VPN Services: Why You May Need One And A Few Good Options

There was once a time when the thought of someone vying for anonymity online may have seemed a little silly. Some may have even accused those folks of being conspiracy theorists or perhaps a card-carrying member of the "Tinfoil Hat" brigade. However, time and the march of technology sure has a way of changing opinions, especially when it comes to security and privacy. Today, it's a well-established fact that governments, and others, snoop on citizens. It doesn't matter if you think you're the most uninteresting person on the planet; you're likely being spied on, even if just incidentally, for marketing purposes, though hackers and cyber criminals are very much also on the rise as well.

If you don't exercise any additional caution online, HTTPS or a secure SSL connection, at the sites you visit (like HotHardware) can keep you safe from prying eyes looking for sensitive data (like credit card numbers), but your ISP is still going to know which websites you've been to, and they heuristically scan so much data, that nothing is deemed safe. In short, if it's connected to the internet it's a target and a threat vector. You really need to take matters into your own hands if you want to be safer online, and take steps to protect yourself.

NordVPN on mobile and desktop
NordVPN is one of the best regarded VPN services

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are nothing new, but in recent years, they've exploded in popularity. Essentially, what they allow users to do is conduct their usual activities online as if they are browsing from a different machine, and location. That could be another location in your own town, or somewhere else in the world. Ultimately, what matters is that you're connecting to the net off of your own network, doing all of your browsing via another a third party connection, thus providing anonymity and masking your own connection.

VPNs serve a great purpose, and because of that, there's lots of competition. That's a great thing, but for new users, it can feel impossible to choose between them. Our friends over at PC Magazine have put in some legwork to make the process much simpler, and that's really appreciated, because as you'll see, not all VPNs are created equal.

After testing more than 20 different commercial VPN services, the publication whittled down the list to an easier-to-consume top 10, separating them by their pros and cons. For first-time users, TunnelBear VPN is a quality choice, while PureVPN is good for those who demand a certain level of performance from their browsing.

Hide My Ass VPN
Good VPN services have a large list of server locations

Interestingly, not a single one of these ten choices share the exact same features as the others. 9 of the 10 allow more than 5 connections, for example, and likewise, not all allow torrent traffic. Unfortunately, most don't have free versions but as you can imagine prices do vary a bit, from about $10 to $12 a month.

One thing to take into consideration with VPNs is that you'll likely be changing your connection location often, so as to increase your level of anonymity, and some services naturally have more servers than others. 9 of the 10 once again have over 500+ servers, and 8 of the 10 have what PC Mag deems a more geographically diverse server list.

When all is said and done, only a single VPN made a perfect score of 5/5; that being NordVPN. The lowest-ranking choices sit at 3.5/5, so there's really no solution here that's going to leave you flat. Still, as usual with most things, there's probably an option that likely feels like a best choice for you, regardless of the OS you're using and including your mobile devices.

Tags:  security, Privacy, spying, VPN