Connecting to the internet through a virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to protect your anonymity and keep your browsing and user data private and secure. Although VPNs have been around for many years, the interest in them has spiked this year after the US Congress’ decision to get rid of user privacy rules designed to prevent internet service providers from selling user data. As a result, more people than ever are interested in finding a quality VPN service.
A quick search online will return you hundreds, if not thousands of results for free VPN services. For many people, these free VPNs are the obvious option. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are always the best option, as you generally get much more privacy and security when you pay for a VPN service. Nonetheless, it is still important to compare free and paid VPNs in order to understand exactly what the differences are and which type is best for your specific needs.
Comparing Free and Paid VPN Services
One of the issues with most free VPNs is that the majority of them only offer one type of connection: Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). Unfortunately, PPTP is no longer considered secure, which means that your browsing data will only be weakly encrypted or possibly no encrypted at all. Compared to free VPNs, paid VPN services usually use a stronger encryption protocol like OpenVPN. With paid VPNs, you will usually have 256-bit data encryption, compared to the 128-bit encryption provided by most free VPNs. If all you want to do is spoof your IP address to access a streaming video service in a different country, you are probably fine using a free program. On the other hand, if you want to access this list of the best torrenting sites to download movies or you are generally just more concerned about privacy and hiding your activity, you should definitely opt for the higher security of a paid VPN service.
The point of using a VPN is to prevent your ISP or anyone else from tracking or logging your browsing activities. Unfortunately, many free VPNs specifically state that they log user activity. Many others fail to state whether they log user activity or not, which most likely means that they do. Furthermore, even some services that claim not to keep user logs have been forced to admit that they actually do. For instance, PureVPN originally stated that it didn’t keep user logs only for it to come out in an indictment that the company had provided many user logs to the FBI. With a paid VPN, you can be almost guaranteed that your browsing data will be fully private and encrypted and that the service won’t keep a log of your activity.
Paid VPN services obviously make their money by people purchasing their software, which brings up the question of how free VPNs make their money. In many cases, these free services make money by displaying ads and, in some cases, by selling your browsing activity for marketing and advertising purposes. In addition to the ads, another issue with many free VPNs is that they often limit user’s bandwidth speeds or place a monthly cap on data usage. These factors are generally never an issue with a high-quality paid VPN, and you will generally get unlimited data, no throttling of bandwidth and access to hundreds or thousands of high-speed servers around the world.
When comparing the two head-to-head, it is obvious that the majority of paid VPNs offer much better privacy, security and overall quality than the average free VPN service. This isn’t to say that free VPNs aren’t useful. It just depends on what your specific needs are and how you plan on using the VPN. This is exactly why it is important that you consider your choice carefully and choose the best service for your needs—no matter whether you pay for the service or get it for free.