At VPN Fan, we are a dedicated team of privacy enthusiasts that love to stream content from everywhere. Luckily, you can protect your privacy and stream worldwide content by using a VPN.
The early days of personal VPNs brought services that were often clunky and difficult to use. These days, using a VPN is easy, and you can tell it by the number of companies that offer them. However, sorting through all the options can be problematic. There is plenty of information available, but not all of it is quality. We are here to help you sort everything out.
Our goal is simple. We are here to educate users and provide them with the best possible information. We can answer the companies’ claims to ensure they are on the level by looking at statistics, reports, our in-house research and testing.
Review Guidelines – How We Test VPNs
Our approach to reviewing providers is straightforward. We put ourselves in your shoes and make judgments based on how well they handle it. Here is our list of things we analyze.
- Encryption protocols – Preferred protocols are WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2 for the best privacy protection.
- Return policy – We prefer providers that offer at least a 30-day money-back guarantee so the user can thoroughly test the service.
- Advanced features – We prefer providers that offer multiple advanced features like SmartDNS, split tunneling, launch on start-up and a kill switch.
- Company country of origin Headquarters – Our favorite options are headquartered in countries outside the 5/9/14 eyes treaties to ensure privacy.
- Server locations – We like to see providers that offer locations in at least 60 countries, to get a large variety of options.
- Strict no-logs policy – We prefer providers that have a strict no-logs policy.
- Reputation – The company’s reputation matters. We prefer providers with solid reputations.
- Server speeds –If you want to stream content, the servers need to be fast and have a low level of encryption overhead.
- Ease of use – No one wants to use a VPN that’s too complex. Our preferred providers all have easy-to-use user interfaces.
- Support staff – If you have issues or questions, you want a provider with a 24/7 support staff.
- VPN apps – VPNs need to work on all of your devices. We look for VPN providers with apps for all four major operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
Let’s take a closer look at the criteria we focus on when analyzing VPN services.
Protecting your privacy is one of the top benefits of using a VPN. Since they came out in the 1990s, providers have innovated and evolved their products to where they are today. Providers use several tools to help protect you. Of course, these companies take different measures, depending on their focus.
The most significant way they protect you is by using encryption protocols. These protocols encrypt your data, creating a secure connection between you and the website or app you use. Today’s protocols are not the same ones used in the past. Most providers offer “Next Generation Encryption” protocols.
These secure protocols have the best protection and can’t be cracked with a “brute force” attack. Experts consider the open-source OpenVPN protocol the gold standard. This is the most common protocol in the community. IKEv2 is another common next-generation protocol that you’ll find on mobile devices. WireGuard is the newest encryption option. This protocol is the smallest (least lines of code), offering the best speeds and protection because of the low encryption overhead.
Server locations / network size
These days, many VPN providers have extensive networks. While some providers have 700 servers, others may have more than 30k. Having more servers does not always mean the server is better. What is more important is where the provider has locations. While the average is 30 to 60 locations, We prefer providers to have locations in at least 60 countries.
Where a company registers its headquarters may not seem like a big deal at first, but it can make a difference. If the company is in the wrong country, the government can compel the company to provide information. That is especially true in countries like Russia, China, and others. They can coerce VPN providers to give up their data. Also, if the company is in a country in the 5/9/14 eyes alliances, they can share your data with up to 13 other countries. We prefer companies that register outside the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and Spain.
Advanced features can add to your privacy, speed, or overall user experience. Even though providers have different options, features can make or break a service. If the VPN server disconnects, all of your internet traffic stops with a kill switch. Some providers offer split tunneling if you don’t need or want to encrypt all of your data. Traffic obfuscation is an additional way of protecting your privacy. SmartDNS is a feature that some providers have. This feature doesn’t provide encryption, but it will let you get past some geo-restrictions. The connect on startup feature is a convenient option that protects you as soon as you start your device. We prefer providers that have a good list of features.
Company reputation matters. All providers make claims, but there is no point in trusting them to back up those claims. We prefer providers with solid reputations. You want your information to stay yours, no matter the circumstances.
If you’re streaming content, you’ll want the best possible speeds. Server speeds are essential to any service, and you can achieve them with several methods. Of course, we mentioned encryption protocols. However, multiple servers in a location will help as well. That’s because having multiple servers will lighten the load, making your activities faster. We prefer providers that have great speeds.
Also known as the money-back guarantee, this will let you try out the service. Until recently, having a 30-day money-back guarantee was not common. However, many have extended warranties now. We prefer providers to have at least a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Ease of use
When they first came out, VPNs were challenging to use and navigate. Nowadays, most providers make it easy to use. We prefer to use providers that have easy-to-use interfaces.
If you have issues setting things up or have any questions, you’ll want a provider that has 24/7 support. Some providers have emails and FAQ sections. While those work well, we prefer providers that have 24/7 chat features as well as the other items.
In addition to doing in-house research, we use several different tests to help determine the best options. These include speed tests, VPN leak tests, streaming tests, and others. We combine everything to assess the best VPNs or how different VPNs hold up against others in our reviews.
When checking speeds, consistency is crucial. We start choosing a server in the test city. Once we connect to a server, we choose a close speed test server. After getting the speed, we disconnect from the VPN and use the same speed test server. That demonstrates the differences in speed between our home and server locations.
VPN leak tests
Leaks in any software aren’t good, which is true when using a VPN. Since using a VPN is supposed to mask your IP address and location, we check to ensure they don’t leak.
If your IP address leaks, browsers and other apps will show your actual IP address. While this is not common, it does happen.
When you have a DNS leak, your DNS information gets sent to the internet service provider instead of the VPN’s DNS. That means the VPN is revealing your real location.
Even if the service blocks IP and DNS leaks, WebRTC leaks are often separate. Good VPN providers can stop this type of leak and may specifically mention it.
When we test VPN providers, streaming tests make a difference. Since many users connect to a VPN for different streaming services, we like to make sure they work. For this test, we use three different services. The services we use to test are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. Ideally, the VPN provider will unblock all three.
Instead of giving you ad slogans, we like to test providers’ claims. That way, we can make sure we give you the best and most accurate information possible. You can decide on the service that’s right for you by doing so.