The Best VPN Service Providers 2014

The Best VPN Service Providers Of 2014

In A Nutshell

To create this list, I take into account a VPN provider’s customer service, the reliability of their network, and their commitment to privacy. I also research actual customer feedback posted in online forums.

I recommend these VPN service providers:

I no longer recommend these VPN service providers:

  • EarthVPN: The service was recently hacked, and is apparently keeps logs
  • BTGuard: Numerous reports of slow connection speeds, and poor customer service.
  • StrongVPN: Fairly expensive, confusing sign-up options. Also they do not allow P2P/Torrenting, and they able to match an external IP address to a subscriber

I’ve also created a list of the VPN providers I do not recommend.

What Is A VPN?

GreyCoder

A VPN (virtual private network) is a service encrypts and redirects all the internet connections on your computer. This means all the data leaving your computer is encrypted, which adds a layer of protection against hackers and eavesdroppers. It is also very difficult for your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to monitor you or block your connections. A VPN service will also allow your to computer to appear to be Europe, the USA, or other countries at will. This is helpful if you want to access blocked media like streaming videos.

VPNs differ from web proxies because VPNs encrypt and redirect all of your computer’s outgoing network connections, whereas proxies will only usually only redirect particular protocols within an application.

Note that VPNs may slow down your internet connections a bit, but in some cases they may actually speed up your connections. VPNs won’t really affect direct downloads, but they will affect web browsing and torrenting (basically anything that pulls data in lots of small bursts). Personally, I don’t notice a difference unless I’m connected a very remote server in Japan or Romania (from the US).

I don’t recommend using free VPNs because they are usually run by untrustworthy companies, and tend to sell your private information.

If you need a extra layer of privacy when signing up to VPN services, I suggest using an pseudo-anonymous payment method such as Bitcoin or Liberty Reserve, and doing a DNS Leak Test when using a VPN. However, for most people, this kind of obfuscation is not necessary.

The Best VPN For Privacy (based in USA)

Private Internet Access

private-internet-access

Private Internet Access is a VPN service that is highly regarded by privacy advocates. It remains our top choice for a privacy-oriented VPN service. In the online discussions I’ve been monitoring, the comments are almost universally positive. It also received a PC Magazine Editor’s Choice Award for VPN services.

The company operates out of the United States with gigabit gateways in the USA, Canada, UK, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. I’ve been testing their VPN service for about 12 months now, and I’ve had no problems. I use it continuously now, and I don’t notice any lag when browsing the web, or downloading files. They are also one of the least expensive private VPNs, with rates at $39.95 year, or $6.95 per month.

In regards to logging user activity, the company says:

We absolutely do not maintain any VPN logs of any kind. We utilize shared IP addresses rather than dynamic or static IPs, so it is not possible to match a user to an external IP. These are some of the many solutions we have implemented to enable the strongest levels of anonymity amongst VPN services. Further, we would like to encourage our users to use an anonymous e-mail and pay with Bitcoins to ensure even higher levels of anonymity should it be required. Our core verticals are privacy, quality of service, and prompt customer support. We will not share any information with third parties without a valid court order. With that said, it is impossible to match a user to any activity on our system since we utilize shared IPs and maintain absolutely no logs.

Their VPN service supports all the major platforms: Window, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS and Android. They support the following VPN protocols: PPTP, IPSEC, OpenVPN and L2TP. You can also configure Private Internet Access to work on a DD-WRT router or Tomato router (via SSL/OpenVPN) for constant security.

Their VPN client also has handy features like DNS leakage blocking and an “internet kill switch” (a feature that shuts off your internet connection if your VPN connection goes down).

For payment they accept credit cards, Paypal, almost any Gift Card, Amazon Payments, CashU, Google Wallet, OKPay, Bitcoin, and Liberty Reserve,

The service costs $6.95 per month, or $40 per year.

