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The Best VPN Services of 2021

By
Jeff Hale
,
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
| Updated
Nov 12, 2021

We reviewed the industry's top VPN services and recommend these vendors as the best tools for online privacy and anonymity.
Best for Performance
More than 3,000 servers
Standard split tunneling
Pricing as low as $6.67 per month
Best for Reliability
More than 6,500 servers
Affordable dedicated IP options
Pricing as low as $3.33 per month
Best for Value
More than 1,600 physical servers
Unlimited devices
Pricing as low as $2.40 per month
Best for Protocols
More than 6,500 servers
Affordable dedicated IP options
Pricing as low as $3.33 per month
Best for Network Size
More than 6,900 servers
Special NoSpy servers
Pricing as low as $2.25 per month
We reviewed the industry's top VPN services and recommend these vendors as the best tools for online privacy and anonymity.

  • Small businesses with limited resources should consider a VPN service that doesn't restrict the number of devices per account.
  • Businesses with significant privacy concerns should look for VPN services that participate in regular third-party audits.
  • Businesses should always look for a VPN service with unlimited bandwidth.
  • This article is for business owners shopping for the perfect VPN service for their needs. 

A virtual private network (VPN) is the best way to keep your online activity confidential. Whether you want to ensure your sensitive data stays hidden from malicious threats, bothersome advertisers, or snooping internet service providers (ISPs), routing your web traffic through an encrypted virtual tunnel is the best way to keep your online activity private. We tested the most popular VPN services to help you understand how they differ and which one will most effectively address your business's needs. Read more to find the best VPN service for you, your in-office staff, and your remote team members.

Compare Our Best Picks

VPN Use case Editor's score Starting annual price Free trial Servers Dedicated IP Supported devices
ExpressVPN Best for performance 96/100 $99.95 30 days 3,000+ No 5
NordVPN Best for reliability 95/100 $143.40 30 days 5,500+ Yes 6
IPVanish Best for value 91/100 $89.99 None 1,300+ No Unlimited
PureVPN Best for protocols 93/100 $69.95 7 days 6,500+ Yes 10
CyberGhost Best for network size 95/100 $47.88 45-day money-back guarantee 7,300+ Yes 7
Hotspot Shield Best for streaming 90/100 $95.88 7 days 3,200+ No 5
Surfshark Best for multi-hop servers 94/100 $59.76 30 days 3,200+ No Unlimited

Reviews

ExpressVPN: Best VPN for Performance

ExpressVPN is ideal for freelancers and small business owners who want to minimize the typical performance hit of using an encrypted tunnel.
Anyone looking for a large server footprint will be satisfied with ExpressVPN's 160 server locations.
The limit of five simultaneous devices per account is low, considering other companies offer many more, even unlimited devices in some cases.

ExpressVPN helps you take full control of your online privacy at high speeds through servers with private DNS in more than 160 locations worldwide. It has a substantial network of more than 3,000 servers that support myriad protocols throughout 94 countries across the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. The company is headquartered in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands and participates in third-party testing, having released the results of its Chrome extension tests. It did not release the complete results of the full audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers, but that's not uncommon with such audits.

Editor's score: 96/100

ExpressVPN utilizes a protocol called Lightway, with a lightweight codebase it claims can help you connect to servers faster and protect you through a robust wolfSSL cryptography library. In our tests, we found it to be among the fastest VPNs in terms of internet speed, especially on the download side. Its dedication to performance is demonstrated in its standard split-tunneling feature that lets you exclude select devices or applications from your VPN to maximize performance when anonymity is not necessary. It also has a "speed test" feature that ranks download speed and connection latency across servers to help you quickly identify the best option for any data-heavy internet activity.

Performance does come at a cost: ExpressVPN is priced on the higher side at $6.67 per month with a 15-month subscription. The one-month recurring option costs $12.95 per month. All of the subscription tiers include a 30-day money-back guarantee, giving you a low-commitment way to explore one of the top VPN services.

