Best VPN Service 2021
VPN stands for virtual private network and is usually used to help you change your location, protecting your data and keeping your information private. In this review we will address user experience, features, price and security, so that you can make the right decision when it comes to the best VPN software for you in 2021.
What's on This Page
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for virtual private network and lets you trick your computer into thinking it’s in another location. VPNs make sure that your online activities are more anonymous and encrypt your internet traffic and online identity, making it harder for bad actors to steal your data.
Privacy is becoming more important to internet users, and VPNs are one way to ensure that your privacy is being maintained. VPNs help you keep sensitive information safe and even help you get around content blocks and access points that have been geo tagged for a certain location. Have you ever tried to watch one of your favourite shows on Netflix while on vacation? There’s a chance it wasn’t available – if you had a VPN, you’d be able to set your location to your home country, so you can access information as if you were at home. Same goes for sites that are only available in certain jurisdictions.
You don’t have to be technically savvy to use a VPN, most are simple and come with a plethora of features to meet your needs. The only problem is choosing the right one for you. Before choosing a VPN, take some time to evaluate your needs – are you looking for something cost effective? Fast? Mainly for streaming? Is your main concern security? Once you’ve determined your needs – you’re ready to get started!
How do VPNs work?
VPNs hide your activity from your internet service provider (ISP), the government or any third party who might have access to your online activity. VPNs do this by tunneling your internet connection through encrypted servers and replacing your IP address, making it difficult to track you online. VPNs are perfect if you are regularly connected to public or shared wifi networks, or need to access restricted websites.
If you regularly connect to public wifi networks without a VPN, sensitive information can be compromised. From usernames, banking information and passwords, it doesn’t take a highly sophisticated criminal to get this information, VPNs help you keep your sensitive information safe.
What won't a VPN do?
While a VPN is easy to use, and everyone should use one to protect their digital privacy, it won’t keep your information safe if someone is targeting you specifically. If a criminal is able to get malware on your device or is able to match the activity on your computer to that on the VPN server, your information can be compromised.
Even if you have a VPN, you should still consider antivirus software and practice healthy digital habits to protect your data.
Top 5 Rated VPN Services
Best for overall performance and speed
ExpressVPN is a one stop shop – not only is it extremely fast and easy to use, but it’s known for streaming, being one of the safest VPNs on the market and is able to break some of the toughest geographical blocks.
ExpressVPN regularly outperforms its competitors, it’s easy to run on any device, has VPN servers in more than 90 countries and offers incredible speeds and unblocking capabilities.
Even as streaming services, governments and criminals have upped their games, ExpressVPN continues to keep up!
Unblocking and Streaming
ExpressVPN works with most streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, HBO Go and Netflix, with no lag or buffering. Not only that, but it allows you to access social platforms like Facebook and YouTube in areas that the content or sites might be blocked, like China for example.
Fast and Reliable Speed
This service has 3000 servers in 160 locations that span 94 countries, and a smart location feature that lets you connect to any of them with the click of a button. The software has also started rolling out its Lightway protocol, which makes the experience even faster and more reliable.
ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption. What is this? It’s a symmetric encryption that ensures the same key used to encrypt the data has to be used to decrypt it, making it very hard for criminals to break.
It also uses perfect forward secrecy which changes your encryption every single time you log on to the platform, meaning that you start with a blank slate every time you activate a new session. If you log in today, anyone trying to compromise your session won’t be able to access any information from yesterday.
Kill Switch Feature
Your IP address and traffic are safe even if your connection drops thanks to the network’s kill switch. A kill switch is a security feature that makes sure your information is protected if the network suddenly loses connection. The kill switch is available for Windows and Mac. For mobile devices, it’s available on Android as ‘network protection,’ but is not available on iOS.
No Data Leaks
You want to make sure that your VPN protects against data leaks. A data leak is when the information sent through the encrypted tunnel leaks, making your activity visible to third parties. After multiple tests, ExpressVPN showed no signs of data leaks.
- 30 day free trial
- 12 month subscription – $6.67/ month
- 6 month subscription – $9.99/month
- 1 month subscription – $12.95/month
ExpressVPN accepts all major online payment options, and even lets you pay with bitcoin! Customer service is also available 24/7.
Best for speed and security
NordVPN is one of the most recognized names in the VPN world and is one of the best VPN services on the market. That said, it doesn’t quite hold a candle to ExpressVPN when it comes to overall performance. If speed and security are important to you though – this could be the product for you, it’s cheaper than ExpressVPN and excels in both of those areas.
With 5,000 servers in roughly 60 countries, this VPN services provides the main features most look for in a VPN: DNS leak protection, kill switches, proxy extensions and the option to pay in bitcoin.
Not the Best User Experience
While this VPN is popular, there are a few hiccups when it comes to its user experience. Cities aren’t listed in alphabetical order, so if you’re set on setting your location in a specific city, it can take some time to look through the list. It can also be cumbersome to find specific task functions. Most of the small issues can be solved with a quick Google search or by contacting 24/7 customer support. The map interface is also less user friendly on the mobile app.
