A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the safest way to send and receive data anonymously. We have used a number of metrics like performance, security, servers, software, dedicated IP, dynamic IP, bandwidth, logging capability, cost, etc., and picked up the 9 best VPN services in 2020.
VPN Servers IPs ServerLocations Across Base Rating
Express 3,000+ 30,000 160 94+ Countries BVI 8.5/10
IPVanish 700 40,000+ 60 60+ Countries USA 8/10
Buffered 800 11,000+ 46 37 Countries GI 8/10
HideMy 830 3100+ 60 200 Countries UK 8/10
Nord 5000 5,000+ 61 60+ Countries PA 9.5/10
Proton 345 N/A 32 30+ Countries SUI 7/10
PureVPN 500 300,000 140+ 50+ Countries HK 8/10
CyberGhost 3000 2,800+ 60 60+ Countries ROU 8.5/10
TunnelBear 1000 NA 20 20+ Countries CA 7/10
*Details of each of the above VPN service providers are listed at the end
What is VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A VPN is Virtual because there are no physical cables connecting you to other sites. It is Private because it can hide your location and many do not log your activities so that they can be monitored by prying eyes. It is a Network because it connects you to a massive network of servers spanning the entire planet.
A VPN is an amazing tool that allows you to do a number of very important things. It can protect your identity online and let you avoid surveillance and view websites around the world from anywhere. You can mask your location and your IP address, protect the confidentiality of your emails and the websites you have visited and encrypt your data, which will keep it safe from thieves and hackers.
It allows you to get much more out of the internet – privacy, security, safety and anonymity to name a few.
The internet has changed all our lives. It brings information into our homes in an instant from all over the world at any time of the night and day and, through social media, connects us with friends or useful new connections wherever they may be. The internet puts us in touch with world news as it happens as well as knowledge and information. It is hard now to imagine life without it.
But it has its drawbacks and they mainly concern our privacy and safety.
Through the internet, hackers and advertisers, and even governments, can gain all our private information, including financial information, and even hack into our emails without us knowing about it.
So if you want to use the internet without being identified or monitored, you will need a VPN.
There are other advantages too. VPNs can allow you to unblock content that is, for instance, not available in the country you are living in. With a VPN you can change your geographic location so that it appears as if you are in the country where the content or program you want to access is available.
It can also help you unblock content your government or school or college might not want you to see.
Your IP address is like your own address but only for your computer. It allows outside parties to know exactly where you are located. When you log into a VPN, it hides your IP from prying eyes.
Another important this a VPN can do is encrypt your data. If your information is encrypted it means outsiders cannot access it even if they manage to break into your connection. It also protects you from network connections that are unsecured.
A VPN can also help you torrent. It can do this by unblocking a torrent site. A VPN can change your geographic location to a country where torrenting sites are not blocked and give you access. It can also counter the problem of throttling, which means a service provider will not be able to slow down your connection, which they do if the see you are using a P2P (person to person) connection.
You can also save money by altering your geolocation because prices vary from place to place and you can get cheaper tickets for air travel or cheaper hotel bookings, for instance.
How does a VPN work?
A Virtual Private Network connects a computer to a server without having to use a cable. It creates a virtual cable which allows, for instance, a company employee in one country to access files and other data in a company’s office in another country. It also encrypts data that passes through the virtual “tunnel” it creates so that the information remains secure.
VPNs were originally designed for companies with offices in more than one city or more than one country to allow employees to connect with one another and also to access information they needed in the company’s databases.
There are basically three components to a VPN:
When you use a VPN the information or data you send first goes to your VPN server, which sends it to another server through an encrypted tunnel.
This is different to the usual way in which you use the internet when your request for a website goes to a server which then sends the information back to your device. This means data is sent back and forth on that connection, which is not secure. So if you have a VPN in place, your request for a website still goes to the server but your data does not. It only moves between your device and the VPNs server, which means it is more secure because it moves via an encrypted tunnel. So the intended server through which you access the website does not get any of your data.
This is how VPN users can keep their identities secret and can change your geographical location to allow you to unblock certain websites.
The way in which VPNs protect information that passes through the server and the tunnel to other servers is by using a security protocol. This makes the connection secure and also affects the type of encryption the VPN employs. The security protocols are not as completely effective and a physical cable, it comes very close to that level. Many different protocols are used but generally the most secure is Open VPN.