Read ExpressVPN Review

NordVPN: Best VPN for Reliability

NordVPN is great for professionals whose work depends on a high expectation of privacy.
It's an excellent choice for users who travel to parts of the world where online privacy is highly restricted.
The average VPN user who doesn't need advanced privacy features may overpay for NordVPN's offerings.

NordVPN is one of the larger VPN services we've reviewed, with a massive network of 5,324 servers in 59 countries. The company is headquartered in Panama, where there are no mandatory data retention laws, to better support its "strict no-log policy." It has also worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers AG Switzerland to independently analyze and evaluate its no-log claims. According to NordVPN, PwC found "no signs that we had in any way violated our no-logs promise."

Editor's score: 95/100

The additional rare offering of obfuscated servers and double VPN capabilities greatly increases the expected privacy for users, especially in areas of the world that restrict the use of private networks. With most VPN services, your ISP knows each time you've accessed a VPN but cannot see anything beyond that. Obfuscated servers can hide that you're using a VPN with added layers of encryption that can only be identified if someone inspects your data packets manually.

NordVPN has rates as low as $3.67 per month with a two-year commitment, and its month-to-month plan is $11.95 per month. All of its plans include unlimited VPN data for up to six devices simultaneously. Like most VPN services, it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, which we believe is more than enough time to determine if it's the right choice for your business.

Read NordVPN Review

IPVanish VPN: Best VPN for Value

A small business can take advantage of IPVanish's unlimited devices and VPN data through a single account.
Businesses that use phone support will appreciate IPVanish's customer support options, which are unique for the industry.

IPVanish is an affordable VPN service with 1,600 physical servers in more than 75 locations. It's headquartered in the U.S. and has reportedly assisted the FBI with the use of user data as part of a criminal investigation. The company claims to have a no-log policy. Still, its location within the U.S. and its track record of government cooperation are reasons to take a closer look at its privacy policy. This is especially true if you have any significant concerns beyond hiding your identity and traffic from data limits, geo-blockers, and advertisers.

Editor's score: 91/100

VPN service providers are slowly raising their limits of devices for simultaneous use, but none do this better than IPVanish, which offers unlimited devices through a single subscription. It also provides 24/7 customer support by live chat, email and phone. Few competitors offer phone support at any price, making IPVanish the most customer-friendly VPN service we've reviewed. Other basic features include today's top OpenVPN (TCP and UDP) and IKEv2 protocols, as well as the legacy L2TP and SSTP options.

IPVanish's services start at $2.40 per month with an annual commitment. The monthly commitment costs $3.49 for the first month and $9.99 each month thereafter. IPVanish offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for the yearly commitment and other discounts for college students and educators.

Read IPVanish VPN Review

PureVPN: Best VPN for Protocols

Small businesses looking for an affordable dedicated IP solution will find a lot of value with PureVPN.
Businesses that receive significant web traffic will benefit greatly from PureVPN's available DDoS protection.
PureVPN has more virtual servers than physical servers, which could be an issue for users who need to know where their data is being routed.

PureVPN is the second largest service provider we've reviewed, with more than 6,500 physical and virtual servers in more than 140 countries and 180 locations. Its headquarters are in Hong Kong, the special administrative region of China that remains free of any mandatory data retention laws. Its no-log claims are further supported by its second third-party audit conducted in 2020 by KPMG, as well as its "always-on" audit policy that enables users to "hold us responsible for continuous no-log VPN experience."

Editor's score: 93/100

PureVPN offers an extensive range of communications protocols, including PPTP, IPsec, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), and SSTP options. Most of these protocols work on most operating systems and devices, with the single exception of SSTP, which is limited to Windows, Android, Ubuntu, and routers. One of its most impressive features is its optional dedicated VPN that provides the ability to select an IP address in the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France and Germany. This option costs $36 per year, about half of what many other providers charge for similar services. Other impressive add-ons include port forwarding and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection.

At $3.33 per month with a two-year commitment, PureVPN is right in the middle when it comes to pricing. For users who are not comfortable with annual or multiyear contracts, it also offers a $10.95 monthly option. All of its plans include a 31-day money-back guarantee and unlimited VPN data for up to 10 devices simultaneously.

