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How to choose a VPN in 2024


If you’ve never used a VPN before, there are plenty of reasons why you should. VPNs enhance your online security, and in a world of hackers, deep fakes, malicious ads, and data thieves – digital safety is vital. On top of that, top VPNs upgrade your entertainment options by unblocking region-restricted content and enhancing your gaming or torrenting experiences.

The best VPNs offer great benefits, but with so many choices on the market, you need to consider some aspects before choosing a VPN provider. Go with the wrong option, and your privacy may be compromised, not to mention you’ll be frustrated with poor service.

With that in mind, this guide is here to help. Keep reading to discover all the features to look for so you know how to choose a VPN in 2024.

Choose a reliable VPN
NordVPN provides excellent security features, including next-gen encryption, a no-logs policy, and RAM-only servers. Additionally, it provides blazing-fast connection speeds, vast server lists, and can bypass geo-restrictions.
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4.9 /5

6 things to consider when choosing a VPN

You’ll choose the best VPN suited for your needs if you keep must-have points in mind. From knowing the features to checking reviews, and establishing your own needs too, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Understand your VPN needs. Nail down your reasons for using a VPN and choose a provider that fits the brief.
  2. Evaluate VPN providers. Do the due diligence and make sure you choose a VPN that has the necessary security, features, customer service, and reputation.
  3. Server networks. Get a VPN with reliable, international servers suited to streaming, privacy, and entertainment.
  4. Pricing. Choose a VPN that hits the right balance of quality and value for money – it will be worth your time.
  5. Customer service. You may need help with your VPN, so download a provider with extensive support options.
  6. Make an informed decision. Don’t choose a provider until you’ve checked all the facts to find a reputable provider with everything you require.

1. Understanding your VPN needs

When choosing a VPN provider, think about what you’d like to get from the VPN. VPNs are beneficial in a broad sense, but they offer specific benefits too. Depending on your requirements, this could influence your decision-making.

You may want to unblock region-restricted content libraries on the major streaming sites or access geo-blocked live sports broadcasts. Perhaps you want to improve your gaming experience by lowering ping and escaping congested servers. If you’re an active torrent user, this is another area where a VPN becomes useful.

Think about the devices you want to use the VPN with and how many you might want to connect at once. Will the VPN be solely for yourself, or are you interested in sharing it across a household or work team?

Your location will also play a part. VPNs work in most countries, but if you’re located somewhere with internet restrictions, a VPN with varied servers can help you connect to sites you can’t usually use.

Nailing down the factors which are most important to you will help you pick the suitable VPN provider.

2. Evaluating VPN providers

Reviewing and rating VPNs involves evaluating a selection of factors. From features to servers, speed, reliability, compatibility, and cost – here's what a premium VPN should provide.

Security and privacy considerations

The main point of a VPN is to keep you secure and private. Strong VPNs will secure your traffic with modern AES encryption. A kill switch is also a vital feature to look for, as it will instantly cut the connection if your VPN drops. You'll never be at any risk of a data leak.

How a VPN handles your data is another consideration. If you’re trying to keep your online profile hidden and anonymous, you may be concerned about whether a VPN will store your personal details, browsing information, and payment info.

Look for VPNs with no-logs policies so that they won’t save any of your information. Even better if the VPN operates with RAM-only servers, as all user data is regularly erased from the servers.

Finally, location is also important. Not just your own (and whether VPN use is permitted), but also the jurisdiction in which the VPN is based. For instance, NordVPN is based in Panama, a jurisdiction famed for privacy.

On the flip side, some VPNs are based in the US and other members of the 14-Eyes Alliance. This shouldn't be an issue if other security and privacy requirements are met, but it could still be a sticking point for privacy-focused users.

Reputation and experience

The VPN market is very crowded. So when you’re sifting through countless providers, you should look for VPN products that are well-established and respected. If you end up using an unproven or untrustworthy VPN, not only will you likely be bogged down by a weak product, your data and anonymity will be at risk.

Check out testimonials and online reviews. Platforms like Reddit are useful for genuine breakdowns of VPN user experiences – good and bad.

reddit comment about nordvpn

Seek out trusted websites that publish in-depth VPN reviews, compare different providers against each other, and see which VPNs consistently receive glowing reports from various sources.

Server network and locations

If your VPN provides thousands of servers in numerous countries around the world, you’ll be able to enjoy the most benefits.

For starters, you’ll get access to geo-blocked websites from anywhere. Streaming platforms like Netflix tend to have alternate content libraries in different locations, but they’ll be restricted to a specific region. Use a VPN service to change your IP address, and you can access any country’s content – providing the VPN has that country in its list. This also goes for accessing streams of live events like NFL, EPL, and all the other major sports leagues.

