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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Best VPN Services Of 2018

The Best VPN Services Of 2018
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A VPN (virtual private network) is what you're looking for if you're concerned about online privacy, or want to access region-blocked content. There are so many VPNs out there, but here we review the best VPN services of 2018 to help keep snoopers at bay by offering completely anonymous browsing.

In this round-up, you'll find our pick of the 10 best VPN services available to hide your location online.

VPNs can also allow you to access blocked content and region-blocked sites such as Netflix, Hulu and BBC iPlayer, as they offer the ability to change your virtual location. You could be on holiday in the US and connect to a UK server to watch your favourite shows on iPlayer, for example. 

We've separately rounded up the VPNs that we think are the best for streaming, gaming or web browsers, but read on if you want an all-rounder that will cover all those and other use cases.

What's the best VPN?
If you're here for a quick recommendation, here's a summary of the VPN services we like the most and who we think they're best for. Following the summary, we share more information about each VPN and how a VPN could benefit you.

Best VPN reviews

1. NordVPN

NordVPN is easy to use, with a nicely designed interface that comes complete with a handy Search feature to make things even simpler. Based in Panama, it's great for privacy, and it includes a kill switch too.

You can connect to Netflix US using NordVPN, and with more than 3,500 servers across more than 60 countries you'll find that there's a server suited to every need. There's an ad-blocker and malware protection feature available within the package too, as well as browser extensions for both Chrome and Firefox.

You can currently get NordVPN for as little as £2/USD$2.75 per month if you take advantage of its three year deal, which totals just $99. Alternative options include a two year plan for £2.40/$3.29 per month, a one year plan for £4.15/$5.75 per month, or if you want to commit to just one month it's £8.60/$11.95.

The three year option makes it one of the cheapest VPNs available, and we don't hesitate to suggest committing to the full three years as the premium interface, huge number of servers and variety of features make it a highly recommended VPN.

Find out more and sign up at NordVPN.com.

2. ExpressVPN

Simple but speedy ExpressVPN is one of the more expensive VPNs reviewed here, but for ease of use and its range of features it does present value for money.

There's currently a deal that offers 15 months for the price of 12, and there's a 30-day money-back guarantee to put your mind at rest if you're worried about the commitment, too.

We found ExpressVPN to be reliable, and support was quick and efficient. You'll be able to access Netflix US, and if you're having any trouble doing so you can rest assured that contacting support will result in a fast resolution.

No logs are kept by ExpressVPN, and while it's outside of the 14-eyes its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands is a bit of a grey area.

You can get ExpressVPN for your router, too, and there's a kill switch facility called Network Lock that will keep you safe should your connection drop out. There are also browser extensions available for Chrome and Firefox.

You can find out more about ExpressVPN's payment options on its website

3. Goose VPN

Goose VPN is a fast, very easy-to-use VPN aimed squarely at domestic users who want access to foreign media. With few options to set, and a very simple interface, this is right up there among our favourite VPN options available in 2018.

There's a free 30 day trial available, as well as a 30-day money back guarantee if you've used less than 100GB during that time.

The cheapest option is a one month plan, at £2.99/USD$4.17, but that only gets you 50GB so won't be enough for most. Instead, you can choose the one year plan for £4.99/$6.97 per month, or the one month plan for a one-off payment of £12.99/$18.14.

You'll get access to US Netflix from the UK, as well as other region-blocked content.

The downside to Goose VPN is that it is in just 27 countries with 77 server locations and there is currently no kill switch, but short connection time, connection quality and success in accessing foreign media makes up for it.

Find out more and sign up to Goose VPN on its website here.

4. PureVPN

A great all-rounder is PureVPN, which is super speedy, very reasonably priced and is situated outside of the '14 eyes' (although its association with China may ring alarm bells if you're looking for absolutely untraceable online anonymity). 

The three year deal, which is a special offer for Tech Advisor readers, will save you 80% over the £7.15/$9.95 monthly package. You'll pay just £1.40/$1.95 per month for three years with the special offer. There's also a six month option that costs £5.70/$7.95.

There are more than 750 servers in 141 countries, and logging is restricted to the time at which connections are made. It's easy to install, has lots of features and modes, and offers access to blocked sites and streaming inluding Netflix US.

