If you’re looking for the best VPN (Virtual Private Network) for your needs, you’re likely a bit confused right now. I mean, every VPN claims that they’re the best, right?
In this article, I’ll be helping you find the best VPN service for your needs. I’ve used numerous VPNs over the years, and I’ve also put most of them through extensive testing, all with an eye to determining what each provider offers, and which categories each one excels in or comes up lacking in.
I’ll be offering up my honest feedback on which VPN will offer the best overall protection and enhancement for all of your online activities.
I’ll also discuss which VPNs provide reliable access to Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and other popular streaming services. We’ll also take a look at the providers that offer top-notch protection from monitoring by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the government and hackers.
Here’s a Summary of the Best VPN Services for 2020
When ranking VPN providers, I considered the following to rank and compare them:
Global Server Network – I considered the provider’s number of available servers, as well as the number of countries the servers were located in. The wider the coverage, the better the provider’s content-unblocking power. I also considered which streaming services each provider is able to unblock.
Connection Speeds – Any online activity benefits from fast connection speeds. I took a look at the encrypted connection speed that each provider offers, taking note of each provider’s ability to handle HD and 4K video, online gaming, file sharing and other popular online activities.
Security and Online Privacy Protections – I considered the various VPN protocols each provider offers, as well as extra protections, such as kill switch, DNS leak protection and more. I also considered their ability to avoid blocking of websites and other censorship. As for privacy, I considered the provider’s server logs policy, their available secure payment options and more.
Native App Support – It seems that every device we use these days connects to the internet. That makes native app support an important factor in any VPN buying decision. The more devices that a VPN protects, the better it ranks.
Customer Support Offerings – While all of the VPNs on this list provide reliable service and run basically trouble-free, there will likely come a time when you may need a question answered about the service, even if it’s just a billing question. I considered the around-the-clock availability of each provider’s support and which types of support the provider offers.
Best Global VPN Service Providers for 2020
ExpressVPN takes top honors as the best VPN service provider for 2020. The provider offers the best performance and fast, secure connections that can handle any online activity, as well as a global server network that provides reliable access to content around the world, and top-notch privacy and online security protection.
The provider’s global server network is quite extensive, with 3,000+ servers located in 94 countries around the world.
The network offers access to Netflix, Disney+, Spotify, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, ESPN, HBO, iTV Player, Hulu and numerous other streaming services. In addition, it also unblocks social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and others in countries where they are blocked by oppressive governments.
The server network provides high-speed connections, some of the fastest I’ve ever seen, and definitely the fastest in this round up. Whether it’s streaming HD and 4K video, playing fast-moving games online or sharing large files, ExpressVPN’s connections can handle them. The provider never imposes any daily or monthly limits, with unlimited bandwidth as standard.
Those fast connections are well protected. The provider uses banking-grade encryption to protect their users’ connections, along with a kill switch, and DNS and IPv6 leak protection. A split-tunneling protocol feature on ExpressVPN’s desktop apps allows users to select which apps will use the provider’s tunnel of VPN protection.
Your privacy after the fact is also well protected thanks to the provider’s no-server-logs-ever policy and a Bitcoin subscription payment option. The provider also uses a proprietary “TrustedServer” technology that runs all server operation in RAM, which means all information is wiped every time an ExpressVPN server is rebooted.
No matter which device you use, there’s a very good chance that ExpressVPN offers a user-friendly VPN app to protect it. Options are available for the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows device platforms.
Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also available. The provider’s MediaStreamer smartDNS service opens content for your smart TV, Apple TV, game console and other devices.
Up to 5 devices can connect at once on a single set of user credentials. The provider’s excellent advanced router features allow you to protect all of your connected devices via a single access point.
Customer support is available around-the-clock thanks to 24/7 live support chat, a trouble ticket tracking system, a searchable support library and email support.
- Thousands of servers in 94 countries
- Fast connections
- Unblocks geo-blocked content around the globe
- Top-notch privacy and data security protection
- Comprehensive app support
- Priced higher than many other VPNs
BEST VPN SERVICE:ExpressVPN delivers the best all-around VPN service, delivering fast connections from an extensive global server network. The provider’s well-protected connections provide access to most popular streaming services, as well as other types of geo-blocked services and websites. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN’s value-priced multi-year subscriptions make it the best option for budget-minded internet users.
With over 5,700 servers stationed in 59 countries, the provider’s global server network offers above-average access to geo-blocked content. It provides access to Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Showtime, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV and many other streamers. It also unblocks other services and websites that may be blocked for various reasons.
