Fortunately, there are steps you can take to check out a VPN provider before making a commitment. Here’s how to assess a VPN provider, so you can see for yourself whether they are worthy of your trust and your money.
1. Check the Provider’s Logging Policy
The single most important issue to consider when looking at a VPN provider is their logging policy. This will tell you what information a VPN company will store about your internet activities, so it’s vital to check this to protect your privacy. You want a provider with a “no logging policy” which means they will not save information about the sites you visit or the files you download.
- The email address or username you use to sign up and log in to your account.
- Payment information so you can pay for the service (you can sometimes pay with Bitcoin if you want to stay more anonymous).
- Optional diagnostic information if your software crashes (you can opt out of sending this information for greater privacy).
If the provider you are considering collects only this information, then you’re fine. Such providers commonly market themselves as no-log VPNs.
What If They Log More?
However, if they collect other information then you should be wary. Some examples of information that a VPN provider should not need to keep logs of include:
- Your name (unless it is required for payment).
- Your real IP address.
- Where you’re situated (your current location).
- Information about your device, such as your operating system.
- Connection time stamps (these can be used for diagnostic purposes, but it’s better if your provider does not collect them).
2. Check the Level of Encryption on Offer
Another factor to consider in choosing a VPN is how strong the encryption is. Stronger encryption is harder to break and offers better security. 256-bit encryption is standard in the VPN industry, although some providers offer less-secure 128-bit encryption.
Check the provider’s website under the “features” section, and they should advertise what level of encryption they use.
3. Find Out How Many Servers Are Available
For convenience, you want a VPN provider with plenty of servers for you to connect to. To see how many are on offer, look for a section on the provider’s website titled “Server List” or similar. This should show you a complete list of all the servers that are available and their locations.
Generally speaking, more servers is better as it gives you more options to find a fast and reliable server when you connect. In practice, though, there’s not much difference in experience between a provider with 1,000 servers and one with 2,000 servers. Just look for a provider with at least 500 servers which should be more than enough for most people.
You will also want to check how many countries servers are available in. You can use a VPN to get around regional restrictions as long as your provider has a server in the country you want to access the internet from. Make sure the provider you choose has servers in the countries where you want to access content.
4. Know What Speeds You’ll Get
One downside to using a VPN is that it can slow down your internet connection a little due to the extra encryption step that the data goes through. To minimize this slowdown, you’ll want a VPN that has fast servers.
However, it can be tough to find out how fast a VPN will be. Most providers advertise that they offer good speeds, but it’s hard to verify this as a potential customer.
You can look up VPN reviews which usually include a speed test, but remember that your experience will be different from someone else’s. This is because the speed of your connection will depend on both where you are located and where the server that you are connecting to is located.
The only way to be certain what speeds you will get with a VPN is to try it yourself. Many VPN providers offer a free trial or a money-back guarantee to try out their servers for a few days and see if you are happy with the speeds before committing to one provider.
5. See What Optional Features Are Available
Before you decide, you can also check what optional features a VPN provider offers by checking their website. Some nice optional features include:
6. A VPN Provider’s Country of Origin
You should avoid VPNs based in any of the 14 Eyes countries. These include the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. In these countries, local security agencies might compel a VPN provider to disclose its users’ data.
Additionally, don’t connect to servers in any of these countries unless you’re using a no-log VPN provider.
7. Supported VPN Protocols
Available VPN protocols are equally important. They are the core technology that dictates how your data is routed to the VPN server. There are a variety of major VPN protocols, and they are not created equal.
You should check which VPN protocol a provider supports. Don’t worry if you aren’t well-versed with VPN protocols. We have an in-depth comparison of the major VPN protocols to make it easy for you to put everything in perspective.
That’s How You Can Stay Safe Online Using Your VPN
Now you’ve checked these items, you’ll see that the services offered by different providers can be quite varied.
Take the time to find the right VPN for you—start with our guide to the best VPN services. If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access. Follow our links and save on a subscription!
About The Author