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Comparison chart: VPN service providers

Originally Published:
Apr 2018

Selecting the right VPN provider for your needs requires a fair bit of legwork because the choices are many and the offerings vary greatly. This quick-glance chart rounds up 15 of the top contenders and compares them across criteria such as OpenVPN support, pricing, connections, and logging.

More on VPN selection:

The virtual private network (VPN) service provider market is nothing if not crowded, which makes picking a provider a difficult process. Whether you intend to use your VPN for added security when using free Wi-Fi networks, trying to shield your internet use from your ISP, or aiming to circumvent geographical restrictions when traveling, how you want to use a VPN should influence what service provider you choose.

For the sake of security and continuity, choosing a provider that allows multiple active connections to accommodate all your connected devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.--is advisable. Most providers offer three to five connections in their basic tier.

It is also important to consider potential security risks of DNS leaks. While all VPN services route traffic through their servers, if the DNS lookups for the websites you visit are still routed through your ISP, it is possible for your ISP to determine what websites you are browsing, defeating the purpose entirely.

VPN services are free to make claims in their advertising of "no logging," but the reality is usually quite different. VPN providers with bandwidth caps necessarily must log used bandwidth to enforce the caps. Many VPN providers that claim they don't log user activity still retain login information (IP address, user agent, etc.) for their customer portal.

In addition, the absence of logging does not preclude a service provider from monitoring network activity in real time. Some level of monitoring is ultimately necessary for engineers to identify server loads so they can determine excessive strain on the network and plan for expansion. Ultimately, whether a provider actually logs user activity is not auditable by end users, making it a question of trustworthiness. If you're particularly security conscious, it may be advisable to ensure that your provider is located in a region outside intelligence cooperatives, such as Five Eyes (or the expanded Fourteen Eyes), so that they can't be compelled to turn over user activity to investigative authorities.

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