I’ve been doing some further testing and research on VPN providers. Unfortunately, I had to eliminate a couple of providers from this list due to their poor customer service (namely HMA, Astrill and VyprVPN). Here is my updated list of the best VPNs for 2013:
In A Nutshell
- The Best VPN For Torrenting: Private Internet Access or BTGuard
- The Best VPN For Privacy (based in the U.S.): Private Internet Access
- The Best VPN For Privacy (based in Europe): EarthVPN or PrivatVPN
- The Best VPN For Privacy (based in Asia): BolehVPN
- The Best VPNs For Unblocking Hulu, Netflix and Youtube: IPVanish
- The Best VPN For Mobile Devices: IPVanish or StrongVPN
- The Best VPN For Businesses: StrongVPN
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 to some extent. 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 (how do they stay in business?).
When signing up to VPN services, if you need a extra layer of privacy, I suggest using an pseudo-anonymous payment method such as Bitcoin or Liberty Reserve, and do a DNS Leak Test when using a VPN. A VPN can provide you with a good level of privacy when browsing the web. If you are looking for industrial-strength privacy, I recommending using use the Tor Browser or Tails.
The Best VPN For Privacy (based in USA)
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 remains Private Internet Access due to the reliability of their service. In the online discussions I’ve been monitoring, the comments are almost universally positive.
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, 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)
EarthVPN is a good choice for P2P. They have servers in 32 countries. They are are located in the jurisdiction of Northern Cyprus where there is no log/data retention law. They support P2P/Torrent on their offshore locations which are Canada, Panama, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Romania. They support PPTP, L2TP, SSTP and OpenVPN(Both TCP and UDP Mode). The service costs $3.99 per month or $39.99 per year.
PrivatVPN is a VPN provider based in Sweden, with a solid reputation. The company focuses on user privacy, in a recent interview they stated:
We don’t keep ANY logs that allow us or a 3rd party to match an IP address and a time stamp to a user our service. The only thing we log are e-mails and user names but it’s not possible to bind a activity on the Internet to a user. This applies to all our servers except our U.S. servers. Note: We’re logging IP addresses and time stamp on the incoming connection for our U.S. servers. We offer no anonymity on our U.S. servers.
We operate in Swedish jurisdiction. Since we do not log any IP addresses we have nothing to disclose. Circumstances doesn’t matter in this case, we have no information regarding our customers’ IP addresses and activity on the Internet. Therefore we have no information to share with any 3rd party.
The price for service is 5,7 € ($7.50 USD) per month (3 and 12 months terms are also available). Payment can be via Paypal and credit card.
The Best VPN for Privacy (based in Asia)
BolehVPN was founded 2007 in Malaysia, and it is now one of the largest VPN providers in South East Asia. BolehVPN does not log internet activity and they support P2P transfers. The company is known for their personalized customer support, and they have active community of customers. Aside from VPN services, they also provide game server hosting and Mumble hosting for customers in the South-East Asian region.
The have 25 servers in 9 different countries, including one located in Hong Kong.
For payment they accept Bitcoin, PayPal, Liberty Reserve, WebCash, online banking transfer (Malaysian customers only) or even cash deposits (Malaysian customers only).
he cost of the service is $10.50 per month or $85.90 per year.
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.
BTGuard is Canadian VPN provider, which specializes in creating anonymous internet connections for Bittorrent users. Their service works on Windows, Mac and Linux via a pre-configured client. However, you can also opt to set up your own torrent client to work with BTGuard. You can use any client that supports “Socks V5″ proxies including uTorrent and Vuze. BTGuard also includes encryption tunnel software for security purists.
In regards to logging user activity, the company says:
The jurisdiction is Canada. Since we do not have log files, we have no information to share. We do not communicate with any third parties. The only event we would even communicate with a third party is if we received a court order. We would then be forced to notify them we have no information. This has not happened yet.
On the negative side, I’ve seen some user complaints about BTGuard’s servers being slow, and that their VPN connection occasionally disconnects. We’ve also heard that their email support is somewhat unresponsive.
The price for the BTGuard VPN is $9.95 per month, or $6.95 a month for their Bittorrent Proxy service.
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:
A newcomer to the VPN scene, 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.
PureVPN is a reliable VPN service which supports PPTP, L2TP and SSTP protocols, with over 50 servers in 16 different countries. You are allowed to server switches as many times as you need with unrestricted speed across their entire network. The PureVPN Software installs easily, and includes traffic log charting, auto-reconnection and the ability to split select traffic through the VPN and other traffic through your local network, known as Split Tunneling.
PureVPN offers a fixed IP package and a decided IP package. Note that PureVPN limits your bandwdith to 30 GB per month, and they don’t support OpenVPN.
They accept PayPal, Credit Card, Debit Card, MoneyBookers, AlertPay, Ukash, paysafecard and WebMoney. Western Union and Bank Transfer options are available on orders above $100 USD.
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:
- IPVanish (provides step-by-step instruction for setting up mobile devices)
- StrongVPN (provides their own installer software for iOS, and has extensive documentation on setting up their VPN on mobile devices)
The Best VPN For Businesses
Using a VPN to connect to your business locations makes a lot of sense, security-wise. Here we list VPNs that emphasize security and reliability:
Launched in 2006, StrongVPN has built a excellent reputation over the years. They have become known for the reliability of their service and they number of servers they offer (350 in 19 countries). They are also one of the few VPN providers that offer 24 hour live help.
The StrongVPN team also manages a web hosting company — Reliant Web Hosting, which has been in business since 2003. Their service costs $55 or $85 per year, depending on your geographic location. They also offer a 3-month plan that costs $21 – $30.
If you are a novice VPN user you should note that StrongVPN doesn’t provide any set-up software — so you must be comfortable with entering the VPN info into your computer manually. This process actually isn’t particularly difficult — but please take note. Also, remember that they have 24 hour chat support. Here’s a review of their support from CNET:
StrongVPNs support service is amazing–a Web-based live “chat” (think: ICQ) with one of its staff who are on 24-hour rotation, who will talk you through any issues. When I used it, I was chatting with a guy named Oleg after waiting for only 1 minute, which is pretty much the best customer support I’ve ever experienced.
StrongVPN is one of the few VPN that offer the new SSTP protocol. SSTP or “Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol” can be used in situations where most VPN connections would be blocked. This includes countries like Belize where the use of VPN software is forbidden. When used with SSL over TCP port 443, SSTP can pass virtually all firewalls and proxy servers. However, it is only currently supported by Ubuntu and Windows Vista 7 & 8.
StrongVPN responds to DCMA copyright requests, so you should look elsewhere if you’ll be torrenting movies or music with your VPN.
The ordering process for StrongVPN is confusing. First you’ll have to decide if you want to the PPTP or OpenVPN protocols, then you must indicate where you want your gateway server to be located, and lastly how many servers you access to. I hope StrongVPN streamlines this process soon.
For payment, StrongVPN accepts Paypal, Credit Cards, Wire Transfers, Google Checkout and Western Union / Checks.
Link: StrongVPN ($7-$30 per month or $55-85 per year)