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NordVPN review: Best affordable VPN

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NordVPN is one of the most prolific VPNs, offering high speeds, a strong feature set, and good security for a reasonable price.

While not the best when it comes to streaming video, NordVPN’s fast speeds and reliable uptime allow for users to do just about everything else easily and quickly.

Additionally, NordVPN’s suite of features and security protection make it a good option for general VPN users who want private Internet browsing without having to get too involved with technical details.

Overall, NordVPN is an ideal VPN service for the average VPN user as well as users who are on a budget.

Features

NordVPN is one of the most expansive VPN services in the world today. Headquartered in Panama, NordVPN boasts 2,000 IP addresses and 1,087 servers located in 61 data centers in countries across the world. (1)

NordVPN is one of the fastest VPN services available, with speed decreases of only ten to fourteen percent compared to regular browsing. While not as fast as some other services, such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN more than holds its own when it comes to fast browsing. For customers who want to use streaming services, NordVPN offers streaming-dedicated servers that can be connected to when a user needs them. (2)

NordVPN also offers a clearly-labeled kill switch feature for terminating apps while connected. It is one of the easiest-to-use and most effective kill switches offered by any VPN service, and enables faster browsing when connected to the service. (3)

In addition to the standard OpenVPN protocol, NordVPN also offers support for PTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols. While not the most expansive of feature sets, NordVPN’s protocol support is adequate for standard users who want privacy with a minimum of fuss. (4)

Additionally, NordVPN’s interface is one of the cleanest and most functional of all VPN services, allowing users to toggle the VPN on and off at will. It also includes apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, ensuring that users can access their VPN wherever and whenever they need to. Even better, NordVPN offers the most number of simultaneous connections for its users: they can have up to six devices using the VPN at once, a number that has yet to be exceeded or even matched by its competitors. (5) (6)

Finally, due to the fact that NordVPN is based in Panama, it offers top-flight security options. Because Panama does not have mandatory data-retention laws for Internet service providers and other online operations, NordVPN’s promise that it does not keep logs of users’ information is one that it can actually fulfill. For users looking for the maximum amount of privacy when surfing online, NordVPN is one of the best options available. (7) (8)

One minor ding against NordVPN is their relatively small number of servers and server locations, which means there are fewer options to choose from when connecting. This won’t affect most users, but for those who looking to cover their tracks more effectively, a VPN service with a larger number of both might be more ideal. (9)

In regards to pricing, NordVPN is one of the most affordable VPN services out there considering its feature set. It costs only $69 a year, and its introductory package is priced at $3.29 per month for a two-year plan. While its monthly payment plan is quite pricey at $11.99 per month, NordVPN also offers a 30-day money back guarantee, allowing unsatisfied customers to recoup their investment easily. (10)

Streaming/Netflix

While not specifically designed for streaming, NordVPN offers reasonable speeds that make using Netflix and other streaming services relatively easy.

In various speed tests, NordVPN only saw a 10-14 percent reduction in overall Internet speed compared to normal browsing. This is slower than other, more expensive VPN services such as ExpressVPN, which are specifically geared towards Netflix use, but still fast enough for most streaming services with only a minor decrease compared to VPN-less browsing. (11)

However, as a compensatory measure, NordVPN offers dedicated servers for streaming, and these servers, if still a bit slower than ExpressVPN, are adequate for most streaming services. (12)

Additionally, NordVPN’s mobile apps allow users to stream from their smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, allowing for added flexibility. (13)

Customer Support

NordVPN offers some of the finest customer service in the VPN industry.

The company’s website offers extensive documentation on every aspect of their VPN service, allowing users to set up their VPNs and solve problems easily, with no guesswork or Googling required and no time wasted on searching for answers. (14)

In addition, for more serious problems, NordVPN offers around-the-clock customer support via chat, email, and phone, allowing users to get answers to any questions they may have. (15)

Recap

For users looking for a mix of features, speed, and security at a reasonable price, NordVPN is your best bet.

NordVPN’s relatively low price of $69 per year is an absolute steal considering its feature set, making it ideal for average VPN users who aren’t in need of specialized features.

While not the fastest VPN service, NordVPN is still quite fast and ideal for most Internet functions, and its specialized streaming servers are a good option for those who use Netflix and other similar services.

Additionally, its security features are quite extensive, and its location in Panama ensures that its policy of not logging its users activities will actually be enforced, making NordVPN an ideal option for users who want to leave no traces online. That said, those who want to be truly undetectable might be put off by its relative lack of servers and data centers.

Users who are in dire need of a streaming-optimized VPN service would be advised to go with ExpressVPN if they can afford it, due to its faster streaming speeds, though NordVPN will suffice for casual users.

Additionally, those who need specialized VPN protocols will likely not be satisfied with NordVPN’s relative lack of features in this department.

However, for the casual VPN user, who merely wants a way to browse the Internet securely and privately, NordVPN’s reasonable price, number of features, clean interface, and strong security make it a highly recommended option.

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Cybersecurity

ExpressVPN review: Best VPN for streaming

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ExpressVPN is one of the most comprehensive and quality VPN services available today, balancing speed, security, and features.

