VPN Buyer’s Guide – How to Find The VPN That’s Aligned With All Your Needs?

It’s true that there are hundreds of VPN services available on the global market. Even though having so many options is always a good thing, this also means you’re in for a wild ride (especially if you’re new to this type of software). However, simply knowing the importance of taking your time when looking for a VPN is already a significant first step. You see, VPN applications are designed to handle your Web data and to protect your online privacy. This is why you’ll want to be careful when choosing a VPN, as your privacy is not something that should be taken lightly. We’ve published this VPN buyer’s guide, intending to help you narrow down your list of VPNs according to your needs, priorities, and budget.

If you’re just getting started with VPNs right now, it’s worth knowing a few things before you jump to buying a subscription. By knowing what VPN applications are and how VPNs work, you’ll get a sense of what to expect. And to be on the objective side of things, you’ll want to know about the pros and cons of using VPN services. And now, once we have the basics out of our way, it’s time to proceed with our VPN buyer’s guide. Aside from giving you plenty of pointers, we’ll also make sure to recommend the best VPNs you’ll find today. With this said, let’s jump right in.

TL;DR – What Are The Best VPN Services in 2020?

We understand that some of you might not want to read this entire article, and you just want the most important information. Therefore, we are going to include three of the best options you have right now. The following recommendations come from our extensive testing of dozens of VPNs – so rest assured that they’ll meet all your needs.

1. ExpressVPN

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We don’t have to think hard about the best VPN you can find today. Without any doubt, that would be ExpressVPN – perhaps the most trustworthy VPN service available. It has been on the market for a long time now, comes without any problematic privacy-related incidents in its past, and packs a set of incredibly powerful features. On top of that, ExpressVPN is available at an affordable price, especially if you get its long-term plan.

No matter the reason why you’re considering using a VPN, ExpressVPN will most definitely meet your needs. As per our tests, this VPN is perfect for general Internet browsing, if you want to encrypt your Web data (using AES-256 encryption, in this case). ExpressVPN also works wonders for media streaming, torrenting, and even online gaming. Moreover, this VPN is present on a variety of devices (you get up to five simultaneous connections), which is why it’s one of the best cross-platform VPNs as well. Finally, keep in mind that ExpressVPN is a no-logs VPN service, with an independent audit in its past.

To learn more about this VPN provider as well as why it should be your #1 pick, here’s our comprehensive (and freshly updated) ExpressVPN review.

  • Jurisdiction (Country of Origin): The British Virgin Islands.
  • Data Logging Practices: No data logs, whatsoever (independently audited).
  • Media Streaming Support: YES (unblocks Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, HBO NOW/MAX, ITV Player, and plenty more).
  • Torrenting (P2P) Support: YES.
  • Money-Back Guarantees: 30 days.

2. Surfshark

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Then, we have a relatively new VPN service – but it’s already miles ahead of its competition. We’re talking about Surfshark, a highly innovative yet simple-to-use VPN service from the British Virgin Islands. This is yet another reputable no-logs VPN that collects no personal information as you use it. Thanks to its combination of robust protocols and high-end encryption, this one should be your pick if you’re after securing your online data.

Don’t let its list of sturdy security features fool you into thinking that Surfshark is only made for privacy and security. Yes, those are its primary purposes, but this VPN is also an amazing pick for media streaming, as it unblocks a huge range of streaming platforms (including websites and native applications). This is why you’ll find Surfshark on our lists of the best VPNs for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, let’s not forget to mention that we’re also huge fans of Surfshark’s Web browser extensions, which is an important thing to keep in mind if you don’t want to run a native VPN application. For this purpose, you’ll want to check how to set up a VPN on Chrome and Firefox.

There’s truly plenty of say about this VPN. So, if you’re interested in learning more, don’t forget to take a look at our Surfshark review.

  • Jurisdiction (Country of Origin): The British Virgin Islands.
  • Data Logging Practices: No data logs, whatsoever (strict no-logs policy).
  • Media Streaming Support: YES (unblocks Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Prime Video, Kodi, Disney Plus, and plenty more).
  • Torrenting (P2P) Support: YES.
  • Money-Back Guarantees: 30 days.

