What Is The Best VPN to Use at School in 2018?
Supplying high-speed encrypted connections, great multi-platform support and excellent customer support, this provider offers a great way to access streaming video, music and other content that might normally be blocked on your school’s internet connection.
In addition to the above, VyprVPN can also protect your internet connection when using the open Wi-Fi hotspot at your favorite hangout. VyprVPN’s global server coverage also ensures you can access content that might normally be blocked due to geographical restrictions.
The internet is a dangerous and occasionally restricted place. The net is full of bad guys monitoring your online activity. Your school’s IT department can block access to websites, streaming services and other types of media. Plus, some media isn’t accessible because it's only allowed in other countries.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the best ways available to prevent your school authorities from monitoring your online activities and to keep online predators from preying on you.
A VPN connection covers your internet connection in a layer of encryption, preventing any observer from watching your online activities. There are a number of different types of encryption available, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Encryption is the process of encoding data in such a way that only authorized parties can access the information. A simple example of this would be the alpha numeric code you may have used to send notes to your friends in grade school. (A = 1, B = 2, C = 3 and so on.)
The VPN app on your computer or mobile device encrypts the information and sends it to the VPN server, where it is decoded and sent on its way to its final destination. Anyone monitoring your connection will not be able to decode the data, as they don’t have the decoding key. (And believe me, the encryption code your VPN provider uses is much harder to decode than the one you used in grade school!)
OpenVPN is the latest and most secure encryption protocol, offering 256-bit encryption, and it’s based on SSL and TLS. The protocol is supported by most VPN providers and most popular computing platforms. OpenVPN offers the best mixture of speed and encryption, providing excellent protection with little slow down of the user’s connection speeds.
Older encryption options include L2TP/IPsec, PPTP and others are not as secure as OpenVPN, but these protocols are still used for certain online operations.
Think of it as an underground tunnel for your connection. In a tunnel, you know vehicles are passing through, but you don’t know the color, make or model of the vehicles, or how many there are.
VPNs prevent others from monitoring your online activities and enable access to streaming content, online gaming servers and other content that might be blocked by your school’s IT department.
Top 5 Best VPNs for School Use
Why Do You Need a VPN at School?
Many schools will block your access to websites, social networks, audio and video streaming services, gaming servers and other online resources. This is apparently due to school officials’ belief that access to such resources would keep you from paying attention to the all-important task of learning.
While such restrictions may have been put in place with only the best intentions, such roadblocks can also result in blocking you from accessing useful resources, such as educational articles and videos, as well as other helpful resources.
It may not be possible to install a VPN app on a school-owned computer or other connected device due to the devices being locked down to prevent the average joe from installing software.
However, you may have success using a VPN that offers a Chrome or Firefox browser extension. Still, be aware that it’s possible for administrator-type folk to prevent the installation of browser extensions on school-owned computers and tablets.
Your greatest chance for success in breaking through your school’s content blockade is to use your own laptop, smartphone or tablet. Even though you’ll still be connected to the locked-down school network, you’ll be able to install VPN software on your own device.
Better safe than sorry, though - make sure to install the VPN software BEFORE you bring your device to school.
Choosing the Best VPN for School
When searching for the best VPN to unblock online content while using your school’s network, you’ll find that there are numerous VPN providers to choose from. However, not all providers are created equal.
Some providers provide blazingly fast connections, while others may offer excellent multi-platform support, great customer support, or may excel in another category. In this section, I’ll share the various features I considered when putting together my top 5 rankings.
I’ll list each category and then explain why it’s an important consideration when researching VPN services. I will then include a table listing my top 10 VPN providers, ranked according to their performance in that category.
No matter what your reason for purchasing a VPN service, connection speed has to rank highly among important requirements. No matter your online activities, without a fast connection, you’ll find that your overall online experience will greatly suffer.
I’ve listed the providers from fastest to slowest. The “Speed (US%)” numbers were calculated by testing my speed with the VPN turned off, and then after I turned the VPN on. The percentage figure represents how close the VPN connection speeds came to the usual, unprotected speeds.
Speeds were measured using the Speedtest website. “Mbps” (megabits per second) is the measurement of connection speed, similar to how “mph” (miles per hour) is used to measure the speed of an automobile.
It should be noted that a VPN connection will usually provide a slower connection speed, due to the overhead added by the encryption applied to the connection. (Encryption is calculated and applied on the fly. The better the encryption, the slower the connection.) The slowdown can vary from provider to provider, and in many cases, won’t be noticeable during most online activities.
While speed is important, without support for all of the computing and mobile platforms you have access to, even the fastest VPN provider is worthless.