ExpressVPN is explicitly designed for streaming services, allowing Netflix subscribers and users of other similar services fast connections and low downtime for an affordable price.

Additionally, ExpressVPN has an impressive suite of features, an easy-to-use interface that is compatible with desktop computers, iOS, and Android systems, and a private, encrypted DNS system that offers superior security to VPN services that use third-party DNS.

If you’re looking for a VPN service that offers great streaming capabilities and are willing to pay top dollar, ExpressVPN is highly recommended. Customers on a budget, however, may want to look elsewhere.

Features

Established in 2009 and headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN boasts 15,000 IP addresses and over 1,700 servers in 145 different locations across 94 countries. (1)

In terms of speed, ExpressVPN is one of the fastest services available, with speed tests showing a decrease in browsing speed of less than ten percent compared to a normal Internet connection. Some tests have even shown that using ExpressVPN is even faster than using no VPN at all. ExpressVPN also boasts unlimited speed and bandwidth, meaning that you can’t have your connection throttled for using it too much. (2)

To further enhance speed, ExpressVPN allows unlimited server switching, which enables users to find the fastest possible connection during a session with a minimum amount of time spent looking for it. Due to ExpressVPN’s presence in 94 countries, it is very easy for you to find the fastest connection possible no matter where in the world you are. (3) (4)

ExpressVPN also has an easy-to-use kill switch feature, which allows users to terminate apps immediately without having to wait, useful for those who have a limited amount of time on their hands and don’t want to wait for a lengthy disconnection process. (5)

In addition to the OpenVPN protocol, ExpressVPN offers support for PPTP, SSTP, and L2TP/IPSec, giving their services a flexibility that most VPN services lack. While most of these protocols are generally only useful for specific niches, users who need a VPN with specialized features or for specific purposes will get a lot out of ExpressVPN’s services. (6)

ExpressVPN also has a clean, easy-to-use desktop interface, as well as apps available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices that are easy to use, connect on request and use little battery power, making it a useful tool for those who need a VPN on their mobile devices. Indeed, ExpressVPN allows users to have up to three simultaneous connections. (7)

In regards to security, ExpressVPN uses its own private DNS system instead of relying on third-party DNS services, which many other VPN outlets do. This allows greater security by preventing ExpressVPN users from having their connections hijacked through third-party security vulnerabilities. (8)

For additional security, ExpressVPN also accepts Bitcoin, allowing anonymous transactions for those who want to remain as private as possible. (9)

The only real downside to ExpressVPN is its cost: at just shy of $100 per year, ExpressVPN is not an option for those who are on a budget. However, the company offers an introductory rate of $6.67 per month that includes three free months and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, meaning that users can try ExpressVPN out risk-free. As mentioned above, ExpressVPN also offers Bitcoin as a payment method. (10)

Streaming/Netflix

ExpressVPN is one of the best services available for those who need streaming capability with their VPNs.

Repeated tests have shown that ExpressVPN is capable of handling streaming services such as Netflix without a hitch, with no drops in speed or extended moments of buffering. Connections also do not drop or disconnect when streaming services are used with ExpressVPN. (11)

As mentioned above, ExpressVPN’s unlimited server switching feature is one of the main reasons why it is an ideal service for those who need streaming capability. Because you can switch between servers instantly, it’s easy to find a server that can handle Netflix or another similar service with lightning fast download speeds. (12)

Also, as mentioned earlier, ExpressVPN’s clean and functional mobile apps allow users to stream Netflix and other services from their tablets or smartphones, providing for even greater versatility. (13)

Customer Support

Bar none, ExpressVPN has some of the best customer service in the VPN industry.

The documentation on ExpressVPN’s website is very extensive and thorough, explaining all aspects of using the service, allowing users to diagnose problems and get solutions on their own. Most notably, ExpressVPN offers a thorough explanation of their private DNS service, describing its benefits and why they don’t rely on third-party DNS providers like many other VPN services. (14)

In addition to documentation, ExpressVPN offers 24/7 customer support via chat, email and phone, meaning that if you need an answer to a question or a solution to a problem, help is never far away. (15)

Recap

ExpressVPN is an ideal VPN service for those who need streaming capabilities or fast speed, because its ability to do both is unparalleled in the industry. However, due to its high price point, some users may be deterred if they are not in particular need of either.

ExpressVPN’s $6.67 per month introductory rate, including three free months and a 30-day money back guarantee, allows users who are cautious about taking the full plunge to try out the service and see if it fits their needs. Bitcoin users will also be pleased with the fact that ExpressVPN accepts Bitcoin as a payment method.

However, there are other VPN services like NordVPN that offer just as many features as ExpressVPN (if not ExpressVPN’s speeds) but are considerably less expensive.

Ultimately, ExpressVPN is an excellent service with good features, an easy-to-use interface, great security, and some of the fastest speeds available in the VPN world. Its support for protocols other than OpenVPN also make it a worthwhile option for niche users who need a VPN for specialized functions. However, if you’re not prepared to pay nearly $100 a year for a VPN and/or you don’t specifically need a VPN that is capable of fast, reliable streaming, you should look elsewhere.