We had some trouble with installation on an older computer, but the live chat support is fantastic and this won't cause problems for everyone.

You can find out more about PureVPN's subscription options on PureVPN's website.

5. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a low-cost newbie-friendly VPN with a simple interface. Based in Romania, and therefore outside the 14-eyes, CyberGhost offers a wide range of pre-configured services.

Select the activity you want in the main interface and the client will automatically select connectivity options based on that activity. Alternatively, you can manually choose from more than 1300 servers across 58 countries, and that's growing rapidly.

The Unblock Streaming option, for example, lets you pick the exact service you want to use BBC iPlayer, for example) and then chooses a server to suit you. It does work with Netflix, but CyberGhost has to keep adding new servers as those it currently uses get blocked so it isn't 100% reliable (the same goes for the other VPNs in this article, though).

There's a kill switch for extra protection, and there are apps available for all devices, even Rasberry Pi and home routers - though the Mac and smartphone apps lack some features from the Windows version.

You can choose to pay for CyberGhost on a month-by-month basis for £8.65/$11.99, for 1 year at £4.32/$5.99 per month, or for two years at £2.52/$3.50 per month.

Find out more about the pricing options for CyberGhost on its website.

6. VyprVPN

VyprVPN is a family VPN offering great value for money from multiple simultaneous connections. It works with Netflix US and can unblock other content, too, including BBC iPlayer if you're outside of the UK.

There are two plans available with VyprVPN depending on the amount of simultaneous connections you need. If three is enough, it's £4.08 per month for a year, or £6.95 if you want to commit to just one month. For five simultaneous connections plus a few additional features, VyprVPN Premium is £5.83 per month for a year or £10.50 if you want one month only.

There are more than 700 servers available to connect to worldwide, and we found it quick and easy to get a high quality connection from them. There's a kill switch, as well as simple-to-use mobile apps.

VyprVPN's 30-day connection logging may put off security buffs, though.

Find out more and subscribe to VyprVPN on its website here.

7. Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access (or PIA as it is more fondly known) has a very simple interface that's almost non-existant. It connects extremely quickly, and using it just requires a right-click on the task bar icon to bring up the interface that lets you change some settings including the connection region.

There's more to it than meets the eye, though. It has a kill switch for extra security, an ad blocker and malware blocker, and there's DNS leak protection available. Plus there are an incredible 3,250 servers in 25 countries.

It works well with Netflix US, and there are apps available for all devices including Linux. It's cheap, too. A two year subscription costs just £2.10/$2.91 per month, while a year is £2.40/$3.33 per month or a one-off month is £5/$6.95.

The downside is that it's based in the US, so will no doubt be one VPN considered off limits for those with serious privacy requirements.

Find out more and see the plan options on PIA's website.

8. IPVanish

IPVanish is a great VPN for beginners, but it also remains powerful and full of useful features for those that want to browse the web anonymously or access blocked content.

It's simple to install with its own visual tutorial, and even a Simple mode, and it collects no data logs or connection details to ensure that your online activity remains private.

There's a kill switch, and even the option to automatically change your fake IP address at regular, user defined intervals.

Not every US server allows access to Netflix, but some do and it's easy to find out which thanks to the speedy technical support offered by IPVanish.

IPVanish is a bit expensive, though, with the cheapest option a one-year plan that works out at $6.40/£4.67 per month. Plus, it is based in the US so is part of the 14-eyes.

You can find out more about the various subscription plans available and sign up now on IPVanish's website.

9. Hidden24

Hidden24 tunnels your traffic to its own UK-based server farm using the operating system's own VPN capability. That means it will work on any device including Android, Mac, iPhone or Linux as well as Windows. It's ideal for anyone looking for a serious VPN solution designed for people who want or need to communicate anonymously. 

It's easy to use but the lack of an app or interface might put some beginners off. On the other hand, not having to install an extra app on their computer, phone or tablet in order to use the VPN may appeal to the more techy user looking for the best privacy.

You won't be able to unlock Netflix US yet, but you can access Netflix UK and BBC iPlayer from outside of the UK with this tool.

