What is Surfshark?

(Image credit: Surfshark)

In the world of VPNs, Surfshark is one of the better-known names thanks to some truly impressive marketing, not to mention its YouTube sponsorship deals with creators such as TomSka (and his infamous run of increasingly unhinged promo spots).

Before I get into what makes Surfshark stand out from the crowd, I'll walk you through what a VPN is and how you can use one – even if you're new to the tech.

Surfshark – from $2.19 a month
The best budget VPN

Surfshark – from $2.19 a month
The best budget VPN

Surfshark claims a top spot in our overall rankings because it packs a ton of value into tiny prices. You'll get super-fast speeds ideal for HD streaming and reliable access to all of your favorite platforms. Plus, Surfshark lets you install its app on as many different devices as you want – without paying extra. You can try the user-friendly apps for yourself, risk-free, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

What is Surfshark?

A VPN, in a nutshell, is security software you use on your device just like any other app or program. It encrypts the data you send across the web when you're doing your day-to-day browsing, making it harder for snoopers to see what you're doing online.

VPNs also allow you to access geo-restricted content (like Netflix shows that are only available in the US, for example). How? Well, when you connect to a VPN server in a different country, the sites you visit will think you're really there, too, because your VPN assigns you a shiny new IP address. So, checking out international streaming libraries or sites that are blocked in your location is as easy as doing a bit of server hopping.

Want the big picture

For all the details (without the jargon), check out our in-depth "What is a VPN" guide.

Surfshark VPN stands out from its dozens of rivals thanks to its budget-friendly prices, impressive speeds, and a raft of additional security and privacy features to help keep you safe online. We all know how great it is when you find a bargain (especially in the middle of this cost of living crisis), and signing up for a VPN doesn’t need to cost the earth. In fact, Surfshark claims the top spot in our cheap VPN rankings.

You can run Surfshark on pretty much any device you own, too, from Android and Apple phones to desktops, routers, and web browsers. Even better, with Surfshark's unlimited simultaneous connections, you can protect all of your gadgets (and all of your family's gadgets) with a single subscription. It's awesome value for money that's hard to find elsewhere.

What can you do with Surfshark?

First and foremost, Surfshark, like the best secure VPNs, improves your online security by encrypting your online traffic. This might sound terribly technical, but don't worry. The only thing you need to do to shore up your digital privacy is open the Surfshark app and click the big connect button.

Then, you can browse the web, stream music and movies, and go about your day confident that you've got Surfshark working away in the background to keep your activities safe. This means that your browsing (including the sites you visit, how long you visit them for, and anything you download) is kept secure from nosy third parties like your workplace, your ISP, and even governmental agencies.

This is especially important for anyone living under repressive or authoritarian regimes, but also comes in handy for folks relying on public Wi-Fi hotspots. These free connection points are undeniably useful but, unfortunately, are also notorious hotbeds of cybercrime. Surfshark's encryption ensures that any opportunistic hackers out there can't see or intercept your personal data – even if they make a convincing dupe of the Wi-Fi hotspot.

Surfshark’s sports an impressive 3,200 servers spread over 100 countries, and connecting to one will fool the sites you visit into thinking that you’re in a different country – the same one that the server is based in. This has multiple uses, one of the biggest of which is getting around geo-blocks that streaming services use to determine where certain shows and movies can be broadcast.

Speed surfing

Surfshark reigns supreme at the top of our fastest VPN scoreboard, meaning it has no problem keeping up with HD and 4K streams.

Netflix's content libraries, for example, vary massively from country to country, meaning that the series you're dying to tune into just isn't available where you are. That's no problem with Surfshark. Just connect to a server in the country where the show is being streamed, refresh your Netflix tab, and enjoy.

It's also worth pointing out that Surfshark is a handy travel VPN, too, as it'll ensure you can stay up to date with shows and sports from back home if you head overseas. Plus, by connecting to a server in your home country, you'll have no trouble accessing your online banking app on vacation.

Surfshark running on a Windows laptop

(Image credit: Surfshark)

How do you get Surfshark?

Surfshark is incredibly easy to use, even if you've never touched a VPN before and regardless of the device you're using. First things first, you'll need to sign up for a Surfshark subscription – and remember, the longer your plan, the bigger your overall savings. The cherry on top of these 12 and 24-month subscriptions is the extra 3 months of coverage that's entirely free.

The 1-month plan can come in handy if you need a short-term security solution, however, and matter which plan you pick, you'll be covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee. This lets you put Surfshark to the test in your own time, and on your own devices, before deciding whether to stay subscribed.

Once you've signed up, it's time to download the right app for your device and run through the installation process. Surfshark's apps can be found in the Google Play and Apple Store or, alternatively, on the Surfshark site. Installation and setup are quick, easy, and only take a few clicks – the VPN comes ready to use out of the box. Most users won't need to dive into the more advanced settings but, if you want to get stuck in, there's plenty to customize (like your VPN protocol).

You're almost ready to go. Now that Surfshark is running on your device, you'll want to select a server to connect to. On Android devices, the locations are displayed in a dropdown menu, whereas they're collected in a list on iOS gadgets. Not fussy about your server location? No problem. Surfshark's Quick Connect feature automatically pairs you up with a speedy server.

Depending on the device you're using, Surfshark might ask for permission to set up a VPN configuration when you use it for the first time. Select the "OK" button to proceed. It might also ask you about notification settings and battery optimization – so feel free to answer however you see fit.

After you've connected to a server, you can leave Surfshark to do its thing in the background and get back to your browsing. Just remember to disconnect from the VPN server (or reselect one in your home country) if you're using the service to access geo-restricted content or get around pesky bans.

Shaun Rockwood
VPN Expert

After graduating from Stirling University with a qualification in Education, Shaun accidentally fell into the technology sector in the late 1990's and has stayed there ever since, working for companies such as PSINet, IBM and ProPrivacy in a variety of roles from Systems Administration to Technical Writer. Being around since the birth of the modern internet, he's seen the way that technology has expanded to become an integral part of everyday life, and how people's understanding and ability to retain any kind of privacy has lagged behind.

Shaun is a strong believer in the rights of the individual to have their personal data protected and their privacy respected – a belief made all the stronger in an age of surveillance from both governmental bodies and private companies all around the world.

He spends his spare time cooking, riding his motorbike and spending far too many hours in Star Trek Online hunting Klingons and Borg.