Best VPN Services and Software 2018
There’s no single outright best VPN service for everyone as each provider has pros and cons and which you choose should depend on your intended use. We put VPN providers through their paces testing for speed, privacy, security, usability and compatibility across multiple devices.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your personal data safe while online. It can be deployed whenever you feel you need a little extra privacy and is especially useful when accessing public or unsecured Wi-Fi, no matter how safe you feel with the host.
With so many VPN services out there, it may be difficult to determine which one is best for you and your needs. We’ve taken some of the most popular VPNs and put them through their paces to determine the best VPN service among them.
What to look out for when choosing the best VPN
VPNs are plentiful, there is no doubt about it, and most of them do an adequate job of shielding your data from prying eyes. However, the price can vary wildly from service to service. Many also offer free versions, but before you sign up, you should know what you’re getting into.
A VPN can be downloaded onto your phone, your tablet, laptop, or desktop. Most offer versions that are compatible with any of these computers. As you download the VPN separately to each device, you can easily have two different operating systems protected by the same account and most allow you a few devices for the same price, meaning that you pay once and can use the VPN on each of your devices or those of your family.
If you are protecting your company, you can purchase extra licenses to ensure every member of your workforce is protected as well.
Free is not the best option
Most free VPN services are only able to remain that way because they serve ads to you. If you don’t want to be constantly bombarded by ads—many of them with questionable sources—opt for the paid version of the app. Free versions often cap your bandwidth Most offer monthly plans, or you can pay annually to lock in a substantial discount.
The best VPN should:
- Hide your IP address
- Block ads and other cyberthreats on the web
- Connect to servers in countries you choose
- Prevent DDoS activity
- Not slow down your browsing activity
- Not slow down your downloads or uploads
Here are some of the top-rated VPNs on the market today:
NordVPN can be had for $11.95 per month, which goes down to $3.39 per month if you purchase and pay for a two-year plan – a savings of more than 72 percent. NordVPN supports Apple, Android, Chrome, Windows devices and allows up to six simultaneous connections and for an extra fee, you can get your own static IP address.
- It offers the same user experience across all devices, making it easy to navigate
- No limits on P2P sharing
- Robust “military grade” encryption
- Supports cross-border and blackout streaming
- Does not retain activity logs
- Automatic kill switch (in case your connection is interrupted it will shut down the connection to the site you are on)
- Pay with credit card, cryptocurrencies or PayPal
- Money-back guarantee if it doesn’t work
- If you don’t like the service, you can’t get your money back
- No refunds on cryptocurrency
- Expensive, compared to some other VPNs
- No anti-virus protection
2. Anchor-Free Hotspot Shield Elite
Anchor Free Hotspot Shield Elite is available for Mac OS and iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, and Windows. It allows five simultaneous connections and does not limit your bandwidth on the paid version. It encrypts all of your activity on the web and provides a 45-day money back guarantee for all plans. There is a free version, but Elite is $12.99/month on a month-to-month plan, or you could prepay for one year and get it for $5.99/month, two years for $2.99/month.
- Antivirus protection is standard
- 2000 servers in 25 countries
- Easy to use
- Five simultaneous connections
- Increases download speeds
- Good entry-level VPN for travelers
- Free version available
- Free 7-day trial of Elite
- The free version is restrictive
- Does not accept bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies as payment
- Probably not as robust for anonymity as some other VPNs
- Not very customizable
- Lacking in advanced features
ExpressVPN is an easy-to-use and robust VPN that will set you back $12.95 per month on a month-to-month plan or $6.67 per month on a 15-month plan. One of the coolest things about it is that it allows you to connect to specific servers anywhere in the world and offers a speed test, so you can choose the fastest servers. It also provides dedicated apps for each device platform, so each version is optimized for that platform.
ExpressVPN’s advanced features include split tunneling, meaning you can route some of your traffic through the VPN while routing the rest unprotected through the internet. Unlike many other VPNs, it will also protect your routers as well as your Apple TV, Android TV Box, PlayStation, Smart TV, and many more.
- Dedicated apps for each platform
- 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked
- Servers in 148 locations/94 countries
- Even works inside China
- Connect to specific servers
- Latency is not too bad
- Does not retain activity or connection logs
- Built-in speed test feature
- Great all-around VPN with many advanced features
- License three devices with one subscription
- Only allows two simultaneous connections
- Limited to three devices
- No free trial
- Drops connection if you switch from cellular to Wi-Fi
While these are just three of the best VPNs on the market today, this selection is a good cross-section of some of the top players.
Nord is a middle-of-the-road VPN with a good reputation and is recommended for general use. Anchor Free Hotspot Shield Elite is great for travelers and users who don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. ExpressVPN provides a more robust experience with lots of advanced features but it’s more expensive and does not allow as many connections. Ultimately, it’s about how you’re going to use it and what you are willing to pay, but the bottom line is you need a VPN. You should always use one when you are browsing on an unfamiliar network – and even ones you trust. An extra layer of protection is a good idea at any time.
To learn more about the best VPNs and more cybersecurity topics, check this space often.