Read PureVPN Review

CyberGhost VPN: Best VPN for Network Size

Small businesses seeking ironclad privacy will appreciate CyberGhost's Romanian data center and high-performance NoSpy servers.
Any business looking for top speeds and great value should consider CyberGhost.
It has no recent third-party audits, and previous freeware versions have a history of malicious software.

CyberGhost VPN is an industry giant in terms of network size, boasting more than 6,900 physical and virtual servers spread across 114 locations in 91 countries. It's headquartered in the privacy-friendly country of Romania, where the National Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Processing guarantees "fundamental rights to private life and to the protection of personal data." CyberGhost also publishes quarterly transparency reports detailing any police requests, malware flags and DMCA complaints.

Editor's score: 95/100

CyberGhost operates a NoSpy data center in Bucharest, and it manages many physical servers end to end to keep its users' identities and online activity safe from third-party tampering and any mass surveillance efforts. These particular servers feature 256-bit AES encryption with a dedicated uplink for the highest speeds available through the encrypted tunnel. In our testing, we found CyberGhost to be among the fastest VPNs in terms of download speed and the group leader in upload speeds when using a local server.

CyberGhost offers a great deal of value, starting at $2.25 per month on a three-year commitment with unlimited VPN data for up to seven devices simultaneously. Other options include the $12.99 monthly plan with a 14-day money-back guarantee, which extends to 45 days for all annual plans. It's worth noting that all annual plans grant access to the special NoSpy servers, which costs $59.88 per year for monthly VPN subscribers. CyberGhost also offers a dedicated IP for as low as $3.75 per month.

Read CyberGhost VPN Review

Hotspot Shield: Best VPN for Streaming

Businesses that prioritize speed with their VPN should consider Hotspot Shield.
Any user who wants to initiate split tunneling at the domain level will like what Hotspot Shield offers.
By using mostly virtual servers, Hotspot Shield makes it difficult to determine which country your data is being transmitted through.

Hotspot Shield has 3,200 mostly virtual servers spread across more than 80 countries, including 35 cities, for easy access to geo-restricted content worldwide. Its parent company is a U.S.-based VPN, making it a nonstarter for the most privacy-concerned users. However, the company reportedly grew significantly in parts of the world with web censorship, including Turkey and Egypt, as a popular solution to government crackdown on the internet. 

Editor's score: 90/100 

Hotspot Shield is among the fastest VPN services we reviewed, making it ideal for data-heavy activities such as streaming in HD. It operates solely on a proprietary Hydra protocol, which the company claims provides a secure connection that's 2.4 times faster than OpenVPN when used over long distances. 

Pricing starts at $7.99 per month for unlimited data for up to five devices simultaneously with speeds up to 1 Gbps. Hotspot Shield also offers a premium family version that costs $11.99 per month for 25 devices. Both versions are available with a 45-day money-back guarantee. Hotspot Shield also offers a free version with daily data limits of 500 MB and speeds throttled to 2 Mbps with a single virtual server in the United States.

More

Surfshark: Best VPN for Multi-Hop Servers

Surfshark is best for businesses that want an extra level of security, as its data goes through two VPN servers.
With more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries, Surfshark can offer secure, reliable and fast VPN connections.
If you do not sign up for a long-term contract, Surfshark is not cheap. It costs $12.95 per month, which is on the high end for the VPN providers we reviewed.

Surfshark is a simple and intuitive VPN service with more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries. The company is headquartered in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands, out of reach for most snooping ISPs and government agencies. Like many other providers, Surfshark has participated in a third-party audit for its browser extension as well as a second audit for its server infrastructure by Cure53, determining that the "server network relies on good defaults and that the company engineers really demonstrated their dedication and skill in the configuration of constructs and cipher suites." 

