You are almost there. You’ve transformed a corner of your home to make it your new coronavirus- proof home office – you’ve chosen the perfect ergonomic chair and the right lighting to prevent eye strain, and now you’ve decided to shore up the privacy of the Internet in your home — now done, your office Internet — with a strong virtual private network (VPN).
Whether you’re looking for a right VPN that can protect sensitive work activity from meticulous Internet service providers, help you avoid Web sites that view your information, or one that allows you to view catalogs in other Netflix countries —there are dozens of VPNs to choose from, often at high prices and labeled best.
How you can find the right VPN
Here we tell you how you can find the right VPN for your particular needs and avoid being charged a million.
Get the money-back guarantee
A 30-day warranty and if you don’t like your money back – much better than a seven-day free trial – it’s the first thing you should ask for if you’re new to the world of VPNs. A good refund policy eliminates spending hundreds of dollars on the wrong choice. You’ll also want to fully test the service at different times of the week to make sure its speeds and flexibility meet your expectations.
But be careful. Some VPNs offer refund policies in advance, only to offer limited or no customer service when you try to get your money back. We recommend seeking 24/7 chat support and sending a couple of test emails. We’ve taken customer service and responsiveness into account for all of our VPN recommendations.
How many devices do you need to connect?
On the purchase page of any VPN site, you will most likely see a number and the words “simultaneous connections”. That means the number of devices you can have connected to the VPN at the same time at any time. IF everyone at home uses a laptop, a tablet and a phone — and everyone wants to use the same VPN — you will have to make sure that the service you choose is generous with the number of simultaneous connections it can maintain.
Each VPN offers a different number of simultaneous connections. For example, while the industry leader ExpressVPN (see plans) offers five simultaneous connections, Surfshark (see plans) offers unlimited connections. Each has a different feature pack, however, which is worth weighing to see if they meet your needs and budget.
Also, if you use a phone to handle some of your work, you’ll want to make sure that the VPN you’re using has a mobile app that works well with your phone. If you have never used a VPN on your phone, don’t worry: it is as easy as almost any other application and here we explain how to do it on iPhone and Android.
If you’re looking to stay safe while spending most of your time-consuming entertainment content, think that there are VPNs that offer support for the use of gaming consoles. We also explain how to configure the VPN on your Xbox.
Ignore the empty promises
Some VPNs are misleadingly portrayed as the solution against malware and viruses — and there are even several coronavirus-related scams today — but there are several things that no VPN can protect you from.
If you are new to this technology, it helps to think of VPNs as if they were cars. Driving the Internet with the best VPN ever created would be like walking neighborhood roads in the United States in a silver Honda Accord from 10 years ago, without any pretense, tinted windows, plates that automatically coincide with where you pass, all while inside You secretly have a supercharged 6.2-liter, 376 cubic inches V-8 engine.
You’d be a little suspicious, anonymous, and fast enough to give yourself a facelift in the wind. But it’s still just a car – it can’t stop you from driving in dangerous places. VPNs also protect your privacy during transit from one site to another, but when you get to the destination website, it’s up to you to stay safe.
Did you open a phishing email or download an attachment loaded with malware? VPNs cannot save you in those circumstances.
Uploading and downloading work files can also be a point of vulnerability. Be sure to use a file transfer service with robust security features to share confidential information remotely.
Warning signs: Free VPNs and more
There are some easily detectable warning signs when you’re looking to sign up for a VPN.
The biggest red flag is a free VPN. There is no such thing, that does not exist. Maintaining the hardware and expertise needed in large virtual private networks is not cheap. As a VPN customer, you pay for a premium service with your money, or you pay or pay for free services with your usage data when charged by the provider of a free VPN and negotiated with advertisers or malicious actors.
As of August 2019, 90 percent of apps identified as potentially unsafe in a Top 15 VPN’s investigation of free VPNs still pose a risk to users. Free VPNs can also leave you unprotected from the silent installation of malware, pop-up advertising, and too slow internet speeds.
When considering mobile VPNs, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the number of permissions that VPN apps request. Just because a virtual private network application is protecting your mobile browsing from prying eyes, doesn’t mean that it needs to absorb your data or control your operating system. So before you trust that highly-rated VPN with a million installs on the Google Play Store, you should know that there is a list of VPNs with Android that have more permissions than they really need, putting your privacy at risk.
Also keep in mind that there are some services that call themselves VPNs, but which are actually browser-based proxy services, a totally different animal.
While desktop and mobile VPNs protect the anonymity of your entire device — all Internet activity in browsers, file-sharing applications, and email clients — browser-based proxy servers simply make what happens in your browser. They are less secure and less private, although much faster.
Do you need a speed without obstacles and levels of privacy as for a bank account in some tax haven? In that cases, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, ExpressVPN takes the cake between the VPNs we tested for speed. RusVPN got closer to ExpressVPN more than any other and usually costs less and has unlimited connections.
Whatever your priority, you have to follow four simple steps to hit your choice: Make sure you get all your money back after a test, you must know how many devices you need to connect, don’t let a VPN promise you the moon, and never trust in free services.