The pandemic has permanently changed work. Before COVID-19, only 9.8 million (out of 140 civilian workers in the US) worked remotely. Today almost 70 million people work remotely.

Do you work remotely?

If so, there is a good chance that you need a virtual private network (VPN). If you run a small business and your employees need to work remotely, you also need a VPN. Today we're taking a look at VPNs – what they are, why you need them, and how to find the VPN that is right for you.

What is a VPN and why do you need one?

A VPN is a private network that operates over a public network. Imagine if a remote employee at Starbucks had an extra long ethernet cable. They connect one end to their computer and the other end directly to their company's servers at work.

That's exactly what a VPN does. It creates a secure and encrypted tunnel from your computer to a server on the Internet. This is great as no one can access the data you share with your computer and corporate server. You have data protection and data security. We'll look at seven of the top VPN services and explain the pros and cons of each one.

Our 7 tips for the best VPN services:

  1. Scope 81
  2. NordVPN teams
  3. ExpressVPN
  4. VyprVPN
  5. SurfShark
  6. Mullvad
  7. TunnelBear

Here's how to choose the best VPN service for you

When looking for a VPN, the first thing you need to do is determine your requirements. What should your VPN do for you? What kind of things do you need from your VPN? In general, most people focus on four specific criteria.

Criterion 1: speed and reliability

If you want to use your VPN for things that require a lot of data or activity, you should choose a service that is optimized for speed and reliability. If you routinely share large files or regularly stream videos, you'll want to choose a VPN that offers unlimited connections, unlimited bandwidth, and fast download and upload speeds.

When it comes to speed and reliability, there are factors that control you and factors that your service provider controls.

  • Factors You Control: Improve WiFi stability, use a wired connection (which is always faster), upgrade your internet connection speed, or upgrade your VPN. You can also choose a VPN service with more servers or servers closer to your desired location.
  • Factors You Don't Control: Number of servers, server load, or server location / distance – greater distance = slower speeds. International bandwidth restrictions (i.e. VPNs in Australia are slow due to underwater fiber optic cables that each carry a set amount of data), and VPN protocols also affect speed. Another thing, complicated peering relationships between networks, also slows down.

You want to test your VPN speed to verify your provider's claims. To do this, you need two things: an exact test method and a basis for your tests. Here are some of the more reliable speed tests that you can use to check your VPN speeds.

Next, run a speed test on the same connection with and without a VPN. If you're using Wi-Fi, you'll stay on Wi-Fi for both tests. Run the tests twice to get an average speed. Run your tests on the same VPN server / location that you plan to use with your service.

Criterion 2: security and data protection

VPNs should be secure by default. The basics of security and privacy should not be followed for the VPN service you have chosen. Here are the top security and privacy requirements to consider when choosing a VPN.

safety

  • Handshake encryption: This is done at the beginning of the VPN session, where you and the server you are communicating with exchange private keys that encrypt or decrypt the data and messages to confirm each other.
  • Authentication: Reputable VPN services use a hashing algorithm to automatically check received packets and ensure that no data has been injected into your packet by a middleman. They also check whether your data has been tampered with or changed in any way.
  • Ciphers: This is an algorithm like AES that encrypts and decrypts your data in a series of clearly defined steps. Using a key to encrypt your data makes it impossible for unwanted eyes to spy on your data unless they have the specific key that was used to encrypt the message. The unencrypted message "VPNs made easy" would be "FVWWOluB9rHb5KUtyJYqlA ==" using the AES algorithm.
  • Encryption strength: 128-bit AES encryption is faster, but less secure. 256-bit encryption is slower but more secure. Stronger encryption is obviously harder to break, so it's a bigger priority when your focus is on security.

privacy

  • Activity logs: Many free VPN services keep track of your activity – the websites and pages you visit, files you download, etc. These free VPNs sell or monetize your usage activity on their VPN without your permission or knowledge.
  • Connection protocols: Other VPN services keep track of assigned IP addresses, start / end times of the connection or transmitted data bytes. This usually doesn't include your information, but it can be combined with other information (i.e. the IP address you used to sign in to your Slack account) to reveal your identity.

If privacy is important to you, stick with log-free VPN services that don't track your activity or metadata.

Criterion 3: Compatible devices

If you have an iPhone but are using Windows on your computer, you want to check that the VPN services are compatible with your devices. While most VPN services are compatible with the standard platforms – Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, and iOS, etc. – some are not available on all platforms. The Windows-enabled VPN may not be available on Android or iOS.

You want to check that all of your devices are compatible before signing in.

Criterion 4: Connections

How many devices can connect to your VPN service at the same time? The availability of connections tends to vary from service to service. Some providers only allow one; others allow up to three, while others are unlimited. You need to find out what you will need in advance.

