Welcome to 2021, where a VPN is more important than ever.
As the world becomes a more complicated place, more of our daily lives take place on the internet. This is something that has been accelerated by the pandemic, with sensitive activities like work and other personal matters happening online, meaning that our online activity needs to be backed up by the security of one of the many good VPNs out there.
Naturally, there are also many VPNs out there; there is a vastly greater quantity of them now than there were even a short while ago.
This guide will help you choose the right one for you. We’ve narrowed it down to a shortlist of the five best VPNs out there.
Each VPN in this list has something in its favour that will appeal to a certain type of customer, depending on individual needs and wants.
We will go into detail about each of these five top VPNs later on in the article, but first, we will introduce them briefly and discuss their main strengths, for your convenience:
Top VPN services of 2021VISIT SITE
Table of Contents
The minimum requirements for a good VPN
Ultimately, the best VPN comes down to your individual preferences for a variety of criteria, from price and data limits to the number of servers and the flexibility of the VPN.
However, we will advise you to use this quick checklist to make sure that the VPN you choose offers you, as a bare minimum, the following:
- It needs to have its own dedicated servers, and there should be a significant number of them.
- It should allow for connections on multiple devices; that is to say, you should be able to use it on all the devices you own that need VPN protection.
- It should have options for connecting from various countries around the world (some of the key countries to look for include the US and the UK)
- Additionally, it should have servers that are close to the country where you live.
- It should be fast enough so that you don’t experience undue loss of bandwidth or latency spikes when you use it.
- It should have good customer service, with reasonable response times.
- Perhaps most importantly, it must stick to a strict “no-logging” policy.
- It should have options for monthly and yearly payment, and a free mode where you can check most or all of the above points without having to commit at first.
A detailed review of the five popular VPNs
Without further ado, here are our five picks for the best VPN, described in detail.
Once again, this list is in no particular order, as your individual needs and wants will vary, and each of these five options can be ideal for you as a consumer, depending on what exactly you’re looking for.
NordVPN is one of the relatively expensive options out there, but it comes with some impressive features that most will feel justify the high price. We would also like to point out that, as an extra touch, you can pay for NordVPN with cryptocurrencies.
Nord takes your privacy very seriously, and they take a lot of extra steps to prove it to you. This is probably the single biggest draw of Nord VPN for customers. This also makes NordVPN the number one choice for people using it to get around country and region blocks imposed by governmental authorities.
NordVPN will also bundle a static IP with your VPN purchase for an extra $70 per year, or just under $6 extra a month. This is useful for things like using a VPN for online banking, for example. It can also be a big benefit for people who like to watch videos on streaming platforms.
NordVPN uses its own proprietary NordLynx VPN protocol, although you have the option for the more common OpenVPN if you so desire. IKEv2 protocol is also available for those of you using Apple products.
Having said all of that, however, many people go with NordVPN specifically because they love NordLynx, claiming it provides the same security, but with better speeds. In fact, NordLynx famously allows for very fast ping times, making it a great option for the gamers out there.
Nord also has (along with Proton VPN, as mentioned below) an option to connect directly to the Tor network, which makes an internet connection 99.99% anonymous, although it greatly reduces your browsing speed as a result.
As a middle-of-the-road solution in between Tor and a simple VPN, Nord also offers a double VPN service, which routes your connection through two different VPN servers instead of one.
Also, NordVPN offers what is known as “split-tunnelling”. This allows for some apps and websites to access the internet VPN-free, allowing you to get full speed with those particular cases while still protecting other connections with a full VPN.
And finally, NordVPN also allows for full integration with its NordPass password manager and its NordLocker encryption app.
ExpressVPN is great for people who are looking for two things primarily: ease of use and speed. Many people also would add another strong point to the above: Express VPN is famous for being one step ahead of the big companies and governments in getting around national or regional blocks.
This is important because, in the past several months, countries like Russia and China have redoubled their efforts to censor the internet. Also, companies like Netflix, Disney and Hulu have, in recent months, also stepped up their efforts to prevent access to their services from out of the user’s home country.
ExpressVPN also gets points in terms of ease of use for their wonderfully simple “Smart Location” and “Quick Connect” features. It puts the connections that will give you the best connection speeds and overall performance right at the top of the list of servers to connect to, eliminating any guesswork on the part of the user.
ExpressVPN also allows for some very low ping times. This isn’t so important for downloading or streaming, but it becomes very important when gaming. Gamers are going to appreciate this feature, which is similar to that of Nord VPN. In fact, both of these VPNs tested very impressively in terms of ping times.
CyberGhost is another low-cost VPN. In fact, if you pay for the 3-year plan, it’s the cheapest VPN out there. Unfortunately, their monthly plan is the most expensive option out there, coming in at $12.99 per month. The good news is that they accept Bitcoin as payment.
A nice benefit of CyberGhost is its special tools and servers for streaming and torrenting, respectively. In fact, CyberGhost was originally conceived with these types of activities in mind before anything else. In fact, CyberGhost even has a dedicated app for the Fire TV Stick, which is something not seen before or since in other VPNs.
