You might say that VPN users are, on the whole, very much concerned with the twin issues of anonymity and security. They value their privacy (for a whole host of reasons) when online and they want to be able to go about their online business in the most secure way possible (quite rightly so). And so if this is you, then you will naturally want to research VPN services to find the right one for you.
Sebastian Schaub, CEO and founder at hide.me.
And whilst you invest time in this exercise, try and keep independent VPN services at the top of your shopping lists, and here’s why:
Red lights spell danger
The market for VPN services is busy and competitive and as with many other services - caveat emptor - let the buyer beware! Opting for the biggest or most well-known providers isn’t necessarily the best option when it comes to selecting a VPN service for your requirements.
Also, be wary of a VPN service that might have been swallowed up by a larger organization that owns multiple VPNs. There is very often a complete lack of transparency when it comes to a multi-VPN stable. Perhaps the most worrying facet of such a setup is understanding where everyone is headquartered as privacy laws can vary wildly between some nation states - do you want your data to be somehow tied to a Chinese operation? And what happens if user log information is requested between VPN providers in different geographical locations? Without clarity in all of this how can you make a valid decision on your privacy? And if all the VPNs in such a stable are built with the same software infrastructure, does that not ring massive alarm bells? If one gets hacked, they are all effectively hacked. Independent VPNs maintain independent cybersecurity. Also, Independent service providers don't use trackers and or sign suspect affiliate deals where most of the coverage is bought.
Speed is often a key factor for people when choosing which VPN to sign-up to. A major drawback that multi-VPN operators suffer from is that they tend to operate under a shared infrastructure model which can result in server overloading and an overall poor experience for the user. Also, these large VPN organizations will often have too many users which is likely to cause a variety of streaming issues, IP bans and an overload of captchas, for example. So if speed is at the top of your list of priorities, think about the organization you are signing up to.
You might argue that the notion of transparency transcends all other considerations when it comes to choosing a VPN service - after all, if you can’t trust the company to be transparent about things like policies and practices, how could you possibly trust them with your own data? And from our previous observations, possibly the best way to validate transparency is for a VPN to be clear and open with regard to who owns its brand and how it is structured from a corporate point of view. And there is a whole host of other information that your VPN should be happy to share with you - for example, data retention policies or which other organizations they choose to partner with.
And how about advertising practices? Sadly, there are some quite murky waters to contend with here. If there is talk of unusually high Cost per Actions (CPAs) then this should ring alarm bells at some level - if a VPN provider is paying a higher commission than the plan actually costs, then you do the math. And in this scenario it’s likely that the VPN is having to earn the money somehow. How? Perhaps by dubious upselling or maybe the cross selling of useless products. Always endeavor to scratch a little deeper beneath the surface to see what is actually going on.
You are rightly concerned about anonymity and security online. Choosing a VPN service therefore is a sensible option. But with such a crowded and competitive market, how can you best go about selecting a VPN service that is right for you? Keep independent service providers at the top of your list because big and noisy doesn’t mean the best - for a whole host of reasons.
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Sebastian is the founder of hide.me VPN and he has been working in the internet security industry for over a decade. He started hide.me VPN to make internet security and privacy accessible to everybody.