UPDATED: 13th March 2017
Summary: As the world becomes aware of the dangers that lurk in the dark corners of the internet, more and more people are turning to VPNs to protect their online activities. This surge in demand has led to an increase of VPNs available, all with varying degrees of speed, safety, accessibility, and usability. Every year, Secure Thoughts works with internet security industry experts, polls VPN customers, and conducts its own tests to find the fastest, safest, most user-friendly, and most accessible VPN service available to ensure you and your family’s online activities are protected.
Of the 37 VPNs we reviewed and tested, the VPN with the best combination of speed, safety, usability, and access to location-blocked content, was ExpressVPN. It was not only the fastest VPN we tested, but also uses the highest level of data encryption, has a simple and easy-to-use interface, and was the only VPN we tested that allowed us to access all location-blocked content we tested.
If you’re looking for the Best VPN, get Express VPN
WHAT IS A VPN?
VPNs are Virtual Private Networks, and they are a service provided to users, typically for a monthly fee. Basically, when you sign up for a service plan, you get a software bundle or an app for your device.
When you select a server, your traffic is routed through that location and completely encrypted. Even if it is intercepted, it’s indecipherable to anyone else.
VPNs aren’t just handy for keeping your data private from government agencies and hackers though.
A huge draw of using a VPN is that it also gets you access to any blocked content you want, no matter where you are.
When you select a server location, you’re getting access to any content available in that country.
The VPN blocks your IP address and assigns you the one associated with that server, so any content available in that region is available to you, regardless of where you’re actually accessing it from.
WHY IS MY INFORMATION AT RISK?
Personal data theft has become a major concern.
Around the world, identity theft and fraud rates are through the roof, with more and more people having their personal information intercepted on public Wi-Fi networks.
Even on private home networks, hackers hang out nearby in the hopes of swiping login credentials and other sensitive personal data.
As we continue to move towards a more digital and convenient life, that convenience has come with a steep price tag, and our personal information is more vulnerable to criminals than ever before.
There are a lot of common sense measures you can take to protect yourself, but when the basics fail, a VPN is the best way to protect your data from hackers and snoops.
BEST VPN SERVICES OF 2017
Below, we review 3 top VPN companies and let you know what you can expect from their service. Below that, we show you the best in several categories. Check them out to find the best fit for you.
#1 CHOICE: EXPRESS VPN 9.5/10 FASTEST, MOST SECURE CONNECTION, WITH THE BEST CUSTOMER SUPPORT
Express VPN has the most comprehensive, professional VPN service I’ve ever used.
Their software is incredibly simple and user-friendly, making them great for beginners and those that may be intimidated by the concept of a VPN initially.
What’s really amazing is how fast and effective Express VPN’s customer support is though.
If you ever run into problems, you get prompt, professional service that gets you on your way and up and running in no time.
They’re 24/7, and have a live chat option in addition to an email ticketing system.
Unlike most VPN services, Express VPN gets to you in record time, with average email responses coming back in less than 20 minutes. Totally unheard of in this industry.
This is also a company that really believes in what they’re selling, which gives you a sense of confidence about where you spend your money.
You can even get a month of free service for you and a friend through their referral program if you get them to sign up, which is a really rare perk.
All of that aside, Express VPN’s connection is top of the line. It’s always super-fast and reliable, making them great for streaming and downloading and accessing blocked websites.
Plus, their service plans come with unlimited bandwidth, so you never have to worry about hitting a monthly cap.
You can even connect both a home and mobile device to their servers at the same time under one account, without having to pay additional service fees.
Express VPN’s software is also universally compatible, so you can use it on everything; Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and even Linux devices.
It provides the most secure connection available, with 256-bit military grade encryption.
It also has fail-safe features to protect exposed data should the VPN ever fail, like a Kill App that shuts down apps that you add to it if you’re ever disconnected.
See, I told you. This VPN has more features than I can even list without boring you out of your mind, but it’s definitely the most all-inclusive service you’ll see, and for only $13 a month.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a VPN for any purpose that tops Express VPN.
#2: IPVANISH 7/10 FAST, RELIABLE CONNECTION, BUT WITH LIMITED COMPATIBILITY
Another really popular VPN that has been getting some attention is IPVanish.
While there are definitely some shortcomings that make it fall quite short of Express VPN, their service does offer some advantages for people that may not be able to use Express VPN.
Their software is also simple and straightforward, with a basic interface that even the most novice VPN user can easily navigate.
However, their customer support isn’t nearly as all-encompassing as Express VPN’s.
For starters, there’s no live feature, no chat, no phone support, just email.
Keep this in mind, because it means that if you can’t connect, you’re just going to have to hang out and twiddle your thumbs while you wait for an email response, which can take hours with IPVanish.
In addition, while they do offer a money back guarantee, its not nearly as long as Express VPN’s. You just have seven days to get a refund if you decide IPVanish isn’t for you.
And of course, IPVanish also doesn’t have a referral program. It’s not all bad though.
IPVanish does have a fast connection that is comparable to Express VPN’s, so they’re another option if you’re looking for a VPN that can keep up with streaming and downloading.
Their service plans also come with unlimited bandwidth and two simultaneous connections, so on that level, they’re pretty comparable to Express VPN.
IPVanish has one major shortfall though, that may take them out the running for a lot of customers right here and now: their software isn’t compatible with iOS.
It works just fine with Windows, Mac, Android, and Linux systems, but their software still doesn’t have a version that’s available for iPhones or iPads, so keep that in mind.
However, their connection is secure, with 256-bit OpenVPN protocols, and a reliable connection to keep your data safe. And at just $10 per month, the price is right on this one.
They may not have all of the features of Express VPN, but IPVanish’s fast connection and low price point make them another good option.
IPVanish can be found at this website.
#3: HIDEMYASS 5.5/10 SLOW SUPPORT, UNRELIABLE CONNECTION
HideMyAss has a large customer following, and on the surface seems to have a pretty impressive list of features.
That said, their software is okay, not great. It’s not quite as simple and intuitive as Express VPN, but it gets the job done.
And it is compatible with all major operating systems, so you can use it on just about anything.
The really big problem with HideMyAss is that their connection is terribly slow and unreliable.
I’ve had multiple issues getting and staying connected to this VPN, despite their very large network of servers.
When I did get connected, it was extremely slow, and streaming was an absolutely mind numbing experience (the buffering never ends).
Though their connection is secured with the same 256-bit encryption as Express VPN, the unreliability of it makes it a huge liability in terms of your privacy and information security.
My connection got dropped several times, leaving my data wide open for the taking. Not good.
Their customer support appears to be pretty comprehensive, they even have phone techs in addition to live chat and email assistance.
However, the real issue with HideMyAss seems to be that they just don’t put the same kind of priority on helping their customers as Express VPN does.
Email inquiries always take overnight to receive an answer, and even their live options usually had me waiting for a representative for at least ten minutes. It’s far from instant support.
They also don’t have a referral program, but they do have a 30-day money-back guarantee.
However, unlike Express VPN, with these guys, you may actually wind up using it. If it were me, I wouldn’t even waste my time, just stick with Express VPN for a reliable and secure connection.
HideMyAss is here.