3. CyberGhost VPN

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This is a VPN service that comes from Romania, known for its strong security features, coupled with user-friendly tools and functions. As such, CyberGhost VPN is a suitable pick for a wide range of users. It protects your privacy online, blocks digital trackers as you browse the Internet, helps you stay secure on public Wi-Fi, allows you to unblock websites (including media streaming platforms), and plenty more.

There are a few things that are unique about this VPN. First, you’ll find it highlighted in our article on the VPNs with the highest number of servers. CyberGhost VPN comes with over 6,000 servers spread across 90 countries – which is the biggest server network out of any VPN available out there. However, it’s not just that those numbers are impressive. Among those servers, you’ll find specialized units for streaming, torrenting, and general Web browsing. Speaking of streaming, CyberGhost VPN unblocks a considerable number of regional platforms available in individual countries. However, big-name services like Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu are on this list as well.

Before you jump to buying a subscription, you might want to read our recently updated CyberGhost VPN review – where you’ll find all the pros and cons of using this VPN.

  • Jurisdiction (Country of Origin): Romania.
  • Data Logging Practices: No data logs, whatsoever (strict no-logs policy).
  • Media Streaming Support: YES (unblocks Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO Now, Crunchyroll, Eurosport, Spotify, Pandora, and plenty more).
  • Torrenting (P2P) Support: YES (offers specialized servers).
  • Money-Back Guarantees: 45 days.

TechNadu’s VPN Buyer’s Guide – How to Find the VPN Aligned With Your Needs, Priorities, and Budget?

Now, let’s take a deep dive into what you need to know about VPNs. We’re going to tell you what to look for in a good VPN and pick the one suitable for your needs.

1. First, Make Sure to List & Rank Your Priorities!

We’ll start our VPN buyer’s guide with an obvious question since you must be very clear on your use-case for a VPN service. You see, VPNs can do a lot of different jobs, but there’s no such thing as a perfect VPN service. Your chosen VPN is going to be better at some things than others. In fact, it may be downright terrible at some things, which could help you cross it off the list if that feature is important to you.

For example, if your main reason for wanting a VPN is to unblock geo-locked content and don’t care that much about privacy, you’d want a service that’s reliable at unblocking the content you want. If you want to download P2P content at high volumes anonymously, you need a VPN that offers fast P2P servers and a high or unlimited data cap. And if you’re into streaming, you want to find the best VPN for streaming that’s also one of the fastest VPNs right now.

So, before you start shopping for a VPN, list all the things you intend to do with it and then rank them from the most to the least important. That will tell you how much to care about a given aspect, so you can focus on finding a VPN that’s aligned with your needs.

2. What Kinds of Devices (and How Many) Do You Want to Protect?

Virtually all VPN providers have a VPN client that will work with Windows and macOS, but beyond that, support will vary. Think about the devices that you would like to have a VPN on and then create a checklist to ensure that your potential VPN will work with them. This may include Android and iOS, but also add-ons and extensions for Web browsers (here are the best VPNs for Chrome and Firefox).

Often when a VPN does not natively support a device, it will work with a generic OpenVPN client. This brings up another important issue: the number of connections. If you’re going to connect each of your devices individually, then you need to make sure that the VPN in question allows for enough simultaneous connections per subscription. If not, you’ll have to take out multiple subscriptions to cover everything.

One good solution to that problem is using a VPN-compatible router. If you have a VPN-ready router, then the number of connections becomes moot. Protection is granted to all devices that connect through it. Make sure to learn about DD-WRT firmware and installing a VPN on your router.

3. Make Sure to Pick a VPN From a Privacy-Friendly Country

Next up in our VPN buyer’s guide, we have a critical consideration. The privacy laws that VPNs are subject to are determined by their home country. No matter what anyone says, a VPN must comply with the privacy laws of its host nation. So, if that government is legally empowered to seize and share your personal information with entities you want to be hidden from, you really shouldn’t do business with them.

Many countries, such as Switzerland (ProtonVPN), Panama (NordVPN), and the British Virgin Islands (ExpressVPN & Surfshark), have excellent personal privacy laws and so VPNs that are based there have a lot of legal protection that also protects you. There is no feature or offer a VPN can make that can trump favorable privacy laws.