CyberGhost is also an excellent option for people who like options when it comes to their VPN. It is far and away from the most adjustable VPN out of all the ones we looked at. Advanced users flock to CyberGhost because of this. For example, CyberGhost allows users to turn on and off a strict no port forwarding setting that is especially useful in many circumstances.
CyberGhost also offers special “NoSpy” servers, which are proprietary to the company and have no third-party involvement whatsoever. This is a rarity in the VPN industry, and, while it might not always be the fastest option, it allows for an additional layer of security, which is much needed in some cases.
CyberGhost also has a built-in data compression service that allows for faster uploading and downloading of large files.
It’s also worth noting that, to get the full array of options available from CyberGhost, Windows or Android products are recommended, as they have had to limit some options due to restrictions inherent to Apple products.
CyberGhost uses the WireGuard protocol for connecting, which is newer and considered to be a superior option, especially in terms of security. In fact, Nord VPN’s NordLynx protocol is heavily based on WireGuard.
Surfshark is hands-down the best VPN for people who love to watch streamed content from all over the world. It’s also the best choice for those of you who are budget-conscious, with the cheapest plan coming in at just $2.49 per month.
One handy feature of Surfshark is that it opens up geo-blocked content from other countries’ servers, using proprietary technology, and this is often a big reason why people decide to make it their go-to VPN.
To explain this a little better, let’s say you are in France and want access to the content you would find on Netflix in the US. It’s possible with Surfshark to connect to, in many instances, a French server, and still be able to access US content. This means that you can enjoy less latency and better speeds while still getting around those pesky national and regional blocks.
Many people love Surfshark because of how easily it can access libraries from Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, and other streaming platforms anywhere in the world from a single connection. This is a unique feature of Surfshark and one of its main selling points.
Even in those instances where you have to connect to a server thousands of miles away, Surfshark appears to be affected by distance less than any of its competitors.
Finally, all of Surfshark’s servers work with static IPs, which makes dealing with money apps and financial institutions that much easier.
ProtonVPN is one of the best free VPNs available. It’s definitely better to get the free version of Proton VPN than to not have any VPN at all.
That said, ironically the paid versions of it are also one of the most expensive out of the five options reviewed in this article, but they can still be worth it for various reasons.
ProtonVPN uses both the OpenVPN and the IKEv2 VPN protocols, depending on the type of device connected to it. For iOS and Windows, it uses the latter, whereas, for Android and Mac devices, it goes with OpenVPN.
ProtonVPN can offer some truly blazing connection speeds if you go with the Plus paid plan, which is more expensive than the Basic plan. Many people feel that the Plus plan is worth the money for heavy users because the speeds you get with this mode are truly outstanding.
Proton is also extraordinarily strong on security, easily on a par with Nord VPN, as mentioned above. Proton VPN offers DNS leak protection, which is a further guard against stray internet traffic slipping through that may broadcast your actual IP to the rest of the world.
How does a VPN work?
A VPN used to be called a “tunnel” back in the earlier days of the internet and was often a tool used by a select few people who really understood the internet. However, in those days, connection speeds were a lot slower, and because of this, “tunnelling” was a rare and limited activity.
VPN stands for “virtual private network“, which gives us some idea as to what it does and how it works.
Internet traffic essentially “hops” data flows from one hub to another. These data paths can be traced quite easily by people who know what they are doing.
What a VPN does is add a second step from one of its servers to all traffic coming from and going to you. Furthermore, it makes it look like the traffic is originating and ending at its own server to almost anybody or anything (a bot, for example) trying to find out the source or destination of some data.
In short, a VPN “confuses” the rest of the internet as to where you actually are in the world and what your actual IP is (your IP is a number that identifies you, much like a physical address).
This explains how a VPN works, and also explains why a VPN can never be as fast as your connection will be without one, as it adds an extra “hop” to your data’s journey to and from the internet to your device.
This also explains why it’s generally best to connect to a server as close as possible to where you actually are on Earth, as a rule of thumb, as this helps keep connection speeds up and latency down.
Do you really need a VPN?
Many people say that VPNs are too much security, but the fact is that, while that may have been true in some cases some years ago, in 2021, these cases are rapidly disappearing.
For one thing, country and regional blocks are becoming more common, as many governments around the world are becoming stricter about what their citizens can access freely. Governments such as that of China are a prime example of this.
If you are in mainland China, a VPN is essential to access many popular social networks. If you need to access Gmail, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or even Google, you will need a VPN to get past the so-called Great Firewall of China. That said, please be advised that using a VPN is illegal in China, and this site can not offer you legal advice.
From a less serious side, but still, one that affects many people is being able to access content that is licensed to different regions. For example, maybe you want to watch a television show that is only on Netflix in another country. Or maybe you want to watch a live football match that is being streamed on the BBC that requires you to be in Britain. A VPN gives you access to this content without the restrictions of national borders.
Has HTTPS made a difference?
