How do we test VPNs

Navigating the vast landscape of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can be daunting. With numerous providers claiming to be the best, it’s essential to have a systematic approach to evaluate their true worth.

This article delves into the systematic process behind our VPN assessments. Our evaluation hinges on six critical criteria: speed, security, server availability, price, streaming service compatibility, and device support.

By understanding the benchmarks in these areas, you’ll gain clarity on what truly makes a VPN stand out in today’s competitive market.

How do we test VPNs?

To differentiate between a good VPN and a bad VPN, we test them over various criteria.

The key metrics we look at are speed, security, servers, price, streaming service compatibility, and device availability.

Speed

When we test VPNs, speed is a top priority. We want to see if the VPN affects our internet’s performance. To do this, we conduct speed tests in two main steps:

  1. Testing Without the VPN: We first measure our internet speed without the VPN activated. This gives us a baseline — the original speed of our connection.
  2. Testing With the VPN: After noting our base speed, we activate the VPN and connect to various servers worldwide. For each connection, we measure the internet speed again.
  3. Comparing the Results: With the two sets of speed data, we can then compare. Ideally, the speed when using the VPN should be close to the speed without it. If there’s a significant reduction when the VPN is on, it indicates that the VPN may substantially impact internet speed.

Security

When you use the internet, your device sends out requests to a Domain Name System (DNS) to convert website names (like “reviewsfire.com”) into IP addresses, which are used to locate and access those websites.

Without a VPN, these DNS requests are usually handled by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and they can log or monitor which websites you’re accessing.

A VPN is designed to route these requests through its secure servers, preventing your ISP from seeing what you’re doing online. This is an essential part of what makes VPNs secure.

A DNS leak occurs when, despite being connected to a VPN, your DNS requests are still sent through your ISP instead of the VPN. This is a security issue because it means your ISP can still see and potentially record which websites you visit, defeating the fundamental purpose of using a VPN.

When we test VPNs, we perform DNS leak tests to ensure they keep your online activities private from your ISP. If a VPN fails this test, it’s a sign that it might not be as secure as advertised. The best VPNs pass these tests and ensure your online activities remain private.

Servers

One of the top features we look at when assessing VPNs is the number of servers they offer. Having many servers globally is a strong indicator of a high-quality VPN service.

Why Does the Number of Servers Matter?

  1. Enhanced Performance: With more servers, users have a greater chance of finding one that’s not overcrowded, which can lead to faster internet speeds. Crowded servers tend to be slower because they’re handling too many connections at once.
  2. More Choice for Location: A broad distribution of servers worldwide gives users more choices. This means they can connect to a server physically closer to them or select a server in a specific country to bypass geo-restrictions.
  3. Reliability: Users can easily switch to another if one server goes down or gets congested. The more servers a VPN has, the more backup options are available.
  4. Improved Anonymity: A higher number of servers increases the likelihood of multiple users sharing the same server. This makes it harder to single out one individual’s online activity, thus offering better privacy.

Price

When we test VPNs, one of the factors we consider is their price. Our research determined that among the top 20 VPN services, the average monthly cost is $4.33. This figure becomes our benchmark or reference point.

So, when we assess other VPNs, we compare their monthly fees to this average price. We expect a VPN service to offer superior features or performance if it costs more than this average. It might be seen as a good-value choice if it’s less, provided it meets our other criteria. This average helps us gauge whether a VPN offers good value for its price in relation to its peers.

Streaming services

One main reason people use VPNs is to watch TV shows and films unavailable in their country. These shows and movies are sometimes on online streaming platforms like Netflix or BBC iPlayer. Each of these platforms has different shows available depending on where you are in the world, and this is called geo-blocking.

However, these streaming platforms don’t like it when people use VPNs to get around these restrictions. They put up barriers to stop VPNs from accessing their content. So, a good VPN will have special ways to bypass these barriers and let users watch whatever they want, no matter where they are.

When we test a VPN, one of the things we check is whether it can overcome these barriers on different streaming platforms. The top VPNs should let you access most popular streaming platforms from anywhere in the world.

Device availability

One crucial aspect we look into is how many devices you can use with a single VPN subscription simultaneously. In plain terms, this is like having a single internet package at home that everyone in the family uses, but instead of people, we’re referring to devices like your laptop, phone, tablet, and maybe even a smart TV.

Why does this matter? Well, most of us have more than one device these days. You might want to use a VPN on your computer to keep your online work secure, but at the same time, perhaps you want to watch a show on your tablet that’s only available in another country. In this scenario, a VPN that allows multiple devices to be connected simultaneously becomes very handy.

So, in the process of testing VPNs, we see how many devices they allow at once. The more devices a VPN supports, the more versatile it is for a user. It means that with a single subscription, you can get value for money by covering several devices rather than just one.

This aspect is also important for families or households where multiple members might need VPN services. Instead of buying separate subscriptions for everyone, a single subscription that supports multiple devices can save both money and hassle.

Patch Bowen
Patch Bowen is an accomplished technology journalist with a solid academic foundation, holding a degree from Auckland University. His expertise spans across a range of tech topics, with a notable focus on product reviews, industry trends, and the impact of technology on society. With his work featured on major New Zealand websites like Stuff.co.nz, thebit.nz, and The Press, Patch has established himself as a credible voice in technology media. His articles are known for their detailed analysis and practical insights, particularly in making complex technological concepts understandable for a broad audience. At ReviewsFire, Patch is renowned for his thorough evaluations and clear, informative writing style. He has a knack for identifying and explaining the nuances of the latest gadgets and digital trends, earning him a reputation as a trusted source for tech advice and information.

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