It's a reasonably priced option, too. As well as the £4.99 1-month option, and 12-month option for £47.88/year (£3.99 per month), there's also a recurring 3-month option for £13.47. There's an exclusive deal available that'll get you the first three months for just £3.33, too. You can take advantage of that deal here

Find out more about the plans available at Hidden24.co.uk.

10. SpyOFF VPN

A fast, easy-to-use VPN of confused origin but unlimited simultaneous connections that will put off security advocates due to its use of less secure protocols and the perceived threat from the “14-eyes”.

It's good value for money for large families, with a yearly subscription costing £6.99/$9.71 per month with unlimited connections.

The number of servers and countries is quite low, at 395 and 25 respectively, but there is a kill switch and mobile apps available.

You can get a 15 day trial if you're concerned about committing right away, too.

Find out more about SpyOFF on its website here.

Your guide to buying the best VPN 2018
Choosing a VPN can be daunting. They vary in price quite dramatically, and you'll want to make sure you choose one you trust that will offer the features you require. Here, we talk you through what to look for in a VPN to help you make your decision. 

If you're using a Mac, you might want to consider the VPN options in our article about the best VPN services for Mac.

If you're on a PC, you've come to the right place. The 10 VPNs above have all been through our review process so you can trust that they're good options that we have tried and tested ourselves here at Tech Advisor.

We'd recommend visiting our article 'What is a VPN' if you're unsure about what exactly a VPN is and what it can do.

It's important to note that installing a VPN on one device will only protect that device. If you want your media streamer (say an Amazon Fire TV Stick) to use the VPN connection, you'll either need to try and install a VPN app on it, look for VPN settings where you can enter your account details, or install an app for your router that'll cover all devices connected to it.

How to choose which VPN is best for you
If you're most concerned about privacy, it's important to know where your VPN is based. In recent years some countries have got together to exchange information freely, nominally in a bid to enhance everyone's security. However, many groups are critical of this behaviour, believing that mass surveillance impinges on our freedoms.

What is the '14 Eyes' collective?
The main group of countries that can share information freely is called the Five Eyes. They come from the UKUSA agreement that, although began back in 1941, was only made public knowledge in 2005. The agreement is between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, hence the name Five Eyes. Those countries have agreed to collect, analyse and share information between each other, and much of this intelligence is believed to be related to internet activity these days.

The Five Eyes has grown to include a total of 14 countries, which is why you'll hear a lot about '14-eyes' when reading about VPNs. Third party countries were added over time, and now additionally include Denmark, France, Holland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain.

If your VPN provider is based within a country that is part of the 14 Eyes, it can be asked to share data of its customers and will legally have to comply. If your provider promises that it doesn't log any information, you're probably safe within the 14 Eyes, but it is more of a risk if privacy is your main concern and you might want to consider looking for a VPN provider that is based elsewhere.

What information does a VPN keep?
VPN providers have different levels of logging. Some choose to log connection time stamps, IP addresses and bandwidth used, while others log nothing at all. Some will also store basic payment information such as your name and address.

However, those looking for complete anonymity can seek a provider that accepts payment in the form of gift cards or Bitcoin, which makes it near-impossible to trace back to an individual.

What features should I look for in a VPN?
Most VPNs support all the major platforms but some offer more unusual platforms such as Kindle or Google Chrome. Also look out for restrictions on usage – some ban P2P while others are fine with it. Free- and trial versions normally have speed restrictions, while paid-for versions should have none.

Note that encryption can slow down connections. OpenVPN provides more protection, while PPTP is faster but less secure.

Also, if you're connecting to a server that's geographically far away, you are less likely to get the full speed that your ISP provides. Look out for server speed claims and make sure that you conduct tests to check whether you are happy early on, so you can get a refund within the time limit if you're not.

VPN bans in China and Russia
2017 was a rocky year for VPNs. China has been cracking down on VPN use and as a result there are many that are no longer available from Chinese app stores. However, there are still VPN options available in China, including NordVPN for Windows. 

Russia has been following suit, with President Vladimir Putin recently signing a law that prohibits the use of VPNs in the country. The law came into force on 1 November 2017, making VPNs illegal from that point onwards in Russia.

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