You can also use VPN servers to access your restricted local sites when you're traveling overseas (like a work portal) and improve online gaming sessions by joining uncrowded servers as close to the game as possible (a great way to reduce ping and stop lag).

The more diverse the server list, the greater your content options are.

3. Features and performance

Once you’ve found a reputable VPN with worldwide servers, you should next take a look at the performance of its features and apps. Here are the topics to cover:

Connection speed and bandwidth

Connecting to a VPN will usually impact your internet speed, but it’s how a VPN deals with this, which sets top providers apart from the rest. If your VPN provides reliable, consistent servers, you will still enjoy decent speeds.

You should also check which tunneling protocols. Efficient tunneling protocols will keep your speeds as close to the baseline as possible, so look for WireGuard, NordLynx, Lightway, and OpenVPN.

The amount of bandwidth your VPN uses will also impact your speed. If a VPN provider caps bandwidth, the connections could slow down, so choose a product that doesn’t impose any limit.

Device compatibility and simultaneous connections

We all use a number of devices in our day-to-day lives. So you should choose a VPN that supports multiple devices on all major platforms. Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux compatibility are the minimum. Premium VPNs will also support router installation and offer smart DNS features so you can connect to streaming sticks, smart TVs, and game consoles.

Simultaneous connections are the number of devices you can use the VPN on concurrently. Most premium VPNs offer between 5-10 simultaneous connections, which is plenty for most users. Some providers, like Surfshark, even offer unlimited simultaneous connections!

So if you’re thinking about sharing a VPN around your household, that could be very appealing.

Additional features and value-added services

Aside from the basics, an attractive VPN product will offer added value via extra features. Look for advanced security settings like ad-blockers, malware protection, and multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Smart DNS is a useful setting, as it enables you to unblock streaming content on devices that don’t support VPNs. If you’d like to use a VPN connection on some apps while keeping others on your regular connection, split tunneling is exactly what you need.

Some VPNs are also more suited to torrenting than others. For example, NordVPN offers dedicated P2P servers:

nordvpn servers map

These will help to optimize your downloads and uploads, as well as ensure you’re protected from threats.

4. Pricing and plans

There’s no doubt that cost is an important consideration. After all, paying for a poor product is the last thing you want to end up with. One thing to note is that the longer you sign up, the cheaper the cost will likely be.

Opt to pay for one month at a time, and you’re likely looking at around $10/month, if not more. But go in for the long haul, and you’ll see that cost reduce significantly. And since VPN use is usually ongoing, it’s a wise move.

For instance, a two-year subscription to NordVPN costs just $3.39/month, while its one-month subscription is $12.99.

Don’t forget to check for trial periods too. If your chosen provider doesn’t explicitly have a free trial, it will still have a hassle-free money-back guarantee. You’ll usually get 30 days to change your mind, which gives you free use for a month.

5. User support and customer service

Don’t overlook the importance of customer service. If you run into technical problems while using a VPN, you’ll want a support network to help you solve the issue.

We recommend VPNs with 24/7 live chat, which gives you the opportunity to request assistance and advice at any time. Email support is useful if the provider is known to respond swiftly to tickets.

A knowledge base is when the VPN will publish articles, guides, and tutorials for its products, features, and fixes. The more extensive the knowledge base, the easier it is to solve errors.

Finally, an online forum or community where you can find tips and hints will provide you with a place to ask questions and get help from real people using the product.

6. Making an informed decision

As with all major purchases, don’t just take the plunge and sign up for the first VPN provider you find. Read reviews, consider all the points we’ve discussed in this guide (servers, speed, security, specs, features, cost), and compare your options. Speak to people who’ve used VPNs and get their recommendations (you can do this with peers or even online forums)

Conducting your own research will ensure you get the right VPN for your needs, so make a shortlist of providers that stand out and try them out with free trials or refund windows. This will give you a hands-on feel of different providers and help you decide which to join for a long-term subscription.

Final thoughts

The key takeaways of this guide come down to having all the info you need before you sign up for a VPN subscription. Make an informed decision, and you’ll end up with a VPN that fits your requirements with a provider you can trust.

After all, you’re putting your digital security into the hands of a VPN product. You need to make sure its security is on-point, its features improve your experience, and it won’t ever release your information – even if the authorities come with data requests.

The last word

You’re almost ready to go and choose a VPN, so let’s go through everything once more.

The VPN market is flooded with providers, and they all claim to be the best. In reality, only a few options give you the features you need.

Choosing a VPN takes a bit of research, knowledge, and expertise. First, establish your reason for using a VPN. Is it for streaming, gaming, or torrenting? Do you need to access blocked sites while traveling? Do you just want to be more secure?

Whatever the reason, once you know what you want, it will be easier to choose a VPN provider. Then, check some reviews, download free trials, look for user ratings, and choose the VPN that offers the best overall package at a price that suits your budget.

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