While this provider’s connection speeds come up a bit lacking when compared to others on this list, it still delivers more than enough speed to enjoy any of the content that the streaming providers above offer, and gamers should also be pleased with the performance of NordVPN connections. Stream all you want, as there are never any data caps with this provider.
Secure connection protection from this VPN provider is some of the best in the business, with government-quality encryption, kill switch protection and DNS/IPv6 leak prevention. The provider also offers malware and ad blocking, “Double VPN” protection that encrypts your data twice, and an “Onion Over VPN” service that routes your connection through the Onion network.
Your personal privacy is also never at risk thanks to the provider’s never saving any logs connected to your server usage and its cryptocurrency-based private subscription payment option.
Apps are available for all of the most popular device platforms, including the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, Linux, macOS and Windows device platforms. Chrome and Firefox extensions protect your browsing. Router features protect all of your connected devices. Up to 6 devices can connect concurrently on the same login.
24/7 customer support is made up of always-available support chat, email support and a searchable support database.
- Servers in 59 countries
- App support for all popular devices
- Value-priced multi-year subscriptions
- Excellent privacy and security protection
- Connection speeds slowest on this list
BEST VPN SERVICE FOR BUDGET:NordVPN is a great option for users on a budget who are looking to save a few bucks on reliable VPN protection. This provider charges below-average multi-year subscription prices while delivering above-average service. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
Users who are new to the VPN or online scene will appreciate CyberGhost’s easy-to-use yet powerful services.
As of this writing, the provider has over 6,400 servers stationed in 90 countries around the globe, making it one of the largest global server networks in the VPN industry. Plenty of those servers are optimized for both file sharing and streaming.
The servers provide access to Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, CNC, CBS, YouTube, Crunchyroll, Eurosport, FOX, NBC, Comedy Central and many other streaming services.
CyberGhost’s protected connection speeds are easily up to handling all of that streaming content, meaning no matter what your favorite online activity is, this provider’s connections can handle it. No data caps to deal with here.
Military-grade strong encryption, a kill switch, and DNS/IPv6 leak prevention team up to protect your online activities from observation. In addition, ad and tracker blocking are available, as well as the ability to force a website to serve up HTTPS-only versions of its pages when available.
The provider has a no-logs policy on its servers, and your payment privacy is protected thanks to a Bitcoin subscription payment option.
CyberGhost’s user-friendly VPN apps provide one-click access to its servers on the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows device platforms. Meanwhile, the provider’s excellent router support protects all of your other connected devices (like your smart TV).
Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available to protect your browser sessions. Up to 7 devices can connect at once on a single set of login credentials.
Around-the-clock support options include always-available live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket tracking system and a searchable support knowledge base.
- Excellent global server network
- Streaming-ready connection speeds
- Apps for all popular devices
- Streaming- and file sharing-optimized servers
- Apps may lack options that advanced users prefer
BEST VPN SERVICE FOR NEWBIES:If you don’t have much experience in using a VPN, CyberGhost could be the VPN provider for you. The provider offers one-click access to its massive global server network, which provides easy access to streaming- and downloading-optimized servers. A 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
IPVanish’s services stack up well when compared to other providers on this list, and also offer another level of privacy protection via its proprietary server network.
The provider’s global server coverage is merely average, with 1,400+ servers located in 60 countries. However, unlike other providers on this list, IPVanish owns and operates all of its servers, ensuring that third-party contractors will never have access to your personal information.
The access IPVanish offers to streaming services is limited to Netflix and BBC iPlayer, so movie fans will want to look elsewhere.
IPVanish connection speeds are up to handling the content provided by the streaming services it does support, as well as online gaming and file sharing. No data caps spoil the fun.
The provider offers banking-level encryption, kill switch with auto-reconnect, and a proprietary “scramble” feature that disguises your VPN activity as normal online traffic, all of which prevent monitoring by hackers, the government and your ISP.
The provider’s servers are a strictly no-logs proposition. However, it does not offer an uber-private cryptocurrency payment option, so you’ll be forced to pay using a credit card or through PayPal.
Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, ChromeOS and Amazon Fire users will find apps for their devices and can follow setup instructions to use the service with a Linux device.
No browser extensions are available, but router support is available for select routers to protect your other connected devices, like your game console, streaming box and smart TV. You can use up to 10 devices on the service at once using a single login.
Customer support is always available thanks to 24/7 support chat, a searchable support database and email support.
It should be mentioned that IPVanish has recently begun including 250GB of cloud storage as part of their VPN offering.