Strong Security with Double VPN System
Nord VPN’s level of security is pretty impressive. It offers AES-256 as standard, but it also has a double VPN system. Don’t know what that is? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like – it makes sure all your internet traffic is encrypted twice. This is great for torrenting or when you’re joining public wifi.
It’s important to note that Nord experienced a data breach in 2018 but has since taken the necessary steps to prevent this from happening again.
Very Fast Speed
NordVPN makes it easy to stream your favourite streaming platform from anywhere in the world. BBC, Hulu and Netflix were all accessible and the connection speeds were impressive, no buffering here!
- 2 year subscription – $3.30/month
- 1 year subscription – $4.92
- 1 month subscription – $11.95/month
Best for Torrenting and Price
Surfshark makes it easy for you to, well, be a shark! If you’re torrenting or downloading content, you can do so with less of a chance of getting caught with this VPN. The company is headquartered in the Virgin Islands, which is outside of the surveillance alliances. One of the reasons it works so well is because it gives users a new IP address every time they connect, which makes it harder to track the user. However, if you’d like to keep the same IP, you can customize this setting.
Strong Data Security
Because this company is based in the Virgin Islands, they say they can’t be forced to hand over customer data to authorities. This is because the islands are not part of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes or 14 Eyes. These alliances are intelligence alliances that are focused on monitoring electronic communications. There are no data retention laws in the Virgin Islands and surveillance is very illegal there – sounds like a good place to set up a company like this one!
Best for Experienced Users
While this company gets major points for allowing unlimited devices per subscription, the user experience takes a hit when it comes to set up and support. If you’re using this VPN on Windows, you’ll have to manually set up the kill switch and there is no phone support if you get stuck.
While this VPN is fast, it’s not as fast as the previous two platforms – so if you’re only after super fast speeds, this might not be the platform for you!
- 24 month subscription – $2.49/month
- 6 month subscription – $6.49/month
- 1 month subscription – $12.95/month
30-day money back guarantee lets you decide if you like the product before committing!
Best VPN for Netflix
Some people get a VPN strictly for Netflix, and if that’s you, this is the VPN you need. With fast speeds and a free option, this is the perfect platform for the seasoned content consumer!
The reason why this is one of the best VPNs for Netflix and other streaming services has a lot to do with speed. Hotspot Shield has been celebrated for being incredibly fast for a very fair price. The VPN has a pretty large network of servers in 80 countries.
Free Option Available
Hotspot Shield is ad-sponsored, with a daily data limit of 500MB, so if you’re using less than 500 MBs per day you can access this VPN for free! That is unlikely though if you’re streaming Netflix. Upgrading to a paid version gets rid of the ads and gives you unlimited bandwidth so you can binge all your favourite shows. It also promotes its service for torrenting, using platforms like uTorrent and BitTorrent.
- 3 year subscription – $2.49/month
- 1 year subscription – $7.99/month
- 1 month subscription – $9.99/month
Good Security Features
The company has a troubled past when it comes to privacy, a 2016 report brought some of the company’s activities into question, but they have been working to clean up their act ever since. The app has strong encryption, kill switch, auto protect and works to prevent IP leaks.
When it comes to user experience the app is simple to use and customizable.
HideMyAss! (HMA) VPN
Best for support and server locations
Unlike the other VPNs on this list, this one isn’t for streaming. It has great customer support and a massive list of server locations that spans almost every continent.
Besides its cheeky name, HideMyAss! Is owned by cybersecurity company, Avast – so you can be sure that the company has the know-how when it comes to protecting your data. The apps are fairly simple to use, and custom apps are available for Windows, Mac, Android and Linux.
Strong Customer Support
Customer support is available 24/7 and there are tutorials to help you set up the apps on Smart TVs, gaming consoles and more.
Not Ideal for Video Streaming
When it comes to streaming, this is not the service to use. The service regularly struggles to unblock geographical barriers, making it hard to view your favourite shows!
The price isn’t bad though:
- 36 month subscription – $2.99/month
- 12 month subscription – $4.99/month
Our Rating Process
We assessed each software based on user experience, features, price, and security. We scored them each out of 5 points to help you in your decision process.
A VPN shouldn’t break the bank! It’s just one tool among many that allow you to keep your data safe online. Depending on your needs, you’ll want to find a VPN that makes sense for your budget – whether it’s for personal use or enterprise use – you should make sure your budget allows you to invest in other tools to achieve optimal privacy.
Frequently Asked Questions
While VPNs are legal, participating in an illegal activity using a VPN remains illegal. For example, torrenting copyright content is still illegal if you do so while running a VPN. Many people use VPNs to access content from different regions on platforms like Netflix. In this case, accessing Netflix with a VPN is not illegal, but it does breach their usage terms.
If online privacy is important to you, then a VPN should be a part of your privacy tool kit – and is worth it. VPNs make it safer to connect to public wifi and help you and your location to remain more anonymous than before.
When using the internet from home, most people won’t consider using a VPN, but it all depends on your needs! While VPNs are useful for protecting you when you’re online in public places, the main purpose of a VPN is to protect you from snooping by cybercriminals, businesses, or the government. That in mind, you might want to run a VPN at home for added digital security.