Protect Yourself with a VPN – How to Get Started

With all the news of hackers and identity theft, do you ever wonder if you're vulnerable while browsing the internet? With ever-growing sciences and technology in our world, if you’re not being proactive in protecting yourself from cyber criminals, then you ARE vulnerable.

An important and yet inexpensive tool to protect you and your family is a Virtual Private Network (VPN). If you're unsure about what a VPN is, and how it can protect you, then visit my earlier article.   A Quick Primer on Internet Safety and VPN

For about the price of a cheeseburger at a fast food place (which isn’t healthy), you can save yourself and your family the loss of thousands of dollars if a hacker compromises your information. I’m not trying to scare you into buying something, and I’m also not a vegetarian with an agenda. 😊 Some days, a good burger hits the spot when I need a little protein. 🍔

I’m a realist and spent over four decades of military service, federal law enforcement and other government service, in science, technology, and cyber. I’ve seen plenty of ways that you could lose everything you’ve ever worked for. I’ve chosen to allot a small amount for high-quality protection to avoid being wiped out financially by cyber thieves.

The world can be unforgiving.
Don’t be that person on the receiving end of someone else’s misbehavior because of delay.

7 Key VPN Features You Need for Security, Quality & Service

Before reviewing each VPN service, let’s look at the 7 key features you need:

1. Security & Encryption Protocols

Strengthen online security with advanced encryption protocols and safeguard internet browsing with a high-quality virtual private network (VPN).

The significance of encryption in online security is critical. It guarantees the protection of your sensitive data from unauthorized access.

By encrypting your internet traffic, VPNs create a secure tunnel that prevents cyber threats and hackers from intercepting and accessing your data. This ensures your online activities, including browsing history, login credentials, and personal information, all remain private.

With encryption, VPNs provide an added layer of protection, allowing you to browse the internet with peace of mind, knowing your data is secure.

2. Server Locations & Coverage

With server locations spread across the globe in a vast interconnected network, you can enjoy seamless internet access and unrestricted content from anywhere.

The importance of server location for VPN performance is important. Choosing the right server location for your needs can ensure optimal speed and reliability.

The more server coverage a VPN provider offers, the more access choices you have. When comparing VPN services, it’s essential to consider their server locations and coverage. Top VPN providers offer extensive server networks, allowing you to bypass geo restrictions and access global content. It’s best to choose a VPN service with extensive server coverage.

3. Speed & Performance

Improve your online experience with higher speed and exceptional performance. In choosing the best virtual private network (VPN), speed and performance are crucial factors.

VPN speed tests measure the upload and download speeds. A high-quality VPN should offer fast and consistent speeds to ensure smooth browsing, streaming, and downloading.

A reliable VPN should allow for seamless streaming of your favorite shows and movies without buffering or interruptions. To optimize VPN settings, you can select the server location closest to your physical location and choose protocols that offer faster connections.

4. Simultaneous Device Connections

One benefit of using a VPN is the ability to protect multiple devices at the same time. Unlike free VPN services, premium VPNs offer the option of connecting and protecting multiple devices simultaneously. This means you can secure your smartphone, tablet, laptop, and even your smart TV.

Whether you’re at home or on the go, having the ability to safeguard all your devices ensures that your online activities remain private and secure. VPNs provide a more comprehensive level of security compared to proxies, as they encrypt your entire internet connection, not just the data sent through a specific application.

Setting up a VPN on different devices is usually straightforward, with step-by-step instructions provided by the VPN provider. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of a VPN on your preferred devices, whether it’s Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, or even routers.

VPNs are especially useful for remote work, as they ensure secure connections when accessing company networks and sensitive information from outside the office. By using a VPN, you can protect your data and maintain privacy, no matter where you’re working from.

5. Logging Policy & Privacy Practices

Protect your personal information and keep it out of the wrong hands with VPNs that have strict no-logs policies, ensuring your online activities remain private and secure.

Data retention policies vary among VPN providers, with the best ones having zero data retention policies. This means they do not monitor, track, or store your online activities.

These VPNs are based in jurisdictions with strong privacy laws to further protect your data. By encrypting your internet traffic, VPNs prevent government surveillance and keep your online activities hidden from prying eyes. They also help you maintain anonymity by masking your IP address and making it difficult for anyone to trace your online activities back to you.

VPNs comply with data protection regulations, ensuring that your personal information remains secure according to established privacy standards.

Choose a VPN with a strict no-logs policy to safeguard your privacy and maintain control over your online presence.

6. Operating System & Device Compatibility

With a high-quality VPN, you can enjoy reliable and versatile service on a wide range of devices and operating systems. Most are compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android, Linux and more, making it accessible to users across different platforms.