The two best Advanced Encryption Standards for VPNs are AES 128-bit and 256-bit standards. Most VPN’s are using these. Encryption is a very important part of a VPN because it is what makes the data secure, so that even if someone can hack into your network and get their hands on your data, they will not be able to read it or use it. The figures 128 and 256 are the length of the keys in the protocol and indicate the number of combinations of figures in the protocol. To unscramble the number of combinations will literally take centuries for even the most sophisticated computers.
The advantages of encrypting data are that what you search for, what you say in forums and what you choose to watch are strictly your own business. It is important to remember though that a VPN might not necessarily prevent cooking and other trackers from reaching your computer. You can prevent this by doing all your surfing with your browser in private mode or incognito or installing software that blocks tracking.
Encrypting your data also shields your data from an unsecured network connection. This means you will be safe using public WiFi if you go through a VPN.
What does a VPN let you do and how do you choose one?
There are many VPNs available and it is important to try to choose the right one for your needs. There are several factors you should take into consideration: The number of servers it has, how fast it is, how big the bandwidth is, how good it is at unblocking sites you want to visit, how secure it is and how well it handles P2P (peer-to-peer or person-to-person) traffic and torrenting.
How many servers?
It is important for a VPN to have a large number of servers because the more servers the VPN has the fewer devices will be connected to them at one time, which means they will be faster. It is also important for the VPN to have servers located in many different locations where information might have to be sent or retrieved from.
The best VPNs offer unlimited bandwidth and data which allows you to download, post and stream as much information as possible. If the VPN does not offer this you will run out of data very quickly and even several gigabytes will not last very long.
You need a very fast VPN if you want to access movies and TV shows, for instance. Express VPN is the fastest one available but do research to find out how much it costs and if there are alternatives that might be more cost effective in your area.
Ability to unblock content
You should check if your VPN will allow you to access certain sites like Netflix and Hulu if this is that you want to do. If you are in the US you need a VPN with servers that Netlfix cannot block.
You cannot ignore the level of security you get when you choose a VPN. It is really important to make sure it has high encryption, a no-logs policy and strong protocols. Not all VPNs are strong on security and can be hacked.
Not all VPNs allow toerrenting. However many of them can give you access to torrenting sites by unblocking them, as many countries block them because they can allow the downloading of copyright material. A VPN can hide your geographic location and allow you to access sites in countries where torrenting sites are not tracked or blocked. They also allow P2P (Peer to Peer) connections, which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) often do not. A VPN can help you torrent by not allowing throttling. This happens when ISPs log your activiity and slow down your connection, which they often do when they see you are using a P2P connection. A VPN hides your activity so that your ISP cannot see that you are torrenting and slow your connection by throttling.
Torrenting or Streaming?
Torrenting is basically a type of file sharing. If you access a file and download it in the normal way it comes from a single source or server but with torrenting the file is broken up into smaller bits called packets. The file is then shared through a number of computers forming a network all downloading the same file. They are called peers and also leachers, which each have different parts of the same file. So the torrent file you are working with alternates which packet you are downloading from. Each leacher is basically a small server.
This is a way to share very big files without downloading the file from one source, which involves less of a demand on any particular sever and makes big downloads faster.
But it is important to note that while you are downloading data you are also uploading data. Your downloading and uploading speeds affect each other. In other words the more you add to the torrent, the more you will receive.
The reason people torrent and not directly download is because there is less risk of a virus as you are in reality working from a network of peers.
Torrenting is extrememly popular and more than 3% of traffic through the internet is handled in this way.
Torrenting is not inherently illegal but a lot of the material you download on torrenting sites is subject to copyrighted and downloading it is not really allowed because of this. So if you like most people using torrenting, download movies, books, music or games that are copyrighted you are basically breaking the law and you should be aware of the risk inherent in this. The risk of being sued is real and owners of copyrighted material are losing a lot of money through illegal downloads, a lot of them through torrenting. And they are actively trying to intervene. People around the United States have been sued for infringing copyright but these claims are often unsuccessful.
The best way to avoid legal action is to work through a VPN which can mask your digital location or footprint and to avoid downloading pirated or copyrighted material. You have to have a VPN before you start and then need a program which will allow you to connect with seeders and leachers. This is called a client. There are many from which to select and you should have no trouble finding one.
