In Search for the Most Reliable VPN | By Howard Dawson

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In Search for the Most Reliable VPN

It’s difficult to even take a glance at technology news without seeing some mention of how your data is being used (or misused) by any number of websites or online services.

As our lives become increasingly centred around the internet and questions are raised about how safe our online data really is, there’s a growing desire keep your data and digital footprints private – and more and more people are choosing to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to make that happen.

If you use or are planning to use a VPN, you’ll find they’re generally very user friendly – but, if you want to be certain that you’re getting a reliable service that’s never going to let you down, it’s worth digging a little deeper into how a VPN works – and what can impact reliability…

What is a VPN?

In short, a VPN is a service that lets you access websites, applications and other online services privately.

You’re perhaps wondering if we actually need that privacy. Well, according to recent studies, the average adult spends around 6 hours every day accessing digital media. That might sound like a lot – but in fact, when you factor in streaming and location services, the amount of information we’re transmitting to the internet every day really adds up.

This mass of personal or business data isn’t simply discarded. Where unencrypted, it’s used by marketing companies to retarget you based on your online actions. Somewhere, there’s data that documents every online purchase you’ve made, every website you’ve visited, every email, message and picture you’ve ever sent – and much more. Using a VPN is a way of detaching your online behaviour from you – letting you explore and communicate as you wish, with no breadcrumb trail that leads back to your PC, phone or tablet…

How do VPNs work?

To make sure your browsing is kept private, a VPN creates a ‘tunnel’ between your device and the VPN service’s server. This tunnel effectively separates your data from any other data on the network – particularly handy if you’re using a shared connection.

As well as isolating your data, it’s usually also encrypted – although when it gets to the VPN server, it’ll then be unencrypted – but at that stage, the service or application you’re accessing can’t identify you – it can only identify the server that’s requesting the information. It’s useful to think of a VPN service as being something of a data-relay – keeping your identity away from the service you’re using.

If you’re really keen on digging deep into how a VPN works, you can explore VPN/encryption protocols. Ultimately, the way information is transmitted determines how safe your data is. For an in-depth look at the best encryption protocols for your personal or business needs, the best tunnelling protocols are explained here.

How reliable is a VPN?

If you’re serious about protecting your data, you’re going to need a VPN that delivers a safe and secure way to transmit and receive data 100% of the time. Effectively, your internet security is only as good as the weakest link – so, if you’ve got a VPN that’s unreliable, you’re either going to be unable to get online when you need to – or you’re going to be browsing and sending data without VPN protection – with neither option being ideal.

In much the same way that there’s no perfect internet connection – there’s also no such thing as a perfect VPN. You’re almost always going to be connected to a VPN server using one connection – so, if that connection goes down, a VPN can become non-functional – leaving you unprotected.

Ultimately, a VPN isn’t responsible for your connection – after all, that’s managed by your internet service provider. Instead, it’s useful to consider how reliable a VPN is at delivering the safe browsing experience you expect – and that’s where a Kill Switch plays a big part.

In the event that there’s a connection problem between you and your VPN service, a Kill Switch will automatically close any open connection you have to the internet. This means there’s no chance that any unencrypted data will be sent – keeping your identity and data safe. Of course, this level of security is necessary for everyone – but if you want to be absolutely certain your VPN is reliable, it’s a feature that’s worth seeking out.

Are there any reliable free VPNs?

As with virtually every other service available online, there are free versions of VPNs that can be easily found – however, if reliability is a key selling point for you, you’re going to need to be absolutely certain you dig deep into the T&Cs and reviews to make sure you’re going to get the service you need.

Generally, free VPNs deliver the basic functions of a virtual private network – but reliability features like a Kill Switch are rarely (if ever) included.

What’s more – it’s worth remembering that even free VPN services are businesses – so considering how they make their money is also useful. While there are free VPN services that deliver a perfectly workable service, there are some that sell anonymised data to advertising companies – or allow premium users to piggyback your tunnels – often significantly reducing the speed of your connection.

A completely reliable paid VPN service is likely to cost you just a few dollars every month – and when you consider quite how much data and personal information could be at stake, it’s a service that many people opt to pay for – taking chance out of the equation.

What should you look for from a VPN?

When it comes to internet use, we’re all a little different – so there’s not always going to be a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to VPNs. If you want to make sure you’re getting a quick and reliable service, it’s worth looking for the following features:

  • A well established and effective routing algorithm – making sure your data is taking a quick and efficient path
  • An effective VPN protocol for your needs – if a little packet loss won’t impact your service, a UDP protocol might offer more speed and reliability when compared to a TCP protocol
  • Adequate VPN bandwidth – since a crowded server will often significantly reduce speed
  • Local server locations – as geographical distance will almost always reduce speed and efficiency
  • A Kill Switch – so, if your connection goes down, your data stays secure

Your data is worth a fortune in the right (or wrong) hands. A good, reliable VPN will always make sure control of that data stays firmly with you.

May 9, 2019

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