ExpressVPN

5 Best VPN Services 2016

Do you enjoy the fact that your government almost certainly spies on everything you do online? Do you like being told which websites you can and cannot visit? Are you (rightly!) scared that hackers might steal your data when using public WiFi hotspots? Do you get hacked off by the fact people in some countries can access services and content denied to you just because of where you live? Do you want to download using BitTorrent without always looking over your shoulder?

The answer to all these problems is VPN! Virtual Private Networking is one the most useful tools available to internet users. With VPN you can:

  • Hide your internet activity from your ISP (and the government.)
  • Evade censorship (by school, work, your ISP, or government.)
  • “Geo-spoof” your location in order to access services unfairly denied to you based on your geographical location
  • Protect yourself against hackers when using a WiFi hotspot
  • P2P download in safety

Although it sounds all very techy, VPN is easy to setup and typically costs around the price of a couple of beers or so per month. As a privacy advocate I believe in using VPN religiously, but even if you simply use it to evade geo-blocks, you will likely find VPN an invaluable tool during your day-today internet activities.

Here at BestVPN we test out the many VPN services available in this increasingly crowded market, so that you don’t have to! As the largest and most popular VPN review website on the web, we are uniquely positioned to understand the market and assess VPN providers based on both our personal experience, and our understanding of the industry. Not all VPN services are created equal, so let us help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

We will discuss the various uses of VPN later in this article, plus talk about how VPN works and how to use it, after we have listed our pick of the best VPN providers out there.

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN Logo
Read Review
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

Buffered Logo
Read Review
$6.99 / monthVisit Site

3

BolehVPN Logo
Read Review
$6.67 / monthVisit Site

4

SaferVPN Logo
Read Review
$5.99 / monthVisit Site

5

VPNArea Logo
Read Review
$4.92 / monthVisit Site

Winner

ExpressVPN

5/5

ExpressVPN_Screenshot 800_400

  • PROS
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 78 countries
  • Great customer service
  • P2P: yes
  • CONS
  • Based in the US
  • Connection logs
  • A bit pricey

 

 

ExpressVPN is a fantastic all-round choice, as it offers a balanced range of services perfect for the mainstream VPN user. Performance is top-notch, ExpressVPN keeps no usage logs, and it offers a great easy-to-use Windows and OSX client. The fact that ExpressVPN runs servers in 78 counties should ensure fantastic speeds wherever you are, and ExpressVPN reportedly works well out of China thanks to “stealth” servers located in Hong Kong.

We also like funky the Android and iOS apps, which allow you to securely access the internet while out-and-about, and ExpressVPN offers a very generous 30-day no quibble money back guarantee. So what are you waiting for?

Additional features: 3 simultaneous connections, “stealth” servers in Hong Kong.

Try the best all-round performer !

Visit ExpressVPN »

30-day money back guarantee

2nd Place

Buffered

4.5/5

Master

  • PROS
  • Fast speeds
    No usage logs
    30-day money back guarantee
    P2P: yes
    Based in Hungary
    Three simultaneous connections
  • CONS
  • A bit pricey
    Some connection

This Hungarian provider impressed us with it’s no usage logs policy (although some connection logs are kept), high connection speeds, a no quibble 30-day money back guarantee, and servers in 16 countries.

The Windows client is easy to use, and the organization seems to have a privacy-focused attitude. On a slight downer, Buffered is a little on the pricey side. Sadly, it does not accept anonymous payments via Bitcoins either. One of the major benefits of being based in Hungary, however, is that Buffered is outside the jurisdiction of UK, USA, and other over-reaching governments.

Also of unique value, the Buffered software client has an inspired feature called ‘port discovery’ that searches for open ports on password protected networks (such as in hotels and airports) allowing you to bypass the login stage (a code you often pick up from reception).

For a monthly fee of $10, Buffered customers not only get a high quality and secure VPN but the benefit of fantastic high speeds – perfect for streaming Netflix. Check them out for yourself and let us know what you think!

Try Buffered Today!

Visit Buffered »

30 day moneyback guarantee

3rd place

BolehVPN

4.1/5

 BolehVPN_Homepage
  • PROS
  • No logs at all
  • Client with VPN kills switch and DNS leak protection
  • VPN over Tor
  • SmartDNS included
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • CONS
  • Somewhat techy and bare-bones

Based at an off-shore location somewhere off the Malaysian coast, BolehVPN is another good choice for privacy enthusiasts and tech-heads (especially those in Asia and Australasia,) but like AirVPN, it suffers from being rather bare-bones, and is not very approachable for the lay-user. We do love BolehVPN’s no logs at all policy, though, and that it uses excellent encryption, allows P2P downloading, and has great connection speeds. The Windows and OSX client is also very funky, and features a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection. Like AirVPN, it offers VPN over Tor, allowing for true anonymity while online. The fact that BolehVPN throws in a SmartDNS services free is also great, as is the fact that it offers “xCloak” servers designed bypass government censorship.