Link: Private Internet Access

The Best VPN For Privacy (based in Europe)

vpn-ac-private

VPN.AC

VPN.AC is based in Romania. They have good VPN speeds, are committed to privacy, and allow torrenting. They accept Bitcoin, Paypal and CashU. They are owned by Netsec Interactive Solutions a company ten years of experience in internet security. VPN.AC hosts servers in 9 countries (US, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, France, Romania, Hong Kong and Canada) capable of reaching gigabit port speeds and accommodating for the fastest internet connections. VPN.AC offers one VPN package, which grants you access to all of their international servers.

Link: VPN.AC

AirVPN

AirVPN

AirVPN is a VPN provider located in Italy that puts a great deal of attention on providing a truly anonymous service. The company says “When we built our infrastructure we had in mind access from people who live in freedom of expression extremely hostile areas, where identity disclosure can lead to critical threats to physical safety and to personal freedom.”

Their servers are located in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, United States and United Kingdom, and in each country there’s at least a 1 Gbit/second server. The company says:

All servers come with dedicated uplink ports. IP addresses are shared with option to forward ports from the control panel. Servers exit-IP and entry-IP are different, against correlation attacks. No logs are kept, and there’s no traffic limit.

For payment, Air VPN accepts Bitcoin, Paypal and credit cards.  The price of the service is 7 euros ($9) per month, or 54 euros ($72) per year.

Link: AirVPN

The Best VPN For Torrenting and P2P

Not all VPNs are BitTorrent friendly. In fact, some explicitly prohibit the use of file-sharing software. However, there are some VPNs that welcome torrenting and do not log your online activities, thereby preserving your privacy. If want to torrrent without being bothered, it is essential that the VPN you use does not track your online connections.

We now recommend these providers for torrenting and P2P:

Best VPNs For Unblocking Hulu, Netflix and YouTube

Hulu, the streaming service, requires that your IP address be located U.S., if you want to access their service. So if you are traveling in Europe and want to catch up on your favorite shows, you won’t be able to access them. To solve this problem you’ll want to use a VPN with servers in the U.S. Your internet connections will be rerouted to the U.S., and thus your computer will appear to be there.

For my recommended VPNs for Hulu, I’ve chosen VPNs with fast server connections in the USA and well as servers in a number of other countries:

IPVanish

IPVanish Screenshot

IPVanish started operation in 2012, and is headquartered in the USA. They have already earned a good reputation for privacy and fast connection speeds. According to the company there are “no restrictions on any legal use of the VPN”, and P2P services such as BitTorrent are not filtered. The service costs $10 per month or $77 per year. IPVanish has 90 VPN servers located throughout 41 countries giving 2,500+ potential IP addresses. They run their own tier-1 network, and the company claims that they have the fastest VPN connection speeds. IPVanish supports OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols.

IPVanish offers a 7 Day Free Trial in the form of a money back guarantee. You will need a credit card to signup, but if you decide that you do not enjoy the service, email the IPVanish Support Team (available 24×7) and they’ll issue a refund.

The cost of the service is $10 per month, or $78 per year.

Link: IPVanish

The Best VPN For Mobile Devices

A number of VPNs now support mobile devices like Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads and Windows phones. On most devices, you’ll be using the PPTP or the L2TP protocol, and you’ll have to enter your VPN connection information manually. We recommend using L2TP where possible, because this protocol is more secure than PPTP. Currently, you can’t use OpenVPN on iPhones and iPads, due to Apple restrictions. You can use the GuizmOVPN app on a jailbroken iPhone or iPad. On Android you can use FeatVPN app, or on a rooted device running Android 4, you can use the OpenVPN Settings app.

Our top picks here are those VPN providers that provide good documentation for setting up mobile devices:

  • Private Internet Access (good documentation, doesn’t keep logs)
  • IPVanish (provides step-by-step instruction for setting up mobile devices, note that they do keep logs)

VPNs That I Do Not Recommend

VyprVPN

They ask for your bank info during registration. I also did not enjoy my interactions with their customer service representatives. They declined comments about privacy, locks your account immediately if you get a DMCA notice.

