In the world of cybersecurity, a VPN or a Virtual Private Network has quickly become the lifeline of the digital enterprise. It represents the majestic shield that companies use to protect their private data and the inconspicuous cyber-hood that people utilize to protect their identities.
At PrivacyAffairs, we value objectivity, rigorousness, and thoroughness above all others. In this article, our goal is to perform a complete analysis of the VPN industry and offer you our ranking for the best VPNs in the world, as well as the principles behind our analysis.
Let us start the countdown.
$ $2.75 / mo
6 simultaneous connections
NordVPN’s name has already shattered all of our preconceptions about VPNs. With excellent security and encryption algorithms, top-quality customer support, a large server network, and good speed, we have nothing more to ask for. In the following analysis, we will reveal the points that lead to this ranking.
We liked – top-notch security system and military-grade encryption, absolute zero-logging policy, Panama jurisdiction, manual configuration of the app, and the handy anti-ad feature
We disliked – Nothing
Based in – Panama, outside the 14-Eyes
Netflix – Works like a charm
DNS/IP/WebRTC leaks – None that we discovered
P2P file sharing – Fully supported by high-speed servers
Encryption level – AES-256-bit combined with OpenVPN, and other security-specialized servers
Server coverage – 5797 in 60 countries
These are the prices at the time of writing. However, given the euro-to-dollars fluctuating conversion rate, they might differ in the future.
Clearly, the most advantageous subscription offer is still the 3-year one, with only €95.54, which is $106.29. The 1-month plan is $11.68, slightly cheaper than the previous $11.95 that they have for a while.
When it comes to pricing, NordVPN is neither expensive nor cheap. We place it right in the middle of the VPN pack, though the quality of its services is premium. If you no longer want to use their services, you can get your money back by using the 30-day money-back guarantee.
This way, you actually benefit from a trial version of the VPN, which you can immediately abandon without any losses. It’s good for testing the field.
The bread and butter of a VPN service, which is speed. NordVPN has a total of 5797 servers, out of which many have specialized uses:
Regarding speed, we have especially performed a few tests to see how NordVPN fares. Without the VPN connection, we started from this benchmark:
Netherlands server (torrenting):
NordVPN has a very expansive server network that spread around 60 countries. Out of the 5797 servers they possess, we have discovered that:
Among them, Europe has the largest concentration of servers, and the most expansive network, with 36 countries under NordVPN’s attention. Moreover, we tried a couple of servers from the US to see if they could access Netflix, and they did. Just as we expected.
When it comes to anonymity, privacy, and logging policies, NordVPN takes extreme measures to protect its users. On the official platform, under the Terms of Services, section, they specify this:
“NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logging policy for NordVPN Services, meaning that the NordVPN Service is provided by an automated process, and your activities while using it are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection timestamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data.”
Certainly keeping in line with its golden reputation, NordVPN leaves nothing to interpretation. The clear-cut, straightforward, and concise no-logging policy ensures us of the veracity of their claim. Upon further tests we have made, we have no reason to doubt whether they uphold the zero-logging policy or not.
Moreover, we are even more inclined to trust NordVPN because their jurisdiction is in Panama, a country with no data-retention laws, outside the 14-Eyes Surveillance Alliance. No one can demand logs or user data from them.
To start with, NordVPN uses the AES encryption protocol, which the world unanimously recognizes to be the best in the world. Every agency in the world uses AES if they have private or confidential data to secure.
Furthermore, the connection and internet traffic works with the SHA-384 cryptographic sequence. The traffic exchange utilizes a 3072-bit Diffie-Hellman combined with Perfect Forward Secrecy.
By all intents and purposes, this level of encryption is the absolute highest in the industry. The VPN protocols are OpenVPN (UDP or TCP), IKEv2 and IPSec, and you can switch between them seamlessly.
As for IP or DNS leaks, we have done comprehensive tests on several online leak tests, and we couldn’t detect any. As far as we know, NordVPN is incredibly secure and airtight.
NordVPN has a very likable and easy-to-use app, certainly more so than other premium VPNs. Of course, whether you enjoy the aesthetics or not depends on yourself but when it comes to efficiency and structure, NordVPN deserves a 10 here.
NordVPN also has browses extensions for Chrome and Firefox, a kill-switch, and dual VPN technology in effect.
