Most internet users are familiar with VPN (Virtual Private Network) technology in some capacity. For example, the software necessary in work and educational institutions for remotely accessing internal resources. However, there’s also an overwhelming abundance of consumer-centered VPN services for personal security and privacy. Protecting personal information and being cautious about sharing it online is critical to prevent falling victim to exploitation and safeguarding one’s privacy and security in the digital realm.
But how does a potential customer recognize high-quality VPN services when so many options are available? After all, it can appear daunting if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology. Thus, we’ll outline the key aspects that VPN services must include to be considered worthwhile.
What is a VPN?
First, let’s briefly cover the fundamental principle of VPN products. Then it will become clear why certain aspects are more important than others.
In short, VPNs redirect your web traffic through one of their servers scattered across the world. This process inevitably slows down your connection because the data packets must travel a greater distance. Additionally, you gain encryption, which makes it impossible for unwelcome third parties to interfere with and monitor your activities.
Although the process is relatively simple, overall performance depends on various factors. For starters, your upload and download speeds will depend on your tunneling protocol, distance to your chosen server, and overall network load. Meanwhile, the level of protection you gain depends on the encryption standards the VPN service uses.
It’s also vital to consider your intended VPN use cases. Arguably the most popular one is bypassing geographical restrictions by changing your virtual location. In that case, a virtual private network with loads of servers worldwide will be more versatile.
However, you can also use a VPN to become anonymous online and gain protection from malicious ads and malware. Then it’s paramount that reliable security measures are in place.
That’s the basics of VPN services, but there’s more to it if you’re eager to dive deeper. You can do so on the Cool Tech Zone website. It covers various technology and cybersecurity topics in particular. Check it out to learn about the best digital security practices. But now, onto the specifics of high-quality VPN services.
Essential VPN features
First, let’s overview the bare minimum that any worthwhile VPN service must include. These features aren’t groundbreaking and are usually included with premium virtual private network services. However, it’s important to mention them because their absence can be devastating for your cybersecurity.
- Strong encryption. Not all encryption is made equal. The top VPNs on the market use at least 256 bits to mask your activities, making them virtually indecipherable to unwelcome onlookers. Going beyond that isn’t necessary and could noticeably affect performance. Meanwhile, encryption with fewer bits could potentially be brute-forced by modern computers.
- Kill switch. Your location and IP address will be exposed if the VPN connection unexpectedly disconnects. The consequences of this will depend on your situation but will undoubtedly be negative. Luckily, a kill switch can prevent these issues by blocking your internet whenever the VPN is disabled.
- IP and DNS leak protection. A poor VPN connection can fail to mask certain information, such as IPv6 data and DNS requests. These leaks will make bypassing geographical restrictions and hiding your actual whereabouts more challenging. As such, you should ensure that your VPN provider offers robust leak protection. Furthermore, you can always test for leaks manually via third-party websites.
- Modern tunneling protocols. Tunneling protocols aren’t exclusive to VPN services and have been around since the dawn of the internet for data transfer purposes. Naturally, that means there are many old and contemporary alternatives. It’s best to avoid services using old protocols because they’re inefficient and filled with security flaws. Meanwhile, newer iterations are significantly faster and built from the ground up to remove old and outdated code.
- Apps for desktop and mobile devices. Dedicated VPN software is ideal because it makes it easier to customize your settings and enable various bonus features. Otherwise, you’ll have to resort to manual configuration, which can be time-consuming and barren of extra protection.
Now it’s time to overview some features only the most distinguished VPN services offer. You’ll know a provider is worth your money if it fulfills many criteria from the following list.
- Audited no-logs policy. A VPN has the opportunity to monitor your online activities because your traffic flows through its servers. Most claim they don’t store any logs, but the only surefire way to know that’s the case is when reputable third parties conduct thorough infrastructure audits.
- Privacy-friendly jurisdiction. Online service providers have to comply with the laws of the local government. That means a VPN residing in a country that doesn’t respect the privacy of its citizens can be forced to monitor customers. As such, you should only go with VPN services in countries without mandatory data retention laws.
- Ad-blocking features. An excellent digital security tool must include extra perks against common online nuisances like ads, trackers, and malware.
- Data breach monitoring. A VPN can’t protect your data if another website or online service suffers a data breach. However, it can notify you and suggest a course of action if your information is exposed to the public.
- Antivirus capabilities. An exceptionally-rare feature among VPN services is the ability to scan your device and incoming files for hidden malicious software.
- Vast array of servers. It should come as no surprise that more servers are better. You’ll have more IP address options, less traffic congestion, and better connectivity. And don’t overlook specialty servers for specific goals.
- Router configuration files. Sadly, not all devices can support VPN software. But that’s not a problem if you can install the VPN directly at the heart of your network – the router.
Naturally, this isn’t even the full extent of boons a VPN service can include. Just keep in mind that a top-quality and feature-rich product will be priced accordingly. Meanwhile, a free VPN is unlikely to deliver adequate results in any capacity and can even be detrimental to your overall security.
In theory, VPN services can grant numerous security, privacy, and entertainment benefits. They can nullify surveillance, prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, and unlock geographically-restricted content. However, this is possible only if the service boasts excellent technical capabilities. Otherwise, you’ll have to contend with slow connection speeds and inadequate security.
Hopefully, the knowledge you gained from reading this article will help you filter out products that are overselling themselves, and you’ll have no trouble finding truly high-quality VPN services.