Streaming is different to torrenting in that it involves getting information into your device from another device that you connect to. You watch it in real time through an uninterrupted stream of data and do not download it onto your device. YouTube, Spotify and Netflix work in this way. It is safer than torrenting in a way because no files are downloaded onto your device. Of course if your broadband is slow it will be difficult to enjoy what you are watching! The advantage of streaming over torrenting is that there is a huge variety of material you can watch without looking over your shoulder or risking prosecution for infringing someone’s copyright.
Which are the best VPNs?
Again, this depends very much on your individual needs. Most VPNs will allow you to do what you need to but some of them are better than others in certain aspects. Here are a few more things it is important for you to bear in mind.
The more security you get from your VPN, the more it will cost, so it is important to decide how much security you really need and are prepared to pay for.
Some VPN providers keep logs of users’ browsing history and others don’t, which gives you added security and greater anonymity.
Some VPN providers give the same IP address to many users, which makes it harder to trace any one user and gives added security.
Location of servers
Finding a provider that has serves all over the place in many different locations will be an advantage especially if you need an IP address in another country.
Multiple device connection
Most providers allow you to connect up to five devices but check to make sure before you choose one.
So bearing all the above factors in mind, which are the best VPN providers in the United States? This depends very much on your own needs because different people won’t want the same things from their VPN.
The following are providers who consistently get good reviews:
Express VPN service provider is usually at the top of the list of recommended providers in the United States. It has more than 1 000 servers in over 94 countries. It has a user friendly interface and good 24/7 customer support via email or live chats. No free trials are allowed but it offers a 30-day money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. The company is located in the British Virgin Islands, they aren’t governed by US laws for people who demand complete privacy. They don’t log connection times or IP addresses.
IPVanish is based in Phoenix, Arizona, and has more than 700 servers in over 60 countries. A kill-switch and DNS leak protection are coupled with an intuitive user interface. They accept payments by credit card and Paypal, and are one of a handful of VPN’s that’ll also accept payments via Bitcoin. They don’t offer a free trial, but there is a seven-day money back guarantee. IPVanish is known to go to great lengths to protect the privacy of its users.
Buffered VPN is based in Hungary and allows fast connection speeds and good security. They have more than 500 servers spanned in 37 countries, with a huge number of them supporting P2P, and connectivity is seamless as all plans support connections upto up to 5 devices simultaneously.
With Buffered no data will be shared unless Hungarian law requires it. All that is collected is your sessions length and data consumption details.
HideMyAss has 900 servers in almost 200 countries. It is very easy to use. This is perfect if you are new to the world of VPNs. If you go for the advanced version, you can connect to a server in the nearest country (that has laws to protect free speech), or one from the list of available servers. AVG Technologies, which developed this VPN, maintains logs regarding user activity and also tracks IP addresses.. The company is based in the UK.
NordVPN is a good performer. The company has a no log policy and does not record IP addresses or bandwidth. It maintains over 1 000 servers in 59 different countries, and allow you to connect up to six devices at a time. Its user interface is straightforward and everything needed to navigate it clearly marked.
Unlike other VPN services, ProtonVPN is designed with security as the main focus, drawing upon the lessons they have learned from working with journalists and activists in the field. ProtonVPN first passes user traffic through its Secure Core network in privacy friendly countries like Switzerland and Iceland. Thus, even a compromised VPN endpoint server will not reveal a true IP address. The service, developed by CERN and MIT scientists, is free. It has also won an award for Best VPN for Privacy.
PureVPN has one very unusual feature, a browser that provides users with a 20Mbps speed boost regardless of how fast or slow their internet connection is. You can also choose which data goes through the VPN or through the regular service provider. It has over 500 servers in 141 countries.
CyberGhost VPN allows digital freedom on up to 7 different devices at the same time, across various operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. Based in Romania, The VPN is out of the 14 Eyes countries that share signals intelligence.
It doesn’t keep any logs of your activity. As long as you connect to a CyberGhost server, no one can track your past searches online. It has more than 3 000 servers across 60 countries.
TunnelBear, a Toronto based VPN provider from Canada was founded in 2011. It is very easy to understand and use, and has its own personality making it stylish and attractive . Good number of servers and encryption capability are the major advantages of TunnelBear VPN. However, it lacks P2P support and has mediocre speed – drawacks reported by some reviewers.
OpenVPN is one of the most affordable and reliable VPNs. You can connect upto 5 devices at a time with OpenVPN. Core features include 256-bit AES encryption, IP switching, SOCKS5 web proxy and unlimited bandwidth. It is reasonably priced and has good security.