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Is a VPN Worth Buying in 2021?

written by

Jack Foster

last updated

June 16, 2021

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Is a VPN worth it? This is a question I am often asked! The simple answer is yes, a VPN like NordVPN is most certainly worth it! However, I know a short answer like that isn’t going to help anyone, so don’t worry I will explain everything you need to know in this guide. 

As is the case with most things in life, products and services are only worth it if you choose with care. Some VPNs are worth it, others are not, so I will make sure you’re aware of the VPNs that are of high quality.

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What is a VPN?

VPN stands for virtual private network, which will give you anonymity and privacy online through the creation of a private network from a public Internet connection. When using a VPN, your Internet protocol (IP) address will be masked, meaning your online actions are pretty much untraceable.

Most importantly, a VPN service will establish encrypted and secure connections, providing better privacy than you’d get with a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.

Why would you use a VPN?

Browsing the web or paying for items via an unsecured Wi-Fi network means that you could end up exposing your browsing habits and private data. This is why it makes sense to use a VPN. Anyone who is concerned about their online privacy and security should use a VPN. And, security and privacy are something we should all be concerned with, right?

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Think about all of the times you have accessed your Internet while you have been on the go, whether you have checked your bank account or read an email. Unless you were logged onto a private network that required a password, any data transmitted throughout your online session could be vulnerable to other people using the same network. Your confidential data could be compromised, which could ultimately lead to someone accessing your online accounts.

This is why a VPN is critical. The anonymity and encryption that a VPN provides will help to protect all of your activities online, whether you pay your bills online, shop via the Internet, or send emails.

Understanding the benefits of a VPN

To understand whether a VPN is worth it, we need to get into the nitty-gritty of the benefits a VPN will provide. Once you really start to explore the benefits of using a VPN, you will understand that this is something that is most certainly worth investing in. So, let me talk you through the case for using a VPN in further detail…

Hide your private data and information

There really is only one place to begin when discussing the benefits associated with VPNs, and this is with their ability to hide your private data and information. 

Hackers are becoming incredibly sophisticated, using a whole host of different methods to intercept sensitive data you have entered into websites, such as your password, contact details, payment information, and so on. With access to this data, they can attempt to impersonate you, gaining access to your credit card accounts, bank accounts, and so on.

However, with a VPN, you can have peace of mind that 256-bit encryption and other high-level security features are used to protect your online activities. With encryption in play, it basically means that, should someone try to intercept your data, your online communications will look liked mixed-up, garbled characters, which make no sense whatsoever. So, even if someone was to gain access to your information, they would not be able to understand it.

Reduce support expenses

A lot of people don’t use a VPN because they see it as an unnecessary expense. However, if you use a VPN, it can actually help you to reduce expenses. This is especially the case for businesses, as you will be able to lower the expense of maintaining servers, as support can be outsourced to a third-party service provider that is able to support a reduced cost structure because of their many clients.

Secure your network with a VPN

Another important reason why it is worth using a VPN in 2021 is so you can secure your network. Without your knowledge, a website or application is able to keep tabs on your online activity. They can assess the data they collect and utilize it to try and target you with their online ads. 

If you do not have a VPN, your Internet experience could end up being disrupted with a lot of pesky and annoying ads! You know the sort of irritating pop-ups etc. I am talking about! With a VPN, it will stop web browsers, software, and people from getting access to your connection. This ensures that the information you transmit and receive is anonymous and secure. 

Avoid government censorship

VPNs are popular all over the world, but they are especially helpful in countries that have strict Internet regulations and restrictions. China instantly springs to mind! In China, the government has imposed heavy restrictions, with a whole host of popular websites blocked, such as YouTube, WhatsApp, and Google. 

In countries like this, a high-quality VPN is critical because users can be given a heavy fine if they are found to be on a website they shouldn’t be. Therefore, you should never use a free VPN if you are in a country like China.

Moreover, a lot of the low-quality and cheap VPNs won’t work effectively in countries like China in any case. If you remember in my introduction, I said that VPNs are definitely worth it, but you do need to choose with care. Well, there’s no better example of this than when it comes to the use of VPNs in highly restricted countries.

If you opt for one of the leading VPNs, like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, effective obfuscation technologies are incorporated. This will hide the fact that you have a VPN switched on, tricking your ISP into believing that you are another standard Internet user. This is critical, as it means you can get past the government censorship and access any content you wish to. 