Many VPN services allow you to secure your entire home network to safeguard all devices on your network. In recent years, there have been hacks to internet doorbells, baby monitors, and surveillance cameras. Smart TV’s and Internet of Things (IoT) devices can also connect through a VPN with some systems. By protecting them through a VPN, you can prevent someone from watching activity in your home, or monitor your patterns of life.

7. Customer Support Quality & Availability

Ensure that your VPN service provides 24/7 support from knowledgeable and responsive customer service representatives. Whether you need technical support or guidance with setting up new devices, someone should be available, ideally by phone or live chat.

3 Top Performing VPN Services

After reviewing a long list of VPN services, it became apparent that comparing lists of features can be confusing. Some VPN services created unique names for their features that emulate functions found elsewhere with their own descriptor. More features do not equate to being better, nor does a higher price mean their service is the higher quality. I’ve additionally created a VPN Glossary to help you understand specific technical terms and what they do.

Selection Criteria

Given the 7 features of security, quality and service (noted above). This section describes 3 VPN services that meet each of the features noted. One more factor to include is price. Technology is at a place of competition where high quality can be available to you inexpensively.

The three VPN services I reviewed (in alphabetical order): Atlas VPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark VPN.

Click the image to visit Atlas VPN

Atlas VPN

  • Global Network: Provides access to VPN servers in over 48 countries worldwide with 1,000 servers.
  • Fast Connection: Offers unlimited bandwidth for high-speed browsing, streaming, and downloading.
  • No-Logs Policy: Ensures user privacy by not keeping any logs of online activity.
  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited
  • Strong Encryption: Uses top-grade encryption protocols to secure internet traffic and protect sensitive data.
  • Wide Device Compatibility: Supports various platforms including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and browser extensions.
  • Ad & Malware Blocking: Built-in ad blocker and protection from malicious online threats.
  • P2P Support: Allows peer-to-peer file sharing for users who require it.
  • Free Version: Offers a free version with limited features (3 locations) and a premium version for enhanced functionality.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Simple and intuitive design for easy setup and usage.
  • Customer Support: Provides 24/7 customer support.

Visit the VPN Glossary to understand the terms and functions used by VPN providers.

Some Comments on AtlasVPN

AtlasVPN is the newest of the three VPN providers listed here. Yet, in a short time, they’ve grown and stand strong with the other services. As a user-friendly VPN, AtlasVPN offers intuitive apps across various devices, including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.

Its simple interface makes it easy for both tech-savvy individuals and newcomers to navigate and customize their VPN experience. Their customer service provides top-notch customer support to assist users with any concerns or technical issues they may encounter.

Click the image to visit NordVPN

NordVPN

  • Global Network: Provides access to VPN servers in over 60 countries worldwide with over 5,000 servers.
  • Fast Connection: Offers unlimited bandwidth. According to the tests run by AV-TEST, a respected independent IT security institute, NordVPN is the fastest service in the market.
  • Simultaneous Connections: 6.
  • Strict No-logs Policy: NordVPN does not store any user data, assuring complete privacy.
  • Encryption: NordVPN uses AES 256-bit encryption, recommended by NSA for securing classified information, at the TOP SECRET level.
  • Wide Device Compatibility: Supports various platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Android TV.
  • Ad & Malware Blocking: Provides an ad-blocker, malware protection, and protection against phishing attempts.
  • P2P Supported: Allows you to torrent and share files securely and anonymously.
  • Double VPN: Routes your internet traffic through two different servers, enhancing your anonymity.
  • Onion Over VPN: Connects to the Tor network through VPN for added online privacy.
  • Automatic Kill Switch: Cuts off internet traffic if the VPN connection becomes interrupted, ensuring your data remains secure.
  • DNS Leak Protection: Secures your DNS queries, preventing any information leakage.
  • Secure Streaming: Unblocks popular streaming services and allows you to access geo-restricted content.
  • Easy-to-use Interface: Provides a user-friendly interface with one-click connect and server selection.
  • Customer Support: Provides 24/7 customer support through email, live chat, or support center.

Visit the VPN Glossary to understand the terms and functions used by VPN providers.

Some Comments on NordVPN

Standout features of NordVPN are its impressive network infrastructure. NordVPN provides faster service over other providers. With that said, others like Surfshark are moving up to 10Gbps servers.

NordVPN effortlessly unblocks popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, allowing users to enjoy their favorite content from anywhere in the world.

