VPNs are more popular than ever nowadays, but the sheer variety of services on offer makes it tricky to decide which features your network needs to have.
Some people are primarily concerned with security, while others want to optimise their streaming abilities across a slow internet connection.
Whether your decision to adopt a VPN has been inspired by privacy concerns or a love of torrents, some attributes are universally important.
These are five VPN essentials, starting with something that’s crucial for protecting your personal information…
1. A ‘no logs’ policy
If your VPN logs your IP address, it’s storing information about your online activities.
Elements of your browsing history and habits might be stored by the VPN for months at a time.
This data could potentially be passed onto the police or security services, compromising the privacy of your actions.
Under the Digital Economy Act, UK government departments can request your website history and personal information.
While you might expect the security services to have unrestricted access, even minor departments like the DVLA could request and obtain your VPN logs.
Most VPNs don’t take logs, but it’s worth noting steering clear of the ones that do if you don’t want third parties being able to view your history.
2. Varied server locations
VPNs are often used to circumvent geo-blocking, where website or streaming media providers arbitrarily restrict access to particular locations.
For example, local radio stations often elect not to broadcast live sporting events outwith a particular locality. These boundaries are often fairly quite arbitrary, creating a two-tier service across counties or regions.
If your chosen VPN has servers in multiple locations, they can create the impression you’re in a different geographic location.
This is especially useful for international websites, such as shopping platforms that are restricted to a particular country.
Another advantage of multiple server locations is data spikes are less likely to affect connection speeds, providing more dependable performance.
3. Port forwarding
If you have more than one device in your home network, port forwarding tells the VPN which particular machine incoming connections should be directed towards.
It enables a VPN to bypass network firewalls or IP addresses assigned to broadband routers, directly connecting the VPN to a specific device.
Port forwarding may significantly improve connection speeds, which is useful for people whose internet connection struggles to cope with torrents or online gaming.
4. Apps for Android and iPhone
The majority of internet traffic is carried on mobile devices nowadays, and we are increasingly relying on tablets and smartphones rather than PCs and Macs.
People want to be able to enjoy the benefits of a VPN away from their desktop or laptop computers.
While any VPN will offer Windows software, the best providers will also provide Android and iOS support.
Customer support needs to extend beyond compatibility into areas like customer service – which brings us onto our final must-have recommendation…
5. Round-the-clock customer service
A VPN is complicated by nature, and things can often go wrong.
Many people don’t fully understand how these private networks send and receive data, so they’re unprepared for issues like a connection being rejected.
Even regular users may find themselves struggling to change settings or troubleshoot a new problem when it arises.
For that reason, it’s important to choose a VPN with dependable round-the-clock customer service.
Our guide to the best VPN deals lists the levels of customer support on offer. Ideally, this should include live chat and email – at any time of the day or night.
VPNs with a reputation for solving problems quickly and easily tend to retain the most customers, who will be more likely to recommend the service to their family and friends.
Choose the VPN that’s right for you
On top of the factors listed above, a good VPN should offer affordable pricing plans. Some people would suggest a kill switch is also important, for turning off unencrypted connections.
To find the VPNs offering the best deals for your requirements, check out the latest reviews and ratings on our homepage.