Access services that are geo-blocked

Aside from the benefits I have touched upon so far, being able to access services that are geo-blocked is a compelling reason to use a VPN. As you will get a different IP address, you can make it appear that you are in a different location entirely, be it Hong Kong, Australia, or Germany. 

Best VPN for Netflix

There are some websites and services that do not permit individuals from specific countries to access some or all of what they provide. This is especially the case when it comes to streaming services that cater to certain locations, for example, BBC iPlayer is only available in the UK. However, by using a VPN and choosing a UK IP address, you would be able to access BBC iPlayer no matter where in the world you are based. 

It is also not uncommon for some company sites to limit how you can utilize their services based on where you are based, for example, accessing specific details about their services or getting quotes. Therefore, by using a VPN, you will be able to make it appear like you are using the Internet from a location that is acceptable for the service you are trying to get access to. 

Avoid bandwidth throttling

If you have never heard of bandwidth throttling before, this is a term that refers to when the speed of your Internet is slowed down intentionally by your ISP or someone else who is able to control the performance of your network. This can sometimes be done when you engage in certain types of Internet activity or visit specific websites. 

Should you use a VPN, the traffic that comes from your device can be encrypted, which means other people will not be able to see what you are doing before. 

As bandwidth throttling tends to be triggered due to the activity you engage in or the sites you use, if your ISP is not able to see the data coming from your device and going to your device, it will not be able to throttle it down in these situations. 

I should point out that there is the possibility that your data may be throttled down during certain times of the day so bandwidth is freed up for other users. However, in general, using a VPN is a great way of ensuring you do not suffer from bandwidth throttling. 

Prevent data throttling

Not only can a VPN help to prevent bandwidth throttling, but it can help you to avoid data throttling as well. This happens when you have used a certain amount of available data, so your ISP decides to slow your service down.

Free VPN Providers

With a VPN turned on, you don’t have to worry about hitting any sort of data cap, as your ISP will not be able to see how much data you are utilizing.

Enjoy network scalability with a VPN

This is another benefit that is especially helpful for businesses, but it is also great for individuals that use the Internet for many purposes. If you’re just getting started online, a private network can help you to get off the ground, yet the expense of network expansion can be prohibiting. If you utilize a VPN, though, you can ensure that your remote workers and employees both have access. Key applications can be run in a cloud environment, with workers having access via the secure tunnel that a VPN provides.

A VPN is a must, but which VPN is worth it?

When you consider everything that I have mentioned above, it is really not difficult to see why a VPN comes highly recommended for every online user. Protecting your online activity is critical today, especially when you consider how advanced hackers have become. But, the question you probably have now is; which VPN is worth it?

There are hundreds of VPNs out there today. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are free, others are not. Therefore, it is imperative that you whittle down your options and find the best one for you. That’s the reason I created this site, to help you understand the different options that are out there so you can find the best VPN for your needs. 

Should you go for a free or paid VPN?

One of the first decisions you need to make is whether to go for a free or paid VPN. While I will always review free VPNs and offer my advice, I never recommend going down that route. Why? Well, when something is free, it is limited, and you cannot really afford to go for a limited VPN. This could mean that you’re not fully protected. 

The only time I recommend using a free VPN is if you want to try something out before you commit to purchasing it. Otherwise, paid is best! 

To give you a better understanding, let’s take a look at some of the different reasons why paid VPNs are better:

  • Free VPNs only have limited features – One of the main problems with free VPNs is that you tend to only get limited features. Your usage will be severely limited, often to around 500MB per month. Aside from this, you are going to massively struggle to find a free VPN that will unblock BBC iPlayer or US Netflix! 
  • Free VPNs slow down your Internet connection – If you want to use a VPN for the purpose of downloading torrents, playing games, or streaming videos, you will be disappointed with a free VPN – that’s for sure! When you use any VPN, a loss of speed is to be expected because of the encryption process. However, the loss of speed is barely noticeable with a paid VPN. With a free VPN, though, it is evident. Due to the intentional speed throttling, constant ads, and small networks, your web surfing will slow down to a crawl. 

