Quite frequently, VPN services are used by employees located in remote areas or who are temporarily out of the office to access resources on a private LAN. Although most VPN services are generally paid for, there are also free services that offer anonymity, but at what cost?
In this post, we’ll weigh up free vs paid VPN and highlight the differences.
A VPN or Virtual Private Network ensures the security and privacy of a private or public network. This is done by using a system or protocol whereby the user’s computer is assigned a new IP address which is owned by the VPN. All of a user’s Internet use is then channeled to the VPN server. Once there, it is decrypted and allowed to travel to the new IP address.
The user’s Internet Service Provider will only see a single stream of the encrypted data stream between the user and the VPN server. The ISP will not be able to log and monitor or control the user’s internet usage.
What are the advantages of a VPN?
In this day of hacking online accounts, unsolicited data tracking, security and privacy are important concerns of those who use the Internet extensively for work.
Apart from a virtual firewall, up to 256 bit SSL encryption security and hiding your ISP IP address, the other benefits of using a VPN are unrestricted speed and bandwidth and access to blocked websites. Ads on the internet are blocked. Most of them have apps on Android and iOS and so can be accessed on mobile phones also. It can be accessed from multiple server locations, wherever you are.
Probably the best-known anonymizing service among the free offerings is TOR. This program uses a network of volunteered connections to anonymize your IP address when you visit websites or use other resources.
This is a popular solution for those who only need anonymous surfing once in a while. You can do a good job of obscuring your IP address but, given enough skill and the time and resources to make use of that skill, your IP address can be traced back to you.
There are other free services out there, as well, but they do lack some of the principal advantages of paid VPN. Particularly for businesses, paid VPN services have some significant advantages that cannot be easily overlooked.
Once you start to use a free VPN you will experience the downside. They tend to be slow and hard to get a connection and worse, they often place advertising on your browser to pay for the ‘free’ VPN.
And if you look below the surface of advertising-free VPNs you quickly realize that what appeared to be free is actually a scam of sorts.
When the advertiser puts adverts on your browser they also place a permanent cookie on your machine which means that when you get off the free VPN, the cookie persists and shows the advertiser you’re real underlying IP so that they can track your browsing habits and send you more advertising.
How secure is that? So instead of your ISP getting your IP and browser link history, hundreds of advertisers obtain and store that information on their servers. And advertiser’s servers are rife with vulnerabilities and are hacked regularly so who winds up with your data? The very hackers you didn’t want to have sniffing and stealing your data in the first place. It was easier for them to steal your data from the advertiser’s server then from your directly.
Also, free VPNs have no server security of their own. Unlike a premium VPN which secures its servers and protects its servers against hackers, free VPNs make no such investment.
The free services do have some advantages. For example, if you only need a VPN network or an anonymous IP address every once in a great while, it may not be worth your while to pay for VPN services.
Other than that, however, the advantages of the paid services are significant enough that they constitute the only realistic choices for business users and for individuals who frequently need anonymity and security.
If you’re switching from a free VPN service to a paid VPN service, the first improvement you’ll likely notice is speed. Paid VPN services compete partially on the basis of how fast their servers can get their users to webpages, so they do tend to be pretty fast.
Free services, including TOR, can be agonizingly slow at times. Additionally, while those free services may obscure your IP address, they don’t necessarily encrypt any of the traffic between you and your destination server, which is a significant issue for business users.
Overall, paid services are generally much better VPN options for businesses and individuals. The main advantage is that there is a company behind the service and, therefore, there’s someone to call and ask if you have a question.
Paid services also have the advantage of there being an accountable party in the event that something goes wrong. For businesses, this is a necessity. It’s really difficult to use a free service for business purposes because of the lack of technical support and the lack of a company that can provide assistance if the product turns out to be possessed of one problem or another.
If a free service fails, of course, there’s no way to get your money back and there’s really nobody that you can hold responsible for the failure in any regard.
A premium VPN may also provide server security as well as many servers to change or hide IP in many countries as well as an encrypted encapsulated tunnel connection that protects users from any threats.
One premium VPN even provides many additional features that give you more security than any free and most premium VPNs and that premium VPN also provides antivirus, antimalware, anti-spam, anti-phishing and firewall protection for its users at its secure servers so that users’ computers are protected against malware long before they get on the users’ network. Now that’s a good premium VPN worth paying for!
Free vs paid VPN: final thoughts
Hopefully, now you realize that paying for a VPN is a far superior solution to using the free ones. I guess you have to balance the cost vs the amount of time you’ll be using it, but with many packages starting from as little as $5 per month, it is a very small price to pay for peace of mind.
There are many VPN services out there – Over 100 premium and 50 free VPN software services, it’s now down to you to choose the right one.