Summary: Hackers are constantly looking for ways to hijack unsecured connections and intercept the sensitive information you’re sending and receiving while connected to the internet.
VPN services stop them in their tracks by encrypting the information that you send and receive, keeping hackers from deciphering it.
You need a quality VPN service keep yourself safe, anonymous and secure while you’re connected to the internet.
When you’re looking for the best VPN software to keep you protected and safe from hackers, very few services can compare to the service that ExpressVPN provides.
To protect your laptop while it’s connected to the internet, get ExpressVPN now by clicking here.
Table of Contents
1. Why You Should Trust Us
2. Testing Methodology
3. How We Tested Each VPN Service
4. VPN Services You Should Avoid
5. VPNs Disqualified Due to Missing Features
6. VPNs Eliminated Due to Poor Reviews
7. Top Three VPNs for Securing Your Connection
8. Wrapping It Up
The internet puts the world at our fingertips, giving us access to any information we need. As the internet’s reach increases, the world is getting smaller and smaller every day.
With more people connecting to the internet, though, hackers are taking advantage of unsecured connections to increase their efforts, steal people’s identities and infect computers with malware.
Protecting yourself while you’re connected to the internet doesn’t have to require a college degree in security. With the right software, you can keep yourself safe, anonymous and secure.
Virtual Private Network services allow you to route the information you’re sending and receiving online through a secured server that protects your data from hackers.
Information sent through these servers is encrypted so that hackers are unable to decipher the sensitive information that could lead to potential identity theft.
VPN services also help keep you anonymous online by allowing you to connect to a server that’s located away from your original location, making it harder to identify who you really are.
The writing team at SecureThoughts has devoted years to learning proper security protocols, how hackers operate and how to keep our readers safe while they’re connected to the internet.
We’ve spent countless hours testing different VPN services to find the best VPN software so that you don’t have to waste time and money sifting through low-quality VPN providers.
Before you subscribe to the first VPN service you come across, you need to understand that not all VPN services offer the same network strength, features and customer service experience.
Some services provide high-level military-grade encryption and amazing customer service, while others lack the features necessary to properly protect your sensitive information.
To ensure that your sensitive information and personal identity is protected while you’re using the internet, we’ve reviewed 172 different VPN services using a three-part process.
To skip the methodology and go straight to our recommendations, click here now.
To begin the review process, we immediately eliminated services that are based in countries where the government can force the service to hand over your usage logs.
Then, we reviewed details and features of the remaining services and eliminated those that do not provide a minimum feature set and specifications required to keep you safe.
We then read multiple reviews from other customers to help eliminate services that do not provide a satisfactory customer service experience.
Finally, we put the remaining services through a five-part test to determine which VPN service is the best software for users looking to protect themselves online.
Those criteria are:
Price – Price is an important factor when comparing providers against each other which have comparable features and customer service experiences.
Setup Process – We subscribe to a service and then download and install the software they provide to ensure the setup process is easy and intuitive to follow.
Ease of Use – We also test each service to determine how easy it is to use and whether or not we have problems getting and staying connected to their servers.
Speed – To verify connection speeds, we run speed tests from inside of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia and average the results.
Customer Service – Customer service is important, so we send each customer support team an email before the sale, one after the sale with a technical problem, and again with a billing problem.
Below are the results we found during our review process.
With the 172 VPN services that are currently available, we needed ways to easily separate the best VPN software from services that cannot keep you protected online.
To begin our process, we removed any services that participate in the “14 Eyes” program. If you’re not familiar with 14 Eyes, it’s a program that allows governments to spy on your activity.
Countries in the 14 Eyes agreement are required to track what you’re doing online and can be forced to turn that information over to your local government.
Out of the original 172 VPN services we began testing, 123 of them are based out of countries that participate in the 14 Eyes program and were eliminated.
To give you a small sample of services that participate in 14 Eyes, we’ve eliminated IPPredator, GoVPN and ChillGlobal.
We then reviewed each of the remaining services to verify that they meet minimum specifications and provide the features required to keep you safe while you’re online.
As our review progresses, we’re going to break down each of the features we look for in a VPN service and eliminate services that do not provide them with your subscription.
