5 Best VPN Service Providers for 2014

16 Jan 2014 |

While choosing to use a VPN is a no-brainier these days (in our humble opinion), choosing the right one can remain a tricky task, especially as what you want out of a VPN service varies. Here’s a summary of what we look at when recommending the best VPN.

  1. Do they keep logs? Yes = bad, no = good
  2. Any other policies that support user’s anonymity and privacy?
  3. Is P2P torrent downloading permitted?
  4. Do they have servers in locations that are useful to you?
  5. Price
  6. How easy is the service to use? How is the customer support?
  7. Encryption used (PPTP bad, OpenVPN good)

With these points in mind, this is our top ten, but this does change over time.

Summary

Rank Provider Score Review Link

1

vyprvpn_logo $6.67/mo 9.9
Read Review
Visit Site

2

ExpressVPN $8.32/mo 9.6
Read Review
Visit Site

3

logo $9.00/mo 9.5
Read Review
Visit Site

4

logo $6.95/mo 9.4
Read Review
Visit Site

5

$10.50/mo 9.4
Read Review
Visit Site

Here’s a short summary about each service.

Editor’s Choice

Winner – VyprVPN

Positives: fast, 160-bit and 256-bit OpenVPN encryption (Pro only), servers in38 counties, Android app, iOS app, 7 day money back guarantee, up to 3 simultaneous connections, P2P: yes

Negatives: a bit pricey

VyprVPN is a large provider run by global consortium Golden Frog (who have recently legally moved to Switzerland, giving them more freedom and non-US jurisdiction), with servers in 38 countries worldwide. It has simple but effective Windows and OSX clients, and very nice Android and iOS apps. Linux is also supported. 2 devices (or 3 for the premier package) can be connected at once, and the very good 160-bit to 256-bit OpenVPN encryption. Note that these comments apply to the Pro service, not the PPTP-only Basic plan, which is not really secure and so should be avoided. They do keep connection logs, but no usage logs.

VyprVPN own their own networks and data centers, which is not something many VPNs can boast, giving them excellent speeds and control over their service. They’ve also built their own protocol called “chameleon” which can hide the fact that you are using a VPN completely, which is very useful in places like China.

Try Out the Best VPN Today!

» Visit VyprVPN

3 day free trial

2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Positives: Fast speed, servers in 39 countries , iOS and Android apps, 30 day money back guarantee, no usage logs

Negatives: Nothing

ExpressVPN wins our number 2 spot because it provides a balanced range of services that makes it ideal for mainstream VPN users. A large and established provider, it has servers in 39 countries across the world, so it is well-placed to provide its typically great speed performance wherever you are.

In addition to simple but highly functional Windows and OSX clients, ExpressVPN has nifty apps for Android and iOS devices, perfect for protecting your internet connection on the move. Here we like to mention that their Android app is truly beautiful and easy to use. It also has detailed instructions for setting up in Linux and on a range of routers.

ExpessVPN keeps no usage logs and there is a very generous 30 day money back guarantee to get you started. Pricing is not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for, and ExpressVPN delivers.

Visit ExpressVPN »


3. AirVPN

Positives: accepts Bitcoin, no logs, 256-bit AES encryption, dynamic port forwarding, uses shared IPs, real-time user and server statistics, support for Tor over VPN and VPN through SSL and SSH tunnels, good speeds, 3 day free trial, based in Italy (where DRD does not apply to VPNs, )P2P: yes,

Negatives: 0 simultaneous connections by default (but more can be purchased), mainly North America and Europe servers (plus some in Singapore)

Although largely focused on Europe, AirVPN is our first choice if privacy and the NSA is an issue for you. Set up by internet neutrality  hactivists and activists following a Pirate Party festival in Rome, this Italian provider keeps no logs, uses shared IP addresses, accepts Bitcoins, and voluntarily abides by various EU privacy directives and codes of best practice (but not the evil Data Retention Directive which does not apply to VPN providers in Italy). It uses excellent 256-bit AES OpenVPN encryption, and supports unusual privacy technologies such as VPN over Tor, and VPN through SSL and SSH tunnels. AirVPN supports ‘network transparency’ with detailed server information, allows P2P downloading and, although only one simultaneous connection is allowed by default, more can be added for around $2 per month.

» Visit AirVPN


4. Private Internet Access

Positives: accepts Bitcoin, no logs, fast, up to 256-bit AES OpenVPN encryption, uses shared IPs, client features port forwarding, VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection, 3 simultaneous connection, Android app, P2P: yes

Negatives: No free trial, based in US

If privacy matters to you but you want a US based solution (see Considerations below), then PIA offers a fantastic service. It keeps no logs keep, uses shared IPs, and accepts anonymous payment via Bitcoins. It also has newly implemented strong OpenVPN encryption (to up to 256-bit AES OpenVPN, with SHA-256 hash authentication and 4096-bit RSA handshake encryption), a very fully featured Windows and OSX client with DNS leak protection, IPv6 leak protection, port forwarding, and an internet kill switch, is happy with P2P downloading, and allows up to five devices to connect at once (ideal for using with its excellent Android app). Compared to ExpressVPN and VyprVPN we hear a lot of complaints that PIA is not very non-techy friendly, but for experienced users not worried about it being based in the US, PIA is excellent.

» Visit Private Internet Access


5. BolehVPN

BolehVPN

Positives: no logs, fast, great OSX and Windows software, 2 simultaneous connections, HK server uses shared IPs, P2P: yes

Negatives: 128-bit Blowfish OpenVPN encryption could be stronger

This Malaysian based provider gets our number five spot because it is an excellent choice for users in China and throughout the Far East. It keeps no logs and has an excellent OSX and Windows VPN client, which while having a bit of steep learning curve, has a wealth of connection options, including to ‘cloaked routers’ in Hong Kong and the US East Coast (excellent for users in mainland China). Super-fast, BolehVPN is also happy to allow P2P downloading.
» Visit BolehVPN


Considerations

We have a good VPN buying guide available, but to summarize (and update a little to reflect developments over the last year, plus mention some issues not covered in that article), things you want to consider when choosing a VPN provider are:


1. Do they keep logs?

If all you want is to access geo-restricted material then this may not matter, but if you are interested in using a VPN to protect your privacy then it is vital that it keeps no logs of your internet activities. If logs are kept then (whatever the company says), it can be made to hand them over to the authorities, or they can be hacked by criminals. If no logs are kept then there is nothing to hand over / hack. Note that we make a distinction between keeping logs, usage logs, connection logs and no logs;

  • Usage logs – details of what you get up to on the internet, such as which web sites you visit etc. These are the most important (and potentially damaging logs).
  • Connection logs  - many ‘no logs’ providers keep metadata about users’ connections, but not usage logs. Exactly what is logged varies by provider, but typically includes things like when you connected, how long for, how often etc. Providers usually justify this as necessary for dealing with technical issues and instances of abuse. In general we are not too bothered by this level log keeping, but the truly paranoid should be aware that, at least in theory, it could be used to identify an individual with known internet behavior through an ‘end to end timing attack’.  This should not be a big concern for most users however.
  • Keeps logs – it is depressingly common for VPN providers to keep logs of everything (usage and connection). In general, if a provider keeps usage logs it will also keep connection logs
  • No logs – what it says. The provider promises not to keep any logs (usage or connection)

‘No usage logs’ = keeps connection logs (only).

2. OpenVPN & encryption

We firmly believe that OpenVPN is the only truly secure VPN protocol these days, and where possible should be your only choice. An increasingly small number devices do not support OpenVPN, in which case you should chose L2TP/IPsec over PPTP (which is laughably insecure) whener possible.

Also, following news of the NSA’s concerted efforts to undermine international encryption standards, we have revised our assessment that 128-bit encryption is sufficient, and now recommend 256-bit at a minimum. We would also love to see VPN providers move away from NIST standards (such as AES), but so far only LiquidVPN has done so.

For an in-depth discussion of this subject, please see here.

3. Do they accept Bitcoins?

Although Bitcoins are not anonymous in themselves, with a bit of care they can be made so (at least to a high degree), and we believe that any service which trades on the anonymity of its customers (as most VPN providers do) should allow them to pay for the service as anonymously as possible. We therefore see accepting Bitcoins as the mark of a company which takes privacy seriously, and should be a consideration even if you intend on paying using more conventional methods. For details on using Bitcoins for pay VPN anonymously, please see our guide.

4. Do they allow P2P BitTorrent downloading?

Not all do, so if that’s what you want a VPN for, you’d better make sure.

5. Do they use shared or dynamic IPs?

If privacy is important to you then you want a service which uses shared IPs. This means that many users access the internet over a single IP address, making it almost impossible to determine which of that IP address’s many users is responsible for any action on internet. All good VPNs should use shared IPs.

6. How many devices can be connected at once?

In a world where we increasingly access the internet from our laptop, phone and tablet, not to mention wanting our family members to access the internet with the protection afforded by our VPN connection, it is ever more important that  more than one device can be connected at once. Unfortunately many providers have been somewhat slow to catch up with the mobile device revolution, and allow no simultaneous connections (i.e. only device can be connected at a time).

7. Does the VPN support your mobile device(s)?

Following on from the last comment, some providers have been slow to support mobile devices, particularly with OpenVPN, while others have swanky apps for Android and iOS. It should be noted however that generic OpenVPN apps are available for both Android and iOS, which can configured to work with standard OpenVPN config files, even when a provider does not explicitly support this.

8. Server locations

If accessing geo-restricted content is important to you (e.g. watching Hulu from outside the US), then it is vital that the provider has servers in the country that the services are restricted to. Similarly, P2P downloaders should chose a country that is P2P friendly (Hong Kong, Panama, Sweden, Netherlands, Romania and Switzerland are all good choices). The closer a server is to you geographically the less lag you will suffer (as the data has less distance to travel), but if privacy is important then we recommend always choosing a server outside your own country’s legal jurisdiction.

9. Where are they based?

Following Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, the issue of whether the United States is a good place for a VPN provider to be based is a matter of hot debate. Our view is that the NSA cannot be everywhere, but in the US they have the Patriot Act, Pen Orders and a whole raft of legal (and extra-legal) resources with which to force US companies to comply with their wishes. The fact that in the US the debate purely concerns the rights of US citizens is a matter of huge frustration to the rest of the world, but as has been shown many times now, has done nothing to prevent US citizens being spied on their own government.

At least VPN providers in some European counties (not the UK!), Hong Kong, Panama etc. have some legal protections against direct NSA bullying. That every major US tech company (Google, Apple, Microsoft, RSA, the list goes on) has been in cahoots and /or otherwise been compromised by the NSA is now a matter of record, and if even small companies such as Lavabit are forced to shut down rather than hand over all its encryption keys then it seems impossible to us that popular and well-known privacy services such as VPN providers have not been also been compromised. Note that others have a very different take on the situation, and you may like to read the views of our reader Ohana (in the Comments sections here and here) for an alternative viewpoint.

The UK, with its GHCQ spying organization, is as bad as the US, and most EU counties force VPN providers to keep logs thanks to the EU Data Retention Directive. Some EU countries however have not implemented the DRD, have not applied it to VPN providers, or provide other legal protections that make them suitable locations for a VPN service. For more details on this, see this article.

10. Other services and unique selling points

Many providers offer unusual (or even unique) services that may be perfect for your needs. We highlight these in our reviews, and try to mention important ones in the summaries above.


Summary

Rank Provider Score Review Link

1

vyprvpn_logo $6.67/mo 9.6
Read Review
Visit Site

2

ExpressVPN $8.32/mo 9.9
Read Review
Visit Site

3

logo $9.00/mo 9.5
Read Review
Visit Site

4

logo $6.95/mo 9.4
Read Review
Visit Site

5

$10.50/mo 9.4
Read Review
Visit Site
Author Picture 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+
  • OH

    When choosing a VPN provider, I also want know
    1) if there are not many IPs blacklisted by ip dectiton systems(, like Maxmind and Cloudflare) and ip restriction sites(, like some media site)
    2) if they offer a dedicated ip(which I sometimes need at websites like Paypal, shopping and banking sites)
    3) if they give a straight answer to legally murky or difficalt technical questions(, which made me to remove AirVPN from the top of my VPN shopping list)
    would be really appreciated if you would check those for nest reviews.

    (I

  • Nathan

    Why is Astrill not included?

    • Douglas Crawford

      Hi Nathan,

      To be perfectly honest? I am not familiar with Astrill. Having a quick look at their website and our review, the fact that it keeps no logs, is based in the Seychelles, and gave good performance speed results looks good, although $5 a month for using more than one device at once is a bit steep. I will investigate further, and update this article if need be.

      • pixelrogue

        For those considering Astrill – look around the web for specific review. Do not believe the reviews on their own site as they sensor what is written.

        Having been a paid customer, their business practices are poor. I had purchased 2 years of service on a 50% discount, but they cancelled after 1 year telling me the subscription ran out. The invoice they showed me had nothing to do w/the services paid/rendered which was bogus.

        A few weeks into being a customer, I had to prove to them I was a paying customer… lot of hoops to jump through. Then a few months later, my a count was terminated again as they gold me I was spamming… which never happened… so a few days later that gets sorted out.

        For those reading the site, they do keep logs. They say they do not keep logs, but then you will see information that they keep logs to prevent abuse. As the account was terminated the final time, the support rep stated ‘We know everything’. Provided them the documentation, including proof the invoice had nothing to do w/my account ~ all ignored.

        And yes – did nothing but some basic web use. No P2P, no torrents, no spam… real vanilla stuff.

        Think twice before signing up w/Astrill…

  • Bliss

    Greeting,

    Have been using Bolehvpn for half a year,the speed is inconsistent(compared them with other cheap vpn provider many times).It is not super fast as you claim(no min guarantee bandwith).That is why I did continue sign up with them.Just my honest opinion.

    Best regards.

    • Douglas Crawford

      Hi Bliss,

      I did not review BolehVPN myself, but the super fast comment was based on results obtained by our reviewer, which are indeed very good. People’s experiences obviously vary, so thank you for sharing yours.

  • Bliss

    *did not

  • Steve Costello

    I have been using Witopia for a few years now, and like it a lot.

    What are your thoughts? Should I stick with them or move to one of those listed?

    • Douglas Crawford

      Hi Steve,

      I did not write our Witopia review (https://www.bestvpn.com/blog/6393/witopia-review/), but our reviewer was concerned about inconsistent performance results. If this has not been an issue for you then I wouldn’t worry about it. More seriously for me are the ‘trailing logs’ he talks about. I don’t like logs. I think the best thing to do is look through our listings above (and read the full reviews), and see whether any features offered (such as no logs) are important to you but are not offered by Witopia…

    • pixelrogue

      Wish I still had my notes… Witopia was crossed off the list… think it might have been log or country of business related.

  • CyberGhost VPN

    Hey guys!
    Have you reviewed lately CyberGhost VPN? We would really love to share more info with you about all the interesting things we are doing right now.

    • Douglas Crawford

      Hi Oana,

      Our review of CyberGhost is a little old, but the reason it didn’t make this article is its use of dynamic rather than shared IPs, and lack of support for Bitcoin payments. If you would like to share some info though, we would be happy to look through it.

  • Phillippe

    I hate to be nitpicky but ExpressVPN does indeed keep some logs.

    You said:
    “ExpessVPN keeps no usage logs,…”

    From ExpressVPN Terms of Service:
    “…we may store the following pieces of data: IP address, times when connected to our service, and the total amount of data transfered per day.”
    https://www.express-vpn.com/tos

    I do think that you try to be accurate, but getting all that info and sorting it is pretty daunting and mistakes can be missed, if indeed it was a mistake, meaning, maybe it’s just that you don’t think of those particular logs as important as some others do.

    All in all good post, good job, good info! Keep it up!

    • Phillippe

      Looks like I commented too early and saw how you define usage logs vs connection logs. I take back my earlier comments, except that you’re doing a great job!

  • Screen2205

    Express VPN is also based in the US but somehow that goes unnoticed by your review. Lets try to be more fair in the future

  • pepe

    I was using HMA and now changed to private internet acccess.
    I’m very happy with the latter.
    HMA seems to take much longer to connect.
    I also read that HMA isn’t as secure.
    I liked how PIA lets you pay with gift cards!