From what we could see, the vast majority of VPN services have issues in this department. When it comes to user interaction and support, it all ended up in a blunder. Either you did not receive a reply in time or the response was unhelpful at all.
We are glad to say that NordVPN breaks this cycle with its 10/10 customer support. Its email support system bears the stigmata that other VPN services brought forth but it is entirely unwarranted.
Not only will you get a reply in record time but the staff team tries to help you as best as they can, offering concise and personalized information.
However, what NordVPN actually shines in is the live-chat customer support. The response times are narrowed down to mere seconds as you get your answers almost instantly. While the staff does not usually go out of their way to provide additional information, they solve your problem most of the times.
Conclusion – NordVPN fully deserves the top spot on our list. Either one of the analyzed aspects reveals high-end performance, efficiency, and a quality service
$ 6.67 / mo
A bit expensive
ExpressVPN takes the second spot on this ranking list, and it’s a well-deserved one. Most reviews point out to the great internet speed that their servers can provide. Upon further analysis, we have come to the same conclusion.
We liked – lightning-fast server speeds, top quality live chat customer support, seven-day trial, excellent security, and encryption protocols, many server locations (160), works with Netflix
We disliked – expensive subscriptions and a limit of 3 simultaneous connections
Based in – The British Virgins Isles, outside the 14-Eyes
DNS/IP/WebRTC leaks – none
Netflix – both US and UK Netflix work wonderfully
P2P file sharing – fully accounted for
24/7 live chat – ready to answer all your questions
Zero-logging policy – all in order
As you can see, ExpressVPN is a bit more expensive than NordVPN, especially the 1-month package. The subscriptions are also different though more practical in some ways. The 6-month plan allows for a more manageable long-term subscription.
There is a 7-day trial in full effect if you want to try their services beforehand. Also, with the help of the 30-day money-back guarantee, you can easily take a step back if you’re not satisfied with their services.
We performed a few speed tests on ExpressVPN’s fastest servers, starting from the following benchmark:
Out of the four servers that we used to connect to Netflix, two from the US, one from the UK, and one in Germany, all of them performed admirably. We did not meet with any interference or geo-blocking attempt, and it all worked splendidly.
Moreover, ExpressVPN fully supports torrenting, and this is evident from the speedy servers specialized on connecting to the P2P protocol instantly.
ExpressVPN is one of the largest and most expansive VPN services in the world. With more than 3000 servers in 160 VPN locations around the world, even NordVPN can’t compare. We are talking about 94 countries here.
It easily allows anyone in the world to connect to its network, regardless of the connection location. Moreover, this provides users with a major advantage – the possibility to bypass most geo-blocking protocols instantly and efficiently.
The most popular server locations can access Netflix, and when we tested the speed, we had no problems whatsoever. No buffering, no freezes, no loading delays, and no quality problems.
Even if Netflix bans a couple of IP addresses, with such a large network, it’s incredibly easy to switch to another IP address. Fortunately, ExpressVPN replaces the banned addresses with new ones once every week or so.
ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs out there that clearly iterates its zero-logging policy. It specifically states that they do not log your activities, and they never will. No browsing history records, no metadata or DNS queries. Your IP remains anonymous, and not even they know what you do on the internet.
At the same time, they go ahead and mention what information they do collect:
The reasons they collect this data has to do with troubleshooting, technical support to customers, and potential network issues that they more easily fix this way.
The best-in-class encryption protocols and high-end security systems are in place. ExpressVPN utilizes the following security technologies:
Perfect Forward Secrecy – deletes all traffic every 60 minutes by negotiating new secret keys. In case of intrusion, a hacker only has access to a 60-minutes worth of data. The rest is gone
TrustedServer technology – the latest VPN server technology that vastly increases security and privacy
As for leaks, as hard as we looked for them, we could not find any. After all the tests that we made, we can absolutely guarantee that ExpressVPN does not have any IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks.
ExpressVPN is often called one of the easiest to use VPNs in the industry. While its interface doesn’t differ by much when compared to NordVPN, the aesthetics are rather different.
ExpressVPN has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, as well as several apps that test DNS and WebRTC leaks. It also has a kill switch available.
The customer support is a 10/10 simply because we got all of our questions answered almost instantly. Not only that but the staff member also gave us a few links and reference material to help us. This is what quality customer support means – efficiency, promptness, knowledge, and goodwill.
