5 Best and Worst VPNs Explored – Our Full Breakdown 2018
If you have decided to disconnect from the internet forever and find a good solid rock to live under, thanks to the rising prevalence of hacking, censorship, and malware attacks, hold on a sec! We’re guessing you haven’t heard of Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
Before you stagger to the nearest corner and quietly throw up at the prospect of another acronym, give us a moment to plead our case. We can make the internet fun and, more importantly, safe again. For those who aren’t aware, a VPN connection creates a safe, private, encrypted data tunnel through which you access the internet.
Sound good? Keep reading.
The Problem With VPN Actually Isn’t One
We’ll be honest. VPN technology isn’t on the lips of most people who go online. That’s a big problem that we’re here to solve. Sure, it’s easy to say, “No thanks,” and keep on doing what you’ve always done, which is connect through your home network, a public wi-fi, or the data package that comes with your phone. The issue is connecting through public networks is extremely unsafe and there has been a proliferation of technology in the last few years to allow people to do very effect MITM attacks (man in the middle attacks)
This is fine if you like playing Russian Roulette with your private information like:
- Credit/debt card numbers
- Banking accounts
- Home address
- Social Security number
- Phone numbers
However…if you’re one of those strange birds in this super-connected world who doesn’t believe it’s too much to expect a seemingly old-fashioned idea like privacy to continue as a viable concept, you really need to think about choosing and setting up a VPN. It’s easier than you think.
Don’t know which service to choose?
Ask the Experts – Win a Prize
Actually, the only prize you get is safety for your personal data! That’s worth something, right?
And aren’t you the lucky one because it just so happens that the team at Best Web Hosting Australia likes to spend our spare time – of which there is a startling amount – testing and evaluating various internet services related to website hosting.
Lately we’ve turned our formidable powers of observation to VPNs, not because it drew the short straw but rather because adding a private connection like this into your internet browsing has the potential to change your life for the better when some hacker in Randomistan is thwarted in his attempt to steal your credit card number and post it for sale on the Dark Web.
Convinced of the absolute necessity of a VPN yet? Good. Now all you have to do is wade through hundreds of companies that offer the service at varying price points, levels of service, features, and reputations. Just kidding. We’re not going to make you do that.
In fact, we’ve put our noses to the grindstone the past few months and tested dozens of top VPN providers, ruthlessly winnowing the underperformers until we had a lean, mean list of six for you to choose from.
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
#1. ExpressVPN (Fastest & Very Safe)
- No logging policy
- Works with torrenting websites
- 256 AES encryption
- Works on any device you own
- Works perfectly for streaming Netflix as well 🙂
- Very high download speeds
- Extremely easy to install on your cell phone
We’ll be honest with you right out of the gate. ExpressVPN (located in the freedom-friendly British Virgin Islands) costs a bit more than some other similar services. Keep in mind that, advertising claims notwithstanding, most VPN services really aren’t equal to ExpressVPN so it’s a faulty comparison from the get-go.
At the time of writing, it will cost you $6.67/month to subscribe to our top recommendation. Compared to the potential loss that could be associated with your continued use of traditional internet obtained through “private” and public wi-fi connections, this seems like a small price to pay.
There are a few pertinent points you should be aware of. The first is that ExpressVPN uses an encryption method known as AES-256. Is it good? Well, it’s good enough for the NSA, FBI, and CIA (because it’s the one they use), so we’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Despite this level of security, it’s still extremely fast.
Secondly, ExpressVPN follows a strict no-logging policy, which means they keep absolutely no records of where you go online. This is pretty important. A VPN service that that retains any sort of records of your browsing habits has just negated the point of having a private internet connection in the first place.
#2. NordVPN (Extremely Safe but Slower)
- Based in Panama (another freedom haven)
- No logging policy
- Excellent customer service
- Kill switch
- Slightly slower download speeds
NordVPN was conceived as a new service by a Panamanian company – Tefincom – that has specialized in online security for years. When it comes to paying attention to your security and privacy, you’ll find no one does it better.
NordVPN protects your data through the use of a double encryption protocol that relays your connection through two separate VPN servers. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lot of protection and all a hacker looking in will see is what he or she immediately recognizes as a bunch of garbled information. Trust us, they’ll soon be on to easier prey and won’t waste time trying to steal your information.
In addition, NordVPN offers was one of the first services of its kind to offer what is known in the biz as a kill switch.
Consider this. What happens if your VPN connection fails, even for a few minutes? We’ll tell you. Your system reverts back to that standard, unsecured ISP connection and suddenly your data is thrown wide open for the world to devour.
A kill switch will automatically shut down your internet connection entirely when it detects a VPN server failure (which shouldn’t happen much). This keeps you safe, private, and undetected until the server comes back online.
The only thing we count against NordVPN is that download speeds are average at best. We especially noticed slowdowns from their European-based servers. In the U.S., the problem is less noticeable.
Cost was $2.75 / month at the time of writing.
