What criteria should you choose between the level of encryption, the connection speed and the pricing? Here’s an overview of six virtual private network offers.
A VPN creates a secure tunnel between the Internet and the user, allowing the latter to connect remotely to a company server, to his desktop computer or to SaaS applications. The primary objective here is not, as it is for individuals, to mask one’s IP address to preserve anonymity or to bypass geographic filtering making certain sites inaccessible, but to ensure the confidentiality of exchanges by encrypting them. VPN providers use different encryption protocols (OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, IPsec, IKEv2…) based at least on a 128-bit AES key. The operators selected in this comparison go further and offer a “military grade” encryption of 256 bits, i.e.2256 possible combinations.
Obviously, the bandwidth and the access time to the network are among the essential criteria for choosing a VPN. As far as connection speed is concerned, Ariel Hochstadt, co-founder of vpnMentor, a site specializing in VPN benchmarking, advises looking at the number of servers and countries served. Other criteria include OS support for computers, smartphones and tablets, and the number of simultaneously connectable devices. “Some VPNs allow an unlimited number of devices, while others only allow you to connect up to three,” adds Ariel Hochstadt. A company should also make sure that it can connect the VPN to its router(s). The ergonomics of the VPN management interface should also be studied closely for companies that have to administer and supervise the accesses of numerous employees. Important, the “automatic switch” or “kill switch” function allows to cut all online activity in case of network failure without the real IP address being made public. Some providers also offer a dedicated IP address, which will not be shared with other users.
Cyberghost, the biggest
Cyberghost has established itself on the market in a few years. This provider based in Bucharest, Romania, has the largest network in this comparison with more than 6,400 servers in nearly 90 countries. France is particularly well off with 490 physical servers spread over two cities. The support (e-mail and live chat) also responds to requests made in French.
Like its peers, CyberGhost has a “zero log” policy. A “No Spy” option provides a dedicated uplink, better bandwidth and enhanced legal protection. The service covers up to 7 devices, a number higher than the competition.
Another big name in the market, ExpressVPN has chosen to set up shop in the British Virgin Islands. On its website, it states that it never records its users’ IP addresses, browsing history, metadata, or DNS queries. ExpressVPN is audited by PwC on its privacy processes.
With its infrastructure of over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, ExpressVPN claims to be the fastest VPN on the market. vbpMentor confirms its good performance in its benchmark. A speed test allows you to see at a glance which of its servers are both the fastest and offer low latency.
ExpressVPN also offers interesting features such as split-tunneling, which allows you to direct part of the traffic through the VPN, and let the other part access the internet directly. Its prices are slightly higher than those of its competitors.
NordVPN, the most popular
With more than 12 million claimed users, NordVPN has chosen to reside in Panama to give credibility to its “no log” policy. The provider has a particularly dense infrastructure with more than 5,400 servers worldwide, including 260 in France.
It offers all the features expected of a VPN: kill switch, P2P activation (point-to-point exchange between two users), dedicated IP address and up to six devices connected simultaneously. The 24/7 support includes live chat, email and online help center.
A victim of a breach in 2018, NordVPN decided to no longer support L2TP/IPsec and PPTP encryption protocols. Instead, it recently announced its in-house protocol, NordLynx, based on WireGuard, which should combine speed and security. On the price level, the provider proposes an attractive offer in return for a three-year commitment.
PrivateVPN, the most aggressive in terms of price
Second provider in the European Union in this comparison, PrivateVPN aligns the least dense network with more than one hundred servers in 60 countries including France. Based in Sweden, it compensates for this weakness with attractive prices. vpnMentor ranks it fifth in its performance benchmark.
PrivateVPN points out that Swedish privacy laws guarantee data confidentiality. It also emphasizes the quality of its support provided by its own technicians via email and instant messaging, with the possibility of remote control of the user’s terminal in case of problems (via TeamViewer).
PureVPN, the oldest
Launched in 2007, PureVPN is a pillar of the market. With a wide functional coverage, the provider claims 3 million users. It has a “no log” policy, but its location in Hong Kong may raise concerns with China’s plans to take over the former British colony.
For the rest, PureVPN, which calls itself the fastest VPN in the world, can hardly be faulted. It offers unlimited bandwidth, kill switch, P2P activation
Surfshark, the newest
Launched in 2018, Surfshark is the latest in this selection. Hosted in the British Virgin Islands, like ExpressVPN, this provider relies on an already substantial network of over 1,700 servers in 63 countries. Its security policy is audited by the German firm Cure53.
Surfshark intends to differentiate itself by its attractive prices with an offer at 1.85 euro per month for a two-year commitment. It is also the only VPN service in this comparison that allows unlimited simultaneous connections.
Surshark also provides interesting services such as whitelisting, which allows specific applications and websites to bypass the VPN, or the ability to connect via multiple countries at the same time (MultiHop). With the HackLock feature, you are notified in real time when your email addresses and passwords are likely to be hacked. GPS spoofing” changes your GPS location on Android just like VPN does for an IP address.