The live chat test was such a success in our case that we started having doubts midway through. We barely had any time to ask something that we received a reply consisting of extensive explanations, links leading to other articles on the website, and other inputs.
We couldn’t ask for more when it comes to customer support. We asked for attention, implication, and promptness. In return, we received so much more than that. We received excellence and quality.
Conclusion – other than the slightly expensive subscriptions and the limit of three simultaneous connections, all other aspects rise to the standard of a premium VPN. Speed-wise, ExpressVPN leaves everyone else in the dust, and it is considerably faster than even NordVPN. To us, this is a big advantage.
$ 3.79 / mo
CyberGhost is an excellent VPN service for users in Europe since its jurisdiction is in Romania. We can say that its servers are fast but it would do a disservice to the Flash that is ExpressVPN. Still, accessing Netflix is no problem most of the times.
We liked – 7 simultaneous connections, 45-days money-back guarantee, good encryption, Wi-Fi protection, anti-ad, and anti-malware feature, outside the 14-Eyes
We disliked – temporary server problems where it takes too long to connect
Based in – Romania, outside the 14-Eyes
IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks – none
Netflix – works with the US and UK Netflix
Customer support – 24/7 live chat with a personalized approach
P2P file sharing – CyberGhost fully supports torrenting
Zero-logging policy – trustworthy until proven wrong
Turned into dollars, here are the plans:
Clearly, CyberGhost is more expensive than both NordVPN and ExpressVPN. However, the 3-year plan has an 80% discount at the current time, and it’s lasted for a few months now.
Unlike NordVPN and ExpressVPN, CyberGhost performs worse in the speed department. Besides plain bad results, the servers fluctuate badly at times though this only means you won’t be able to download as fast.
These results are certainly not impressive, seeing as though ExperssVPN is almost three times as fast. However, CyberGhost still outruns a vast number of common VPN services.
Fortunately, if one server starts slowing down or you if Netflix bans your IP address, you can easily switch to another. There are plenty to pick from.
CyberGhost has servers in 60 countries. 84 server locations around the world, for a total of 4286 servers. This is almost identical to NordVPN in terms of countries and server locations. They are only behind by 1000+ servers overall but we are more than satisfied with this.
After a few peeks on the official website, we came across the full-fledged no-logging policy. They clearly state that they do not collect:
A contributing factor to their trustworthy reputation is the Romanian jurisdiction. It doesn’t uphold any data retention laws because they are unconstitutional. Therefore, CyberGhost doesn’t have any obligation to collect or surrender any information about its users.
Romania is also not a part of the 14-Eyes or any other surveillance alliance. This makes our inquiry reach an excellent conclusion – Cyberghost’s no-logging policy is absolute.
To increase your anonymity, pay for your subscription with cryptocurrencies. CyberGhost entirely supports crypto payments. It might not be a perfect security measure but it does decrease your risks.
CyberGhost uses the same AES-256 protocol, and the reason is simple enough –the possible combinations needed to decrypt a single key is equal to 115 quattuorvigintillions.
If you do not know the term, it’s alright, neither did we. The idea is that, in order to decrypt one simple key, a hacker would require computational performance that does not exist today and a couple of million years.
The main VPN protocols are identical to our other top picks:
This level of encryption is entirely identical to NordVPN’s and ExpressVPN’s, with almost no differences. Therefore, we can easily elevate CyberGhost to their level in terms of security and encryption protocols.
The NoSpy servers that CyberGhost has always been bragging with appear to be an incredible addition to the general security panorama. Their essential difference from common servers is that the NoSpy ones are under constant surveillance by the CyberGhost team.
No other third-party entity has access to them. Moreover, they implement security standards of the highest caliber while also enhancing speed above the norm. All while striving to maintain pure anonymity.
CyberGhost is mostly similar to ExpressVPN’s app in terms of interface. The options are also simple to understand, and the overall impression is a good one.
CyberGhost has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox as well, while the kill switch works alright.
It’s not a secret that customer support is a problem most companies deal with.
Especially when it comes to VPN services, most of them don’t even have a live chat, and the only function based on a ticketing system.
The situation is so dire that when we actually find a VPN with quality customer service, we start pouring appreciation and loads of praises upon them. This is exactly the case with CyberGhost, fortunately.