#3. CyberGhostVPN (Balanced Price/Speed + Average Speed)
- AES-256 encryption
- No logging allowed
- No problem with torrenting
This service has a really cool name and maybe that’s part of the reason it enjoys what might be the industry’s highest name recognition which, in turn, has led to a contingent of paying customers currently 15 million strong.
And, oh, by the way, it’s a pretty solid VPN service also.
Let’s face it. Some VPN interfaces appear to have been cobbled together by squirrels with a meth problem. With CyberGhostVPN you can expect to find one of the cleanest, easy-to-use interfaces around, even if you’re a rank newbie.
Thanks to 1,300 servers located in 60+ countries, expect good coverage from this company, though, like NordVPN, download speed leaves something to be desired. It’s not a dealbreaker, though.
There have been allegations (unproven) that CyberGhost doesn’t hew as strictly to its no-logging policy as they lead customers to believe. This makes us a little nervous but we can live with it since almost everything else is hunky dory.
Notice we said almost. Customer service is a hit or miss proposal and may or may not be helpful. If you need a lot of hand-holding, take this into account. We also didn’t like that price creep goes all the way up to $10.49 / month if you don’t sign on for a long-term package. Otherwise, it’s a very competitive $3.50 / month.
#4. VyPyrVPN (Great Middle Option)
- Affordable for such great quality
- Fast download speeds
- Torrenting is no problem
- Some logs
As a subsidiary of the long-time voice of internet freedom and privacy, Golden Frog, VypyrVPN comes with a built-in history of standing up for these ideals. For $5 / month you get the Plain Jane service, which is still quite good, just not as much so as if you bumped up to the premium plan at $6.67/ month.
What do you get for that extra buck sixty seven per month? Quite a bit. VyPyrVPN Premium includes a connection that runs through your own cloud server and allows access to a proprietary encryption protocol known as Chameleon. The latter adds a second layer of protection to your browsing, which ain’t nothing to sneeze at.
On the downside, VyPyrVPN doesn’t have live chat support and does keep some logs of user activity. Whether or not these two drawbacks constitute actual drawbacks will be for each individual to decide. Around 15 million have decided in the affirmative, so we can’t be too stuffy about it.
If you’re looking for sheer banana-peel download speed, this service is one of the fastest we’ve ever tested in an industry not known for browsing rapidity.
#5. Buffered (Great Service – More Expensive)
- Torrenting and Netflix okay
- Quality customer AND technical service
- Excellent protection
- Limited logs
If your bottom line consideration is to find the cheapest VPN service on the planet, we’re going to suggest you keep moving because Buffered is actually one of the most expensive we’ve ever reviewed. The dead cheapest, with a LONG-term subscription plan, is $8.25 / month. To be fair, though, you get good quality for your money.
First the good. Buffered has the best customer service, by far, of any of the VPN services we tested. If you are new to the idea of using a private network, this might be worth something to you. They won’t over your head and likely will fix the problem in short order.
On the down side, we couldn’t, in good conscience, leave out the fact that Buffered only has 46 servers in 41 countries, a far more modest number than the services we ranked above them on this list. In addition, after burning up the internet on VyPyr, Buffered seems downright slow by comparison. A side-by-side matching up of numbers reveals Buffered to be almost 20 mb/s SLOWER than VyPyr.
#6. PrivateVPN (new company but solid so far)
- Great mobile apps
- IP leak protection
- Allows 6 simultaneous devices per account
- Zero logs plus kill switch
This Swedish company is new to the VPN industry but shows great promise so far. We like that it plays nice with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and even allows for torrenting if you swing that direction.
We’ve talked about kill switches before and why we like them. PrivateVPN incorporates the technology into its service as well as something we haven’t mentioned yet – IP leak protection. What is it? Simply put, some browsers contain a security flaw that allows your IP address (and actual location) to be visible. If you’re trying to stay anonymous or accessing any of the aforementioned streaming video services, a leaked IP address might get you locked out.
PrivateVPN has put together a comprehensive IP leak plan that sniffs out and fixes any issues in this area before it gets you blocked from your Netflix and you suffer a complete nervous breakdown.
This company’s great customer service can even get your VPN up and running for you if you have an aversion to technology and acronyms.
Final Thoughts on VPNs in Australia
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about anonymity, privacy, and how to evade various geo-locator services, all of which beg the question – Are VPN services legal? The short answer is, yes, they most certainly are. The slightly longer answer is that some countries, predominantly those with spotty human rights records, have made various attempts to either shut down VPN services or make them illegal.
Basically, you should know that you might run afoul of the authorities when trying to access a VPN service in the following countries:
- United Arab Emirates
- North Korea
If you live in one of these countries, sorry, we wish we had better news for you but there is the risk of harassment, arrest, or – at best – be able to access only very shoddy VPN service in these locations. It’s unfortunate but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
The Bottom Line
We’ll make this part real simple. If you’re looking for our opinion about the absolute best place to go for your VPN service, we say pick ExpressVPN every day and twice on Sunday.