Virtual Private Networks are important for your security while online. The technology allows you to browse the internet while being anonymous. This is because there can be third-parties, particular hackers and advertisers, who may want to gather information from you. This includes your browsing activities (the website you visit), your credit card information, and your personal address. VPNs hides these from these third-parties.
How does it work?
Once you avail the service of a VPN, you are given the option to connect to a country of your choice. Some may even choose the best one for you depending on the proximity and speed of access. You may select a country where their servers are available (both virtual and physical servers). This means that you can choose a country from Asia when your point of access is from Europe as to make it harder to track you.
From here on, everything you do online will be encrypted by the technology of your VPN. There are different protocols included in this part which will depend upon your chosen service. The encryption makes it harder for hackers to be able to decode the contents of what you upload online.
The encrypted data will then be sent to their server, which will then send it to the website of your choice. This process may make your internet speed slower than before but the actual performance may depend upon the service you are using?
Should I use a free or a paid one?
To see the difference between the two, we will use five categories: speed of internet, security, interface, price, and features.
Speed of internet
Because Virtual Private Networks requires you to connect to a series of steps in order to be connected to the website of your choice, the speed of your internet will be reduced.
Tunnelbear and Windscribe are known free VPNs which give you average internet speed. When connected to countries near you, speeds are reliable enough to be used for streaming videos and downloading. However, connecting to areas further from these may result in higher ping which makes it harder to play online video games.
SurfShark and NordVPN which are paid ones have reliable speed through all their servers. This is because they have more servers for you to choose from to avoid having too much traffic on their end. Connecting to areas on the opposite side of the globe may still give you higher ping and about half of your normal speed.
Winner: Both have close speed with each other but paid VPNs can sometimes give faster speeds due to having more servers.
Paid VPNs are generally more transparent in terms of their policies. NordVPN and CyberGhostVPN have no logging policies that explicitly state that they do not collect information from their users. Often, this is allowed because some of them are headquartered in the British Virgin Islands which doesn’t have laws that require keeping data from the users. Aside from this, these VPNs are also transparent with their government records and alerts if there are any (warranty canary).
Aside from this, these VPNs also use industry-standard protocols for security. DNS and IP address leaks are expected to be prevented from these.
Free VPNs, on the other hand, may have some problems in terms of security. Some are notorious for logging the information from their users in order to sell for advertisers (to be expected if they do not have ads). This is not true for all of them, though, so be sure to read reviews in relation to the service that you are using.
Winner: Paid VPNs have the obvious advantage in this category as it should be a must given that they require payment. Some free VPNs may still be trustworthy, though.
Free VPNs are usually filled with advertisements on their interface. This is their way of earning for server and security maintenance, after all. Some also have dated interfaces as it is not really their priority. Paid VPNs generally have a cleaner and more interactive interface.
Winner: Paid VPNs generally have more budget to spend which they also use for the interface.
Free VPNs are free and may only get their income from advertisements in their applications. Paid VPNs may offer more security and better interface but may have expensive prices for their services. Generally, their prices are friendlier for those who may want to subscribe for longer periods.
A common complaint about paid VPNs is that some of them only offer base features for those availing lower prices. Their “Pro” versions are too expensive for casual users but may contain necessary features.
Winner: Free VPNs are the clear winner in terms of pricing. It is best used for casual browsing, though.
PaidVPNs have more features on their end that may be crucial for security. One of these is the killswitch feature which automatically terminates your connection to the internet in case there is a breach of security. They may also be capable of bypassing restrictive geo-filters for streaming websites like Youtube and Netflix (which has limitations in content due to copyright and licenses).
Some free VPNs may be strong enough to bypass filters, too. This is limited to only a few, though.
Winner: PaidVPNs has more features that are better at securing users.
Free VPNs are best used by those that will be only browsing the internet casually. After all, it is still best to have security at all times. Paid VPNs are best for those who may be wanting top security for a longer period of use.