The usual problems that we have to deal with (slow response times and copy-paste answers) were surprisingly not a part of CyberGhost’s repertoire. After filling out the live help form, we managed to connect to a staff member after a few seconds. Perhaps we were lucky and there weren’t many people in queue but we were quite content with the waiting time.
Moving on, we asked about the VPN protocols they use, as well as Netflix connectivity. The response was quite extensive, getting into details that they weren’t required to provide. They even listed the servers which could access Netflix (UK, US, Germany, France).
Conclusion – CyberGhost is an expansive VPN service that performs excellently in most major aspects. Despite the relatively slow speeds, the customer support is ideal, the security and encryption are top-notch, and you can access Netflix as well.
We highly recommend CyberGhost, and we guarantee that its services are of premium quality.
$ 1.99 / mo
SurfShark is a new blood in the VPN industry, and it claims to provide excellent privacy tools, anonymity, and speedy servers to its users. We’ve all heard this before but the question is – is it true?
This is why we rank SurfShark in 4th place.
We liked – BVI jurisdiction, CleabWeb feature (blocks ads, malware, trackers, and phishing attacks), excellent encryption, good speed, Netflix accessibility, limitless device connectivity
We disliked – not much
Based in – the British Virgin Isles (no data retention laws, outside the 14-Eyes)
IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks – none
Netflix access – checked
Torrenting – good to go
Customer support – 24/7 live chat
Despite the lack of a 6-month subscription, SurfShark completely offsets this disadvantage through killer prices. While this is not visible on the 1-month plan, from the 1-year all the way to the 2-year subscription, it all becomes clear.
With the 2-year plan, you are eligible for an 83% discount. This means that you only pay $47.76 for the entire 2 years, instead of $286.80. That’s six times less than the normal price.
While this isn’t going to last forever, it is a godsend opportunity to obtain the protection of a premium VPN for a mind-numbing price. There are no precedents when premium-class VPNs had such high discounts, and even if they would have, it still would fall this low.
Despite all this, you are eligible for a 30-day money-back return on any plan you purchase. If you change your mind or no longer find their services appealing, you can easily get your money back.
In the speed department, SurfShark performs surprisingly good, despite the constant fluctuations on some of the servers. After a few tests, we were more than pleased with the results.
These results match even NordVPN in its bad days, and the occasional surges go above and beyond what the Panama VPN offers sometimes. However, most of the times, the speed fluctuates worryingly, leading to some large strides in performance.
You can access Netflix anonymously on some of the high-speed servers. From the ones we tested, all of them worked (United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, South Africa, and Canada).
SurfShark’s server spread is quite impressive – more than 800 servers in 50+ countries. While the total server number isn’t that high, the overall spread is good enough for a premium VPN.
With such an expansive network, connecting to Netflix is rendered simplistic. No matter where you are, you will be able to connect to Netflix without issues. Even if they block your IP address, you can easily switch to another one.
Privacy and anonymity are two essential traits of a good VPN. As a user, you need to know that your activities remain private, that your identity is anonymous all the time. One way this could go wrong is if the VPN keeps logs of your internet traffic.
We have seen many such VPNs that claim absolute anonymity and integrity through their no-logging policy. Only to read user reviews saying that they had problems with the authorities because of their internet activities. The VPN didn’t keep its word.
This seems ideal on a first glance but the most reassuring thing is that we couldn’t find a single negative review complaining about the no-logging policy. This means that SurfShark respects its word, as well as the concept of internet anonymity.
Their honesty becomes clear after you look at the Warrant Canary on the official website. This section records all the legal problems users confronted with while using their services (gag orders, warrants).
Overall, SurfShark enters the premium-quality VPNs in terms of security and encryption. This is a result of the absolute AES technology that they implement.
Moreover, after countless external security check-ups, SurfShark came to be known as a very secure VPN service. Moreover, some unique features further enhance the privacy level:
CleanWeb – blocks of ads, malware, trackers, and phishing attempts
Whitelister – includes specific apps or websites to a whitelist, disallowing the VPN to interfere with them
MultiHop – bumps your traffic signal through multiple servers in different countries, increasing your anonymity and security
Camouflage Mode – encryption tool that masks the VPN signal, giving the impression that you aren’t protected by a VPN. Not even your ISP will discover this trick
NoBorders mode – access restricted internet websites with this feature
Furthermore, SurfShark’s servers work with the Tor engine to further increase the security level. Combine all of these tricks for absolute anonymity.