Criteria #1: OpenVPN Support
To manage your connection, VPN services utilize a variety of protocols including PPTP, IPSec and OpenVPN. Some services provide multiple protocols.
OpenVPN is generally regarded as the best and most secure protocol, so services that offer it as an option were ranked higher during our review process.
AnonVPN and Betternet are two examples of services that were disqualified due to their lack of OpenVPN support.
Criteria #2: Unlimited Bandwidth and Data Transfer
When it comes to using a VPN service, the last thing you want to deal with is having an increased bill due to using their service and consuming excessive amounts of bandwidth.
VPN services that offer unlimited bandwidth without slowing your connection speeds due to excessive use were ranked higher during our review process.
Celo and Cloak are two examples of services that were eliminated due to their bandwidth limiting and connection throttling practices.
Criteria #3: No Data Logging Policies
Some VPN services will track your activity on their servers to help diagnose any potential problems that may arise while you’re connected to their network.
These activity logs, however, can put you at risk if your local government requests that the service turns over the logs so they can be used to prosecute you in a court of law.
Hola!VPN and Seed4Me are two examples of services that were eliminated due to their data logging practices.
Criteria #4: Support for Multiple Operating Systems
When you’re browsing the internet, you may use multiple devices with different operating systems and need a VPN service that provides support for each different device.
VPN services that offer support for every possible operating system, from Windows to Mac, Linux, Android and iOS, were ranked higher during our review process.
SunVPN and IntelliVPN are two services that were eliminated due to their lack of support for multiple operating systems.
Criteria #5: Support for Multiple Concurrent Connections
Having more than one device that you use to connect to the internet also means that you’re going to need to protect more than one device at the same time.
VPN services that allow multiple active connections and do not slow your connection speeds or become unreliable were ranked higher during our review process.
HotVPN and IBVPN were both eliminated due to their lack of support for multiple active connections.
Criteria #6: First-Party DNS Servers
Some VPN services outsource their DNS management to other companies, which could put you at risk even though the VPN service doesn’t directly track what you’re doing on their network.
Because using a VPN service means you want to protect yourself while you’re online, companies that outsource their DNS management were ranked lower or eliminated from our review.
LibertyVPN and UnoTelly are two services that were eliminated due to their lack of first-party DNS servers.
Criteria #7: No Peer2Peer Blocking
There may be times that you want to use file sharing networks to download large files and stay protected while you’re connected to the networks.
Companies that block Peer2Peer file sharing networks or throttle your connection speeds for downloading files through them were eliminated from our review process.
LibertyVPN is one of the services that were eliminated due to their lack of Peer2Peer support.
Criteria #8: Free-Trials, Refunds and Money-Back Guarantee
The VPN industry is incredibly competitive, which means that any service we recommend is required to provide a free trial or offer a money-back guarantee to ensure you’re happy with your purchase.
To ensure you’re happy with our recommendations, companies that do not provide a free trial or stand behind their refund policies were eliminated from our review.
VPN Shield and VPNBaron were both eliminated due to their lack of free trials and money-back guarantees.
Criteria #9: Minimum of One U.S. Exit Node
If you use the internet to make purchases, you will appreciate using a VPN service that has at least one exit node that is based inside of the United States.
Having exit nodes in the United States means your purchases won’t be blocked if the retailer thinks that you’re not actually in the U.S. when you buy with a U.S.-based credit card.
Both GoTrusted and Unolocator were eliminated due to their lack of U.S. exit nodes.
Criteria #10: No Mandatory SMTP Blocking
Spammers have, unfortunately, used VPN servers to send massive amounts of unwanted spam emails, which causes many VPN services to block SMTP email ports.
To ensure that you’re able to send and receive emails while you’re connected to a service we recommend, we eliminated services that block the use of SMTP ports.
TorVPN and Tunnelbear were both eliminated due to their policies on blocking SMTP ports.
Using reviews from other customers may not necessarily be the most reliable criteria, but we need another way to quickly eliminate low-quality VPN providers from our list.
We’ve sifted through reviews from other customers using more than 100 different websites to help eliminate services that consistently received poor reviews.
After a thorough elimination process, we’ve managed to dwindle down the original list of 172 services to three that are all vying to be rated the best VPN software currently available.
