VPN’s or Virtual Private Networks… you’ve heard about them. You might have even seen ads for them on television. If you’re a member of the “work from home” crowd, you probably use one to connect to your work network.
VPN: Do you really need one?
The short answer for most people… yes. The reason starts with understanding what a VPN can do before you decide to install one and possibly pay for one.
Why VPNs are worth understanding; the 4 primary functions of a VPN
- VPNs add a layer of enhanced security by scrambling your internet traffic to prevent your personal data from falling into the hands of hackers, advertisers, or other third parties.
- VPNs prevent Internet service providers from monitoring your online activity.
- VPNs offer a way around geo-fencing blocks. That’s the technology that can tell where you are located geographically when not protected by a VPN.
- Some websites, especially streaming providers like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, etc only offer certain programming in certain countries based on licensing agreements. In case you are wondering how to unblock Netflix in your location, VPN is the answer. In other words, you can watch programming and streaming services anywhere on the internet away from home with a VPN that connects back to your home region. Many people use VPN to watch TV shows and movies that are not available in their country.
- They can help increase your connection speeds, especially if your Internet provider decides to throttle down your speed at times when it’s busy online. Interesting fact: some countries, such as China, Russia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Turkey, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Belarus, and North Korea forbid their usage altogether.
Narrowing down a few best VPNs from dozens of choices
Now that you know what a VPN can do for you. There are literally hundreds of them available on the market that can help you to complete tasks such as having the ability to either watch BBC outside the UK or HBO outside of the US, along with widening your selection of shows available on Netflix. All VPNs have many beneficial uses. Here I am going to focus on the top performers that make the most sense.
Even fewer make it to my top 5 best VPN list for 2021. Let’s start with the best choice for most people like you and me followed by the next best one we tested.
Best VPNs Reviewed
First impression: the other online reviews I read of this product sounded almost too good to be true. I had to investigate it for myself.
- Set up was quick and took less than 2 minutes – that’s quick and simple
- I noticed a significant improvement in the speed of my internet connection while other VPNs not on my list can slow you down
- Works seamlessly with routers, gaming consoles and Smart TV’s so virtually every device in your life can be safely protected in your own pocket of privacy
- 7-day free trial available for their iOS and Android versions as well as a 30 day money-back guarantee
- Strong and helpful customer service experiences
- The price. It’s one of the higher-priced VPN’s and you get what you pay for in this case. As of January 2022, the cost is $12.95 per month / $9.99 per month for 6 months / and $8.32 per month for 12 months.
You can set up ExpressVPN on up to 5 simultaneous connections at a time. Special deal for our readers: Get 3 months free by purchasing 12 months (49% savings)
SECOND BEST CHOICE
First impression: Very easy to use. With a couple of clicks, I was online and protected.
- They own all of their servers around the world. This means that they can truly guarantee end-to-end privacy. Some other VPNs use third-party servers, so they could potentially “pass the buck” if there’s an issue
- Good distribution of servers around the world
- Stable connection speeds
- Great value at only $1.66/month with a 3-year commitment
- They frequently change up the versions that they offer making it confusing for most people shopping for a VPN. Until recently, there were Pro and Premium versions available
- No VPN browser extensions to help tell your browser to automatically use your VPN connection
You can set up VyprVPN on up to 30 simultaneous connections at a time.
First impression: no free trial, yet strong protection of privacy
- Easy to use
- Offers dedicated address making is safer and private
- Lots of bells and whistles including support for anonymous social media browsing, streaming and bit torrent access
- They keep it fresh by offering a “bug bounty” so if someone can find a flaw in their software, they will reward them for pointing it out
- No free trial
- At $11.95 per month (month to month plan) / $59.00 per year ($4.92/month) / $89 for 2 years ($3.30/month) they aren’t the cheapest but they are a good value for the strength and protection you get. As you’ll note above, the savings (broken down by month) is in the longer-term subscription.
You can set up Nord VPN on up to 6 simultaneous connections at a time.
First impression: the user interface can be confusing and cluttered
- Quick and easy to set up
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Cluttered interface not as user friendly as others
- encountered a lot of VPN blocks on streaming services that prevented me from accessing content during the evaluation
- Not the cheapest (nor costliest) VPN at $10.99 per month / $44.99 per year ($3.75/month).
First impression: easy to set up but the browsing speeds were frustratingly slow at times.
- Quick and easy to set up
- Built-in profiles allow you to optimize your connection based on your intended use (streaming, browsing, etc.)
- Offer specialized servers for most popular websites for speed
- Painfully slow at times
- Mediocre customer service
Bottom line for VPN 2021
If you want to safely browse or stream from any virtually any location and not worry about security it might be worth shelling out a few extra bucks and going for ExpressVPN. They covered the widest range of devices and actually made my network seem faster. VyprVPN was a close second with their price.
The bottom line is that a VPN is the best thing you can do to protect your privacy online. Living without a VPN for me at this point is like putting your valuables in life on a picnic bench at a public park hoping no one will riffle through them.
VPNs help your privacy stay private online.