Choosing a VPN Service

When I first looked for a VPN (virtual private network) service online about 8 or 9 years ago, there wasn’t much to choose from. There were only a couple of services available, and to be honest they weren’t very good. In fact I never really used either for very long, they were slow, always breaking and not really worth the bother. As was usual in those days it was easier to set something up for yourself either using a rented server or through your home PC. VPNs were common enough but normally linked to a company or academic server, if you worked for a large company and travelled to any extent you’d almost certainly use a VPN to download documents or access the company email account.

These days both the demand and the choice available have grown exponentially. Over the years, those one or two providers have multiplied and now there are literally thousands of companies providing VPN/Proxy services usually on a subscription basis. Unfortunately the quality has not increased, the vast majority of these VPN providers are little more than an IT guy with a website and a dedicated server hosted somewhere obscure. This is fine if the only users are him and a dozen customers, but if you start taking in lots of new customers – you need some serious infrastructure and knowledge to cope with it – which normally doesn’t happen!

This is the sad reality, that the vast majority of these services are hopeless – something you’ll probably be aware of if you’ve tried any number of them. There’s normally two real issues with these servers – firstly they are badly set up and configured, the other is they’re overloaded. Both are serious issues for variety of reasons.

It’s important to remember that when you use a VPN or a proxy, you are in fact trusting the provider with all your web traffic. Your connection consists of an encrypted tunnel (well hopefully) back to the VPN server down which all your web and application traffic will flow. It’s therefore essential that this server is secure and well configured in order to protect your data there’s more to this than just something to change your ip address – read this.

The other issue is of course – speed, it wasn’t such a problem years ago but nowadays most of our online activity consists of video, multimedia and hi resolution images – browsing the web on a slow connection is a painful experience. It is of course why many people use VPNs in order to access content on sites like BBC iPlayer, ITV player or Hulu which are normally restricted to their home countries. This is a useful demonstration of how a high speed VPN should work.

The video demonstrates that the VPN connection has virtually no effect on the speed of the internet connection. It should be noted that in that video the user is based in the UK and using a UK VPN but it’s still a worthwhile check. The speed will almost certainly diminish slightly when routed through a US, Australian or German proxy server for example, but should still be reasonably fast. As alawyas the only true test is the one you run your self, so if you subscribe to Identity Cloaker or another VPN solution then make sure you test it using a short term trial/subscription first.

2 thoughts on “Choosing a VPN Service

  1. Thanks for this, I used a VPN service for a few weeks and it was painfully slow. This is definitely something to consider, any other tips.

    • Hi,
      Well one of the important factors is the relative locations of the VPN servers to you. Sometimes you have no option, because if you want to watch the BBC for example you must connect to a UK server. Make sure any service you subscribe to has plenty more servers in places like USA and UK as they will always be more popular. If you don’t need to get around any Geoblocks and just want the security of the VPN choose servers closest to your physical location. If you connect through to an Australian VPN from Europe or the US there’s bound to be some speed impact purely because of the pipes into Australia.

Leave a Comment