The Best VPNs in 2021
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, as they’re more commonly known, are the best way to keep yourself anonymous and secure online.
They’re easy-to-use services that you can quickly install on almost any device, from your desktop PC to your smartphone or gaming console.
VPNs have exploded in popularity in recent years, making it hard to know which one to choose.
Each VPN has different strengths and weaknesses – but which is best for you?
We’ve reviewed the best VPNs on the market today to help you decide.
Click here to compare the best VPNs.
- The Best VPNs in 2021
- Here’s the Top 7
- What is a VPN for?
- How a VPN Works
- How good are VPNs?
- How much does a VPN cost?
- Is a VPN illegal?
- What are the three types of VPNs?
- What is the most secure VPN?
- What is the fastest VPN protocol?
- Which type of VPN is best?
- How do I choose a VPN type?
- What is a good speed for VPN?
Here’s the Top 7
1. Express VPN
The best all-round VPN is Express VPN for privacy, speed and unblocking websites.
Click here to visit ExpressVPN and start a free trial.
Rather than VPNs which focus hard on a specific area, like security or usability, ExpressVPN aims to deliver the best of all worlds.
It’s very easy to use, offers fast speeds and has an incredible amount of security features that’ll keep you safe online.
It works on Windows, Mac, Android, Linux and iOS.
ExpressVPN is ideal for unblocking streaming sites such as Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu and Amazon.
It’s easy to use no matter what your technical ability, and whatever device you want to use it on, you can download and install it within a matter of minutes.
They have an excellent support website with lots of detailed guides and tutorials to help you get started.
There’s also a 24/7 live chat support on hand – and even better, it actually works.
You can get a 30-day money back guarantee, which is great if you’re new to VPNs and aren’t sure if you want to fully commit to using one or not.
All in all, we highly recommend using their guarantee to check out ExpressVPN – but don’t be surprised if you find yourself sticking with it long-term.
2. Surf Shark
Surfshark’s biggest claim to fame is its unlimited simultaneous connections and uncapped device limit.
Click here to see Surf Shark latest offers.
That alone is enough to get most people interested. Even if you don’t hit the 10-device limit standard for most other VPNs, knowing that you can have as many as you want is always appealing.
But that’s not all – Surfshark also comes with numerous other privacy features that make it a serious contender for the best VPN spot.
The price is slightly above the market average, but it makes up for this with its lack of a device cap and broad support for multiple kinds of devices.
To ‘cap’ things off, Surfshark’s apps are all well-designed and easy to use, making it a good first choice for someone new to using VPNs.
Overall, Surfshark is excellent value for money, and the best choice if you regularly use lots of different devices to browse the web.
3. Nord VPN
NordVPN is the biggest name in the VPN world, and it’s got that reputation for a reason.
Click here to see NordVPN latest offers.
Some of its great features include the ability to have up to 6 simultaneous connections, a choice of 59 different countries to bounce your IP through, and 24/7 live support.
In terms of security, NordVPN have upped their game recently. There’s no data tracking or collection, and they offer an uninterrupted streaming service.
Ultra-concerned about privacy? Then you’ll be pleased to hear that they also offer anonymous payment options, such as Bitcoin and PayPal.
NordVPN has a host of high profile clients including: BBC, Forbes, Entrepreneur, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Tech and TEDx. In other words?
This is the product that world-famous businesses use when they need a VPN.
There are a few different payment plan options available, including monthly subscriptions and a 30-day money back guarantee.
This is great if you want to try it out but aren’t sure if you want to fully commit to it yet.
4. IP Vanish
Click here to see IP Vanish latest offers.
IP Vanish is a price-conscious VPN that also offers a secure cloud storage solution.
This makes it one of the best VPNs for people who regularly store sensitive data online, as it lets you upload, transfer and download it fully anonymously.
Unlike some other VPNs, its connections are fully unmetered, meaning that your speeds aren’t capped – great for gaming, or streaming high-quality video from Netflix.
IP Vanish has apps for all the major desktop operating systems, and you can also use it on Android or iOS devices. You can even install it directly on your router, or an Amazon Fire TV.
IP Vanish’s biggest advantage is really its private data storage. It only costs a dollar more a month for five hundred gigabytes of encrypted storage which you can access from any device.
Private Internet Access is the best VPN for value for money – it certainly comes with an impressive range of features for its price point.
For example, it successfully unblocks many of the most popular streaming services, like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video – the only major service it doesn’t support is BBC’s iPlayer.
It follows the standard 10-device limit set by other VPNs, but it does come with support for all major desktop PCs and smartphones, so you’re getting your money’s worth for your monthly subscription.
In terms of drawbacks, Private Internet Access acknowledges that some locations won’t get the best possible speeds, so it might be best to try out their 30-day money back guarantee before you go in for a full plan.
In addition, they don’t offer any live chat support. They have fully-featured guides online and a vibrant community who can answer questions, but it might still be less user-friendly than other options.
Check out the latest CyberGhost offers.
CyberGhost is a powerful, fully-featured VPN with a focus on user customisation.