- “Scramble” feature disguises your VPN activity
- Owns and operates all of its servers
- Up to 10 devices can connect at once
- Limited 7-day money-back guarantee period
- Regular 1-month subscription prices are expensive
ADDS AN EXTRA LAYER OF PRIVACY:IPVanish provides an extra layer of privacy when compared to other providers on this list thanks to its totally self-owned and -operated server network. A proprietary “scramble” feature disguises your VPN activity as normal internet traffic. A short 7-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of IPVanish.
PrivateVPN is still experiencing some growing pains, but it’s quickly proving itself to be a provider to deal with.
This provider offers the lowest server count of any provider on this list, but uses them to maximum effect. While their server count is limited to a little over 150 servers, they are spread out amongst 60 countries. Those servers unblock Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer, so they do provide some excellent unblocking power.
PrivateVPN’s connection speeds are streaming-capable and also handle fast-moving games and sharing and downloading of large files.
Government-grade strong encryption, a kill switch option, and DNS and IPv6 leak prevention all join to provide excellent connection protection. Plus, a “Stealth VPN” option disguises and hides your VPN activity.
PrivateVPN saves no logs of any kind on its servers, and a Bitcoin payment option keeps your subscription payment information totally incognito.
The provider’s native app support is somewhat limited, with offerings only for the big 4 platforms (Android, iOS, macOS and Windows), and it doesn’t offer browser extensions.
However, it does provide protection for other types of connected devices thanks to its router compatibility. Up to 6 devices can simultaneously connect to the service on a single set of login credentials.
While PrivateVPN claims its live support chat is available 24/7, availability appears to be hit-or-miss, as I have visited the site plenty of times when chat was not available. However, an FAQ support library and email support are always available.
- Reliable access to multiple streaming services
- Stealth VPN option hides your VPN activity
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Server numbers are lacking
- Multi-platform app support needs improvement
“STEALTHY” VPN PROTECTION :PrivateVPN offers reliable and well-hidden online protection thanks to its “Stealth VPN” feature that hides your VPN activity from detection. While the provider needs to improve its server count and app offerings, users of the 4 most popular device platforms should find that it meets their needs. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of PrivateVPN.
What Can I Do With A VPN?
A VPN provides numerous features that both protect and enhance all of your online activities.
There is arguably no better way to protect all of your online activities than by using a VPN.
A VPN encases your internet connection in an impenetrable tunnel of encryption. This encrypted tunnel protects all of your online activities from being observed by prying eyes, like those of hackers, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and even your own government.
If you use public Wi-Fi hotspots – such as those found in coffee shops, hotels, malls and other public locations – you are an open target for hackers, who are looking to steal your valuable personal and financial information. Any time you shop, do your banking, or pay bills on your device while connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, you are open to data theft.
Hackers love Wi-Fi hotspots, as they are usually unencrypted and therefore unprotected. This allows them to monitor the activities of anyone who connects to the hotspot, leaving them all open to data theft.
A VPN also protects you from your ISP and government, two parties that would just love knowing what you’re up to online.
In many countries, ISPs are allowed to monitor and log your online travels. They are then allowed to sell that valuable information to advertisers and other nosy parties. They can also turn that information over to the government. Remember, any government, no matter how free it is, loves to know what their citizens are up to.
ISPs also have a nasty tendency to throttle or block your internet connection if they observe you sharing files via a peer-to-peer network, or if you’re streaming video or accessing files from “unapproved” sources. A VPN’s encrypted protection shields your activities from the ISP’s prying eyes, preventing them from affecting your online access.
A VPN enhances your online activities by opening up access to content that you might normally not have access to, including music, video, gaming and numerous other types of content.
Most streaming providers limit their available content either to a single country (like Hulu, which is limited to viewers in the United States), or they vary their content from country to country (like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which offer different content in France than they do in the U.S., for example.)
This is due to the contracts the streaming services sign with movie and TV producers, which limit where the content can be viewed.
A streaming service can detect a viewer’s geographical location by detecting the IP address of the device being used to connect to the service’s servers.
An IP address identifies a connected device on a network. (The internet is, after all, simply a huge computer network.) The IP address allows identifying which device is making a request for information, and where the information is to be sent to. (Much like a postal address is used to identify your home.)
An IP address can also be used to identify a device’s physical location. (Again, much like your home’s postal address.) This is how a streaming service determines whether or not you’ll be allowed to view their content, or which content they’ll allow you to access.
These restrictions aren’t limited to streaming content, but also to gaming content, as well as other types of services and websites, such as financial websites that may restrict access to users from specific regions to provide added security for their customers.
This is where a VPN comes in. A VPN can temporarily assign a new IP address to your connected device. It does this by routing your internet connection through one of its VPN servers, located in another country. This makes it appear to the rest of the internet as if the device is actually located in the same country as the VPN server.