However, it's not just connections that you need to worry about. You also need to check country availability and server availability. If you have special availability requirements, you should check with your VPN service provider beforehand and then confirm them during your free trial or warranty period.

Other important considerations are:

  • Payment plans: The cost of VPN services varies significantly and depends on the features you choose and the length of your subscription.
  • Customer service: If you need on-demand customer support (in case something goes wrong), you need a VPN service that offers live chat or phone support (which affects the price). If that's not that important, a provider that offers email support might be a better option.
  • Free trial or money back guarantee: If you choose a service that offers a free trial, you should choose a service that gives you plenty of time to try it out. The free trial period for some VPN services is quite short. This may not be enough to verify the service on your part. A money-back guarantee is ideal as you have a way out if the service doesn't meet your expectations.
  • User-friendly or tech-savvy: If you're not familiar with setting up and configuring your VPN, make sure you find a provider with an easy-to-use interface. Some providers will virtually configure your VPN for you so that everything is done for you in advance.

You need to find out what you are looking for in advance.

The different types of VPN services

It is important to distinguish between VPN technology and VPN services. As mentioned earlier, a virtual private network consists of a secure, private connection between your device and the endpoint. That's VPN technology. The VPN service, on the other hand, uses VPN technology to provide you with a tool package. With VPN services, not only can you keep your internet connection safe and your privacy safe, but you can also access additional customer service with configuration guides, automatic setup and live chat support.

Different types of VPNs:

  • RAS VPN – Establish a secure connection from a user to a remote server to gain access to a private network.
  • Intranet-based site-to-site VPN – Provide a secure connection for different users in different fixed locations to connect to each other's resources. For example, a site-to-site VPN allows multiple local area networks (LAN) to connect to a single wide area network (WAN). Imagine a company with multiple locations that share resources.
  • Extranet-based site-to-site VPN – These VPNs are difficult to implement and are often used in large business environments where you are looking for a secure connection between two separate intranets but do not want them to have direct access to each other. Imagine two different companies working together.
  • Cloud VPN – Also known as VPNaaS (Virtual Private Network-as-a-Service) and was developed for companies that rely on outsourced cloud data centers instead of internal infrastructures. A traditional VPN won't work if your organization stores all of your data in the cloud. A cloud VPN allows users to access a company's resources – applications, data, and files – through a website or a native desktop or mobile app.

As a user looking to protect your privacy and access the internet, or secure business data for your remote workers, you are most likely looking for commercial VPN services. Let's take a look at our pick of the best VPN providers.

1. Perimeter 81 – Best for small business teams

  • Pricing: $ 8 / month (annually) $ 10 / month (monthly
  • Number of servers: 700+
  • Refund warranty: 30 day
  • Support: 24/7 live chat
  • One-time registration: Yes
  • Number of users: At least 5 team members

Perimeter 81 is an Israel-based business VPN service that is unique because of its cloud VPN architecture. It's ideal for users on multiple devices. You don't need any external legacy hardware or tools. It contains the business functions you need to run your remote organization securely in the cloud.

Perimeter 81 is ideal for remote businesses as it protects your business from unexpected mistakes. The automatic Wi-Fi security and DNS filtering features protect your data instantly by automatically activating VPN protection when employees connect to unknown, untrusted networks. According to their website, "all outbound and inbound traffic is encrypted and routed through your dedicated private servers – hiding your company's real IP address with an IP mask."

This protection protects your company from man-in-the-middle attacks and insecure Wi-Fi networks. Your service protects your business from data breaches, negligent lawsuits, and other claims. Employee training is important, but Perimeter protects your employees and your company when they are at work.

They also give you the data you need to monitor network activity. You can monitor resource access, monitor bandwidth consumption, and detect network anomalies remotely at any time. All of this is important as more organizations have adopted a bring your own device (BYOD) policy.

The potential disadvantage of Perimeter 81's service is access points. To date, they have 700 public servers in 36 countries. That may sound like a lot, until you find out that some of your competitors are double or triple the amount in twice as many countries.

advantages

  • Single Sign-On (SSO) functionality
  • User friendly and easy to use
  • Ideal for remote businesses
  • Automatic integration with all cloud providers
  • Secure access to managed and unmanaged devices

disadvantage

  • Higher price
  • Fewer servers than their competitors

2. NordVPN teams – New service from the industry leader

  • Pricing: $ 7- $ 9 per month.
  • Number of servers: 5,000+
  • Refund warranty: 30 day
  • Support: 24/7 response within 3 hours.
  • One-time registration: Yes
  • Multiple device support: Yes apps on all devices

NordVPN Teams is a new VPN service from an industry leader. NordVPN is known for its consistent performance, strong stance on privacy, and aggressive security features. The company is based in Panama, where there are no mandatory data retention laws and no legal obligation to collect your data. This is also important as Panama does not participate in the alliances with five or fourteen eyes.