Editor's score: 94/100 

The multi-hop feature lets you connect to the internet via multiple countries and servers at once to significantly increase your security and privacy. These connections were limited to 14 preset hops during our test period – from Singapore to Hong Kong, for example – and do take a substantial toll on your performance when you use them. Other options include multiple static IP connections in Germany, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

At the time of this review, pricing starts at $2.49 per month with a 24-month commitment and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Other options include a six-month contract for $6.49 per month and a $12.95 monthly recurring option without any money-back options. All plans include unlimited VPN data without any device limitations, increasing the value of Surfshark for businesses that need to use a VPN on many computers.

More

Cost

Most VPN companies structure their pricing based on terms that range from one month to three years, with significantly lower monthly costs for longer commitments. For annual plans, you should expect to pay the full term's expense at one time, despite the advertised monthly pricing. 

Without an annual commitment, you can expect to spend around $10 to $13 per month for basic VPN services with unlimited data for at least five devices. For multiyear subscriptions, the prices range from $2 to $7 per month. 

A few VPN services – including NordVPN, IPVanish and PureVPN – also provide business or team plans with monthly pricing based on the number of users. Those offerings are limited and more expensive, however. 

Most VPN subscriptions will cover at least five devices simultaneously, with a strong trend toward unlimited devices with one account – likely reducing even further the seemingly weak demand for per-seat or enterprise-level pricing models in the VPN industry.

Aside from cross-promotions for related-brand services, such as data storage, the available add-ons are fairly consistent across the industry. Most VPN services offer a dedicated IP, port forwarding, specialty servers and DDoS protection for an additional monthly fee. A dedicated IP is the only significant add-on in terms of cost, with prices ranging from $36 to $70 per year. 

Key TakeawayTip: Keep an eye out for any potential data limits or fees with the understanding that most providers offer unlimited VPN data on every plan.

VPN Features

The majority of VPN service providers offer very similar features with slightly different priorities placed on speed and the level of privacy. Some companies offer almost every feature for one grouped price, while others break it down into low-cost add-ons.

No-Log Policy

A no-log policy is something you want to see when shopping for a VPN service provider. When followed correctly, this policy means the VPN company does not retain any records of your activity. However, while many VPNs claim to adhere to strict no-log guidelines, it's worth exploring a company's history to see how it has handled such issues in the past – i.e., if it has handed private user data over to authorities in investigations. A true no-log VPN has no user data on record to hand over even if it wanted to. It's also important to consider the location of the company's headquarters, which could subject it to government agency orders to assist with any investigations. For instance, member countries of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes alliances must share data with each other's governments upon request. The United States is one of these member countries, so U.S.-based VPNs are not ideal. It's always a good idea to look at your potential VPN provider's privacy policy before making a purchase decision.

Dedicated IP

A dedicated IP is a great way to avoid the annoying CAPTCHAs you're sure to experience when using a VPN as a way to prove you're not a bot. Unlike the shared IP address that most VPN subscribers use, a dedicated IP is exclusively yours to use for connecting to IP-restricted networks or making online payments. Most VPN users switch between a dedicated and a shared IP, depending on the type of online activity. This service is typically only available as an add-on for around $60 per year.

Kill Switch

Another feature that we like to see in every VPN's basic offering is a kill switch. If your connection to your VPN drops unexpectedly, this feature automatically disables your internet to ensure that your data never leaves your private encrypted tunnel. It's a standard feature with most VPN providers – and something you should turn on if it's not the default setting.

Split Tunneling

Most of us don't need to use a VPN for all of our devices or internet activity. Some devices and specific domains are not points of concern in terms of privacy, especially when speed is essential. This is where split tunneling comes into play. It allows you to designate which devices or domains route traffic through your secure VPN. Not every provider offers this feature, but those that do often include it in their basic plans without any additional fees.

Did you know?Did you know? VPNs are a solid way to protect your business's data online. However, there are a litany of other protocols you should put in place to protect your business from a cyberattack.

Choosing the Best VPN

Businesses and individuals use VPN services for various reasons, so there's no one-size-fits-all approach to selecting the best VPN. Before you make a purchase decision, you should determine and rank the reasons you want to trade your high-speed internet access for the privacy and anonymity (with a slower connection) offered by a private network.

