To get a VPN, first research reliable providers such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN or CyberGhost. Once chosen, visit the provider’s website, select a plan, and complete the purchase. Next, download the VPN app onto your device. Install the application, log in with your credentials, then select a server location to connect.
Identifying Your Needs
Before diving into the technical details and prices of various VPN services, it’s crucial to identify your specific needs. Understanding these will help you to find a VPN that not only fits your budget but also satisfies your privacy and security requirements.
Understanding Your Security Needs
Every individual’s security needs differ. For instance, if you’re a journalist working on sensitive topics, your need for a robust, no-logs VPN service, such as NordVPN, is high. On the other hand, if you’re just trying to access geo-blocked content on Netflix, your security needs might be relatively low. In this case, even a budget-friendly VPN like Surfshark might suffice.
Estimating Data Usage
The amount of data you plan on transferring through the VPN significantly impacts your choice. For high data usage, VPNs with unlimited bandwidth, like ExpressVPN, would be ideal. ExpressVPN costs around $99.95 for an annual plan as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021.
Identifying Your Budget
How much are you willing to spend on a VPN service? Budget plays a critical role in your decision. Monthly VPN costs can range anywhere from $2 to $12 based on the provider and features they offer.
Consider the number and type of devices you want to connect with the VPN. Some VPNs limit the number of concurrent connections. For example, ExpressVPN allows up to five devices, while Surfshark offers unlimited connections. This could greatly influence your choice if you plan to use the VPN on multiple devices.
Your VPN’s speed is critical if you plan to stream content or download large files. According to a 2021 survey, ExpressVPN and NordVPN are often cited as some of the fastest VPN services available.
Quality of Customer Support
Lastly, consider the quality of customer service provided by the VPN. This includes 24/7 support availability, helpfulness, and support channel options (email, live chat, etc.). For instance, NordVPN is well-known for its effective customer support.
Researching Different VPN Providers
Once you’ve identified your specific needs, it’s time to research different VPN providers. Each provider varies in terms of features, performance, price, and other crucial factors.
Comparing Security Features
A VPN’s primary purpose is to provide online security and privacy. Therefore, ensure the provider you choose uses strong encryption, typically AES 256-bit. Other security features to look out for include kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a strict no-logs policy.
Performance, primarily speed, can significantly impact your experience. While many VPNs promise high-speed connections, few deliver. According to a 2021 VPN performance survey, ExpressVPN and NordVPN consistently rank among the fastest.
Evaluating Price Plans
Price is a crucial factor in choosing a VPN. Most providers offer monthly, semi-annual, and annual plans. For instance, NordVPN’s annual plan was priced at $59 as of 2021. Some providers offer additional discounts on longer-term plans.
Checking Device Compatibility
Ensure your chosen VPN supports the devices you plan to use. Most VPNs offer dedicated apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Some even support Linux, routers, and smart TVs.
Looking into the Number of Servers
The number of servers and their geographic distribution is another key factor. More servers usually mean better speed and performance. For instance, ExpressVPN operates over 3000 servers in 94 countries.
Considering Customer Support
Reliable customer support is crucial, especially if you’re new to VPNs. Look for providers offering 24/7 support via multiple channels (email, live chat, etc.). Providers like CyberGhost have earned a reputation for strong customer support.
Evaluating Additional Features
Some VPNs offer additional features like split tunneling, multi-hop connections, or ad-blocking. While these may not be necessary for everyone, they can provide added value for some users.
Comparing the Costs and Benefits
With a clearer understanding of your needs and a shortlist of potential VPN providers, the next step is to compare the costs and benefits of each service. Here’s how to approach it:
Comparing Prices Across Providers
Once you’ve noted the prices of different VPN providers, it’s essential to compare them against each other. For example, as of 2021, a NordVPN annual subscription cost $59, while an ExpressVPN annual plan was priced at $99.95. Price comparisons can help you make decisions that align with your budget.
Weighing Security Benefits
Although price is a significant factor, the level of security provided by the VPN should not be overlooked. If a low-cost VPN doesn’t offer robust security features, such as AES-256 bit encryption, a no-logs policy, or a kill switch, the price savings might not be worth it.
Assessing Performance Value
The speed and performance of a VPN can drastically affect your online experience. A cheaper VPN that significantly slows down your internet connection might not provide as much value as a slightly more expensive but faster one.
Evaluating the Benefits of Global Coverage
The number and location of servers can greatly influence a VPN’s performance and its ability to bypass geo-restrictions. For example, ExpressVPN with over 3000 servers in 94 countries might provide more value than a VPN with fewer servers in fewer locations.
Customer Support Quality
Customer support is often overlooked but is a crucial factor. If you encounter any issues, a VPN provider with efficient, 24/7 customer support, like CyberGhost, could provide much better value for money.
Factoring in Additional Features
Some VPNs offer added features such as ad-blocking, multi-hop connections, or split tunneling. These might add significant value to some users, justifying a slightly higher cost.
Making the Purchase Decision
After carefully researching, comparing, and considering the costs and benefits of different VPN services, it’s time to make your purchase decision. Here are some critical points to remember:
Confirming Your Choice
First, review all your gathered information and confirm the VPN that best fits your needs and budget. Is it ExpressVPN with its superior speed and expansive server network, priced at $99.95 per year (as of 2021)? Or perhaps the affordable Surfshark, with its unlimited device support?
Considering Subscription Length
The duration of the subscription can significantly impact the price. Longer subscription plans often provide better value. For instance, NordVPN’s two-year plan typically provides a better price-per-month value compared to the one-month or one-year plans.
Checking Payment Methods
Before making the final decision, check the payment methods offered by the VPN provider. Most providers accept major credit cards, PayPal, and sometimes even cryptocurrencies for those seeking additional privacy.
Verifying Money-Back Guarantee
Many VPN providers offer a money-back guarantee, typically ranging from 7 to 45 days. This gives you a safety net if the VPN doesn’t meet your expectations. For example, ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Looking for Additional Discounts
Check if the VPN provider is offering any special promotions or discounts. Some VPNs offer lower prices during specific periods or on special occasions.
By carefully evaluating all the critical factors – cost, benefits, subscription length, payment methods, money-back guarantee, and potential discounts – you can make an informed VPN purchase decision that suits your specific needs and budget. Remember, the right VPN for you will offer the best balance between cost and value.