You’ve probably heard the word VPN a lot more times, both online and offline. If you don’t know what it is, you’ve probably been wondering what it’s used for.
Many people use VPNs out of hearsay that a given VPN has the best service or has received the best reviews. They don’t go deep to question the features a VPN uses to provide services, leave alone the best features that make a good VPN.
In this article, we explain what a VPN is and what it is used for with a list of 7 best features that you should look out for when choosing a VPN.
What Does a VPN Do?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an online privacy and security application. You can install it on your device or add it as an extension on your browser.
The key function of a VPN is to protect your privacy, help you stay safe online, and give you unrestricted internet access. Most importantly, a VPN encrypts your data, hides your IP address and location by creating a private virtual tunnel to conceal your traffic.
Furthermore, a VPN protects your privacy by hiding your internet activities such as your browsing and search history, your device information (model), and your internet identity.
What Is a VPN Used for?
By hiding your identity, IP address, and location, a VPN can:
- hide device, browser history and online activity from ISP, government, or the website you visit,
- mask your true location,
- encrypt your browsing traffic to access restricted content,
- reroute your traffic through an encrypted, remote server, so it can’t be manipulated, inspected, or censored,
- access geographically-restricted content,
- protect your data on public Wi-Fi network,
- stop ISP throttling and stream or torrent content from other countries safely, and
- choose between multiple private server locations.
Knowing why people use a VPN, your second guess will be to know precisely how it works, or what makes it safe in the first place. Also, you’ll want to know how to find the right VPN provider.
All these questions depend on the features a VPN service is using to do what it is designed for. When choosing a VPN, you must ensure that your choice has the best features for privacy and security on the internet.
7 Best Features of VPNs You Should Be On the Look Out for
VPN features should be the first thing you should think about when searching for a virtual private network service provider. However, given the several options that different VPNs often boast about, ordinary users may not know what to look out for or which features to focus on mostly.
Here are 7 best features that a VPN should have for it to be considered effective:
The key function of a VPN is to encrypt your internet traffic, and it needs a strong encryption protocol to do that. This means that powerful encryption is a must-have feature for any VPN service.
Weak encryption allows your ISP or anyone else to monitor your internet activities, including location and may allow hackers to steal your sensitive data.
The general rule of thumb is for a VPN to have AES (both AES-128 and AES-256) encryption. This is a standard, advanced encryption that even large corporations such as NSA, Microsoft, and Apple use.
Secure VPN protocols
A reliable VPN service provider must give users the ability to connect to a server using OpenVPN – the most secure VPN protocol. OpenVPN is not the only safe VPN protocol, though.
If the VPN doesn’t use the OpenVPN protocol, it should provide other protocols, such as:
Any VPN protocol that is below these mentioned ones may not be a secure choice.
Plentiful Server Locations
A VPN masks your data and traffic by encrypting them using a tunnel between your device and the VPN’s server. It also hides your location, making it appear as if your device uses the VPN server’s IP address instead of your true IP address. You’d then appear to be on a different geographical location and not your actual location.
The more server locations a VPN has, the better service you’ll get when it comes to unlocking geo-restricted areas or geo-restricted content.
DNS Leak Protection
Domain Name System (DNS) leaks can be a technical term to understand, but it simply refers to the process where your browser sends DNS requests to your ISP’s DNS server directly.
A DNS translates your IP addresses into website names or website names into your IP address. This is how your ISP identifies you and tracks your internet activities, including the websites you visit.
If you have a VPN installed in your device, the DNS queries will have to pass through the VPN server and help mask your IP address.
The VPN service you choose should offer DNS leak protection to ensure that your ISP doesn’t monitor your internet activities.
VPN Kill Switch
A kill switch is a key feature in VPN services and one of the best features to support the VPN’s privacy and security provision.
A VPN kill switch essentially cuts off your device’s internet access in the event that your connection to a VPN server drops. Thought harsh, this is meant to protect you from accidental exposure on the internet.
Technology is not always perfect. Sometimes, you may experience connectivity issues with your VPN server. This can be due to different reasons, including your device’s Wi-Fi connection may be experiencing problems.
If this happens, both your real IP address and online traffic will be exposed and your personal information will be in danger. This is where the kill switch comes in handy as it instantly stops all your traffic until you can properly reconnect to your VPN’s server.
Data encryption can sometimes cause lags. This is why a VPN provider must have high-speed servers to enable users to continue enjoying smooth surfing experiences.
Some VPN providers offer unlimited bandwidth as a bonus to ensure their servers double up as proxy servers.
High-speed servers also help boost the device or the internet speed when the device is under high resource usage.
A VPN service should be flexible enough and support different devices, such as:
- smart TVs
- Blackberry/iOS/Android devices
- Microsoft phones
Decent VPN service providers offer multiple cross-platform compatibilities. This makes their services available on multiple operating systems and devices. By doing so, they cater to the needs of more users who have multiple devices.
These are the seven best features that any VPN service should offer. However, these are not all. There are a lot of more other features that you can use to gauge a VPN, such as:
- No-log policy
- instant customer support
- split tunneling
- define simultaneous connections
We’ve not covered all the VPN features in this list, such as pricing.
Remember, you are paying for a VPN to keep you completely safe and protect your privacy on the internet. This is exactly what you should get, without any compromise.
As you shop around for the best VPN, you can use review websites such as VPN Watch to help you choose the best VPN for your needs.
The VPN you choose may not have each of these best features. However, if its features address your VPN needs, then you can go for it.