Additional features: P2P: yes, 2 simultaneous connections, “xCloak” servers.

Visit BolehVPN »


4th place

SaferVPN

3.6/5

 SaferVPN-website
  • PROS
  • No usage logs
  • P2P: yes (NL server only)
  • Great support
  • 2 simultaneous connections (Premium plan)
  • Severs in 24 countries
  • CONS
  • Some connection logs

SaferVPN is a professional-looking, easy to use VPN service with servers in a good range of countries and great connection speeds. Its attitude to customer data and commitment to a censorship-free web is commendable, and a free trial and easy access to basic level customer support makes it very accessible to new users. SaferVPN offers servers in 24 locations around the world, and keeps no usage logs (although some connection logs are kept.) It has a clean looking and easy-to-use desktop app (Windows and Mac OSX,) and nifty iOS and Android apps.

Additional features: iOS and Android apps, accepts Bitcoins, SmartDNS service promised soon.

Visit SaferVPN »


5th place

VPNArea

3.6/5

 VPNArea home

 

  • PROS
  • No logs at all
  • 5 simultaneous devices
  • Accepts bitcoin
  • 7-day money back guarantee
  • P2P: yes
  • CONS
  • Some teething issues (but it has been a while since I last checked)

VPNArea is a (fairly) new and small  company with shed-loads of servers all over the place, so there should always be a server nearby. It is based in Bulgaria, but what minimal information it does keep (VPNArea keeps no logs at all,) is stored on servers located in Switzerland (which has strong data protection laws, but beware its new surveillance laws.) VPNArea features a 7-day free trial, fantastic connection speeds, great Windows software (with kill switch DNS leak protection,) and among the most friendly and helpful support I have come across, The fairly minor issues I encountered with the service were largely due to it being new, but I was generally impressed (and these issues may have been resolved, as it is while since I fully reviewed VPNArea.)

Visit VPNArea »


Considerations

What is VPN?

With VPN you access the internet via an intermediary server run by a VPN provider. Unlike with a standard proxy setup, the connection between your computer (or device) is encrypted. This setup means that:

Your ISP (and by extension government) cannot “see” what you get up to on the internet

All data traveling between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted. Your ISP can determine that you have connected to a VPN service, but that is all. Using VPN is illegal pretty much nowhere, although countries such as China and Iran do attempt to block it.

Your VPN provider can see what you get up to, though, so although good services take measures to mitigate this point, choosing a trustworthy provider is very important if privacy matters to you (we will discuss this more below.)

In theory, VPN will also protect your from your government spying on what you do online, and is very effective at preventing non targeted blanket government surveillance of its citizens.

Although its use is becoming increasingly common, you should be aware that using VPN may single you out that as an individual of special interest, and that VPN is unlikely to offer much protection against your government or the police if they are willing to deploy resources and manpower to target you specifically for investigation.

Your real IP address is hidden

Because you access the internet via a VPN server, all your internet activity appears to come from the IP address of that server, rather than your real IP address. Given that most VPN providers offer servers located in different countries around the world, this has a number of important consequences:

  • VPN is great for avoiding censorship, as you can simply connect to a server in a location where censorship is not an issue. This is equally handy for evading website blocks put into place by your school or workplace to prevent you wasting working hours on Facebook, as it is for evading major government censorship (including censorship of content deemed to infringe copyright.) Please be aware, however, that your school or workplace may take a dim view of you evading its blocks if found out…
  • VPN allows you to access services that are restricted to a certain country (such as the full US Netflix library and the UK’s 4oD streaming service.) I should note, however, that if you are not concerned about privacy and security advantages that VPN provides, then you are probably better off instead use a SmartDNS service for this purpose, as these are cheaper and faster (no computational overheads for handling encryption).
  • VPN is great for P2P/BitTorrent, as anyone tracing your P2P download will only discover the IP address of your VPN server, not your real IP. Not all VPN services permit P2P (and some will even hand over your true IP address to copyright holders!) but many do, and these promise to protect you against DMCA notices and similar problems.

It almost goes without saying, but if you require access to services limited to a particular country then you should ensure that your chosen VPN provider has servers located there.

Note that sometimes even when using a VPN your real IP can become exposed. For a discussion on how this can happen and how to stop it, please see A Complete Guide to IP Leaks.

You are protected when using public WiFi hotspots

Public WiFi hotspots, while very useful for grabbing a quick bit internet when on the move, present a serious danger to their users, as they attract criminal hackers like flies on poo.

