How can you protect your personal information when online? With virtual private networks, or VPNs, that’s how. But which VPN is best for you, and do you need to pay for the service? Based on customer reviews, we are comparing the best VPNs (both paid and free) in the UK to give you a clear answer…
For those feeling confused, here’s the inside story on a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. It’s essentially a connection method used to add security and privacy to private and public networks, like the internet.
Personal VPNs are becoming increasingly popular as more of our everyday life transitions to the web. A VPN improves privacy because the user’s initial IP address is replaced with one from the VPN provider. Those subscribed to a VPN can obtain an IP address from any gateway city the VPN service provides.
So why do you need a VPN in your life? Well without one you are basically cruising the online world naked, baring all to the world. A VPN keeps you covered up by:
So hopefully we are clear on what a VPN is, and what it does — but should you pay for one? The answer really depends on your priorities. A paid VPN is generally going to have the edge on most features. That’s why you pay the money. A paid VPN will most often be faster, available in more locations, and offer greater support (but not always). If anonymity is top of your list of priorities however, then a free VPN may be the better option as a free VPN provider won’t usually ask you to sign up to use its service.
Before making your selection, you should think carefully about what you want from a VPN and which aspect of the service you want to prioritise…
NordVPN is one of the most popular services for securing your online activities. NordVPN now has almost 5000 servers around the world, making it one of the largest services in the world, too.
Privacy is a major issue when it comes to VPNs, and NordVPN makes all the right noises about keeping your information private. NordVPN states that the company does not insert ads into your web traffic, and doesn’t profit from the sale of user data. On top of that, NordVPN only collects aggregated app-crash statistics and voluntary diagnostic data, meaning that the service doesn’t collect any personally identifiable information. Good news.
NordVPN is consistent across every platform on which it’s offered, and includes ad blocking as an added bonus. You can also connect to six devices at the same time.
A major issue with NordVPN has been its price, positioning it at the upper end of the VPN price scale. This has now changed, however, after NordVPN released a new deal. You can now purchase NordVPN for two years at just over £3 a month, a 66% saving on list price. Even if NordVPN doesn’t work out for you, they have a 30-day money-back guarantee. So you are completely covered either way. You can either be impressed with the service, and continue with your plan, or — if you don’t like what NordVPN offers — you can get out for free.
Trustpilot user AndreiM writes:
“I decided to give it a try knowing that it has a lot of features and a growing number of servers. I was really surprised when i tested the speed of NordVPN and realised everything I read before wasn’t the truth. I don’t really know if they were having problems with their speed in the past but right now after trying their servers I can really say that the speed is fast and sometimes even beats competitors. I really like the fact that everything is customisable and you can choose everything you want.”
CyberGhost is a VPN that combines a lot of the essentials that you want from a service. It’s available in loads of locations, it’s not restrictive, and it’s discreet:
CyberGhost hosts 1300 servers in 90 locations across 58 different countries. This makes CyberGhost a preferred VPN for those that travel the world for business or pleasure.
CyberGhost doesn’t place restrictions on browsing habits. So users benefit from unlimited traffic and bandwidth.
CyberGhost utilises 256-AES bit encryption to protect your payment info from cyber-criminals and hide your browsing data from ISPs. So you can rest assured that your sensitive data is secure.
It’s not a free service, but CyberGhost can usually be picked up for just £2.10 a month, depending on what deal is being offered. If the price is currently too high for you, then chances are CyberGhost will offer a special discounted price soon enough.
If you do take the plunge on CyberGhost, then rest assured that, just like NordVPN, you do get a 30-day money back guarantee. So it’s not free but it is low-risk.
Trustpilot user Andy Bailey writes:
“I’ve used other VPN’s before and they were not as good as this one. It has a nice app on mobile and it’s one of the only ones that works with torrent sites and has a decent throughput to the torrent client so I still get my fastest download speeds. I like the adblocker too.”
TunnelBear is one of a small number of providers that offers a truly free VPN service. Before you get too excited, though, the free version of TunnelBear does restrict users to only 500MB of data per month. While it’s great to get something for nothing, it’s worth assessing whether 500MB is enough data for your online needs. You can earn more data by selling your Twitter soul and tweeting about the company, which can raise your limit to 1GB for one month. This isn’t a long-term solution, however, and you may find yourself glancing at the paid options, particularly if you find TunnelBear to be a usable service.
