Most of the top VPN companies offer price points roughly in the same neighborhood. Some offer the same plan and give you the opportunity to pick the length of the subscription. Longer durations usually end up being cheaper than going month-to-month. Others offer increasing levels of service where the more expensive plans get you more simultaneous connections, bandwidth, etc.
It’s important to note here that almost every VPN provider will set your plan to auto renew as a default. Say you purchase a year term up front, it is in the terms and conditions of most VPN providers that they will automatically charge the same payment method for an additional year at the end of the initial term. Some providers allow you to deselect auto-renewal upon signup (the best option), some allow you to simply notify the company that you do not wish to auto-renew, and still some require you to cancel your subscription altogether in order to avoid being charged. There are also companies who will quote you a low promotional rate, not specify the length of the promotional period, then auto-renew you for the standard, higher rate. We suggest you read all the fine print and enroll slowly and carefully, paying specific attention to what you are agreeing to. If there is any ambiguity, contact the company to clarify.
Here we are looking at the cost of a particular service compared to the features you get.
1) Performance/Speed- In almost all cases, because of the extra security and encryption a VPN is going to be slower than your IP. In determining this we consulted independent speed tests, the average upload/download rate across different servers located in different countries.
2) Encryption Protocols- We like providers that use OpenVPN as the default protocol. L2TP/IPsec works as well, but PPTP should be avoided at all costs as it is the least secure.
3) Connections- How many simultaneous connections do you get with your subscription.
4) Servers- How many servers does the company operate and are they 3rd party maintained.
5) Countries- In which countries does the company operate serviers? Essentially, how many options do you have for changing your apparent location.
To determine a given VPN provider’s reputation score we look at several things:
1) History- Length of time in business.
2) 3rd Party Rankings- We pooled together reviews from independent, unaffiliated websites.
3) BBB Accreditation- Where applicable
4) Customer Reviews- We tried to cast as wide a net as possible over web resources with the highest number of customer reviews. We also measured how often (if at all) companies personally responded to complaints and resolved issues.
5) 100% Security- No VPN can guarantee this. At best, a virtual private network protects you from mass data gathering and unscrupulous individuals randomly vacuuming up data. If a government or other determined entity is hell-bent on finding out what you are doing they will. Companies that claim this will get points against them in this category.
A VPN provider will usually have their terms of service and privacy policies on their website.
1) Availability- Can you access the terms you are agreeing to? Are they easy to understand?
2) Third Party Ads- Does the provider’s ToS require you to accept they will deliver third-party advertisements? These can come in the form of unwanted toolbars, links, inline & popup ads, external trackers, etc.
3) Charging Structure- Is the company up front about it’s renewal policy or is it confusing or buried in the fine print? How easy does the company make it to choose between auto renew and manual renew? Is it perfectly clear whether you will be paying in advance for the whole term or month to month?
4) Contract Length- Does the company offer multiple contract length options?
5) Cancelation/Refund Policy- How easy does the provider make it to cancel? Within how many days will they provide a refund?
Most VPN providers will claim they have a “no logging” policy. This needs to be explored more deeply.
Logging is keeping information regarding a customer’s sessions using the VPN. Since the whole idea of a VPN is that it is supposed to be private why would a provider do this? The truth is most companies will not keep any logs of your activity (the sites you visit). Some, however, will claim they do not log but keep records of the times you used the system, bandwidth, or your IP address. A few truly do not retain any logs of your usage whatsoever.
Furthermore, a company must obey the logging laws of the country in which they are based. For example some European countries employ counter-terrorism measures that require VPN providers to retain and hand over certain usage information on demand. When looking at security/logging we consider these factors:
1) Stated Logging Policy- We look in depth to see if a company claiming no logging is still technically retaining some information, like connection logs and timestamps.
2) Country of Operation- What is the security policy?
3) Shared IPs- Can multiple users use the same IP for added security?
A company with excellent customer service is more likely to get repeat business from customers. Customer service acts as a link between the company and consumer. VPN is not merely a product but a service, so ensuring its availability is paramount for VPN providers.