  • Many public hotspots use either no or very weak encryption for connections, which makes all data transmitted to them vulnerable to WiFi packet snooping
  • It is also very easy to fall prey to using an “evil twin” hotspot (any mobile phone user can setup a fake WiFi hotspot with the name “Free Airport WiFi”!)

With VPN all internet data is encrypted before it leaves your device, so even if you connect to an “evil twin” hotspot, all the hacker will be able to see is meaningless garbage (your encrypted data.).

Privacy and security

An important use of VPN is to improve privacy while surfing the internet, and in this regard all VPNs are most certainly not equal. If privacy is important to you then you should use a “no logs at all” service, and one which uses strong OpenVPN encryption.

Please see our article on  5 Best Logless VPNs for a full discussion on what makes a good no logs VPN service, and VPN encryption terms explained (AES vs RSA vs SHA etc.) for a discussion on what makes good OpenVPN encryption. If you are interested in this subject then you might also want to read my article on PPTP vs L2TP vs OpenVPN vs SSTP vs IKEv2.

Other considerations

I find it something of a shame, but many (if not most) VPN users are less concerned with privacy and security than with other considerations (of which there are many) when choosing the service that is right for them.

BestVPN does consider privacy and security issues to be very important, but in line with what our readers actually want out of a VPN service, we judge providers on a range of factors. These include:

  • Price (of course!)
  • Speed  – VPN always entails some internet speed loss due to extra distances traveled and the processing demands of encryption/decryption. Consistency is notoriously hard to achieve when testing VPN connection speeds, but we now use a suite of tests that gives a pretty accurate picture of how good a given provider is on average in this regard.
  • Number of servers/countries – If you need to connect to servers located all over the place, then the more the better, and the more likely it is that a server will be located where you want it.
  • Number of simultaneous connections – Some providers will only let you connect one device to their service at a time, while others allow you connect your PC, laptop, phone, Xbox and girl/boyfriends tablet all at once. The more the merrier!
  • Customer support – Many VPN users are still learning the ropes, so customer support that a) actually answers questions in a reasonable timeframe, and b) knows what it is talking about, can be invaluable.
  • Free trials and money back guarantees: Perhaps the best way to decide if a service is for you is to try before you buy!
  • Software – VPN clients should not only look good good and be easy to use, but can add lots of funky features. The most useful of these are VPN kill switches and DNS leak protection
  • Cross-platform support – a service is no use if it can’t run on your device/OS. Support can include detailed setup guides for different platforms, or dedicated apps (as is increasingly common for iOS and Android devices.)
  • Other bells and whistles – Some providers offer “stealth servers” for evading the Great Firewall of China, free SmartDNS or cloud storage, fancy security options (such as VPN through Tor,) and more. We factor these (and whether they are actually useful) into our final assessment.

How do you use VPN?

It is increasingly common for VPN providers to supply custom software (including mobile apps.) In this case you usually just download and install the software, select a suitable VPN server, and hit connect.

If a provider does not have its own custom software (or at least not for your platform,) then it will likely have guides to manually setting up its VPN on various platforms.

Once connected, all  your internet traffic should now be routed through the VPN. In order to check this, visit IPLeak.net. If you see your real IP address or an IP belonging to your ISP, then something is wrong. Verify that your VPN software is connected, then check out A Complete Guide to IP Leaks.

Conclusion

VPN is a veritable internet Swiss army knife, and should be in the toolkit of every serious internet user.Those who care about privacy and government surveillance should use a good no logs VPN religiously.

VPN is not an internet security panacea. Viruses, cookies, zombie cookies, browser fingerprinting, and a host other threats mean that a broad and multi-pronged attitude to defense is required – unfortunately there is no such thing a  deploy-and-forget security solution. However, using a VPN  is arguably the single most effective thing you can do to improve your internet security.

VPN services are easy to set up and typically cost the price of a beer or two per month, so do yourself a favor, and get a good one now!

Best VPN Service Summary

Rank Company Score Price Link

1

ExpressVPN Logo
Read Review
$8.32 / monthVisit Site

2

Buffered Logo
Read Review
$6.99 / monthVisit Site

3

BolehVPN Logo
Read Review
$6.67 / monthVisit Site

4

SaferVPN Logo
Read Review
$5.99 / monthVisit Site

5

VPNArea Logo
Read Review
$4.92 / monthVisit Site

Published 2016-01-13
Written by Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

13 responses to “5 Best VPN Services 2016

  1. Dougless,

    It is rare I ever contribute a comment when reading or researching any given subject I’m investigating. I just want to say, this is a really good article and your take and expertise on VPN is quite good. The blog and all of your links to more information has been a great help. Thank you. I have a few questions below for clarification and then below that, I have a few thoughts to add to the conversation.