Click the image to visit Surfshark VPN

Surfshark VPN

  • Global Network: Provides access to VPN servers in over 100 countries worldwide with over 3,200 servers.
  • Fast Connection: Surfshark’s large roster, most have at least a single 1 Gbps port, and many are being upgraded to 10 Gbps.
  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited.
  • Strict No-Logs Policy: Surfshark VPN strictly adheres to a no-logs policy, which means it does not collect or store any data related to users’ online activities.
  • Encryption: Surfshark VPN uses AES 256-bit encryption, recommended by NSA for securing classified information, at the TOP SECRET level.
  • Wide Device Compatibility: Supports various platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Edge and FireTV.
  • Ad & Malware Blocking: Surfshark VPN offers an integrated ad, tracker, malware, and phishing blocker called CleanWeb, ensuring a safer and smoother browsing experience.
  • Whitelister: With this feature, users can select specific apps or websites to bypass the VPN connection. This is helpful for accessing local content or secure banking transactions.
  • MultiHop: Surfshark VPN allows users to connect to multiple VPN servers in different locations simultaneously, enhancing privacy and security by encrypting traffic twice.
  • Camouflage Mode: This feature makes it difficult for ISPs, websites, and governments to detect that VPN is being used, ensuring online privacy.
  • NoBorders Mode: Surkshark VPN offers a NoBorders mode that helps users in restrictive countries bypass censorship and access restricted websites.
  • Kill Switch: The VPN has a built-in Kill Switch feature that terminates internet connectivity if the VPN connection drops, preventing any data leakage.
  • Security Protocols: Surfshark VPN offers a wide range of security protocols, allowing users to choose the one that suits their needs.
  • Clean & User-Friendly Interface: Surfshark VPN offers a simple and intuitive interface that is user-friendly and easy to navigate.
  • Customer Support: Surfshark VPN provides 24/7 customer support through live chat, allowing users to get help as needed.

Visit the VPN Glossary to understand the terms and functions used by VPN providers.

Some Comments on Surfshark VPN

Surfshark VPN stands out as one of the best options in the market for securing your online presence and protecting your sensitive information. With a reputation for excellence and many positive reviews, it has quickly gained popularity among VPN users.

Besides the top-notch encryption, multi-country / multi-server system and malware protection, Surfshark’s Camouflage mode helps prevent awareness that a VPN is in use, preventing notice by hackers.

My Choice

After researching and narrowing down the list to a “Top 3 List” with AtlasVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark VPN, each of the three are full-featured. Whichever choice you make, you’ll do well and have a high-quality level of security. As noted earlier, in addition to the 7 features of security, quality and service, I looked for VPN providers with the best functionality at a reasonable price. All three of these choices each have very affordable plans.

My Choice: Surfshark VPN

WHY?: In addition to all the main functions of security, quality & service that are important to me, Surfshark VPN has two functions that align well with my security preferences: MultiHop and Camouflage Mode.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it legal to use a VPN?

YES. Using a VPN is legal and can protect your online activities from being tracked, enhancing privacy. VPNs also allow you to access region-locked streaming platforms and can help reduce lag and improve gaming performance. Using a VPN is a “Best Practice” for safe and anonymous security when connected to public Wi-Fi.

Can I use a VPN on multiple devices simultaneously?

YES. You can use a VPN on multiple devices simultaneously. VPNs are compatible with various operating systems, but there may be limitations. Best practices include managing VPN connections and securing devices. Benefits include enhanced security, privacy, and access to restricted content, but drawbacks can include slower speeds and potential compatibility issues.

Can a VPN improve my internet speed?

YES. A VPN might improve your internet speed by reducing network congestion and optimizing your connection. Factors that can affect VPN speed include server distance, encryption strength, and your ISP’s bandwidth. To choose the right VPN for optimal speed, look for fast server networks, optimized protocols, and positive speed reviews.

Common misconceptions about VPNs and internet speed include the belief that all VPNs slow down your connection. However, with the right VPN, you can experience minimal speed loss. To maximize internet speed while using a VPN, connect to servers closer to your location.

Will a VPN protect me from hackers and malware?

YES. A VPN can protect you from hackers and malware. VPNs use strong encryption methods and secure protocols to safeguard your online activities. They have strict no-logging policies and offer server locations that enhance security. VPN performance plays a crucial role in protecting against hackers and malware.

Can I use a VPN to access geo-restricted content from different countries?

YES. You can use a VPN to access geo-restricted content from different countries. Benefits include online privacy, choosing a VPN with server locations in desired countries, challenges in streaming, tips for bypassing restrictions, and potential impact on internet connection stability.

About the Author

Anthony M. Davis is a Certified Leadership, Success and Stress Coach. He is a clinically trained Board Certified Hypnotherapist.

He has earned a national reputation for his Transformative Life Centering work with clients from across the nation. His unique approach helps clients remove underlying fears and triggers, and then, through coaching, helps them pursue and accomplish life and career goals.

He provides coaching and hypnotherapy sessions remotely through Zoom. If you have challenges you’d like resolved, contact him HERE to create the life change you desire.

In a Prior Career…

Immediately following 9/11, Mr. Davis was the creator and publisher of the Homeland Security Report (before there was a Dept. of Homeland Security). His audience was law enforcement, first responders, and security professionals reaching thousands of readers across the U.S. He published the HSR for 12-years before focusing on global sciences & technology, and cyber.

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