The flip-side can also be true. Some countries have banned VPNs in some way or another. Even if your country had not explicitly made them illegal, it might be frowned upon informally. So, do some research in that regard and make sure it’s safe for you to use a VPN (based on where you reside).

4. Pick a Simple-to-Use VPN If You’re a Newbie

The days of having to spend time in arcane command lines or editing complex scripts are over when it comes to setting up a VPN. Still, just because VPNs are now easy to use in general, that doesn’t mean they are all equally easy to use.

We’ve seen some great user interfaces from the likes of ExpressVPN, Surfshark, TunnelBear, and NordVPN, which help you tell at a glance what’s going on. It might sound like a minor issue, but think about it – a VPN is something you have to interact with multiple times daily. If changing settings or switching servers is a chore, you’ll quickly grow to hate it, even if it functions just fine.

Then, we also have more complex VPN services. These aren’t necessarily difficult to use – but they require you to invest some time in learning the ropes. So, if you’re willing to learn new types of terminology and how different aspects of a VPN work, you could get a VPN that gives you plenty of freedom in customizing your Web connection. For this purpose, we recommend checking out TorGuard.

5. What Are No-Logs VPNs? Do You Need One?

Although VPN services can’t avoid having your information flow through their systems, they can choose not to save any of it. This is a no-logging policy. It means that even if they receive a court order (or get hacked), there wouldn’t be any information to give/steal. Of course, most VPNs have some logging activity, and you must confirm what, if anything, they do collect. Often, the information wouldn’t be useful for anything other than diagnostic or tech support purposes, but pay special attention to any fine print.

No-Logs VPNs

It’s important to understand that a VPN is not a total solution to anonymity on the Web (however, VPNs are the central variable in that equation). Since VPN security is imperfect, you need to combine privacy technologies to become anonymous on the Web. More advanced users will also want to try to combine a VPN, Tor, and a virtual machine – to get the ultimate anonymity. Even though this requires some time and effort, mixing these technologies goes a long way in stopping digital trackers.

6. Make Sure Your VPN Has Plenty of Servers

On a physical level, a VPN network consists of computers called servers that connect your devices to a secure tunnel. In general, VPN providers with more servers tend to be better. They have more capacity and will, therefore, take more users before their performance degrades. They are also more likely to have servers in the country you want to spoof or that are close to you.

To help you with this, we’ve put together a list of VPNs with the largest number of servers. This should help you narrow down your options a bit. However, don’t just take the total number of servers into account. Note any specialized servers and which countries are represented – which is especially important when it comes to media streaming and gaming.

7. What Kind of Encryption Do You Need?

All VPNs provide various layers of security (as this is their primary purpose). The central defense against prying eyes comes in the form of VPN encryption. Here you generally want a provider that offers at least 256-bit end-to-end encryption (make sure to learn about the basics of software encryption).

Of course, the honest truth is that for many people, 128-bit encryption is a perfectly reasonable security level and has less of a performance impact. Still, any trustworthy VPN will at least offer it up to the 256-bit level. Additionally, you need to think about security around your VPN account as well. Do they offer two-factor authentication or some other measures to ensure that your VPN account is not compromised?

Also, it’s worth running a DNS leak test on a VPN while trying it out to make sure that it is hiding your location and IP properly. This test will check your Web connection and identify any servers used to transmit your information. In other words, they should show you the VPN’s servers and not your actual information – which means all your Web traffic is contained with a secure tunnel, without any leaks.

8. What Kinds of VPN Protocols Should You Use?

A lot could be said about VPN protocols. Based on how you plan to use a VPN, this could be an essential aspect when choosing which one to buy. To make things simple, we’ll say that you need to focus on the OpenVPN protocol. This is currently the most secure and versatile protocol, available on a whole range of devices.

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When it comes to other VPN protocols, you can expect any VPN to support PPTP – even though you should skip that one. This is a fairly old protocol with numerous vulnerabilities. Then, we also have L2TP/IPsec, which is quite secure but impacts your Web connection’s speed.