In terms of security, it uses 256-AES encryption to make your data nigh-uncrackable, and lets you choose freely between one of the three protocols it supports – IKEv2, WireGuard, and OpenVPN – for the trade-off in speed and security that’s right for you.
With a verified no-logging policy, you can also be sure that it won’t be selling your data behind your back.
Another impressive feature is its ‘Smart Rules’, which let you configure automatic actions to enhance your CyberGhost experience.
You can set it to start automatically when your computer boots up, for instance, or to use specific VPN servers when you join new Wi-Fi networks.
While the interface is still very clean and usable for newcomers to VPNs, this is definitely a tool aimed at power-users who want fine-grained control over their browsing experience.
Their cheapest plan starts at only $1.99 a month, and includes functionality for all the standard devices, including desktop PCs, smartphones, gaming consoles and more.
ProtonVPN is unique amongst VPNs in that it doesn’t just say it’s focused on privacy – it actively works with real-life whistleblowers and journalists to provide the features they need to keep themselves secure and anonymous. In other words, it’s the real deal.
Headquartered in Switzerland, home to some of the world’s toughest privacy laws, all of your traffic with Proton is filtered through their Secure Core network to provide an additional layer of privacy.
Although a basic subscription only works with up to ten devices, it more than makes up for this with its numerous additional privacy-focused features and integrations.
For example, it works seamlessly with the Tor anonymity network, which in some respects is even more powerful than just using a VPN.
It’s also built from the ground up to work with ProtonMail, easily one of the most secure email services available online, with end-to-end encryption on by default.
ProtonVPN offers a free plan, but this is missing several features, such as the ability to see geographically blocked content.
Their ‘Plus’ plan is likely the best option for most users, but it’s slightly expensive at a price of eight euros a month.
This is clearly one of the most serious VPNs out there when it comes to privacy. It likely isn’t the fastest VPN you’ll use, but if you’re after some serious peace of mind, you’re unlikely to find something better than this.
What is a VPN for?
The point of a VPN is to make it so nobody can see what websites you’re visiting online.
It does this by ‘encrypting’ your traffic – using advanced mathematical algorithms that make it impossible to read, at least without secret codes that you and the VPN have copies of.
This lets you browse without your internet provider or hackers seeing what you’re doing online.
It’s especially useful for when you’re browsing in public, such as at a cafe or library, since the Wi-Fi connections in these places are often entirely unsecured.
Other potential benefits of using a VPN are that you can use them to bypass geographical restrictions on web content.
Because VPNs work by passing your data to a company that can be registered in another country, it’s easy to trick websites into thinking you live somewhere where restrictions don’t apply.
The most famous example is using a VPN to access content on Netflix that’s only available in certain territories.
Another more minor benefit is that VPNs can help bypass caps on your browsing speeds imposed by your internet provider. This will make using the internet quicker and even more stable.
Click here to read our essential guide to Cyber Security.
How a VPN Works
When you use the internet, your computer sends a request to your Internet Service Provider to get a page and bring it back to you.
While they’re delivering the page to you, the ISP is free to look at the pages you’re browsing and what you’re sending back to them. In some cases, they can even sell this information to advertisers.
VPNs work by encrypting the requests you send to the ISP. While the ISP while still be able to tell that you’re browsing pages online, they won’t be able to see which pages they are.
All they’ll know is that you’re using a VPN. How this works is that when you start using a VPN, you’ll download a piece of software to your device that encrypts all the requests you send out before it even gets to the ISP.
Once your request reaches your ISP, they’ll hand the encrypted message on to your VPN’s servers, who will be able to decrypt it and see the page you’re actually interested in.
They’ll go and get the page for you, encrypt it and send it back via your ISP – who, once again, can see that you’re looking at something, but not what it actually is.
Imagine sending letters in the post to a friend. If you want your friend to be able to read your messages, but not a snooping postman, you could agree on a code with your friend beforehand that the postman doesn’t know.
You and your friend can encrypt or decrypt each message as you send and receive them, leaving the postman only to carry around messages they have no hope of cracking. VPNs work in the same basic way.
How good are VPNs?
Although they come with some minor caveats, VPNs are a fantastic way for businesses and individuals to maintain their privacy online, in addition to security measures such as having an antivirus installed.
While ISPs have a vested interest in seeing your browsing history – usually to sell that information to advertisers – they generally don’t care enough to try and circumvent the encryption offered by a VPN.
The ‘minor caveats’ mentioned earlier are that even if you use a VPN, several parts of the public infrastructure of the internet are under the control of various governments, who, to one degree or another, use them for surveillance and tracking.
In practical terms, however, this isn’t something you need to worry about unless you plan on becoming an international terrorist.
Especially for businesses, VPNs are an excellent way to ensure your privacy online and allow remote employees to work together securely.
How much does a VPN cost?
Different VPNs cost different amounts. Each VPN also usually offers different plans, where paying more can get you enhanced features, privacy or speed.