EarthVPN

The service was recently hacked, and is apparently keeps logs.

HMA (Hide My Ass)

Keeps logs for up to 2 years, awful customer service.

BTGuard

Numerous reports of slow connection speeds, and poor customer service.

Astrill

Poor customer service. Requires a phone number.

StrongVPN

Fairly expensive, confusing sign-up options, and does not allow P2P and are able to match an external IP address to their subscribers. They limit the number of times you can change servers and changes your username and password each time you do.

Witopia

They don’t support torrenting. They don’t respond to people’s questions.

Hotspot Shield

The software constantly generates banner ads and pop-up windows, and it forcibly changes your search engine to Bing. Also, many sites will still be blocked using Hotspot Shield, and the company makes money by tracking your online activities and reselling this information to third parties. They state on their privacy policy page (http://www.anchorfree.com/privacy.html):

AnchorFree allows other companies, called third-party ad servers or ad networks, to serve advertisements within the Hotspot Shield These third-party ad servers or ad networks use technology to send, directly to your browser, the advertisements and links that appear on the Hotspot Shield. They automatically receive the virtual IP Address assigned by AnchorFree when this happens. They may also use other technologies (such as cookies, javascript, or web beacons) to measure the effectiveness of their advertisements and to personalize their advertising content. AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield Privacy Notice does not apply to, and we cannot control the activities of, such other advertisers or other web sites visited by Users. . .

CyberGhost

Support is poor — they generally don’t respond to questions. Requires personal information when signing up. Website has pop-ups on every page. It’s expensive and doesn’t accept Bitcoin other other quasi-anonymous payments.

VPNBook

Keeps logs, doesn’t support torrenting.

IPredator

Customer service fairly slow and minimal. Some (very limited) logs are kept, slow speeds, limited servers. Also costs $97.76

iVPN

Limited support, some slow connections including “Multihop” mode (mostly unreliable)

StrongVPN

Keeps logs, they say they support P2P, but shut down account as soon as they receive DMCA notice.

VpnTunnel

Awful customer service, constant disconnection issues.

TorGuard

Requires your personal info when signing up, doesn’t respond to request for refunds.

PROXY.SH

Essentially a scam, customer support non-existent.

NordVPN

Reports of poor customer service, request for refunds ignored.

Private Tunnel

Only supports OpenVPN, limited number of servers.

Comments

  1. Nick says

    Could you (the author) please look Into SurfEasy VPN and tell me what you think? They seem to be very good as far as I can tell (I’ve been using them on my iPhone for about a month now) but I rarely hear anything about them, good or bad. What’s your take?

    • Sam Rollins says

      SurfEasy is good if you are streaming less than HD quality from sites like netflix and also if you don’t need or want to connect to too many countries…they let you connect by region (U.S., U.K) – Where other providers like IPVanish offer connectivity in 47 or so countries. Speeds are decent at surfEasy, but if you want to download anything or watch HD content, you need a pay provider like IPVanish, Their servers are some of the fastest around.

  2. Blaze says

    I’ve notice that in the heading you say:
    ‘The Best VPNs For Privacy (based in Europe): ibVPN (Romania), AirVPN (Italy)’

    But in the actual review you list VPN.AC (Romonia), is this a mistake? I’d really like to know as I’m trying to narrow my choice down and am not sure if ibVPN keeps logs or not.

    Also thanks for the informative article. :)

    • GreyOne says

      I was recently made aware that VPN.AC has the capability of tracking users. On their FAQ page (which was recently updated) they say: “We do, however, need to keep some connection logs (to our VPN service) for support and debugging purposes.”

      I’m going to revise the article, to indicate that VPN.AC is a recommend VPN provider in Europe, but does not support complete anonyminity.

