Having a VPN can help when keeping things anonymous online, but does the VPN currently being used meet all the needs of the user? While all VPNs have similar functions, some have more features and operate at different standard. With so many providers to choose from, how do you know which one is right?

First, it’s important to know  what is a VPN technology  to assess the user’s needs. This will help determine what they are looking for. Is it access to a home network? A VPN is designed to provide access to a remote network, so this shouldn’t be on the list, or at least not at the top. This may just be an instance of learning how to set up a home VPN server.

What about accessing information from other areas or countries? When traveling, or when wanting to make it seem like they are in a particular area to access their content, the VPN provider should be top-notch in this area. Out of the country and need US access? Check the exit nodes to make sure they have a number of US exit nodes to make sure you will be able to get through. This is the best option for geo-shifting your location.

Is the user a casual browser and just wants to know their browsing activities are secure? A VPN is a perfect option when using public Wi-Fi. Most people don’t realize how dangerous it is to use these public networks, which are breeding grounds for hackers. Airport routers and even café hotspots have the greatest chance of being compromised, exposing user data. If the user frequents these areas and needs a secure connection, they won’t need a super-powerful VPN provider, but do need one with a reputation of being able to keep information safe.

Is being anonymous on the web a priority? Although VPNs are good at keeping some things anonymous, it should not be the only solution to keep an identity unknown. A VPN can circumvent the user’s identity, helping deny they were on certain servers. If this type of security is needed, the VPN provider should have a large user base and confirm they do not keep a record of usage. This is becoming a widespread problem in the United States, because its been said US law will require VPN providers to log activities. Right now, there is no such law, but there are certain laws that will compel a provider to turn over their data. In this instance, the VPN provider should have high logging, encryption standards and protocols.

So how to choose the right VPN provider?

There is a process, because every VPN is different. First, the user should make a note to completely overlook PPTP because it is dated and does not have strong encryption standards. OpenVPN is the best solution, unless using specific VPN software for mobile devices. The VPN provider should have a number of servers in different countries Making sure the provider has those capabilities is key.

Also, when setting up the VPN, consider who will be using it. Is it a VPN that will need to have accessibility on a number of devices? Will more than one person be sharing the VPN? Is there a need to use different exit nodes on different devices? The user should plan to have at least two concurrent connections, so the VPN should have those capabilities. The VPN should limit throttling and should not have a limit on bandwidth. It’s important to determine whether the VPN provider can restrict services. If the user does a lot of file sharing, these types of restrictions could hinder their productivity.

Again, if the user does not want their information logged, this should be a concern. While most VPNs do not keep logs of the activities of their users, it is best to read the fine print. If the user needs a VPN that does not keep logs, they should look around to locate a provider that will accommodate those needs. Some VPNs do keeps logs, but only for a minimal time of a few hours due to maintenance protocols. In these instances, that VPN may be worth using.

When purchasing a VPN, if there is any reason for the user to keep their identity anonymous, it may be best to use gift cards or some other form of payment that cannot be traced. By using this method, the user can redeem the card for VPN credit and avoid being identified.

What about kill switches?

Is there a need for a kill switch? A good VPN provider usually has a system of this type in place to automatically lock connections. This will protect the computer and user from the system defaulting to an unsecured connection.

Once the user knows what they want and need, it should be easy to decipher which VPN providers offer the best solutions that will work. This list is a good starting point in designing a blueprint and getting the right VPN. There are a number of providers on the market but testing the waters before jumping all the way in can make a difference. The  free trial VPN by Surfshark  gives potential users the opportunity to see if they have everything they want and need.

The right VPN can protect a user’s identity and their sensitive information, giving them the confidence they need to move forward without wondering whether they will be compromised. By taking the time to carefully vet each VPN provider, it will be easy to separate the ones that will be most beneficial and the ones that won’t be of any use.

VPNs are the wave of the future, especially as data breaches and cybercrime continue to be a part of everyday life. Education is the key. Having a safe way to navigate online not only removes the stress of wondering when, not if sensitive data will be breached, but also offers an opportunity to become aware of other shows and activities in other parts of the world.