Best cheap VPN

Best cheap VPN: 3 options for working from home in quarantine

Virtual private networks (VPN) are essential for protecting your privacy online, particularly as more people are working from home due to coronavirus lockdowns. The only problem is, they can get expensive. And with the global pandemic pinching more people’s pockets, paying over a hundred dollars for homebound privacy protection doesn’t readily square with everyone’s priorities.

Never fear: There are several affordable VPNs on the market, for less than half that price point.

Here are three VPNs with cutthroat prices and strong security reputations.

Surfshark

  • Number of servers: 1,000
  • Number of server locations: 60
  • Country/jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
  • Cost: $2 a month or $48 for two years

Honestly, I’d personally go with Surfshark. Of the three, it’s the only one located in a country outside of US intelligence-sharing agreements and it’s a far better performer than it should be for the price. It’s very fast with no leaks detected, lightweight but feature-rich and cheap without being chintzy. Plus, you can run every device in your house through it.

The upfront price is $10 more than the other two are asking. But, you get two years of service instead of one. It’s worth the upgrade.

While Surfshark’s network is smaller than some, the VPN service makes up for it on features and speed. Let’s start off with the biggest win it offers Unlimited device support. If you want to run your entire home or office on Surfshark’s VPN, you don’t have to worry about how many devices you have on or connected. It also offers antimalware, ad-blocking and tracker-blocking as part of its software.

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Surfshark received generally high marks when its Chrome and Firefox extensions were audited for privacy by German security firm Cure 53 (full report) — though that audit was commissioned by Surfshark.

The company has a solid range of app support, running on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, FireTV and routers. Additional devices such as game consoles can be configured for Surfshark via DNS settings. We particularly like the feature that allows you to whitelist certain apps and websites to automatically bypass the VPN. For some business uses, this can be critically important.

Surfshark also offers three special modes designed for those who want to get around restrictions and more carefully hide their online footsteps. Camouflage Mode masks your VPN activity so your ISP doesn’t know you’re using a VPN. Multihop jumps your connection through multiple countries to hide your trail. Finally, NoBorders Mode “allows [you] to successfully use Surfshark in restrictive regions.”

Just be careful. Doing any of these three things could be illegal in your country and could result in severe penalties. During our testing, we saw no DNS or IP address leaks and had no trouble accessing Netflix.

Private Internet Access

  • Number of servers: 3,252
  • Number of server locations: 52
  • Country/jurisdiction: US
  • Cost: $2.85 a month or $40 a year (two months free)

While we haven’t reviewed it recently, Private Internet Access likely has the strongest reputation among the three on this list. Beloved by a loyal fan base, the company has been around since 2010, swears by its a no-logging policy and routinely offers new updates and features.

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PIA does not release information on the number of IP addresses available for its VPN service, but at 3,252, its server count is more than any of our other picks. It provides 10 simultaneous connections, a connection kill switch feature (like the other two VPNs in this list) and some good online documentation and security guidance. PIA’s servers are also all friendly to peer-to-peer sharing if you’re into torrenting.

The desirable WireGuard protocol is currently available on all of PIA’s platforms, which range widely and include Windows, Android, Mac, iOS and Linux. The VPN also comes offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, as well as a new private browser for iOS that wipes your data when you close it. If you’re ready to make the leap to VPN routers, PIA has those too.

Even though it doesn’t offer live chat, PIA does promise 24/7 support and accepts a wider range of payment options than most VPNs. Along with credit cards and PayPal, you can pay with Bitcoin, Etherium, or Amazon payments. In an additional privacy boost, they’ll even accept gift cards from 90 different retailers.

IPVanish

  • Number of servers: 1,300
  • Number of server locations: 60
  • Country/jurisdiction: US
  • Cost: $5 a month or $39 a year

IPVanish is the least expensive VPN I’ve reviewed recently.

A big win for IPVanish is its fun, configurable interface, which makes it an ideal client for those who are interested in learning how to understand what a VPN does under the hood. Its multiplatform flexibility is also ideal for people focused on finding a Netflix-friendly VPN.

A unique feature of IPVanish, one we’re intrigued by, is the VPN’s support of Kodi, the open-source media streaming app that was once known as XBMC. Any serious media fan has used or built Kodi or XBMC into a media player and the integrated IPVanish Kodi plugin provides access to media worldwide.

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At $5 a month or $39 a year, IPVanish is obviously trying to move you towards its yearly program. I’m a little disappointed that it only allows a seven-day trial, rather than a full 30 days, but it does offer a full money-back guarantee.

No IP address, DNS or other potentially user-identifying data leaks were detected during my testing. Even so, we recommend some caution here. In 2019, reviewers at CNET’s sister publication ZDNet detected a partial IPVanish DNS leak during testing, which could mean that organizations that want to block VPN traffic could do so and it could be harder to hide your VPN use from government authorities.

Despite this, I still recommend IPVanish as a flexible, configurable choice for users who are new to VPNs.

 

About the Author: James Rahul

Rahul is a tech enthusiast and gamer. I love writing the latest technology trends...when I'm not blogging, I play PUBG with friends...

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