    • GreyOne says

      I’ve added VPN.AC back into the list — they only keep limited logs for the purpose of eliminating spammers, etc.

  3. Gary says

    Am I the only one who has had “issues” with the PIA software?
    I could not get it installed on Windows XP. Yes the customer service “chat line” gave me something to try; found out later that all the references were made to Windows 7.
    After three days of frustration I cancelled my one year subscription.
    For true customer service you should try EPSON or ASUS and others who has someone on a telephone line, directing you through the set-up process, if needed.
    Right now the only good experience I’ve had with PIA is that they have re credited my paypal account with the full payment amount

    • ReallyDisappointed says

      I paid for a one year subscription with PIA and have never been able to download the software on Windows 7 or 8. I’ve tried all the different suggestions they’ve given me but still no joy. Visited all the links to try and download it, trawled the internet for solutions (to try to establish whether the problem was with my computers or my ISP). The only thing I haven’t done yet is invested in a new router. I even visited a site which said that the service was down for everyone, not just me. Plus the email that they sent me for the initial connection/download is now completely blank. It’s been a month now and I’m wondering whether I’ll be able to get a refund. OP, I await your review on ExpressVPN.
      I’m seriously disappointed that this service was rated as joint number one along with ExpressVPN at the time that I signed up. It leaves me wondering what the other providers are like and whether it really is worth the frustration and the disappointing possibility of paying for yet another service that you will not be able to use.
      Any suggestions would be gratefully accepted before I finally jump ship.

      • GreyOne says

        PIA said that regarding the issues with the installers, it can be due to a number of factors but typically it’s due to security software that’s on the computers. They can try disabling the security software or generating and exception for installer_win.exe.

        PIA said they have the support desk at https://support.privateinternetaccess.com with a full support staff to assist users/customers with issues such as these.

  4. Timah says

    +1 for a review of SurfEasy. Seems to be similar setup to PIA and it’s based in Canada which may be an added benefit.

  5. Willow says

    I’m on the process of subscribing to VPN provider and this article (and the other one about companies you don’t recommend) proved to be EXTREMELY helpful so thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and time. I’m not good with technology and a little clueless about VPN and stuff. But I guess if I just read and follow instructions I’ll be fine. I have one question though. As there is no way I’ll be able to use bitcoin (due to my untechsavvyness) will I be fine paying with Paypal? Does that reduce my anonymity?

  6. Charles says

    Great list and really informative, Greycoder. I noticed you put TorGuard in your list that you did not recommend. I had been looking at them and noticed they got some great reviews other places. If they don’t log anything, even if you just give them a name and email address at sign up, wouldn’t that still be pretty secure?

    Thanks!

    • says

      Charles,

      Thanks for the feedback.

      It’s mostly the slowness of customer service from Torguard that mostly disqualifies them here. They are not awful, just not as good as other services list here, in my opnion.

      • Charles says

        Ah good point. Fair enough. One question I just bumped into when researching was a lot of people were staying away from the US companies because they were all within a legal jurisdiction if someone came calling about torrents, etc vs a lot of the international companies. I know a couple of the good ones you recommended were US companies and was just wondering. I remember reading an article where someone was using HideMyAss for stuff and they got subpoena’d because it was in the states. Just curious.

        Thanks again. Loving your site and info.

        • says

          My reasoning goes along these lines: The US is one of only a few countries with no data retention laws for VPN services. If the VPN is truly not logging, then things like DMCA notices cannot be forwarded to users, and a valid DMCA notice cannot be issued to a VPN host because it is not a person or an endpoint and hosts no content.

          When engaging in this debate, people start mentioning NSA surveillance. However, if you are concerned about NSA surveillance you should probably not be relying on a VPN, and it’s not really relevant if you are using a VPN for torrenting. When torrenting, you basically just want to mask your IP address.

          • Charles says

            Very informative. Thank you, Sir! The two recommendations you made look very solid and would be great for keeping anonymity in online debates, message boards, etc.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>