A VPN can be described as an encrypted tunnel that shuttles your internet activity between your PC or phone and a host server. While the internet is a public space, a VPN works by extending an invisibility cloak across the user's activity and allows people to send and receive data in a mostly-anonymous manner. In the simplest terms, a VPN makes it hard for someone to track your activity.

It's true, there are plenty of free VPN services out there, but paid services are almost always a better option. You need a service that has fast speeds even when streaming video, and you want a service that doesn't keep logs of its users' activities. To help you decide which VPN is best, here are some great options that are available now.

Impressive features

NordVPN

Lots of servers, plenty of features, and a reasonable price.

With rock-solid encryption and plenty of connection protocols for you to use, including OpenVPN, this is one of the best services operating today.

NordVPN operates out of Panama, which means it has no legal obligation to record any of the activities of its users. You're free to connect to any of the 5,000+ VPN servers in 62 countries, and you can use NordVPN on up to six different devices at once. I awarded NordVPN a near-perfect score in my review, focusing on the large set of extra features, like double VPN, P2P-dedicated servers, a DNS leak resolver, and a dedicated single IP address. Grab a year subscription for about $7 a month, go short term with a $12 monthly plan, or choose one-year or six-month plans to best suit your needs.

Server variety

ExpressVPN

Choose from a large number of servers spread out over 94 countries.

With more than 2,000 servers spread out over 148 locations in 94 countries, you're sure to find one that fits your specific needs.

ExpressVPN is one of the most popular services for a reason. Setup is very simple and there's 24/7 customer support to help out if needed, ExpressVPN has strong encryption with minimal logs, and it's hosted in the British Virgin Islands.

Rated one of the top VPN services by BestVPN, it had this to say in the review: "ExpressVPN offers a fully featured and highly polished service that oozes professionalism. Its superb customer service, easy-to-use software, and generous 30-day money-back guarantee have always been big pulls."

You get unlimited bandwidth, server switches, and speed for a great experience, and you can try it out for 30 days with a money-back guarantee on your side. A one-year subscription is your best bet, costing about $8 per month.

Based in U.S.

IPVanish

Smart UI, strong encryption, and crypto-payment options.

IPVanish is one of the easiest VPNs to use, thanks to an app with a user interface that appeals to both novices and experts alike.

In our review of IPVanish, I gave a four-star rating for its strong encryption, excellent performance, and a large set of servers. While it is based in the U.S., the company promises to keep no logs other than payment information, which you can also avoid by paying with Bitcoin. IPVanish has more than 40,000 unique IP addresses on more than 1,000 servers spread out over more than 60 countries, meaning you get some serious diversity. There's no limit to how many times you can switch servers, allowing you to move around until you find the absolute best. Toss in a kill switch, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and manual port selection, and this becomes a very attractive option. Yearly plans start at about $6 per month, while monthly plans start at about $10.

Simple interface

Private Internet Access VPN

A great VPN hidden behind a barebones UI many will love.

When it comes to a VPN and its apps, some people want a UI that has only what is needed. Private Internet Access is exactly this..

With one click, you'll be connected to a server of your choosing. There are more than 3,000 servers in 33 different countries, and they support torrenting without jeopardizing speeds. Private Internet Access is based in the U.S. but does not log its users' activity beyond payment information.

It was chosen as an Editors' Choice at PCMag, where the site concluded its review with this: "Private Internet Access is easy to recommend, but only with an asterisk. Yes, it's incredibly robust with powerful tools and an extensive network of VPN servers across the world. It also has a strong privacy stance when it comes to protecting customer information. And it's incredibly simple, but (and this is the asterisk) it's also stripped to the bone in terms of interface."

Connect five devices simultaneously, enjoy ad-blocking features, and take advantage of no bandwidth or speed caps. A two-year plan starts at about $3 per month, while monthly plans cost about $7.

IP Vanish Nord VPN Express VPN PIA VPN
Who It's For Everyone Everyone Everyone Everyone
Free Version? 7-day Money Back 3-day Trial 30-day Trial 7-day Money Back
Lowest Price $6.49/​month $6.99/​month $8.32/​month $2.91/​month
Ad Blocking? No Yes No Yes
Server Count 1000+ 5000+ 2000+ 3000+
P2P Allowed On P2P Servers Allowed Allowed
Connections 10 6 3 5
Router? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Anonymous Payment? Yes Yes Yes Yes

Why use a VPN?

The Best VPN Services for 2017

VPNs are primarily used to keep a shred of privacy while navigating the internet in an age where your every move is monitored. Search engines love to keep track of you for marketing purposes, and your ISP might even be using your browsing history to make a bit of profit. A VPN effectively blocks that from happening, and it can even help get past government restrictions if you're living in a less-than-free country. If you travel or frequent coffee shops, Wi-Fi hotspots can be easily compromised, but a VPN will keep your data safe.

Overall, you'll get more privacy, better security, fewer trackers, and fewer restrictions while using a VPN when browsing the internet.

What to look for in a VPN

VPNs are not all the same, and you should always opt for a paid service rather than a free service. Money has to come from somewhere, so if it's not your wallet, it's likely from your data being sold off.

A good VPN will have plenty of servers spread out over a large number of locations and countries, and you generally want a service that's based not in your own country or in a country that's good friends with the one you live in. Support for OpenVPN, the current standard for VPN protocols, is preferred, and you want to be able to connect multiple devices simultaneously.

There should be no — or very minimal — logs kept surrounding your internet habits while using a VPN, and there should be lots of ways to pay for a subscription that don't involve identifying yourself. Finally, a good VPN shouldn't put a cap on bandwidth or speed.

If we have to pick one

The current internet climate makes it easy to recommend a VPN service. There's no such thing as too much privacy, but this can be a considerable amount of money for a service so you want to be happy with your investment. If I have to recommend one option, NordVPN has been nearly flawless, and it's among the cheapest for a two-year subscription.

There are more than 5,000 servers spread out over 62 countries, you can use it simultaneously on six devices, no logs are kept (it's based in Panama), you can pay with anonymous cryptocurrencies, and there's no cap on bandwidth.

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