How to choose the right VPN

A VPN bolsters your online privacy by masking your online activity from those who might otherwise track what you do online, or record your personal info.

A quick search for VPN providers will return dozens of possible VPN options, each a bit different from the next. In this article, we’ll break down the attributes of a VPN, and discuss what to look for so you can zero in on the right VPN provider for your needs.

Types of VPN services

There are several types of VPNs commonly used today, but our discussion will focus on personal VPNs. As the name implies, a personal VPN is meant for an individual’s personal use. A personal VPN protects your browsing data and other identifying information, like your IP address, from being collected by third parties. Devices connected to a personal VPN generally send all of your Internet traffic through the VPN (although some VPN setups let you choose which of your traffic routes through the VPN and which traffic does not). Good personal VPN software can run on any of your devices, and can help protect you wherever you are.

New to VPNs? Learn more about what VPNs are and how they work.

What to look for when choosing a VPN service

In general terms, a good VPN provider delivers security and privacy, is simple to use, and doesn’t negatively affect your browsing experience. To make a successful selection from the many VPN choices out there, you should look beyond the price and carefully consider factors like security features, server locations, and ease of use. Let’s look at some important attributes.

Reliability

You want to select a reliable provider, one with a good track record of service and putting the user first. One of the best ways to evaluate reliability is simply to look at a provider’s reputation. Reviews by major, trustworthy technical outlets can offer great insight into the best VPNs for fast and consistent performance. Reviews from actual users (e.g. on an app store) can be useful too.

Protocols

When researching VPN providers, you’ll probably see several different protocols mentioned. A VPN protocol is a combination of the encryption process, user authentication procedures, and how your traffic is routed through the Internet. While there are about a half dozen VPN protocols out there, two protocols in particular are worth noting.

The most common protocol is OpenVPN, which uses modern encryption schemes like AES-256, which is recognized as an industry standard for encrypting data.

The other notable protocols—both used by Brave Firewall + VPN—are called IKEv2 (specifically IKEv2/IPSec) and Wireguard. IKEv2 also uses AES-256 for encryption, but differs in how the connection is set up and managed, which can make a difference in limited circumstances such as when using a VPN on a mobile device. Wireguard, on the other hand, relies upon more modern encryption schemes (e.g. ChaCha20) and uses Curve25519 for key exchange. Wireguard is known for its simple implementation which usually makes it less likely to face security bugs. In summary, the security models of each of these protocols will be identical to an end user, but may make a difference to someone who maintains the software.

Servers

Any good VPN provider will have multiple servers scattered around the globe. When evaluating providers, it’s important to consider the number of servers, as that can indicate potentially faster response times and overall better reliability.

Equally important, though, is where the servers are. If you need a VPN while traveling, for instance, you’ll probably want to make sure the provider has a server in your home country. If you’re concerned about censorship or surveillance, you should make sure there are servers outside the censored area since servers can be subject to legal takedown requests.

If speed is particularly important to you, you might be able to find technical details on a provider’s servers (e.g. if they’re 1 GB or 10 GB servers). A more powerful server doesn’t necessarily mean faster performance, but it does mean the server is better equipped to handle periods of high traffic without service degradation.

Privacy

Many VPN providers say they have a no-logs policy, but a true no-logs policy is less common than you might expect. Even if a VPN provider doesn’t log your Internet traffic, they still might log performance metrics or other usage data that could be attributed back to you. A best-in-class no-logs policy will go as far as to separate payment data from usage data so that browsing history cannot be linked to a given subscriber. Be cautious when a provider says they store data temporarily for things like performance monitoring or to monitor bandwidth usage. Temporarily stored data is still stored data, and can still end up in the wrong hands.

Review the provider’s privacy policy for details on exactly what data is stored and for how long. Note if they’re required to adhere to any government-dictated data retention requirements, and research if your provider shares data with those governments.

Another strong indicator of a true no-logs policy is a policy that has stood up to legal or judicial challenge. Some VPN providers have had their logs subpoenaed in court, and were unable to produce them because they don’t exist—that’s a strong indicator of a true no-logs policy.

Ease of use

Most VPNs require opening software or an app and logging in. And you’ll need to install the VPN on every device you want to use it on. Brave VPN is integrated into the Brave browser, which means no setup time and no logging in. Just open the Brave browser, turn on the VPN, and all your browsing (as well as activity in other apps outside Brave) is protected.

No data caps

There’s no need to settle for a VPN with data caps. Data caps usually only apply in free or very basic plans. And there are plenty of basic plans available that don’t cap your data, so there’s no need to pick one with a cap.

Avoid Free VPNs

The old adage “you get what you pay for” certainly applies for VPNs. It costs money to run a VPN service. If the provider isn’t getting paid by users, then it’s an almost sure bet they’re making money by collecting and selling user data. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid any free VPN service.

What about malware protection?

You can get protection against malware and other threats as part of a VPN service. Some VPN providers offer several tiers of subscriptions with rates tied to extra features, including protection against malware. This protection comes in the form of ad blocking, warnings when you’re about to visit a suspicious site, and scanning downloads for malicious software.

With Brave, ad blocking and suspicious-site protection are a default part of the browser itself, regardless of VPN usage. Adding the Brave VPN into an already private browser means you get even better protection. And Brave’s VPN and firewall service is powered by Guardian, a trusted industry leader.

Places you can install a VPN

A VPN can run in just about any place you need it. You can install software on a computer or download an app onto your phone or tablet. With a little know-how, you can even set up a VPN that runs on a router and protects your entire local network.

Most VPN services are powered by standalone software or applications. Brave is unique, however: Brave VPN is built into the Brave browser for easier, seamless use.

Related articles

What do VPNs protect?

A VPN can help ensure your privacy online. A VPN can mask your identity by hiding your IP address, and protect your data through encryption. In this article, we'll give an overview of what VPNs protect…and protect against.

Read this article →

Are VPNs safe to use?

A good VPN can protect your data online, and overall help you protect your privacy. But some VPNs are safer than others, and some can even introduce more risk. In this article, we'll help you understand how to fit a VPN into your plan for online privacy.

Read this article →

Ready for a better Internet?

Brave’s easy-to-use browser blocks ads by default, making the Web cleaner, faster, and safer for people all over the world.

close

Almost there…

You’re just 60 seconds away from the best privacy online

If your download didn’t start automatically, .

  1. Download Brave

    Click “Save” in the window that pops up, and wait for the download to complete.

    Wait for the download to complete (you may need to click “Save” in a window that pops up).

  2. Run the installer

    Click the downloaded file at the top right of your screen, and follow the instructions to install Brave.

    Click the downloaded file, and follow the instructions to install Brave.

  3. Import settings

    During setup, import bookmarks, extensions, & passwords from your old browser.

Need help?

Get better privacy. Everywhere!

Download Brave mobile for privacy on the go.

Download QR code
Click this file to install Brave Brave logo
Click this file to install Brave Brave logo
Click this file to install Brave Brave logo