If you obsess about your privacy, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service might be something you are considering. A VPN creates a secure tunnel between a client device and a Local Area Network (LAN), and while those packets may traverse the open Internet, they are encrypted. Further, a VPN service manipulates the header data in the packet stream, replacing your PC's IP address with one of its own, masking the origin of the information you are sending.
In The Pros And Cons Of Using A VPN Or Proxy Service, we covered some of the basic criteria for VPN service purchasing considerations, including the number, speed and location of VPN servers, personal data retention policies, client support, cipher and protocol support, and payment methods. We've also conducted some of our own testing of these services, and we've asked for your input on them as well.
* Note: Data was obtained directly from the VPN vendors.
In our introductory article, we asked our readers to tell us what they like and don't like about VPN services they've used, and to rate each on a scale of 1-5. For the past several weeks, the readers have been going to our survey and we've had over 500 responses so far.
In our survey, we provided a choice of 10 popular VPN services: Hide My Ass! (HMA!), IPVanish, Private Internet Access (PIA), TorGuard, BTGuard, Mullvad, NordVPN, OctaneVPN, PeRiQuito AB and ClickVPN.
We also had an option for write-ins, of which you gave us 20. Of the 30 total services, only seven received at least 10 responses (our cut-off to be included). At this point the seven that received at least 10 responses include the top five which we've already evaluated (AirVPN, HMA!, IPVanish, PIA and TorGuard), along with BTGuard and CyberGhost.
PIA received the largest number of responses (227), by a wide margin, making it our de facto "most popular." Last time, TorGuard and IPVanish had slightly higher scores based on the average ratings, but we were right in feeling those scores weren't stable — TorGuard had only garnered 14 responses, and IPVanish only 29. The updated scores include the latest reader ratings and put TorGuard and IPVanish lower than PIA with a score of four stars each at 31 and 43 ratings, respectively.
New to this list, AirVPN racked up a score of 4.76! However, with only 21 responses thus far, we'll continue to monitor the ratings of this service before considering it for an award.
Our cutoff for award consideration is at least 50 reader ratings, and this time HMA! topped that mark, but with an average score of only four stars, it doesn't receive one.
Given its popularity and its high reader rating, PIA is our Reader Recommended pick. Private Internet Access also has the best overall results according to our tests, the details of which are enumerated in our reviews and summary data below. The company's policies are in-line with other providers, it offers solid support and compatibility, the price is right and the speeds are great (occasionally amazing).