Https has been around for years, but it has recently become the standard for any respectable website. In fact, very few websites don’t use HTTPS in 2021, and those that don’t are possibly subjected to penalties by Google.
A website using HTTPS encrypts data both coming to and leaving from this site.
Many people feel that now that HTTPS has become a regular thing on the internet, VPNs are less necessary, but the truth is that security threats are also higher than ever.
At this point, both HTTPS and VPNs are necessary measures in order to maintain a secure online environment in many cases.
So, to answer the question, yes, the HTTPS protocol has made a difference, but not enough of a difference where people regularly won’t need VPNs anymore.
Why you need a VPN, even if you think you don’t
The internet in 2021 is full of bad actors.
Well, to be honest, the internet has always been full of bad actors, but these days, they are smarter, more ruthless, and better funded than ever. There is even suspicion that some countries’ governments are funding much of this behaviour.
People are worried about being hacked or having their identities stolen, but the fact is that unless you are extraordinarily rich or a public figure prone to blackmail or scandal, it is highly unlikely that you would be individually targeted by anybody.
However, much of the cyber-crime committed these days is not so much a matter of someone individually targeting another person and going after them. Instead, what we’re seeing is networks of bots that are used as dragnets, and often they run the same scam on thousands of people at once.
Not just hacking, but tracking
Instead of hacking, people ought to be worried about things like tracking, where your personal information is collected and then used for various purposes, many of them directly against your best interest as an individual.
By now, we all know at least one person, or perhaps this has happened to you personally, who has talked out loud in range of their phones about a subject and, minutes later, sees targeted ads on his or her phone related to that exact same subject!
This is actually a pretty innocent example of being tracked; it can be much worse than that in many circumstances.
This is why VPNs are so effective
Because of this, VPNs are one of the greatest tools out there to deal with the problems the average user is likely to come across online. Since your adversary is a bot, usually it’s very easy to thwart them with a VPN. Those extra few degrees of separation between you on the internet and the actual IP you are logged in from will make all the difference in the world in most cases.
This is not even to talk about all the other uses of a VPN. We have already touched on the issues of the country and regional blocks, for streaming platforms. There are numerous instances where a VPN is absolutely essential.
Of course, a VPN shouldn’t be your only tool for achieving a high degree of online security. You need to have a more comprehensive plan, even if you are a casual or average user of the internet. Here’s why:
VPNs: Part of a comprehensive online security strategy
There is one area in which a VPN will do nothing to help you. This situation occurs if you have unwittingly downloaded malware onto your computer. In this case, you have to remove the malware at its source, as a VPN on its own has no way to stop malware from doing what it was designed to do.
This is why you need proper anti-virus software at all times when on the internet. Moreover, your anti-virus software needs to be set up properly and regularly updated.
Another excellent tool for today’s internet world is a password manager. A password manager keeps all of your passwords in an online vault, sealed with the best encryption available. Many password managers also can help suggest improvements to your current passwords, and even suggest updated ones periodically.
Just like VPNs, password managers are now many and vary in quality and price. Also, just like VPNs, many offer free versions with limited features. If you are not already running a password manager, it is highly recommended that you do so.
Why use a VPN?
There are many reasons why you would need to use a VPN.
- Protect your digital information on public Wi’Fis.
- Use it to access other region’s streaming libraries.
- Avoid getting fined for downloading copyrighted material.
- Get around internet speed throttling.
- Access the dark web safely.
- Cheaper prices when booking flights and hotels.
- Gaming in different regions.
How can I test my VPN?
Head to our “test my VPN“-page and follow the instructions.
How can I make my own VPN?
There are three main ways of making your own VPN:
- Use a router with built-in VPN capabilities.
- Build your own dedicated VPN server.
- Host your own VPN on cloud services.
All 3 have different advantages and challenges.
How much does a VPN cost?
The general cost of VPN services ranges from $1-$10 per month. If you sign up for a longer period of time, the price will drop sharply.
What is the difference between a proxy and a VPN?
Proxies work on the application level and will only reroute specific app or browser traffic. VPNs work on the operating system level and will reroute all your traffic while proxies work on the application level and only reroute the traffic of a specific app or browser. Proxies are also considered more unreliable since connections will drop a lot more frequently, which can be detrimental to your online privacy.
We invite you to analyze the information in this article thoroughly. This will allow you to come to an informed conclusion as to which of these five excellent products is the best one for you personally.
Even if you are currently running a VPN, the information contained above may inspire you to make a better decision as to which VPN you are using, and this can lead to much greater satisfaction for you as a consumer. In fact, many people may not know what the features of all the VPNs out there are and may be pleasantly surprised by one feature they have been wishing for, which is actually available from a competitor.
Either way, being informed about VPNs (and other subjects related to online security), is something we believe is important to every internet user out there. We hope you found this article informative and enlightening about the wide world of VPNs.
This article was written by: Team Securifer
We are the proud publishers and founders of Securifer.com. We consist of expert cybersecurity researchers and other privacy realists.