The paid-for plan removes the restrictions associated with the free plan, such as the download limit, the numbers of available locations, and the amount of connected devices. This can be picked up for £76 for two years.
Trustpilot user Phil W writes:
“I’ve been using their free service for a week. So far on windows pc and iOS it’s worked fine, speeds have dropped on iOS 4G from 60Mbps to around 17Mbps but this is to be expected with using a VPN.
So far I am happy with using this VPN, it’s been reliable and easy to use with no dropouts and just works.”
If you are using a VPN, then privacy is clearly something that is important to you. It is important to recognise that while a VPN service can hide your online activities, it also has as much insight into your internet activity as your ISP. So who can you trust?
IPVanish is also an impressive service in terms of locations. It boasts over 1,000 VPN servers across 60 countries. Only a few other services can compete with a list like that.
So with some seriously impressive features, it was always unlikely that it would be free. It is, however, available for under £5 a month if you commit to a year. That’s a 46% saving on list price. It also comes with a seven-day money back guarantee. So not as long as some of the other services on this list, but perhaps that’s a sign of confidence?
Trustpilot user Fred Harris writes:
“IP Vanish is very easy to set up, download and use. Its reliability is one of the important reasons I chose to go with this company and VPN service. I highly recommend you use this service if you are looking to protect your IP address. Recommended with no reservations.”
Opting for a free VPN plan normally means that you must be willing to make some considerable compromises. You will usually need to be open to lower data transfer limits, restrictions on speeds, and limited locations.
Windscribe offers up an interesting alternative to paid VPN services as it doesn’t really follow these unwritten rules of a free VPN. For example, Windscribe gives you a decent 10GB per month data allowance if you register your email address (2GB if not). That is considerably more than the 500MB you get with Tunnelbear’s free service. Speeds are average, but usable, making Windscribe one of the best free VPNs on the market.
We aren’t saying Windscribe is the complete package. There are always downsides to a free service. More often than not, free services are limited in terms of location, and Windscribe is no different. You only get access to eight countries, for instance, but that’s not so bad if you aren’t a regular traveller.
Windscribe is an all-around strong free service, but if you do require more, spending £7 gets you a month of unlimited access to 47 locations. Pay for a year upfront, meanwhile, and the price drops to around £3 a month.
Windscribe offers a real alternative to paid VPNs, but still flounders if you require a good number of locations. If you do, then you may be persuaded to upgrade.
Trustpilot user IceDan70 writes:
They have a Discord community too. A community with nice people where you can ask for help. Staff might also assist you in there. However, if you really need assistance from staff, it’s better to send a debug log via the app and send a ticket from the website.
Another great thing is that it is compatible among a wide variety of devices and OSes.
I recommend trying the free plan first to see if it suit your needs. But you can’t go wrong with a Pro account.”
ExpressVPN is relatively expensive compared to its competitors. So is it worth the extra cost? Well it has a really strong distribution of servers and a slick interface, plus it allows BitTorrent and other P2P services — so maybe, yes.
ExpressVPN has over 1,000 servers in 145 locations, covering 94 countries. This list includes China, Russia, and Turkey, three countries that have notably repressive control over the internet. So that’s a pretty impressive feather in their hat.
It’s not all good news, though; ExpressVPN does limit you to three simultaneous connections from different devices. Other services generally offer slightly more than this. However, three connections is probably plenty for one user. If you are using a VPN for a household, though, then another service may be better suited.
ExpressVPN has all the essentials covered. This service includes multi-device support, a lot of servers, good geographic distribution, BitTorrent support, and a nice interface. It is however a little more expensive than some, at around £10 a month (or £5 if you commit to 15 months), and it doesn’t offer nearly as many simultaneous connections as cheaper alternatives. It’s a strong VPN, so the extra cost may be worthwhile.
There is no free trial available, but there is a 30-day money back guarantee. So once again, you are protected against disappointment.
Trustpilot user Ricky writes:
“ExpressVPN is my first choice when it comes to streaming media, they have strong encryption, value users’ privacy, and have a massive network of servers. In addition to their great professional customer support and lots more!
Go ahead subscribe without any hesitation, basically because it’s really worth it.”
It’s important to carefully research the wide selection of free and paid VPNs before making any decision.
Whether you need to pay for a service or go with the free option comes down to what you need from your VPN. Data limits are the usual stumbling block when it comes to a free service, so if this doesn’t bother you, go right ahead!
If you do however need more data, more locations, and more servers from your VPN, then a paid service is the solution.