VPN, To Pay or Not to Pay? William Shakespeare once asked this thought provoking question in his play, Hamlet. Well, he might have if he had written it in today’s upside down Internet world.
As we’ve already covered in the past, VPNs are your first line of defense against Internet spies, ISP throttling and identity protection. In other words, this kind of software fights the lack of freedom to move around the Internet without being harassed. Naturally, one of the main questions we get from our readers is if it’s worth it to pay for a VPN.
What’s the problem with a free VPN?
There can be a few problems when using a free VPN, some more serious than others. Here are the main ones:
It all comes down to the fact that there is no such thing as “free”, everything has a price in this world. And someone has to pay for keeping the VPN servers up and running. As with anything, the larger the server, the more complex it is to keep it functional. Maintenance on even the free VPNs is ongoing and costly. Don’t forget that a VPN software has to be backed by teams of analysts, technicians and other professionals who need to be paid for their services.
Selling your private data
Without subscribers, the best way to have profit is through advertising. Online ads will often be targeted at you because of the information the server has gathered (your online activity). Selling user’s personal information, such as browsing history, goes completely against what a VPN should do. It’s supposed to make you anonymous, not to collect your private data to sell to advertising companies, so they know exactly which ads to bombard you with.
And keep in mind that the more users flock to these free services, the more competition for their bandwidth and the slower your connections will be. You will have traditionally very limited caps to your data using a free service. They can’t provide a good amount of bandwidth, because it’s expensive.
You are never sure about the companies backing your free VPN, which makes filing complaints very problematic. Privacy policies aren’t always transparent and can hide a lot of information gathering tactics.
Extra safety features
Don’t expect the full benefits of VPN from a free service, though. Some of the features that we consider mandatory in a VPN software are not usually included in a free service. A couple examples are the kill switch and a DNS leak protection.
Is a decent VPN expensive?
Pricing plans can vary dramatically, from around 3 to 10 dollars per month. They change according to what features you require or how long is the plan you choose. Nowadays, there are cheap VPN providers that offer a good encryption, a complete set of features and they don’t collect any of your private data. Also, paid VPNs are usually ad-free, customer service based, and more reliable than their free counterparts. Another great thing that most paid VPNs have in common is the unlimited bandwidth. That removes the worries of exceeding any limits of using the Internet.
Every VPN company has a different set of pricing and packages. It is highly likely that you will find the perfect subscription for your specific needs. Look for VPN packages that offer discounts for annual subscriptions to save you money in the long term.
Make sure you compare your offers before settling on one, and look for those who do not carry activity logs on their subscribers. That ensures your anonymity while using their servers. Many VPNs offer a money back guarantee, so you can pay for a plan and test them out. If you don’t like and don’t want to go forward with the service you are testing, you just ask for your money back.
There are many so-called “free VPNs” out there, and for some uninformed users those are acceptable. These services, however, come with their own price tags. The Internet connection is usually very slow and the bandwidth of such VPNs is quite reduced.
But the worst about these “free services” is that you are always at risk of placing your information in the hands of entities who want to make a profit, no matter what. And the amount of targeted advertisement that we get when using free VPNs is the proof of that. Our info is sold to marketing agencies, and because they see our Internet activity, they know what ads to send us. That’s not what a VPN should do! It’s actually the opposite.
It’s better to pay a couple dollars per month and have peace of mind with a VPN that does what it should: To keep your activity anonymous and private.