The Best VPN Services for 2021
Whether you're working from home or just want to keep your online life private, a virtual private network is key to protecting your information. But with more people than ever now working remotely, demand for VPN services has been booming, and new providers are continually hopping into the marketplace. That can make it difficult to sort through the options to find the best VPN service to meet your needs.
The VPN market has exploded in the past few years, growing from a niche industry to an all-out melee. Many providers are capitalizing on the general population's growing concerns about surveillance and cybercrime, which means it's getting hard to tell when a company is actually providing a useful service and when it's selling snake oil. In fact, there have even been fake VPNs popping up, so be careful.
The best VPN right now
ExpressVPN ticks all of the boxes: fast server connections, serious security smarts, ridiculously easy to use - even free cloud storage thrown in. Put simply, ExpressVPN is the best VPN on the market. You'll get speed, security, configurable privacy features and great reliability. Its 30-day money-back guarantee lets you trial the service risk-free, and Tom's Guide readers can claim three months free – plus 1 year free of backup software Backblaze.
With over 2,000 servers in 148 locations around the world, ExpressVPN’s large network ensures fast speeds, wherever you are. They do not keep track of what users do online or their private IP addresses. ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPN providers out there, offering a wide range of platforms and protocols. Platforms include Windows, Mac, Linux, routers, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Kindle Fire, and even the Nook device. There are also browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Plus, ExpressVPN works with PlayStation, Apple TV, Xbox, Amazon Fire TV, and the Nintendo Switch. There's even a manual setup option for Chromecast, Roku, and Nvidia Switch.
NordVPN is a comprehensive VPN service that combines a wide selection of countries and servers to choose from, with a strict set of policies and features that ensure excellent privacy and security for its users. Another useful feature is a kill-switch, so your connection will drop completely if you ever lose access to the VPN server for whatever reason, ensuring that your connection always remains private no matter what. There's also CyberSec ad blocking to protect your from malicious adverts and websites.
It's a little more pricey than some, but if you purchase multiple years in advance, it becomes much more affordable—and regular sales make it even more cost effective to go down that route. It doesn't have a free version, but there is a 30-day money back guarantee if you don't like the service, so you can subscribe with confidence that you won't be throwing your money at something that doesn't work for you.
Surfshark has really got its teeth into the VPN market in the last couple of years, offering a killer service with one blatantly obvious USP... price.
While Surfshark's network is smaller than some, the VPN service makes it up on features and speed. Let's start off with the biggest win it offers: unlimited device support. If you want to run your entire home or office on Surfshark's VPN, you don't have to worry about how many devices you have on or connected. It also offers antimalware, ad-blocking and tracker-blocking as part of its software.
And it's fast. With more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries, we lost less than 17% of average internet speeds during our most recent speed tests. That's faster than the 27% speed loss we saw in previous tests, and pushes it ahead of ExpressVPN to be the current front-runner in our speed comparisons.
The company has a solid range of app support, running on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Fire TV and routers. Additional devices such as game consoles can be configured for Surfshark via DNS settings. We particularly like the feature that allows you to whitelist certain apps and websites to automatically bypass the VPN. For some business uses, this can be critically important.
If you want the absolute greatest breadth of VPN servers to choose from, no one else comes even close. GyberGhost has a selection of more than 6,340 servers in 90 countries around the world, letting you hide your IP address just about anywhere you want. Better yet, the IP address at each server you connect to is shared with everyone else accessing that server at the same time—without compromising connection speed. That makes it incredibly hard for anyone to prove whatever you're doing is you, no matter how much they try.
CyberGhost boasts one-click setup and use, as well as automatic connection to the fastest server—the first time I tried quick connect, I was connected to a US server in just 15 seconds. It’s also easy to navigate the app’s basic and advanced settings. You can set up smart rules and customize your connection features.
The CyberGhost VPN client is available on MacOS, Windows, Linux, FireTV, Chrome, FireFox, Android and iOS, with up to seven devices protected at any one time no matter which length of subscription you pick. The cheapest tier is just north of $2 per month for three years billed all at once (around $88), making CyberGhost one of the cheapest options, and you can bundle it with other security tools like CyberGhost's Privacy Guard and Security updater for just a little more.
IPVanish is a good VPN service that boasts over 1,500 servers in more than 75 locations and 24/7 customer service, However, a brand-new selling point is that IPVanish has recently adjusted its policy to allow unlimited simultaneous connections – along with Surfshark, it's one of the only VPNs on this list to offer that.
Those connections could come in handy, too, as IPVanish works on lots of devices, including Mac, Windows, Android and iOS. The desktop apps offer plenty of options that will keep the pros happy, while the just-work simplicity is also there for everyone else. That it all functions with far above average speeds is a nice bonus.
In terms of performance, connection speed was crazy fast. Overall transfer performance was good. However, from a security perspective, it wasn't able to hide that I was connecting via a VPN -- although the data transferred was secure. Overall, a solid product with a good user experience that's fine for home connections as long as you're not trying to hide the fact that you're on a VPN.
ProtonVPN has 1,250 servers in 54 countries and can unblock some geo-restricted websites and streaming platforms, like Netflix and Hulu. It has P2P support on all of its servers, meaning that you can use it for torrenting.
It uses AES-256 encryption along with the OpenVPN protocol, which is the security standard in the industry. ProtonVPN has a belt-and-suspenders approach to security, layering strong protocols on top of perfect forward secrecy, on top of strong encryption. Not only does ProtonVPN have a kill switch, but it also has an always-on VPN, which attempts to restore VPN service if it's dropped mid-communication. Finally, we like that all apps are open source and the company reports that they are independently audited. This means that your activity and identity are hidden from the websites you visit, your ISP, and authorities.
Finally, the company offers a very generous free VPN service, allowing one machine to connect at medium speed, but there doesn't appear to be any limit to the amount of data used in the free plan.
So, how to identify a good VPN? The most basic qualities you should look for are speed, privacy and ease of use. These might seem like basic attributes, but in reality few providers have found a happy medium. Connection speed relies on having a wide range of well-maintained servers. This allows the VPN to provide excellent speed and bandwidth to everyone using its servers.
Finally, although many users might be au fait with tech, more and more newbies are looking to start using VPNs. If that's you, it's definitely worth making sure that your provider has well-designed apps on all the devices you expect to use with the service.
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