Lately, we’ve also seen the rise of the WireGuard protocol. This is a brand-new VPN protocol that comes incredibly lightweight, which means that it doesn’t impact the speed of your Internet connection in a dramatic way. As per the preliminary tests, it’s also incredibly secure. Among VPNs already offering this protocol, you’ll find NordVPN, Private Internet Access, IVPN, and more.

9. What Kind of Performance (Throttling) to Expect?

The most important thing when choosing a VPN is to avoid having your Web connection being restricted. So, ask a VPN provider if they impose any bandwidth restrictions. In the best-case scenario, you will end up with unlimited bandwidth. However, it’s also acceptable to be limited to several TBs of data – so make sure to read the fine print.

In addition, you’ll want a VPN that doesn’t decrease the speed of your Internet connection in a big way. So, to make this VPN buyer’s guide as helpful as possible, we’re going to show you a helpful resource – our guide to the fastest VPNs available. However, you should also know that you can do plenty to speed up slow VPNs, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t get the fastest possible speeds right off the bat.

10. What Kind of Customer Support You’ll Get?

There’s bound to be something you get stuck on, no matter how easy or well-built a VPN is. Whether it’s a device-specific problem or a service failure, you’ll need help eventually. So, take note of the type of support you can get for the asking price. And also, since the competition between VPN services is quite rough, you can expect plenty.

All of today’s VPN services come with dedicated support pages. This is where you’ll find step-by-step installation instructions, different kinds of tutorials and explanations, and plenty more. However, you’ll also get to rely on email support. By sending an email, you can create a support ticket, where a response should come in between 24 and 72 hours. There are also plenty of VPNs offering live-chat support, which is the best way to resolve your problem in the fastest way possible.

11. Are There ‘Bonus’ Features Included in the Price?

Since so many VPN providers are giving you the same essential product, they will naturally try to get your business by offering other features to distinguish themselves. Some of these features are generally worthwhile. For example, the malware and ad-blocking features that we mentioned earlier would count as value-added features.

Notable features include split tunneling, which allows you to select which devices go through the VPN and which don’t. That’s useful when you have, for example, a streaming device that needs lots of bandwidth yet no privacy protection or location unblocking.

Another feature that may be worth signing up for is a kill switch. What this does is stop all network traffic if the VPN connection goes down. Anything could happen to sever the secure tunnel. Your identity and IP address will be revealed to the world if your device is still blasting out data packets.

12. How Much Are You Willing to Spend?

What counts as cheap or expensive is obviously something that varies from person to person. It’s hard to say if a given VPN’s price is good based on its absolute value. So instead, decide how much you are willing to spend for a VPN service. Then, if a given VPN costs more than your prospective budget, you can just cross it off the list.

If two services cost the same or both are within your budget, you need to decide which one offers better value for your money. VPNs are priced to compete with each other. Still, you need to draw the line which you are not willing to cross when it comes to your budget.

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Also, keep in mind that most VPN providers will give you a much better deal if you pay for a more extended period up-front. Don’t be seduced by this right off the bat. Instead, make use of free-trials or money-back guarantees to test the service first.

To help you spend your money wisely, we’ll offer you plenty of helpful resources. First, you’ll want to check the best free VPN trials in 2020 – where you’ll find VPNs that allow you to test-drive their services without paying anything. You’ll also want to check the best cheap VPN services, and don’t forget to check available VPN deals as well.

13. What Kind of Payment Options Are on Offer?

When it comes to choosing a preferred payment option, there are two types of VPN users. First, we have those who simply want to overcome Web roadblocks and access new (media streaming) services. Naturally, those users don’t really care about anonymous payment methods and are willing to pay via credit cards, PayPal, and similar.

However, we also have those who use VPNs to avoid censorship, fighting regimes, or political persecution. As you can imagine, those users can’t simply pay by using a payment card issued to their name. So, this is where anonymous payment methods come into play.

Aside from cryptocurrencies, some VPNs support gift cards. You can buy these all over the world. In the US, as you’ll be surprised to know that these can be bought in shops like Walmart and Target. You just enter a custom code, and you’ll be prepaid to a VPN service.

So, that would be all we’ve prepared for your VPN buyer’s guide. We sincerely hope that you’ve managed to get usable information out of this article. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, don’t hesitate to post a comment below, and we’ll make sure to respond as soon as possible.

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