Virtual Private Networks or VPN are steadily growing popularity as we speak. And I more or less get the reason why. After isn’t it kind of exciting being able to access the web as you please? Whenever and wherever. VPN surely gave us more freedom to surf online. However, a Virtual Private Network is only as good as its provider.
So today, we’re going discuss what things you should be looking for in top providers.
Remember, just because they’re on top, doesn’t automatically make them good. Sometimes, being on top simply means good marketing tactics. No more, no less. Today let’s uncover what it really means to qualify as a Top VPN Provider.
Before anything else, let’s understand how VPNs work first.
What is VPN?
A Virtual Private Network is like a tunnel – a dark tunnel. If all conditions are met, no light or other external influences should be able to access a VPN tunnel. Signing yourself up for a Virtual Private Network grants you access to this dark, exclusive tunnel. In exchange for a certain fee, the tunnel brings you to new worlds and lets you assume different identities in each one. Places that were once sealed off from entry can be accessed by this tunnel, helping you close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be – even if that place is a restricted area.
So let’s convert this little story to its technical equivalent:
- Virtual Private Network serves as a mediator between your computer and the website you want to access. Normally, without VPN, you dive into the internet barely having any protection.
- The VPN will conceal or hide your identity by designating a VPN-generated IP address for your computer right before you start surfing the internet. In other words, your online identity becomes anonymous.
- VPNs also encrypt personal data so that it will not fall into the hands of outsiders – which typically refers to anyone outside yourself (government, hackers, third-parties, etc.)
- By changing your location using your Virtual Private Network, you can access websites and content that are restricted in your original location. This is done by assigning your computer a geo-specific IP address that can infiltrate an otherwise restricted website.
And that’s basically it. Although recently, VPN providers have started to offer more perks for VPN subscribers. Like faster servers, tighter security, etcetera-etcetera. But the basic functions are inclusive of the ones mentioned above. Not to mention, the primary purpose of all Virtual Private Networks is to, well, guard your privacy.
Moving on, how will you know you’ve got yourself a gem of a provider?
Simple. You have to know what you don’t want in a provider. And they are as follows:
When you feel like your connection to the internet is still not private enough as your VPN provider claims, then cut yourself off from them. If your provider fails to keep your online privacy private, then what’s the use? It would be unproductive to keep spending money on something that obviously fell short of your expectations.
True enough, there is no such thing as perfect security when it comes to online privacy. Mikko Hyppönen, a well-known expert in the field, agrees with this thought as well. This is because it is wishful to say that perfect security can be achieved in the first place. The online world is as complex as much as it is simple. Let’s not forget that the internet was made by human hands, the VPN was also made by human hands – all it takes is a mind greater than its predecessors to make everything crumble to the ground.
So am I saying that it’s better to not try and protect yourself at all? No, I am not. All I’m saying is that no matter how good or secure a VPN service is, it is still not immune to error. After all, it is man-made and it is man’s superior ability to make room for error (lol).
Jokes aside, unsecure connections are a big problem especially when you’re one these two personas:
- Super famous, influential, politically-active, and stinking-rich individual
- Someone who’s up to no good (not necessarily illegal but socially deviant behavior – if you know what I mean)
If you’re any of these two individuals mentioned above, having your information leaked can be quite an alarming issue. An unsecure VPN can be likened to a masked robber trying to rob a bank, all the while oblivious of the mask actually being transparent.
Leaks often happen because of the carelessness or inability of a VPN provider to seal off information from the rest of the world. When you access the web via VPN, it’s not like your IP address has been erased. You access the VPN using your own IP address and before sending it out to connect to a website, the VPN will alter your IP address – creating an anonymous identity for your computer. This way, all your personal information are kept private. However when the VPN fails to safeguard its system from outsiders (I’m referring to the data bank of the VPN itself), your searches can be traced back to you.
One telltale sign of this happening is when you change your location in the VPN but the target location still restricts your access. It will definitely leave you thinking “Shouldn’t the restricted website NOT recognize that I’m coming from an off-limits area?” If you change your location again and the same thing happens, then there’s definitely something wrong with your Virtual Private Network. You can always check your IP address through web applications.
This happens even with the best providers. It just proves that they’ve failed to live up to expectations. Cut them off your options, and look someplace else.
The Price Just Isn’t Right
It is not uncommon for top providers to make their services a little overpriced the moment they earn the title “TOP.” However, as the subscriber, you shouldn’t fall bait into this tactic easily. Sure, it is not advisable to sign up for dirt cheap deals because they have a 99.9% of failing or ending up a scam. But you are also not encouraged to subscribe to a super expensive service on the premise that “Good things come at a price.” You really ought to know when something in under or overpriced.
And the one best way to do that is by reading online reviews.
Many people have come to distrust online reviews – and I don’t blame them. Many have found reviews to be helpful in marketing their product. When you go into a review website expect paid, fraudulent reviews to be there. There is practically no definite way to identify which is which but you have to at least try (here’s an article to help you with it). Among the reviews, compare and analyze. I know there are hundreds so only focus on ones that sound realistic and truthful. And remember there are two types of fraudulent reviews – positive and negative. Cross-check with other sources so that you can arrive to an accurate conclusion.
Again, top providers that offer cheap deals are not automatically bad. In the same way top providers that offer expensive deals are automatically good. Be observant, do your research, and never stop asking questions. When you feel something is amiss, drop off the service. If you think it deserves a chance, then observe a while longer. That’s it.