Whether you’re an itinerant visitor to the online scene or a devotee of dark web politics, you’ve probably heard of virtual private networks (VPNs). And, more than likely, you’ve been bombarded with advertisements for paid VPNs.
With so many free and paid options, it’s hard to determine whether a paid VPN service is worth the investment.
But fear not, dear reader. This article will explore everything you need to know about paid VPN services, including the benefits and drawbacks. So you’ll have enough information to determine whether to invest by the end. Let’s get started.
What is a VPN?
One of the foundational mechanisms of the internet is networking. Essentially, when you use a website, your local network (likely your Wi-Fi) exchanges data with the network where the website’s data resides.
This means the receiver and anyone monitoring, like a hacker, can see your information. Sometimes, they may sell the same information to third-party advertisers, government agencies, or other entities that may monitor it.
A virtual private network tweaks this process, however. A VPN extends private networks, which have more restrictions on information sharing, to create a secure and encrypted connection between your device and the internet. Essentially, they make a receiver network believe that your computer is on a different network than it is on.
In doing so, a VPN hides the details of your online activity from hackers or other snoops. In other cases, it can make receiver networks believe you are accessing the internet from a different location than your actual place of access. This last bit is essential if you want to go around localized services such as Netflix, which offers additional content based on your location.
The Benefits of Paid VPN Services
Now that we know what a VPN is, we can look closer at the benefits of using a paid VPN service. Here are a few of them;
A paid VPN service usually provides stronger encryption and more secure network protocols than free services. As a result, hackers or malicious actors are less likely to intercept or compromise your online activity.
Another major concern is that free VPNs can sell data to third parties. Since free VPN services have no financial relationship with customers, many engage in unethical practices like data salesmanship. This might work better for the user.
If you have used a free VPN before, you know how slow sometimes they can get. This is disappointing, especially when you need to do something online urgently. Paid VPN services often have more servers and less traffic than free services. As a result, they can provide faster speeds and more consistent performance.
This speed is essential for streaming video or using other bandwidth-intensive applications. After all, if you’re using a VPN to access European Netflix, you need to be able to watch it!
No data limits
Many free VPN services cap how much data you can use each month. Paid services, however, usually allow you to use as much data as you want. This gives you more freedom than a free VPN.
More server locations
Paid VPN services often have servers around the world.
This diversity can have multiple benefits. You can access specific location-restricted content, like certain streaming service libraries. Want to browse as though you’re in the Netherlands? A VPN can make it happen.
On the other hand, there are times when you want to be closer to home. Websites automatically conform to that region when you have a VPN running. Browsing from different time zones might need to be clarified for websites. Additionally, browsing from some countries might display your websites in other languages.
You can go near and far in your browsing with multiple service locations.
Another benefit is the high-quality customer support. If you run into any issues with your VPN service, paid providers typically offer better customer support and faster response times than free providers.
Drawbacks of Paid VPN Services
Of course, even for all these benefits, there are also some drawbacks to using a paid VPN service.
The biggest downside of using a paid VPN service is the cost. However, depending on the provider, you may drop anything from a few dollars to $10 or $20 monthly.
Given their immersion in more technically advanced digital communities, some paid VPN services can be more complex to set up and use than free services. This might create a barrier for less tech-savvy users.
We alluded to this issue above, but all VPN services can be liable to certain risks and issues regarding ethics. Most VPN companies claim not to log user data, but it is still possible that they can sell it to third parties.
These issues can compromise your privacy and security, so choosing a provider that is transparent about its logging policies is essential.
Is a paid VPN service worth it?
As you can tell, a VPN often has more benefits than drawbacks. However, the answer depends entirely on you.
If online privacy is crucial to you, then the payments for a VPN service may be worth it for you. On the other hand, you might be strapped for cash, in which case you’re likely to seek out a low-cost or no-cost VPN service.
It is also worth considering the potential trade-offs between cost and features. While choosing the cheapest VPN service available might be tempting, remember that these services may be less reliable or secure than more expensive options. On the other hand, you may only need some of the bells and whistles offered by a premium VPN service if you have relatively basic online needs.
Ultimately, paid VPN services come down to balancing the benefits and drawbacks of your situation.
No matter your needs, online security is a more pressing issue than ever. As outlets like Privacy Journal have highlighted, threats like online extortion and data exploitation abound, and it is essential to keep your data secure.
With that in mind, you can use the considerations on this list to determine whether a paid VPN service is worthwhile.
Article contributed by Mauricio Prinzlau.
About the author: Mauricio Prinzlau is the CEO and Co-founder of Cloudwards, a data and user feedback-driven comparison engine for software services. In addition, he also loves producing educational videos and reviews to help people get the best services for their needs.