This IP address-“spoofing” tricks streaming services into opening the gates to the content for a particular country, greatly increasing your entertainment options.
How Do I Use a VPN?
Using a VPN is simplicity in itself. You can subscribe and start using a VPN service in a matter of just a few short minutes.
First, you decide on a VPN provider, sign up and pay for your subscription. Then, you download and install the VPN provider’s apps on your computer and/or mobile devices, select a VPN server (or let the app select one automatically) and connect to the server.
Enjoy your newly protected and enhanced internet connection.
Why Not Use a Free VPN?
While it would be nice to find a reliable free VPN, you’ll find they are few and far between. As with nearly any service, free VPNs don’t match up well to their paid counterparts.
First of all, “free” VPNs are not really free. You pay for their use of your privacy.
Even a free VPN provider is looking to cover expenses like server costs, salaries and more. Many freebie providers do so by tracking their users’ online activities, saving the information and then selling it to interested third parties, like advertisers and other Nosy Nellies.
Meanwhile, other no-cost VPN providers have been found to be injecting unwanted tracking cookies and advertisements into their users’ web browsing sessions. (Plus, those tracking cookies stick around, even after you’ve logged out of the VPN provider’s servers.)
You also pay for free VPNs by sacrificing the high level of convenience and performance you will enjoy with a paid provider.
When you connect to a free VPN, you may be forced to cool your heels waiting in a queue with other free users, until a slot frees up on the provider’s limited number of free servers. Then, once you’re given the green light to connect, you’ll either find that your server selection is severely limited, or that you’re automatically connected to a server of the provider’s choice.
As for the performance end of things, you may find that your connection speeds are severely throttled when using a free VPN’s servers. Many free VPN providers also offer paid subscriptions, and they reserve much of their available bandwidth for use by their paying customers.
In addition to much slower speeds, you’ll also likely find that your daily or monthly usage of a free VPN is severely limited due to data caps. Again, a VPN provider wants to preserve much of its online resources for use by their paying customers.
Plus, by limiting access to their free product, VPNs are encouraging you to spring for a paid subscription, which is where they make their money. Our list above has the fastest VPNs available and have excellent performance.
While a free VPN may be attractive to users on a tight budget (and there are a few free VPN services that are reliable), I strongly suggest spending a few bucks per month on a paid VPN service if at all possible. You’ll find the added reliability, privacy, security, performance and convenience of a paid provider to be well worth the added expense.
Are VPNs Legal?
While a VPN can be used to keep illegal activities undercover, the actual use of a VPN is legal in most parts of the world. VPNs are mostly used to protect legal activities on the internet, and are used by financial institutions, major companies, and even law enforcement to protect their online activities and associated sensitive data.
VPNs are illegal or are severely restricted in the following countries:
Keep in mind that laws change on a regular basis, so I advise readers to check local resources for the laws governing VPN usage in your country.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) service is arguably the best way to enhance and protect all of your online activities. A VPN’s encrypted protection prevents your activities from being monitored by outside parties. It enhances your online life by providing ready access to geo-blocked content around the globe.
My number one choice is ExpressVPN, which offers reliable VPN protection with strong encryption, kill switch protection and a split tunneling protocol feature that allows you to select which apps use the protected tunnel of protection.
It also provides reliable access to content around the globe via an extensive global server network. Nearly any device can benefit from the provider’s protection, and customer support is available whenever you need it.
What Is the Best Country to Choose in VPN Configuration to Ensure the Best Privacy and Security?
If you’re simply looking to protect your online activities from prying eyes, you can usually do fine simply selecting a nearby VPN server or by accepting your VPN provider’s “Best VPN” option.
However, if you’re looking for true internet freedom (particularly if you’re in a country that has heinous restrictions on internet freedom), you’ll want to select a VPN server stationed in a truly free country, like Sweden, Switzerland or other internet freedom-loving countries.
If I Work From Home, Do I Need a VPN?
Many of us are working from home these days, making online privacy and security more important than ever.
A VPN is arguably the most important weapon you can have to protect your home-based online activities, keeping private your personal information, as well as your employer’s information. When you’re working, banking and shopping from home, a VPN protects all of those activities from being monitored by prying eyes.
- Best Global VPN Service Providers for 2020
- 1. ExpressVPN
- 2. NordVPN
- 3. CyberGhost
- 4. IPVanish
- 5. PrivateVPN
- What Can I Do With A VPN?
- How Do I Use a VPN?
- Why Not Use a Free VPN?
- Are VPNs Legal?
- In Closing
- VPN Q&A
- What Is the Best Country to Choose in VPN Configuration to Ensure the Best Privacy and Security?
- If I Work From Home, Do I Need a VPN?