    My question is in regards to finding a No Log VPN solution. ( I will be reading the no logging article next.)

    You rated ExpressVPN as the best followed by Buffered. While Express has a lot of perks, they do log and I would rather go with a VPN not located in North America. This puts Buffered on the short list.

    Question #1: The lower ones in the top five appeal to me too but are rated poorly, what makes them less desirable? Also, why is Buffered rated beneath Express when it has more desirable features such as no logging and the port discovery feature which really appeals to me since I travel a lot and want to bypass the hotels server login protection? Is is simply because it has an easier interface and more servers in different counties?

    Question #2: Do many of the VPN’s have a port discovery feature? Does it matter if it is a feature other VPN’s use or is it a feature I could just set up on my own once I choose the right VPN?

    Question #3: For my curiosity, could you explain in more detail why being located in Hungary is a plus and why a Canadian server is also a bonus in regards to Buffered? Even better if you wrote an in depth article on the perks of using one hosting country’s server over another I definitely think others would find it useful.

    My thoughts:
    Every so often I revisit the VPN and privacy concern. For the longest time I considered privacy a non issue. My take on this is simple. I know my isp is logging my internet activity and I know my government (United States) is paying a lot more attention to us than most imagine. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, It is happening so I just figured if they want to peak, be my guest because outside of a few smaller illegal activities such as bittorrent, they’ll just know I watch a lot of porn.

    However, as I have become more entrenched as an independent developer moving from frontend to the backend of development I have become more knowledgeable on the important role servers play especially our localhost servers. Many people don’t know every PC or Mac have a server sitting in a dir deep inside their OS. It can be used for many different things, both good and bad. The door leading outside means there is one leading inside.

    Since I myself learned this, I’ve realized the great benefits of tunneling out data and tunneling in data so I can test and show my localhost development projects to my clients even when they aren’t officially up live on a hosting server. Another benefit is making my local server it’s own VPN so I can access it from other computers in my house or when I’m away. However, now that I know this, securing safe access through those tunnels is extremely important. VPN’s solve a lot of those security flaws in regards to port forwarding. I figured while I’m at it, why not shroud myself in complete anonymity.

    Thanks
    Oldkrow

    1. Hi Oldcrow,

      1) Don’t pay too much attention to the scores -they exist manly to to make the page look clean and clearly delineate the order of BestVPN’s picks.
      2) As far as I know Buffered’s port scanning feature is unique. Please note that this entry to the list was added by BestVPN’s management, and I have no personal experience of effective it is.
      3) Hungary has no mandatory data retention laws. I have removed the Canada server as pro in this article (the pros list was originally created for another article.)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Please do be aware that using VPN does not “shroud [you] in complete anonymity.” When using a good no-logs provider VPN can provide a high level of privacy, but because the VPN provider can almost always know who you are, it should never be though of a providing anonymity (for which Tor remains the best option.) Personally I also have little to hide, but passionately believe in privacy, and that the more everyone uses encrypted technologies such as VPN, the more private we will all be.

  2. Nice article Douglas. A very informative one, I must say. I am a regular VPN user, and I have switched between all the major VPNs out there, including HideMyAss, VyperVPN and StrongVPN etc. My point here is that when users are out to buy a VPN service, they must not compromise on the quality of the service provided.

    There are many VPNs that charge you more and their speed is somewhat lethargic. In contrast, there are VPNs that charge you less, but they give their users fantastic speed, and that’s what has won them the trust of their clients. For instance, I have used Ivacy VPN. They charged me a reasonable fee, and their speed and quality of service was much better than others.

    I agree that price is important, but quality of service and speed that a VPN user gets, is also an important factor.

    1. Hi Elvis,

      I agree that there seems to be very little correlation between price and the quality owhen it comes to VPN servies. Some of the most expensive services are very meh!, while some of the cheapest are excellent.

    1. Hi Guy,

      HideMyAss famously ratted on a user, but any VPN that keeps usage logs can be forced to hand them over (and in many countries such as the UK it is mandatory for VPN providers to keep logs.) In the US this is not mandatory, but companies such as StrongVPN do it anyway, and are known to cooperate with not just the government, but with copyright holders… Check out 5 Best Logless VPNs for best the privacy-centric providers, and a discussion on what makes a good VPN (except AirVPN and BolehVPN should be at the top of the list.)

        1. Hi Guy,

          That is interesting, and yes, a lot seems to have changed. I took a big dislike to StrongVPN because it was very expensive, kept all sorts of logs, used very weak (PPTP) encryption by default, and banned torrents. I does indeed seem that at some of these issues have been fixed. We will look into it further.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *