The digital landscape has changed – we’ve never had more threats to our privacy. Is there anything the average user can do to regain control?
I don’t know about you, but I practically grew up on the internet. Sure, I may have gone to a “real school” with classrooms and teachers and awkward homecoming dances… but my real lessons came from the school of digital hard knocks, baby.
I battled trolls on 4chan before reddit even existed… I witnessed the horrific lag-fest that was the World of Warcraft launch… I even got my school’s IP range blocked from both Wikipedia and MySpace in a two-week period back in ‘05. (I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes – I was extremely popular with the ladies.)
Now, with all this “experience”, you’d think I would have my online security setup figured out… right? I mean, I grew up chatting with “script kiddies” who spread viruses for fun – and now I have multiple friends whose job is literally to manipulate my private data all day.
But for 15 years, I kept putting it off.
Yup. Despite all my knowledge of the dangers of browsing unprotected, I only recently started using a VPN. (And that’s not to mention the speed and accessibility benefits of using one.)
Why? C’mon – that’s easy. If you’re like me, you already know the answer: I’M LAZY!
Okay, that’s not entirely true. What I really mean is that I simply never found the right moment… or the right service. After all, googling “best VPN service” gives you hundreds of confusing “Top 5” sites that only make your decision more difficult. Every VPN I saw looked the same – I’d click on a few links, read through some technical jargon I didn’t understand, then get confused and give up.
However, after recent actions by Congress that allow ISPs to collect and sell personal data – along with the fact that VPNs are recommended by pretty much every online security expert out there as a default necessity – I realized that I’m being TOO lazy. There are simply too many good reasons to get a VPN these days, and zero good reasons to not have one. So one morning I woke up and decided:
I’m getting a VPN. Today. No matter what.
Of course, I’m not about to rush in blind. So I went back to those comparison sites – but this time, instead of reading one or two, I checked out about fifteen of them… taking notes the whole time.
If you’re in the position I was – ready to finally check this important box off your list – then keep reading to learn what I discovered. By the time you finish this article, you should have the same confidence I had to choose a VPN, lock it in, and continue surfing with confidence.
Choosing A VPN: Boring & Time-Consuming, But 100% Worth It
When I started my search, all I wanted was to click a few buttons, install a program, and continue about my business knowing I’m 100% protected. But at the same time, I didn’t want to get ripped off just because I didn’t have the time to research Every. Single. Damn. VPN on the market (literally hundreds by now).
Thankfully, I learned that despite the many options, most VPNs are pretty much the same – there are only a few factors that separate them. And, to make things even easier, most of them are crap. That means I could easily eliminate all the copycats, sketchy “startups” with flashy websites but ZERO references elsewhere on the web, and basically anyone who hadn’t been around for a year or more.
From there, I started focusing on the things that actually differentiate those few VPNs that truly deserve to be on a Top 5 site. Those aspects are:
- Free vs. Paid: Does the VPN charge a monthly fee, or do they sneak in other ways to earn their money behind your back?
- Server Location(s): How many servers do they have and where are they located? (This impacts the speed and uptime of the VPN.)
- Pricing: Is the VPN more expensive than others? If so, why is it more expensive?
- User-Friendliness (the “laziness” factor): How much time will I waste setting it up and using it? (Just because I’m internet-savvy doesn’t mean I want to constantly fiddle with a complicated interface just to watch German Netflix.)
- Customer Support: If I have problems, will I get the help I need? Can I hold this company accountable for the service they claim to provide?
These are all important factors, but we’ll start with the most controversial question among VPN enthusiasts: Free or Paid?
Free vs Paid: An Easy Decision In 2019
This used to be a popular debate back in the day, when new VPNs would offer their service 100% free to gain customers… then hit them with a “premium” option once they built a decent customer base. Back then, you really could get a high-quality VPN for free (at least temporarily). But sadly, those days are over.
Nowadays, any “free” VPN will always come with a catch – but the problem is, you don’t know what the catch is. Some VPNs serve advertisements, while others sell access to your data. (Kinda defeats the purpose of having a VPN in the first place, doesn’t it?)
On top of this, you are NEVER going to get fast speeds and reliable service from a free VPN. Not only will your performance be throttled (Netflix isn’t much fun when it’s freezing on every tenth frame), you’ll also get hit with downtimes.
Of course, this is actually a good thing because it’s created a lot of competition in the VPN market, which has resulted in lower prices and better service. This means Premium VPNs are extremely affordable right now, and you can even find signup deals that lower the price significantly.
I quickly realized I’d much rather pay a few bucks per month to have something guaranteed than risk dealing with some piece of garbage that would cause more headaches than it solved. This narrowed my options down significantly – all I had left to do was the most boring, but important part: comparing technical specs.
Servers, Pricing & Customer Support: Do They Matter?
I know: most VPNs look surprisingly similar at first glance. So is there a big difference between them? In one word: Kinda.
Unlike the “free vs. paid” debate, where it’s become very obvious that a paid VPN will be much better in pretty much every situation, this one is more personal. At the end of the day, there are really just two types of people seeking a VPN:
- People who know exactly what they need a VPN for (but still can’t decide)
- People who have no idea what they need a VPN for (but know they need to be protected)
I’m going to assume you’re like me and you’re in the second category: you know you need a VPN for any number of reasons (e.g. accessing sites like Netflix from anywhere, privacy, increased performance/speed, anonymity, etc.) but you’re not sure exactly what you’ll use it for on a day-to-day basis.
In that case, you need what I call a “catch-all VPN”. Long story short, major VPN providers realized that most people are like us: We want something fast and easy to use, but at the same time, we don’t want to be charged for features we won’t take advantage of.
This has led to the rise of consumer-friendly VPNs that actually do what they claim to do… and they don’t charge you an arm and a leg for the convenience.
But that still leaves a question: which one should you dive into? Drumroll please…
The Results: These Are The 3 Best VPNs Available in 2019
After checking all the finalists against those key factors (Price, Server Location/Quality, Customer Support, User-Friendliness), I was left with THREE options (out of hundreds). Yes, it’s true that there may be others that are worth the price, but these are the only ones I consistently found in the top rankings.
Each of the VPNs I’m about to share is reputable and has excellent reviews (on multiple sites, not just some fake review site). Most importantly, they all meet all the following important criteria:
- Easy to Install: It only takes a few clicks to get running.
- 100% Privacy Protection: None of these VPNs steal your personal data.
- No Ads: If you’re paying for a service, why should you get ads?
- Distributed Servers: These VPNs all offer hundreds or thousands of servers in multiple locations, leading to extremely fast speeds and guaranteed uptimes.
- Affordably Priced: None of these VPNs costs more than a few pennies per day – totally worth it when you consider the risks of not having one.
From here, it’s just a matter of deciding what you’ll primarily use it for. If you’re not 100% sure, then I suggest you go for the first, best option:
1. Best All-Around VPN: ExpressVPN
Of all the Top 5 sites and authoritative security websites I checked, ExpressVPN consistently landed in the top few positions – if it wasn’t #1, it was often #2 or #3. There’s good reason for this: It’s been the leader in the market for years, with 3000+ servers in 94 countries.
ExpressVPN has done an excellent job of figuring out what their customers want, and they keep on listening. There’s only one catch: It’s more expensive than the other options – but that’s because it’s truly the best option available right now. It’s the one I trust most on this list, hands-down.
Because ExpressVPN is already so popular, they don’t usually do special discounts. However, they do occasionally offer a 49% discount on a 1-year subscription. If you can lock it in while they’re offering that deal, this one is the best choice.
Click the link below to see if it’s active:
Try ExpressVPN Now
Note: If this deal isn’t active, I suggest you either move on to one of the others on this list or sign up for a free 30-day trial and keep checking back to see if the discount is active again.
2. Best VPN For Multiple Devices: NordVPN
NordVPN is relatively new on the market, but it’s quickly become extremely popular among younger audiences. It offers a similarly expansive infrastructure as ExpressVPN, but it allows you to stay protected on 6 devices simultaneously.
In addition, NordVPN is significantly cheaper than most other options, making it the smart choice if you don’t consider yourself a “power user” – it gives you exactly what you need without any fluff.
Bottom line: If you use multiple devices regularly or want a slightly cheaper option than ExpressVPN, NordVPN is the one you’re looking for. They don’t offer any discounts that I could find, but it’s already at a great price. You can try it for free for 30 days using the link below:
Start Your Free NordVPN Trial
3. Best VPN For Total Beginners: CyberGhost
Alright, I tried to make this as easy as possible – but if you weren’t drawn in to ExpressVPN (best option for the price) or NordVPN (best for multiple devices or casual users), then I’m guessing you’re still a bit nervous to pull the trigger on one.
In that case, I highly recommend you try CyberGhost. It packs the same power as the other two options, but they offer an industry-leading free 45-day trial. This gives you plenty of time to explore what a VPN can do for you – not just your privacy, but also to discover how much smoother the web browsing experience becomes.
Try CyberGhost Here
Note: I should mention that while CyberGhost has an incredible VPN, it may feel a bit limited compared to ExpressVPN or NordVPN. My recommendation is to try out CyberGhost for its risk-free trial, and if you like it, go back and try both ExpressVPN and NordVPN before committing to any individual membership. By that time, you’ll know exactly what you need from a VPN from experience.
Conclusion: Enjoy Your Faster, 100% Private Browsing
Ever since I bit the bullet and finally got a VPN, I’ve felt much more comfortable online – and I’ve noticed faster speeds as well. It made me feel a bit silly for avoiding it all these years… but with all the conflicting data out there, can you really blame me?
In any case, I hope this has helped you finally cut out the crap and give a VPN a shot. It’s our only way to stand up and protect ourselves online.
P.S. If you just scrolled down to the bottom of this article to see which one I recommend, it’s ExpressVPN… but you really should read the article so you know why I chose it.