When considering platform support, any provider worth considering should at least offer support for the most popular desktop and mobile platforms. These include Windows, macOS, iOS and Android platforms.
The table below lists my top 10 VPN providers and the number of platforms they support, best down to worst.
All providers on this list supply native app support for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. Native app support is when a VPN provider offers an application that runs on the device, which is available for download and installation directly from the provider’s website or via your device’s app store.
While I wish all of you a problem-free existence with no issues that affect either your online or offline experience, the fact is that, occasionally, you are going to require some assistance. (At least online - I can’t judge your offline readiness.)
There’s a good chance that you may have issues getting connected, and you’ll need to talk to someone in the provider’s customer support department. When that happens, you’ll want to know you can rely on the support personnel’s being there for you in your hour of need.
Most VPN providers feature 3 types of support: live support chat, trouble ticket submission and support libraries.
Live support chat offers you the chance to chat directly with a support agent via real-time text chat in your browser. A trouble ticket submission form allows you to ask a question of the support department, then wait for a reply via email. Support libraries allow you to search for an answer on your own by entering search terms, much like a Google search.
Note: None of the VPN providers listed below offer support over the phone.
Other Factors to Consider
As a student, the price could be an important factor when considering a VPN service. While it would be great to afford an Xbox One-level type of VPN provider, many students will likely only have access to Nintendo Wii-level finances, making finances an important consideration.
Luckily, the VPN provider that charges the most isn’t necessarily the best provider available. In fact, one of my favorite providers is actually one of the lowest-priced services that I’ve ever found.
Always research any VPN provider’s features. This ensures it hasn’t cut any important corners simply to offer a low price. Be sure to always look closely at connection speed, global server coverage and customer support.
Many VPN providers regularly offer deals on subscriptions. While these deals can definitely reduce the cost of your VPN subscription, you may have to be willing to commit to an extended subscription period. Always visit a provider’s website to view their current pricing and offers.
Most companies also offer monthly subscriptions, which can be a valid option if you’re on a tight monthly budget. However, it should be noted that taking advantage of such an option will almost always cost you more over time.
For those of you who don’t currently have access to a credit or debit card, PayPal or other payment systems, there is hope. Some providers will allow customers to pay for their subscriptions using the balance remaining on merchant gift cards. That means you can finally make use of that $25 Walmart gift card your Grandma gave you for your birthday.
*The prices in the table reflect the monthly cost when paying for an annual subscription. (Annual Subscription Price / 12 Months.)
Global Server Coverage
If a VPN provider doesn’t offer adequate global server coverage, you won’t reap the full benefits you should from a VPN’s geographical-restriction-unblocking abilities. In addition to allowing you to blast through roadblocks put up by your school, a VPN also unblocks streaming and gaming content from outside your country.
Many TV shows, movies, songs and games are only accessible within certain countries due to licensing restrictions. For example, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) restricts the online viewing of its shows to BBC iPlayer users who live inside the United Kingdom. By using a VPN in the U.S., you can appear to be connecting from inside the U.K., allowing you to enjoy the programs offered by the network.
An example of comprehensive global server coverage can be seen in the screenshot below.
Any VPN provider you consider should offer comprehensive privacy protections. Always check to see if the provider is located in a privacy-friendly country, find out what user logs, if any, that they keep, and discover whether they accept privacy-friendly payment methods, such as a merchant gift card, as payment for a subscription.
When I say “privacy-friendly country,” I mean a country that respects the privacy of its citizens and their right to browse the internet without any of their online activities being tracked. Privacy-friendly countries include Switzerland, Panama and the British Virgin Islands.
User logs can contain everything from the time you logged on to an exact record of every website you visited or file that you downloaded. The fewer logs that are kept by a VPN provider, the better. Ideally, your VPN provider of choice should have a strict “no logs” policy, meaning they refuse to log any of their customers’ online activities.
Earlier I mentioned that some VPN providers will accept merchant gift cards as payment for a subscription. While this is a great option for students that might not have access to a credit or debit card, it’s also a great way to protect your online identity.
Gift cards are not connected in any way to your name or other personal information, so they’re a dead end for anyone looking for ways to steal your info.
I’ve ranked the VPN providers according to their privacy protections below.
The Best VPNs to Use at School
#1 - VyprVPN
VyprVPN’s connection speeds regularly come within 5% of my unfettered ISP speeds. This makes the service one of the fastest providers I’ve tested. This also means you won’t be waiting long for streaming video or music to begin playing once you’ve connected to the service.
Users with multiple devices will likely