Each of the remaining three services will be reviewed based on five criteria:
- Setup Process
- Ease of Use
- Customer Service
Through completing an extensive elimination process, we’ve found a clear winner that provides excellent network strength, great customer support and a wide range of features.
#1 ExpressVPN – (9.5 / 10) – The Best VPN Software Currently Available
When it comes to the absolute best VPN software currently available, very few services compare to the service that ExpressVPN provides to their subscribers.
They remain competitive and provide middle-of-the-pack pricing with single-month subscriptions costing $12.95, and only $8.32 per month for 12-month subscriptions.
Installing the ExpressVPN software and configuring it to work properly with most operating systems is easy and intuitive, allowing us to connect within a few minutes of subscribing.
The service that ExpressVPN provides is straightforward. It’s easy to see that they devote substantial resources to providing an excellent customer experience.
They also provided some of the fastest download and upload speeds that we saw after testing multiple different services, and we didn’t have any dropped connections.
The ExpressVPN customer support team responded quickly to all the requests that we submitted, both before and after the sale. They took less than three hours to respond in most cases.
Unfortunately, they ranked #2 in connection speeds when running tests based out of Australia, but that could be attributed to the time of day that we ran the tests.
We understand that customer service is important to ExpressVPN because of how quickly they responded and how well they resolved our problems, but would like to see them respond quicker.
Summary: If you’re looking for the best VPN software available, you need to look no further than the service that ExpressVPN offers their subscribers.
We couldn’t find another service that provided the same network strength, customer support and connection reliability that ExpressVPN offers.
To protect your laptop with the best VPN software, get ExpressVPN now.
#2 IPVanish – (7.5 / 10) – Suitable if ExpressVPN isn’t Available for You
If you’re in a country where ExpressVPN isn’t available or have problems that we didn’t encounter during our testing, IPVanish may be a suitable alternative.
During our testing, IPVanish was one of the cheapest VPN services available, costing only $7.50 for a single month and $4.87 per month when 12 months are paid for in advance.
Their software setup process is easy and intuitive. We were connected to their network within a few minutes after installing their software on our computer.
IPVanish offered a comparable customer service and network usage experience to ExpressVPN, though most services we put through our review process didn’t have many issues in this area.
During speed tests, IPVanish ranked #2 in tests run out of the United States and United Kingdom, and ranked #3 in tests run out of Australia.
The customer support team at IPVanish responded quickly before the sale was made, but did take more than 24 hours to respond to our requests once we became a paying subscriber.
Summary: While the service through IPVanish is comparable to ExpressVPN, ExpressVPN does provide much better customer service, network connection speeds and reliability.
If you find out that you’re unable to open an account through ExpressVPN, you may find that IPVanish is a suitable alternative which can keep you safe and secure.
If you would like to know more about IPVanish, you can visit their site by clicking here.
#3 HideMyAss – (5.5 / 10) – Not Recommended
HideMyAss may have ranked #3 on our list of services, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily recommend them as a viable option for keeping yourself anonymous, safe and secure.
We didn’t encounter many issues while signing up for their service and installing the software on our device, and were connected to their network within a few minutes after making our payment.
However, we did have problems when it came time to run speed tests. We found that they provided the slowest speeds out of the services we’ve reviewed, and had connection reliability issues.
We experienced significant problems while streaming high-definition video content and downloading large files through file sharing networks.
HideMyAss is also one of the most expensive VPN services we tested, costing $16.99 for a single-month subscription and $9.29 per month when 12 months are paid in advance.
Summary: The strength of their network and the delays in responding to requests we submitted to their customer support team caused HideMyAss to rank #3 during our review.
We highly recommend you use a better service, like ExpressVPN or even IPVanish, before subscribing to a service like HideMyAss.
If you want to learn more about HideMyAss, you can do your own research by clicking here.
Connecting to the internet without having proper protection in place can lead to problems such as identity theft, government surveillance programs and prosecution.
The best way to keep yourself from being spied on and having your sensitive or personal information stolen by hackers is to connect through a VPN service.
After thoroughly testing 172 different VPN providers, we concluded that ExpressVPN provides the best network strength, customer service and features to keep you safe online.
To learn more about protecting your laptop, get ExpressVPN now.