Everyone loves free things and VPN services are no exception. Why would you want to pay for one when you can have a Free VPN?
Well, Free VPN providers are a false economy and in this brief article I’m going to look at why you should avoid them and stump up a little cash to save yourself headaches in the long run.
If you’ve been searching for a VPN service then you’ve probably realised that most decent providers cost between $5-$10 (about £4-£7) per month and even though this is relative pocket change you’ve probably considered a Free VPN.
Why pay if something of similar quality exists for free, right?
Free is good, goooood, I tell you!
The first problem with free VPN services and one you should question is, if some providers charge and others are free, how do the free ones fund their service?
Running a VPN service is expensive, companies need servers all over the world, they need decent infrastructure to cope with the demand and if they’re offering a free VPN service then it’s obviously well utilised, so how do they pay for that service?
The general consensus is, if you’re not paying for the service then you are the service. If you pay a VPN provider to offer a service then it’s obvious how they generate revenue, if you don’t pay then your usage pays for the service.
In simple terms, the VPN provider sells YOU in some way.
Free VPN providers make you the service
Now different VPN services work on different models, one of the most common is to inject adverts into your VPN session, this could be via pop-ups on your desktop or even adverts injected when you visit certain websites that are nothing to do with the website itself.
Other providers sell anonymous or maybe not so anonymous data usage statistics. So anything from what sites are popular, to how you make use of certain services could all be logged, collated and sold on to determine a pattern of custom usage.
Another well documented revenue generating source of free VPN providers or secure proxy services is that of Hola. While using their browser extension to anonymise web browsing the app was also allowing users’ computers to be utilised by others who subscribed to their paid service. Your computer basically became part of their network and others made use of your resources.
There are plenty of other ways in which free VPN providers make money, the question you should be asking yourself is how much of yourself are you prepared to give away to access those free services.
Limitations of Free VPN providers
Free VPN services aren’t without their limitations either. One of the most problematic is speed. You’re always going to get users who won’t pay for any services and these will by far outweigh those that will. Due to the sheer number or free VPN users the services are heavily oversubscribed and the infrastructure ill-equipped to cope with the demand.
For you as a user this means slow speeds, this makes it impossible to stream video, impossible to download large files or torrent and makes even everyday tasks slow and arduous.
Data transfer limits are also one of the biggest drawbacks. Some commercial VPN providers offer free trials but they limit this and it’s usually a lowly amount of just 500mb. If you’re just using a VPN on your mobile for simple browsing then this could be enough but if you use a desktop or do anything else then it simply isn’t enough.
Consider this, watching 45 minutes of a football match in relatively low quality on a mobile can use over 600mb and you soon see why 500mb for a whole month just isn’t going to cut it.
Spend a few quid, save the hassle
Above I’ve rounded up some of the many reasons why free VPN services aren’t all that they seem. While some may suit certain users in very low usage and specific circumstances for the majority of people they just aren’t going to cut it.
I’d rather entrust my privacy to a company I employ by paying them to do that than to a company who have no real reason to protect my privacy, after all, if I’m not paying them then they don’t really owe me anything.
When you consider a paid-for VPN provider costs only a few pounds, dollars or euros per month then for the positives it really makes sense.
VPN image © Zimmytws | Dreamstime.com