Mobile VPN

  • You will be interrupted by ads constantly when using a free VPN – One of the most common ways for free VPN providers to make money is by selling advertising. After all, they have got to bring the cash in somehow! Continual pop-ups can be incredibly annoying. Plus, it is highly unlikely that a free VPN will screen all of the ads for spyware and malware, which could mean that you find yourself in big trouble with one accidental click. I am not saying that all ads are dangerous, but with a paid VPN, you do not have to worry about this at all. 
  • Free VPNs do not provide good security measures – It costs a lot of money to put secure and solid network infrastructure in place. Premium VPNs like NordVPN put security first. They do not cut corners. The same cannot be said for free VPN provides, unfortunately. Weak encryption and unreliable security measures mean that you’re at greater risk if you only rely on a free VPN
  • Other users will have access to your connection with a free VPN – A lot of free VPN providers, like Hola VPN, will operate as a P2P network. What this means is that your data is going to be sent via another user’s device, and then other users’ traffic will be routed through yours. The problem with this is that you are then at risk of DNS attacks and malware. Not good! The bad news continues, though, as some VPNs – again, Hola VPN being the prime example – actually sell your unused bandwidth on the worldwide data market. This is how they make money, and it is extremely dangerous. This should be reason alone to stay away from VPNs. 
  • Free VPNs track you online, selling your browsing data and/or personal data – A final reason why I strongly advise using a paid VPN is that free VPNs, like Betternet VPN, will share your session data with advertisers. These advertisers will then inundate you with ads, surprise surprise! When a third party is able to access your private data, this means your online privacy has been comprised and isn’t this one of the reasons we use a VPN, to begin with, i.e. to stop this from happening! Furthermore, some free VPNs will even hijack your browser, redirecting you to the website of one of their partners without seeking your consent.

So, as you can see, I am a big advocate of only using paid VPNs. I review free VPNs because I know that some people want to use a free VPN and, ultimately, it is your choice, so I would much rather you be educated about which free VPNs are better than the rest. At the same time, I also have to alert you to the many risks associated with free VPNs, so please do keep this in mind when making your decision. 

What I recommend looking for when choosing a VPN

There are a lot of things to look out for when selecting a VPN. I have put together a checklist to help you out. These are the qualities that I believe make a VPN worth it. 

  • High-level security features – You may not be surprised to see that I have started off with security. After all, this is a primary reason for using a VPN, and so you want to make sure that there are quality security features in place. Some of my favourites includes DNS/IP leak protection, ad blockers, and an automatic kill switch. The latter is something I would like to expand on a little bit. A kill switch will make sure that you are protected even if your connection drops out. This is vital because you never know when your connection is going to drop out, so having this protection can enable you to surf the web with confidence at all times. 

Malware Protection

  • A VPN that unblocks the major streaming platforms – The best VPNs on the market today will be able to unblock all of the major streaming services. By this, I mean the likes of Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Netflix, and so on!
  • Great server coverage – This is another thing you should be looking for when choosing a VPN. Extensive server coverage is the only way to make sure you can access sites in all parts of the world. Plus, if a VPN does not have a good number of servers, the servers they do have can end up getting overcrowded, which can hurt performance.
  • Fast speeds – Performance is another quality you should be looking for when choosing a VPN. You want to enjoy fast downloads and quick browsing, so the speed is a key quality to factor in.
  • Make sure the company has a no-logging policy – This is a big one! Look for a VPN that has a no-logging policy. This means that the company will NOT keep data logs, ensuring your activity remains anonymous. Not all companies have this approach. Worryingly, some collect quite a lot of data, so choosing a no-logs policy comes highly recommend. 
  • High-level encryption – Finally, you want to know that your data is being encrypted effectively. The industry standard is 256-bit AES encryption, so look out for this when choosing a VPN.
  • Unlimited data – When you’re paying for a VPN, the last thing you want is a data cap! This could result in a download stopping halfway through or your favourite program being disrupted until the following month. Annoying!
  • Broad compatibility – The final factor to consider is the device compatibility, i.e. does it work with your Apple iPhone? What about your PC? A lot of the VPN providers will have native apps for different platforms as well, so it is worth checking this out.

Which VPNs do I recommend?

Now that you have a good idea of the different factors to consider when looking for a VPN, I am going to talk you through some of my favourites. 

NordVPN Pros:

NordVPN Cons:

#1 | NordVPN

Based in Panama, NordVPN has 4,952 servers around the world for you to choose from, so you’ll never struggle to find a suitable server for your online activity. 

NordVPN Review

Known for its easy-to-use interface, high level of security, and innovative feature range, NordVPN is certainly top of the list when it comes to VPNs on the market today.

Privacy is certainly a box that NordVPN ticks. The company has a strict no-logs policy, one of the important elements I mentioned above! Fast speeds and excellent device compatibility can also be expected when using NordVPN. 