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Cybersecurity

CyberGhost review: VPN on a budget

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CyberGhost is a VPN service targeted at consumers on a budget.

Unlike most leading VPN services (like NordVPN), CyberGhost offers a free service with unlimited use, though this free service is severely restricted in its features. Paid users have access to the site’s complete suite of features.

While CyberGhost has reasonable security, its lack of features, inability to use more than one device simultaneously, and slow speeds make it a weak option compared to other VPN services.

CyberGhost’s free service and inexpensive premium service make it a possible option for VPN users on a tight budget. However, if possible, you should look to another VPN service with more functionality.

Features

CyberGhost is based in Romania and Germany and boasts 800 servers across 26 countries, though the bulk of their servers are concentrated in North America and Europe, meaning that users on other continents will struggle to find a server that will work for them. (1)

CyberGhost is one of the slowest VPN services on the market. Comprehensive speed tests consistently showed that CyberGhost Premium featured speeds that were 40 percent slower than regular connections, meaning that the service is unusable for anything other than basic web browsing. For users of CyberGhost’s free service, connection speeds are only 20 percent of the Premium service, slowing your Internet use to a crawl. (2) (3)

Additionally, both the free and paid services from CyberGhost lack a kill switch feature, meaning users have no way to disable programs that are taking up unnecessary bandwidth. Fortunately, bandwidth is unlimited. (4)

CyberGhost also lacks support for protocols other than OpenVPN, leaving users who need a VPN for specialized purposes out in the cold. (5)

CyberGhost’s interface is cumbersome and difficult to use. While experienced VPN users will be able to make sense of how the service works, CyberGhost’s opaque interface and confusing design mean that casual users will be at a loss of how to proceed, making it a poor choice for them. The free version of CyberGhost also allows only one connection at a time, there’s a waiting period before you can connect to the service, and CyberGhost will automatically disconnect you if you are online for more than three hours. The free service is also ad-supported. (6)

CyberGhost offers decent security settings, though there is nothing unique or special about its approach, with other VPN services offering better security. As mentioned above, the service’s limited number of servers and their geographical concentration in Europe and North America is a major limiting factor for users outside of those continents and/or those who want to cover their tracks with a large server pool. (7) (8)

CyberGhost’s major advantage is pricing. The free service obviously won’t cost you a dime, and is functional enough that it can be used for occasional browsing or light use if you only need a VPN every so often. The Premium service costs roughly $30 a year at its introductory rate and unlocks the full functionality of the software, and CyberGhost also offers a 30-day money back guarantee. Additionally, any user who downloads the free CyberGhost software can gain access to a three-day trial of CyberGhost Premium. (9) (10)

Streaming/Netflix

CyberGhost’s poor connection speeds make it a bad option for those who use Netflix or other streaming services.

As mentioned above, CyberGhost Premium slows down Internet speeds to 40 percent of regular browsing, making streaming a cumbersome and slow process. The free version of the software is even worse, incapable of loading even YouTube videos on a timely basis. (11)

Due to CyberGhost’s slow speeds and relative lack of options, those looking for streaming functionality are better off looking elsewhere.

Customer Support

CyberGhost offers adequate customer support, though it is not as good as NordVPN or other, more expensive VPN services.

CyberGhost’s documentation is somewhat unwieldy and incomplete, meaning that combined with the poorly-designed interface, anyone other than VPN experts will struggle to set the software up and solve problems on their own. Expect to spend a good deal of your time Googling the solutions to problems involving your CyberGhost VPN. (12)

At the same time, CyberGhost Premium offers decent technical support via email, phone, and chat, so paid users can at least obtain help for their various problems. However, these options are generally restricted to Premium users: while free users can obtain help via email, responses will be much slower. (13)

Due to CyberGhost’s limited customer support, CyberGhost Premium is not advised for newbies or anyone else unfamiliar with how VPNs works.

Recap

CyberGhost’s only real selling point is its low price, with users able to pay $30 per year for the Premium version of the software or use the free, ad-supported version.

However, you get what you pay for, and on almost every front, both the free and paid versions of CyberGhost are inadequate compared to their competition.

CyberGhost’s confusing and opaque interface make configuring it a chore for all but VPN experts, and the relative lack of documentation in the site’s support section doesn’t help.

Making matters worse, the service’s sluggish speeds (on both free and Premium versions) make using it a time-wasting pain for anything other than the most basic of Internet tasks.

Both versions of CyberGhost lack basic, fundamental features that their competitors readily boast, such as multiple simultaneous connections and different types of protocols, meaning that power users and specialist users will get little out of either version of the service.

CyberGhost’s security, while adequate, fails to distinguish itself in any way, and the site’s small number of servers means that those who are looking to remain as undetectable as possible are unlikely to be able to get much use out of their VPNs.

Finally, CyberGhost is a poor choice for non-North American and non-European users, as the service has a decided lack of servers outside of those two continents, making getting a stable and fast connection difficult.

Ultimately, CyberGhost’s free service is only really recommended for those who only occasionally need a VPN, while its Premium service can only be recommended to those on very tight budgets. Everyone else should choose a different option for their VPN needs.

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