What is a VPN and why might you need one?

Ari Howard

Jun 12, 2021 — 5 min read

Looking for a way to access the internet more securely? A Virtual Private Network may be the solution for you.

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If you are looking for added security when browsing the internet, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is likely what you need. A VPN is a connection method, often used by corporations, that allows verified users to connect to a private network that has been extended across a public network. 

This means that wherever users are connecting from, their computers, smartphones or tablets can privately send and receive data through the VPN’s “encrypted tunnel.” When in this tunnel, users’ IP address and all other sensitive data will be shielded from third parties, such as hackers and even internet service providers (ISPs). This shield even works when connected to public Wi-Fi

Although VPNs have been used for years by large corporations and governments, they have recently become essential in everyday society as an unprecedented number of businesses now work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter who you are, therefore, purchasing a VPN is a great way to stay safe online no matter where you are. 

If you need help setting up your VPN, you can check out our step-by-step tutorial for setting up a VPN. We also have a tutorial for connecting your smartphone to the VPN

Private VPNs we love 

Although most VPNs have a lot of the same features, such as strict no-logs policies, unlimited bandwidth, anonymous browsing, IP address masking and more, there are some key differences between each option. Find out our top-ranked VPNs and what type of user each option is best for. 

VPN comparison

How we chose the top VPNs

We assessed over 15 VPN products and narrowed it down to the top four based on a variety of factors. We considered pricing, contract length, availability, VPN connections, speed, encryption, additional security features and more.

We assessed over 15 VPN products and narrowed it down to the top four based on a variety of factors. We considered pricing, contract length, availability, VPN connections, speed, encryption, additional security features and more. The chosen four VPNs all stand out for different reasons, ensuring that no matter what you are looking for, there is a product listed that will satisfy your needs. 

Learn more about our methodology

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Highest security protection: NordVPN

The NordVPN is one of the best options available for a well-priced VPN. There is one plan option but three different contract options: one-month ($11.95/mo.), 1-year ($4.92/mo.) and 2-years ($4.13/mo.). The longer the contract, the more you save. This VPN is available for apps and devices, including Macs, Androids, Windows, iPhones, Chrome, Firefox and more. You can also connect up to six of your devices at a time to the NordVPN and travel to a total of 59 countries. 

The NordVPN has 22 features listed, all of which ensure safe internet browsing and data sharing no matter where you are. The most important feature, however, is the NordVPN’s next-generation encryption. With this advanced encryption methodology, you can be assured that your personal information is completely safe. On top of all that, you are also guaranteed the fastest VPN speeds available with the NordVPN. 

Best for travelers: ExpressVPN 

The ExpressVPN is one of the more robust/extensive/impressive VPNs on the market but also one of the more expensive options available. This VPN is ideal for travelers since the ExpressVPN is available in an impressive 94 countries. This means you are guaranteed protection with your devices in nearly every part of the world. 

Like the NordVPN, there is only one ExpressVPN plan but three contract options to choose from: 1-month ($12.95/mo.), 6-months ($9.99/mo.) and 12-months ($8.32/mo.). The longer-term contract options will save you some money but not as much as other VPN companies offer. There also aren’t any two- or three-year long contract options like many of the other VPNs available. 

With the ExpressVPN you will be able to connect up to five of your devices at a time, which is likely more than enough, but considering the price of the ExpressVPN compared to other products, this is definitely not impressive. Overall, however, the ExpressVPN is one of the best options for a simple interface and strong data protection. 

Best for bargain hunters: CyberGhost 

CyberGhost is arguably the best deal available for VPN products with plans starting as low as $2.25/mo. Plus, CyberGhost is available in 91 countries and can connect up to seven devices at a time. If you are looking for a great deal and willing to sign a long-term contract, CyberGhost is likely the VPN for you. There are four contract options: 1-month ($12.99/mo.), 1-year ($3.99/mo.), 2-year ($3.49/mo.) and 3 years + 3 months ($2.25/mo.). The 3-year and three-month contract makes CyberGhost one of the cheapest options available without sacrificing any of the security features or speeds. There are even cheaper options available on the market but none of those products compete with the quality of CyberGhost. 

CyberGhost is able to protect all devices, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux so no matter which seven devices you want protected, CyberGhost has you covered. CyberGhost also has one of the long trial periods, where you can use Cyberghost for up to 45 days (if you sign a long-term contract) and still get your money back if you decide CyberGhost isn’t for you. 

Best user experience: Tunnelbear 

More than anything, Tunnelbear is known for its adorable bear graphics throughout its website. However, even beyond its eye-catching marketing, Tunnelbear is known for having one of the best user experiences for VPNs. This is because Tunnelbear is unmatched in its simple interface and straightforward setup. If you aren’t too familiar with VPNs, Tunnelbear is a great option for you.

Tunnelbear offers its unlimited plan with three different contract options: 1-month ($9.99/mo.), 1-year ($4.99/mo.) and 3-years ($3.33/mo.). This VPN plan offers unlimited secure browsing, allows up to five connected devices at a time and is available in 41 countries. Although the unlimited plan is what most customers are looking for, there is also a free version. This version of tunnelbear, however, has much slower speeds and is only for limited usage (500 MB of secure browsing). Lastly, if you would like more than one user on the VPN, you also have the option of a team plan, which starts at $5.75/mo. 

Best free VPN: ProtonVPN

If you are looking for a free VPN, your best option is likely ProtonVPN. With the ProtonVPN free plan, you get access to 17 servers in three countries, are able to connect one device to the VPN and are able to receive medium speeds. This is a great option if you only need one device connected to the VPN, such as your computer, and aren’t traveling too frequently. Although there aren’t as many features as some of the other VPN brands, ProtonVPN guarantees privacy and safe browsing. 

What are the limitations of a VPN?

Although a VPN server is a great way to hide your geographic location and avoid data tracking, it doesn’t fully protect you from computer viruses and password hacking. For instance, if you accidentally download a virus onto your computer from the web or give up personal information to scammers, a VPN won’t be able to protect you from the repercussions of these actions. A great addition to a VPN server, therefore, is to download antivirus software and use a password manager. 

Bottom line: Allconnect’s favorite VPN is CyberGhost 

CyberGhost is the most affordable option (besides the ProtonVPN) and it has just as impressive features as some of the more expensive options. You are even able to connect as many as seven devices at a time to the VPN, which is more than any of the other VPNs listed. 

A VPN subscription should not break the bank, so finding one that is reliable, fast and cost-efficient should be your main priority unless you are extremely concerned about security. If the most advanced encryption and security features are a must for you, however, then go with NordVPN. 

Ari Howard

Written by:

Ari Howard

Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content

Ari is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team, focusing on broadband and wireless news, as well as broadband and TV provider deals. She recently graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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