicated servers, a DNS leak resolver, and a dedicated single IP service.
With rock-solid encryption and plenty of connection protocols for you to use, including OpenVPN, this is one of the best VPNs operating today. Grab a yearly subscription for about $5.75 per month.
ExpressVPN is a British Virgin Islands-based VPN provider that has always led the way when it comes to offering a customer-focused service. Ease of use, a highly responsive 24/7 customer service team, and an industry-leading, no quibbles, 30-day money-back guarantee ensure ExpressVPN's place at the top of the VPN industry.
The service is easy to use with a simple setup (if you get stuck, there's always a live customer support chat on its site), and it has strong encryption with minimal logs. If you're ready for unlimited bandwidth, unlimited server switches, unlimited speed, servers in 94 countries, and more, have a look at ExpressVPN. A yearly subscription costs about $8 per month.
IPVanish is one of the easiest VPNs to use, thanks to an app with a user interface that appeals to both novices and experts alike. In our review, we gave IPVanish a four-star rating for its strong encryption, excellent performance, and large set of servers. While it is based in the U.S., it promises to keep no logs other than payment information, which can be avoided by paying with Bitcoin.
IPVanish has more than 40,000 shared IP addresses on more than 850 servers in more than 60 countries. That's some serious diversity, and there's no limit on how many times you can switch servers. You can essentially move around until you find one that's fastest. Toss in a kill switch, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and manual port selection, and this becomes a very attractive option. Yearly plans start at about $6.50 per month.
Private Internet Access VPN
When it comes to a VPN and its apps, some people want a UI that has only what is needed. Private Internet Access is exactly this. With one click, you'll be connected to a server of your choosing. There are over 3,200 servers in 25 different countries, and they support torrenting without jeopardizing speeds. Private Internet Access is based in the U.S., but does not log its users' activity beyond payment information.
With government spooks, hackers, and advertisers all hungry for our personal information, virtual private networks (VPNs) are essential tools. And Private Internet Access is among the best, offering a robust collection of features in a feather-light package for less than the price of a Netflix subscription.
Toss in some ad blocking features as well as varied, budget subscription options — get a full year for just $40 — and this service might be your first choice, especially if you like your UI as simple as possible.
Updated July 2017: We've refreshed this list to ensure you're still getting the best VPNs available right now.