1. Privacy History

Take some time to research the VPN company you're considering (and its parent company if it has one). Advertised claims, such as adherence to a no-log policy, may not be as strict as they initially seem. Some companies have a clear record of not participating with government agencies as part of ongoing investigations, while others have a more complicated history. 

Did you know?FYI It's also worth considering a company's history of third-party audits, which test a VPN's ability to keep your online activity private.

2. Server Locations

While having more servers does not necessarily equate to better performance, it is a strong indicator that you'll be able to access a less crowded option. Most VPN providers advertise their number of servers without distinguishing between virtual and physical servers. This may or may not be a factor in your decision, depending on your privacy concerns, but it's always good to have a server location near you. This will significantly increase your chance of a high-speed connection. If you're shopping for a VPN to bypass geo-restrictions, make sure you can find multiple servers in the parts of the world with content you want to access.

3. Required Add-Ons

Do you think you'll make use of a dedicated IP? Are split tunneling or double VPNs essential to your performance or privacy? While many VPN users are more than happy with the standard set of features that most providers offer, some demand special servers and additional layers of protection. We recommend determining your desired level of privacy for most of your online activity before exploring VPN options too deeply.

3. Total Monthly Cost

VPN pricing structures are the same across all companies, with significant discounts available for longer commitments. Once you've narrowed down your selections by available servers and additional features, consider trying a couple of services at the same time, with the knowledge that you can either opt out of a monthly plan or get a refund on most longer subscriptions. That way, you can commit to an annual or multiyear contract with confidence that you're getting the best deal available.

Advantages of Using a VPN

  • It provides anonymity. Above all else, VPNs protect your right to privacy. Each time you connect to a different server, you get a new IP address that makes it appear as if you're accessing the internet from another location. While your ISP may recognize when you've connected to a VPN, the information ends there. Once you're connected, everything you do is transmitted through an encrypted tunnel that keeps your information safe from third parties.

  • You can use public Wi-Fi safely. Public Wi-Fi exposes you to many cybersecurity threats. All of your activity can be tracked when you access a public network, which is why it's an excellent idea to use a VPN when you access the internet in public.

  • It keeps your ISP and advertisers at bay. Your ISP can access all of your online activity even if you're using a private browser or incognito mode. It can collect your data over time and sell it to advertisers – or accidentally leak it if the company gets hacked. A VPN keeps your identity and what you do online private from even your ISP.

  • You can access more content. Content licensing is typically based on audience location, meaning you can only access it from a specific city or country. A VPN allows you to set your location to the area of your choosing to bypass any geo-restrictions.

  • You can save money. The prices listed online for many products are often based on several variables, including your location. Savvy shoppers can use VPNs to take advantage of geography-based pricing to save money on countless items and services.

VPN FAQs

How much do VPNs cost?

VPN services are not overly expensive. Most providers give the option of paying on a month-to-month basis or committing to an annual year of service. By paying annually, you pay less than you would for the monthly option. The best services cost anywhere from $60 to $150 per year. If you choose a month-to-month plan, a VPN generally costs $10 to $13 per month.

Is spending money on a VPN service worth it?

The answer depends on how much online privacy you and your business value. If your business places a high priority on online privacy, then the monthly cost of a VPN service is certainly worth it. Making sure your online activity is secure has grown in importance in recent years, especially as many businesses have switched to using various cloud-based services. For many businesses, that peace of mind is worth the minimal investment.

Is using a VPN legal?

Yes, the use of a VPN is legal in the United States. However, that doesn't give you the right to conduct illegal activities while using a VPN. For example, if you try to hack into someone else's network while using a VPN, your hacking activity is still illegal even though you are legally using a VPN. 

Jeff Hale
Jeff Hale
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Jeff Hale is a writer and editor based in San Diego with a background in business development and marketing. He has identified new market opportunities for Fortune 500 companies and developed communications strategies and digital branding for tech startups and small businesses. Jeff covers emerging technologies and business solutions with a focus on efficiency and growth. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Irvine, and an MBA from Chapman University.
Image Credit: Poike / Getty Images
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