Almost all VPNs work off of a monthly subscription model. As a general rule of thumb, you should expect to pay around £8 – £10 a month for the best VPNs on this list.
While free VPNs exist, you should use them with caution. They’ve been linked to schemes for selling user data in the past.
Even if that isn’t the case, they usually don’t have many of the most important features you need to stay safe online.
Is a VPN illegal?
Whether or not a VPN is illegal depends on the country you use them in. They aren’t illegal to use in the UK. However, there are some things you should still consider.
You may have heard that VPNs are illegal in countries like China or Russia. That actually isn’t true – because VPNs are necessary for business use, they’re not really able to ban them for individuals.
They can, however, make it illegal to use VPNs to access content that’s blocked or otherwise unavailable. In other words, if you use VPNs to get around geographical restrictions or see content you’re not meant to, that might be illegal.
It’s important to check the relevant laws in your own country before using a VPN.
What are the three types of VPNs?
A remote-access VPN is one that lets you access the private network as if you were physically there.
It’s most commonly used by employees working from home because it lets them access all the same network resources as their other teammates. These are most similar to the kinds of VPNs we use for personal, non-business needs.
Remote-access VPNs work off of the model of connecting individual devices with a company’s secure network. Site-to-site VPNs, however, connect entire networks with each other.
In other words, they use the public internet to connect two networks in separate physical locations together.
Extranet-based site to site VPNs do this to link a company’s private network with that of other businesses or institutions.
This lets them share information and resources with partners, while still getting the security and privacy benefits of using a VPN.
It’s like combining multiple separate networks into a big, single network.
Intranet-based site to site VPNs are very similar, except their purpose is to link together a company’s internal networks.
Imagine a company with offices in London, Tokyo and and Berlin – each building would have its own local network, but with a VPN intranet, they could function as if they were all using the same one.
This is often called a WAN, or wide-area network.
Remote-access VPNs usually require the client to install a specialised piece of software to create the connection.
This isn’t the case with site-to-site VPNs, which send data through regular VPN channels.
What is the most secure VPN?
Deciding on the most secure VPN is a balancing act of a few different features:
- Does it have a no-logging policy?
- What encryption does it use?
- Where are its headquarters?
- What other privacy features does it offer?
- What VPN protocols can it use?
The best VPN for security is ExpressVPN.
This is because it offers a verified no-logging policy, plus essentially uncrackable encryption for its traffic.
You can even pay for it anonymously using methods such as Bitcoin or Paypal, to ensure that there’s absolutely no paper trail leading back to you.
What is the fastest VPN protocol?
A protocol is just an agreed-upon way of doing things – in this case, a standardised way to send encrypted traffic online.
A protocol isn’t necessarily tied to a specific VPN, even though companies can create and patent them. For example, many VPNs let you choose which protocol they’ll use.
Different protocols exist because they make different trade-offs between security and speed. On average, the fastest VPN protocol is PPTP, the ‘Point to Point Tunneling Protocol’ created by Microsoft.
This is because it offers relatively weak encryption to its traffic, meaning the VPN has to do less work before it can send or receive your data.
On the other hand, the most secure VPN protocol is usually thought to be OpenVPN, because of its high level of encryption and the fact that it uses digital certificates for authentication.
Which type of VPN is best?
It’s difficult to say which type is the best VPN, as they’re good for different things.
Remote-access VPNs are best at being simple to use and set up for individual users. Where site-to-site VPNs really shine is bringing together multiple separate networks under one roof.
Looking for a VPN for work? Check out this list of the best VPNs for business.
How do I choose a VPN type?
The best VPN for you depends on your circumstances and what you’re trying to achieve with it.
If you’re a sole user looking for privacy online, for example, a remote-access VPN is almost always the only sensible choice.
If you’re thinking in terms of a business, however, the question gets more difficult.
The biggest thing to consider is that site-to-site VPNs are almost always much more time-consuming and difficult to set up than remote-access solutions.
It’s usually recommended to get the help of expert outside contractors to make sure everything gets installed and configured correctly.
Many companies who use site-to-site solutions outsource management entirely to dedicated cybersecurity companies.
You should consider a site-to-site solution if you have multiple large-scale offices in different locations that all need to work together.
If you have offices in different countries that need to tightly collaborate on projects, for example, a WAN is probably what you need.
But if you’re trying to connect multiple individual employees to the company’s network so they can work from home or different locations, the overhead of setting up a site-to-site installation for all of them likely won’t be worth it.
For individual devices or even small office spaces, setting up manual remote-access VPNs is usually the best choice.
This isn’t necessarily a question of how large your company is, though that can factor into it. It’s more about how your business operates and where its employees are distributed.
What is a good speed for VPN?
How fast a VPN is depends mostly on how fast your normal internet connection is. Because of how they work, every VPN will slow down your connection to one degree or another.
The best VPN for speed, then, is the one that slows your connection down the least.
NordVPN is often called the fastest VPN on the market today, with average speed reductions of only 2% – 5%. On average, though, anything in the ballpark of a 10% reduction is great value for money.
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