They do not track, collect, or share your private information – activity, usage, or metadata. They invited one of the four major accounting firms, PriceWaterhouseCoopers AG, to conduct an industry-first non-logging review of their claims to verify that they were telling the truth.

NordVPN is one of the few providers to offer Double VPN, an advanced VPN security feature that routes your traffic through two VPN servers instead of one and encrypts your data twice. They offer two-factor authentication and single sign-on, which are standard features for top-notch VPN services. They also offer you a kill switch. If your connection goes down for even a second, the kill switch will cut all internet traffic on your device and make sure none of your information is available online.

For business customers, they provide you with a dedicated account manager who is assigned to your account. In your control panel you can manage user accounts, control permissions and create gateways. You can monitor user activity, monitor server load, add new users and create custom teams in your control panel.

advantages

  • A trusted brand name
  • Thousands of servers around the world
  • Single Sign-On (SSO) functionality
  • Strong on security
  • Apps on all devices
  • Fast speeds
  • Cryptocurrencies and cash accepted

disadvantage

  • Slow app and server connections
  • An open VPN connection is not user-friendly
  • No split tunneling
  • Approved IP addresses

3. ExpressVPN – Consumer Favorite, Best-in-Class

  • Pricing: $ 8.32 per month (annually) $ 12.95 (monthly)
  • Number of servers: 3,000+
  • Refund warranty: 30 day
  • Support: 24/7 live chat
  • Multiple device support: Yes

ExpressVPN doesn't have a product that is solely designed for businesses. You are consumer oriented. This is ideal if you are a sole proprietorship or a remote, contract or freelance worker. Your apps are compatible with almost any device on the common platforms. They also have apps for non-traditional platforms including Linux, Kindle Fire, Chromebook, and even Barnes and Noble's Nook!

Because they are consumer-centric, their apps are easy to use, easy to set up, and easy to maintain. They give you all of the standard encryption and security features you would expect from a top-notch VPN provider. They also offer you some unique features like split tunneling or using your own DNS server.

Like NordVPN, they have a no-logging policy as their business is based in the British Virgin Islands. There are no mandatory government oversight or data retention laws.

advantages

  • Consumer oriented
  • User friendly and easy to use
  • Apps available on all devices and platforms
  • Strong reputation
  • Top rated security and encryption

disadvantage

  • No business VPN services
  • More expensive than their competitors

4. VyprVPN – The best VPN for speed

  • Pricing: $ 2.50 per month (24 month plan): $ 3.75 per month. (12 Month Plan): $ 12.95 per month. (1 month plan).
  • Number of servers: 700+
  • Refund warranty: 30 day
  • Support: 24/7 response within 3 hours
  • Privacy: End to end
  • Multiple device support: Desktop and mobile

VyprVPN is owned by Golden Frog GmbH and is registered in Switzerland. The focus is on a few areas – speed, anti-censorship, and privacy. They call their service the "Most Powerful VPN". They offer more than 200,000 IP addresses and more than 700 servers in 70 international locations.

Your platform resolves speed issues due to ISP bandwidth throttling. It is common for users to state that their speed is close to 100% of their original speed. This is impressive when you find that they are based on AES 256-bit encryption. They offer users unlimited switching between servers and protocols with no restrictions.

VyprVPN offers some of the same features listed by other providers – kill switch, public Wi-Fi protection, and DNS protection. But they also offer a proprietary technology called Chameleon. In this protocol, VyprVPN encrypts your metadata so that it is invisible to an in-depth package scan, but is still fast and easy. As a result, VyperVPN can bypass the restrictions imposed by governments, corporations, and ISPs while fighting censorship and keeping up speed.

VyprVPN also owns and operates its data centers to reduce the risk of a data breach. Other VPN providers route traffic to third-party servers so they're not as secure as a service that keeps things internal. VyprDNS keeps your browsing history private. Your no-logs policy makes a violation unlikely.

advantages

  • Unlimited high-speed bandwidth
  • Over 70 server locations
  • Chameleon log
  • 5 Simultaneous connections
  • No activity or usage logs
  • Fast customer support
  • VyprDNS
  • Own servers

disadvantage

  • Fewer servers than larger competitors
  • Bad speeds in certain regions (EU)
  • Slower connection times in certain regions

5. Surfshark – The best for the price

  • Pricing: $ 1.99 per month (24 months), $ 5.99 per month. (12 months), $ 11.95 per month.
  • Number of servers: 1,700+
  • Refund warranty: 30 day
  • Support: 24/7 live chat, email tickets
  • Multiple device support: Desktop and mobile platforms

Surfshark is an award-winning VPN service that is incredible value for money. According to VPNMentor.com, SurfShark ranks 4th among 357 VPN services. Their service provides users with 256-bit encryption, double VPN, an automatic kill switch, and a no-protocol policy.

