Virtual private networks or VPNs have become popular as people worried about personal data privacy look for ways of avoiding government surveillance or cybercriminals. According to a study carried out by Global Web Index (GWI), a web analytics firm, 42% of web users in Indonesia use VPN services regularly. In China, 36% of all web users use virtual private networks to evade government surveillance and access blocked sites. This is important because a third of the world’s web users reside in China. Below are some useful tips for choosing a cheap VPN service provider.
A VPN is simply a private network accessible via a public network like the Internet. Such a network enables users to send and receive sensitive data without exposing their activities to governments or cybercriminals. The ability to communicate anonymously over the internet is hugely popular with businesses or organizations whose employees need access to confidential data while in the field or working in other states/countries. In addition, VPNs are popular with web users in totalitarian countries that do not allow freedom of expression.
Tips for Choosing a Cheap VPN Service Provider
The type of tunneling protocol deployed by a VPN service provider determines the integrity and security of communications over the Internet. Common tunneling protocols include Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), IP security (IPsec), Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), L2TP/IPsec, Transport Layer Security (TLS), Secure Shell (SSH), and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). Out of these protocols, PPTP and L2TP protocols do not encrypt data. Instead, they create tunnels through which individuals can use to transmit and receive data. The problem with these protocols is they have well-known and exploitable vulnerabilities. For this reason, it is advisable to pair them with data encryption protocols when creating VPN clients. For instance, PPTP should be paired with GRE or TCP data encryption protocols. If you intend to create an L2TP-based VPN client, the rule of thumb is to pair it with the IPsec data encryption protocol. The SSL and TLS protocols are widely used by online retailers to encrypt data, authenticate data transmission/reception sessions, and exchange encryption keys. The SSH protocol creates an encrypted channel for transmitting/receiving data. Other VPN protocols include DTLS, MMPPE, SSTP, and MPVPN.
Select a VPN service provider with servers located in countries that have already enacted robust data privacy laws. This is essential to ensure VPN service providers cannot be compelled by security agencies, judicial authorities, or government departments to hand over user data. For example, if you are worried about the US’s mass surveillance of web users, be wary of service providers with servers in any of the countries that form the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). On the other hand, go for a VPN provider with servers in the US if you want to access content available to US-based consumers only. These concerns notwithstanding, the more servers a service provider has located in many different locations, the better.
The aim of VPN service users is to remain as anonymous as possible when online. For this reason, select a VPN company that does not retain user activity logs. Remember cybercriminals or governments can access such records illegally or legally. In real-world situations, most VPN firms retain user-activity log data over limited periods for quality assurance purposes. So long as they destroy retained log data after this limited period elapses, there is no need to be overly concerned.
In general, VPNs cause appreciable deterioration of web browsing experiences. This is because data packet paths are usually longer when web users communicate via VPNs. As such, it is advisable to choose a VPN service that does not come with bandwidth restrictions, throttling, or limits. For web users with access to broadband internet connectivity, bandwidth throttling or other restrictions should not be tolerated. To find out if you are subject to such practices, go through virtual private network companies’ terms of service (TOS) or data usage policies with a fine toothcomb.
A VPN service should be easy to setup. Remember, most web users are not nerds with in-depth knowledge of computer/web networks and the intricacies of setting up secure virtual networks. This means a VPN service should have a user-friendly GUI (graphical user interface).
Additionally, a VPN service should have an easy-to-follow/understand an initial setup guide or tutorial. Without such a tutorial/guide, onboarding new users would be an uphill task. A user-friendly GUI also cuts the number of technical support requests freeing personnel to resolve issues that are more serious. Finally, a VPN service should support all the major operating systems including Windows, macOS and Linux-based OS.
A VPN service should undergo regular updates to keep up with developments related to data transmission/reception and security. VPN software not regularly updated would be prone to hacking attempts and possible compromise of users’ confidential data. This is because cybercriminals always probe web-accessible systems and software to find exploitable vulnerabilities.
A VPN is a secure channel that allows one to send and receive confidential information via public networks. The good news is one can use multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, or PCs) to access a private network provided all devices are connected to a VPN router. With this in mind, consider factors like tunneling protocol, server location, bandwidth usage policies, ease of setup, updates, and log retention when shopping for a VPN service provider.