The good news does not end there either. It keeps on coming! With NordVPN, customer support really is helpful. Their technical team can be reached via live chat. You will be connected to a chatbot first, but then you can easily speak with a live agent. I found them to be very helpful. 

Some of the top features on NordVPN include double encryption, kill switch, access to Netflix, and IP protection. It’s definitely one of my favourite VPNs! 

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ExpressVPN Pros:

ExpressVPN Cons:

#2 | ExpressVPN

Another VPN that does not disappoint is ExpressVPN. With servers spanning 94 countries, you can be sure of great speeds and performance no matter where you are.

VPN app

One of the good things about ExpressVPN is that there is a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out and decide whether it is for you without risking anything. 

So, let’s talk about the features! One of my favourite features is Smart DNS, which can be used for geo-spoofing so you can mask your location. You can also use their Stealth Servers, which are designed to remove the censorship that is in place in China and Hong Kong.

Just like NordVPN, ExpressVPN is also very easy to use. Privacy and security levels are high too, and this is another VPN with a no-logging policy. 

I also found the customer support to be very helpful, although I must say ExpressVPN is a little bit pricer than other VPNs. A lot of people would agree that it is worth the cost, though. 

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Surfshark Pros:

Surfshark Cons:

#3 | Surfshark

Surfshark is one of the newer VPN players. However, this has not stopped it from making a big mark in the industry. In a very short space of time, Surfshark has grown to be a bit of a household name! This is no fluke either, as they have delivered plenty of great features and their prices are low too.

Surfshark is located in the British Virgin Islands, which is a great place for a VPN, as there are no data retention laws or practices in place, meaning it is outside of the Five, Nine, and 14 Eyes surveillance agreements. 

Their server network is not quite as big as the two VPNs I just mentioned – 66 countries with 1,800 servers – but for a VPN that was launched in 2018, it is pretty impressive, and it is growing all of the time. 

Surfshark do not keep logs on user activity or data connection, yet they do collect aggregated performance data, frequency of use, and any unsuccessful connection attempts, so do keep this in mind. 

One of my favourite things about Surfshark is all of the great security features that are available, and some of the best are as follows:

  • Kill switch
  • Camouflage mode, which are obfuscation tools
  • CleanWeb, a proprietary ad, tracker, and malware blocker 
  • MultiHolp, which is a double VPN

Finally, this VPN is really easy to use, which is always a big plus!

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CyberGhost Pros:

CyberGhost Cons:

#4 | CyberGhost

Another VPN that is secure, private, and affordable is CyberGhost. With over 10 million users, CyberGhost is a popular VPN, and I can certainly see why.

I will take you through some of my favourite features on CyberGhost. If you want a VPN for torrenting, CyberGhost is a good choice. P2P is supported, and there are no limits on bandwidth or data, making it a good choice for torrenting. 

The NoSpy Servers are another highlight. These are dedicated servers that are housed in a secure data centre, ensuring users are safe from potential third-party surveillance and spying. These servers are based in Romania and boast 256-AES encryption, which is the industry standard I mentioned earlier. Romania is a great jurisdiction for a VPN, as data gathering is not enforced and CyberGhost also doesn’t collect logs. 

Finally, the speed and performance of this VPN are also impressive!

Does CyberGhost sound right for you?

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Private Internet Access Pros:

Private Internet Access Cons:

#5 | Private Internet Access

The final VPN that I recommend is Privateinternetaccess.com (PIA). PIA has servers in 77 countries, with 35,550 and counting!

Private Internet Access

One benefit associated with PIA that makes it stand out from other VPNs is that you can connect up to 10 simultaneous connections. Most of the other VPNs on the market today enable you to have five connections at the same time. However, with 10 simultaneous connections, you should definitely be able to cover the whole family with just one account.

There are also a lot of security features with this VPN, including an ad blocker, Ipv6 leak protection, and a kill switch. Plus, there is a no-logging policy, which is always a relief!

Finally, you can expect to enjoy unlimited usage and bandwidth, as well as a user-friendly interface.

Does Private Internet Access sound right for you?

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Final words: Is a VPN worth it?

So there you have it: an insight into VPNs and whether they are worth it. The truth is that everyone should be using a VPN to protect their data and their online activity. Whether you are shopping, browsing the web, or checking your bank account, you want to have the safety and security that no one else is going to be snooping on you. This is what a VPN provides!

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