5 Minute Challenge: How to Choose a VPN

Security guard guarding computer

You’ll probably agree with me when I say this:

Choosing a VPN is an absolute nightmare.

There are just so many of them out there, it leaves me dizzy just searching.

If this sounds like you too then you’ll know what a headache it is.

  • Every service is the “most secure”.
  • Each VPN is the “fastest”.
  • … and worst of all, they’re all the “best” too.

But, it doesn’t need to be as tricky as it seems.

In this guide you’ll learn the features to look out for and what to avoid helping you get the right VPN for your needs in super quick time.

Number 4 will really blow your mind because it goes against the grain of most advice.

A quick look at only a few virtual private networks will show you that they can all differ quite a bit, so making a good choice requires time and effort to read reviews about many different services, take notes, and compare them to one another.

Who’s got time for that?

If you are busy, as most of us are in this day and age, you likely don’t.

Luckily, there is a more natural way to determine if a VPN is good or not by yourself, and I’ll be showing you the main things to look for when choosing a VPN, which will help you make a quicker and more informed decision.

1) Proven no-log service

First off, make sure you pick a VPN service that doesn’t keep logs.

VPN services know that not keeping logs is one of the most critical factors for every user.

This is why they all claim not to keep logs, but that’s not always necessarily true, or at least, it’s not the full truth.

Their privacy policies should (in theory) be more truthful than their home pages which are often splashed with tempting claims of “completely no logs” or something to that effect.

The ‘privacy policy’ is where many of them reveal that they do keep some personal information about you, and this can usually be more than you would first imagine.

So much for “no logs”, huh?

To choose the right VPN service, you should look for services that were proven not to keep logs by audits.

Alternatively, VPNs that were involved in court cases or official investigations, and have failed to provide users’ data are probably a good choice.

A couple of good examples are services like ExpressVPN. They have not only had their claims audited, but they were also inadvertently caught up in a high-profile criminal case a few years back but were unable to provide any details to assist.

As you’ll see from their website, they prominently display this feature:

ExpressVPN no log website claim

ExpressVPN shouts about their no-log claims.

While you shouldn’t blindly trust any company, it’s about as good as you’re going to get.

PrivateInternetAccess is another service that has found itself tangled in a couple of court cases where they weren’t able to assist. They haven’t had their service audited, but there are no negatives stories to disprove their no-log claims.

Sunday Yokubaitis, CEO of Golden Frog, said that users should do research and use their common sense to find a credible VPN service. His comments came explicitly relating to the logging policies of VPN providers.

2) Money-back guarantee

You would likely agree that there is a chance that you might not like a VPN, or not find it suitable for your needs, even after you have paid to use it.

Apart from taking our word for it or from sites like ours, how do you know it’s any good for your needs?

It would be unfortunate to hand over your cash to get a miserable experience, especially since the majority of services do not offer a free trial.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom because most of them have the next best thing – a money-back guarantee.

This is precisely what the name suggests. A guarantee that you will get your money back if you request it within a specified period.

You should look for VPNs that offer at least a 30-day long money-back guarantee, meaning that you can get your money returned at any point during the 30 days from the moment of purchase.

VPNCity show this clearly at the bottom of their website and most other services do the same:

VPNCity website displays their guarantee period.

Keep in mind that not all VPNs offer a guarantee this long, and some only last for seven days, or even shorter.

While this is not inherently bad, it’s too short a window to see how the service performs over a more extended period. You also won’t have enough time to use it for a range of purposes and get a good feel for its quality.

CyberGhost goes a step further and offers a money back guarantee up to 45-days, so it’s worth checking out if you want that extra peace of mind.

3) Leak Protection and Features

These are all the features that are necessary to prevent data leaks, and you should look for a VPN that offers all of them.

The most important to be on the lookout for are:

  • DNS Leak Protection
  • IPv6 Leak Protection
  • Kill Switch

Not all services offer these, so it pays to do some quick checks before signing up. You’ll find these within the providers’ apps directly.

Features of ExpressVPN's app

ExpressVPN offer all these features in their app.

These features are not what defines a VPN, but they are what defines a good VPN.

In other words, not all services have them, but you are safest when you use a service that does offer such protection.

Plus it’s a bit of a freebie, so if you have a service that offers these and one that doesn’t, why not, right?

Having such extra security on your side means avoiding data leaks and revealing your identity due to VPN malfunction or error.

So, naturally, you must ensure that you have them to keep your identity secret. Otherwise, what’s the point in using a VPN at all?

4) Avoid 3+ year deals

You might find this advice strange at first. After all, longer deals usually come at a significant discount, which means that you can save a lot of money and not have to worry about renewing your VPN subscription each month or year.

However, what if something happens, and the quality of the service goes down?

What if you stump up the cash upfront in hopes of being able to watch foreign Netflix for 3-5 years, and then Netflix finally bans this VPN after only a few months?

You would be stuck with a useless service for half a decade.

As you’ll see below, prices are very tempting, but even the one year deal offers a significant saving over paying monthly:

3 year plans look tempting.

The best way to go about it would be to buy a yearly plan, that way you can still make use of a significant discount and not have to worry about paying for it monthly.

Besides, you won’t limit yourself to a single service for too long, and risk being stuck with it for more than a year, in a worst-case scenario.

While 3+ year services are considerably cheaper, it’s a risk versus reward scenario. VPN companies want you to sign up for longer, but there are no guarantees.

5) Consider YOUR usage

Of course, another big part of choosing a VPN provider is the purpose for which you are planning to use it.

For example, using a VPN that lets you choose your location from 100 countries is excellent, but are you going to utilise that?

If you need access to 100 countries, that’s fine.

However, what if all you want is to access a bit of US Netflix from another part of the world? All of the additional locations would be pointless.

This is compounded further if the service offers all that but doesn’t work with Netflix.

Consider your VPN needs

In another example, you may require a VPN that works in China.

If that is all, you certainly don’t need to have the best VPN in the industry – your situation requires a working VPN for China which means you need to look specifically.

What I am trying to say is – understand what you want a VPN for, and let that be your guide when choosing a service.

Don’t get bogged down by marketing or swayed by big numbers or features that you’re not going to use.

Summary

So there you have it, five steps to help you pick the correct VPN for your needs in just 5 minutes.

These are the main things to consider when choosing a service. Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and if you’ve got time, then you should do further research to ensure you get the best service available.

But if you’re pressed for time and need protection or want to unblock certain services then following the quick steps above will help.

It is all too easy to make a mistake when picking, so doing it right the first time is doing yourself a favour.

With these tips, you can assess whether or not a VPN is right for you within minutes, and not spend half an hour reading detailed reviews and considering whether or not a VPN can do what you want.

What are your quick tips for picking the right VPN? Share them with us in the comments section below as I would be interested to know.

Ali Raza

Author: Ali Raza

Ali is a journalist with a keen interest in VPN usage. He is an expert in the field and has been covering VPN related topics for VPNCompare and numerous well-respected publications for many years.

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