They are headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, so like other VPNs on our list, they are free of the five, nine, fourteen eyes alliances. While they don't collect usage or connection information, they do collect your email address, password, and basic billing information. If you don't want to share this information, you can use cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. They also collect unique third party advertising identifiers for marketing purposes and user analysis.

One detail that stands out with Surfshark is unlimited connections. There is no limit to the number of devices that can connect simultaneously per license. This is great if you're an individual, but it's also great if you run a business. Once you are signed in, there are no additional licenses or requirements. Just set up your VPN, pay for the service, and you're done.

Surfshark offers its Adblock VPN, which blocks ads and malware, counteracts phishing attempts and increases browsing speed. They offer premium features like private DNS on every server, stealth mode to mask the activities of your ISP and multihop – connection across multiple countries at the same time to maximize footprint masking and ID protection.

advantages

  • Best value for the price
  • Unlimited connections / devices
  • Built-in ad blocker
  • Whitelister
  • Private DNS
  • Double VPN
  • No logging
  • Dedicated customer support

disadvantage

  • Medium sized network
  • Moderately reduced speeds in certain regions

6. Mullvad – The best for anonymity

  • Pricing: $ 5.50 per month
  • Number of servers: 315+
  • Refund warranty: 30 day
  • Support: E-mail

Mullvad believes that privacy is a universal right.

Data protection is not the same as security. If you're looking for a VPN service that goes to extreme lengths to protect your privacy, the Swedish company Mullvad is at the top of the list. You do not need an email address or a password from your customers. The company randomly generates a unique code for your username. You can use this code to log into the desktop apps or add credit to your account. They even allow customers to send cash in the mail to pay for your account!

They want to know as little about you as possible.

Mullvad stores your account number, your count, the time remaining paid and the number of simultaneous connections used by your account. This data is saved in the temporary memory and deleted after you log out. They log the total number of current connections for a given server, the bandwidth used per server, and the CPU usage per core on each server. None of these elements contain personal data.

Mullvad only offers connections in 38 countries and only has 315 servers. You don't use virtual servers, so your VPN connections run on physical hardware in the specified location. The speed depends on your location. If you are in Europe or North America, the speeds are generally good. Generally, if you are in Australia or Asia, performance will be much slower.

advantages

  • Data protection oriented
  • Simple and easy to use
  • WireGuard support
  • More anonymity than most VPN services
  • No partners or resellers

disadvantage

  • Focuses on privacy only
  • Slower speeds in certain locations
  • No password protection

7. TunnelBear – The best for newbies

  • Pricing: Free, $ 3.33 per month, $ 5.75 per user per month. for teams
  • Number of servers: 20th
  • Refund warranty: 30 day
  • Support: 24/7 email support tickets
  • Multiple device support: Mac, Windows, iOS and Android

TunnelBear's service is incredibly easy for newbies.

They are based in Canada, a member of the alliances with five eyes, nine eyes and fourteen eyes. This means that data that is received or stored in Canada is subject to intelligence agreements. You may be legally obliged to share your data. TunnelBear states that there are no guidelines for logging. Everything seems fine until you read this on the privacy policy.

"TunnelBear makes every effort in good faith to give you the opportunity to delete your personal data. However, there may be times that TunnelBear cannot delete all of your personal data. For example, we cannot delete it if we are required by law to keep it, including where we need it to continue providing the service to you, or if you are involved in a legal dispute with us, we must keep your personal information. This is limited to the fields we discussed in 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4 above. "

This data includes your email address, your Twitter ID, the name of the paid user, operational data and personal and financial data. If this isn't a problem for you or your business, TunnelBear is a great option for individuals and businesses looking to get started with a VPN but not as knowledgeable as they want.

TunnelBear includes the standard features you need to get started with a VPN – AES 256-bit encryption, tunneling (Android only), hashing, and more. Their service is inexpensive and designed so that inexperienced people can get started with a VPN.

TunnelBear is transparent about its service and publishes the results of its independent security reviews on its website every year.

advantages

  • Designed for inexperienced users
  • Generally open and transparent about their service
  • Inexpensive
  • Built for individuals and teams
  • Offers a free plan

disadvantage

  • Can share your data with governments
  • No phone or customer support

Conclusion

Whether you're a freelancer, entrepreneur with a small team, or a growing company looking for options, a VPN gives you the security and security you need to keep your remote team connected and safe to work with.

Your needs are unique and will determine which VPN service is best for you and your business. Balance the options against your requirements for speed, security, data protection, compatible devices, and number of connections. Millions of people work remotely and that number continues to grow every day. If you aren't already using a VPN service, now is a good time to get started.

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