SurfShark’s app interface is simplistic and intuitive in scope, while also offering plenty of options and settings. We immediately got our bearings around the app, since it follows on the same structural patterns as other apps, relatively.
There are browsers extensions for Firefox and Chrome, a kill-switch available for Windows, iOS, and Mac only. Moreover, there is a dual VPN feature present as well.
SurfShark has an excellent customer support service, pure and simple. Which is astounding, to say the least, given their lack of personnel. They only have two people dealing with clients directly.
However, don’t let this discourage you. From our experiences with the 24/7 live chat, we always had our questions answered in a straightforward and informative way. They never fret from putting in some additional information, just for the sake of it. We also loved how we didn’t receive copy-paste replies but actual personalized responses.
Therefore, if you have any issues at all, feel free to use their live chat function. It’s clearly one of the best aspects of SurfShark.
Conclusion – Despite its recent ascension in the VPN industry, SurfShark fully deserves a spot on our ranking list. Be it security, privacy, overall server performance or customer support, it easily overtakes most common VPN services out there.
$ 6.49 / mo
Last but not least, IPVanish is the 5th ranker on our list but don’t let this take away from its value. Sure, it might not compare to NordVPN in many ways but it is still vastly superior to other common VPN services.
We liked – relatively low prices, Wi-Fi protection, unlimited bandwidth, SOCKS5 web proxy, 10 simultaneous connections, AES encryption
We disliked – the lack of a live chat, US jurisdiction
Based in – US, inside the 14-Eyes
DNS/IP/WebRTC leaks – none
Netflix access – some servers grant you access, most don’t
Customer support – only email-based
P2P file sharing – allowed and fully supported
At the moment of writing, IPVanish has a few discounts in full effect. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have underlined the low prices.
Right now, all of the plans benefit from a 50% discount. Thus, you get:
We can assume that only the first subscription benefits from such a discount and subsequent ones will come back to the original prices. If so, then we could say that IPVanish is relatively expensive, depending on what kind of services it provides.
Any of their plans get you this –
Other than the falsely advertised 24/7 customer support, we agree with the rest of the aspects.
We were actually very surprised when testing IPVanish because we totally did not expect such high performance.
While these results were pleasant, other premium VPNs have even better performance. Most importantly, they are much cheaper than IPVanish during normal times.
At the present moment, we believe that such speeds are indeed worth it and that the prices are justified.
IPVanish has 1300+ servers in more than 75 countries, for a total of 40.000 IP addresses, more or less. This is more than double the number of NordVPN’s total number of IP addresses.
In fact, this single aspect is a major determiner of IPVanish’s value over most other premium VPNs.
How is the number of IP addresses important? Well, think of it this way. If Netflix were to ban the IP address you are currently using, you can easily switch to another one, right? What if you don’t have any to switch to because Netflix banned most of them?
This risk is null with IPVanish because it has too many IP addresses. In the time Netflix takes to ban a few IP addresses, IPVanish is already working on supplying others to its user base.
This is still considering the far-fetched proposition that Netflix actually bans enough IP addresses to cause IPVanish to take action immediately. Normally though, a streaming service can only ban so many IPs before the day is over.
While the scandal in 2016 put IPVanish in a bad light, they have since been taken over by a new company, so we can only assume that no more privacy issues will appear. This is what they say on the official website.
More than this, StackPath, the new company, has made many promises and assurances that they have been completely restructured IPVanish. They are focusing on privacy, anonymity, and full security.
This is what they say regarding this:
While we certainly should keep an eye on them from now on, IPVanish is definitely one of the privacy-focused VPNs out there. With a zero-logging policy in effect, we can surely trust them in the future.
IPVanish uses AES technology as well, an aspect that almost guarantees the high level of their encryption protocols. Being the most popular and safest protocol in the world, the chances for a brute-force attack to succeed are null.
This not only means you will have a steady line of defense in the face of hackers and other digital dangers, but you will also manage to bypass censored websites. If your internet connection is limited or censored, either because of obligation or oppression, using IPVanish solves this in a second.
As for the VPN protocols used, IPVanish uses:
The SOCKS5 web proxies represent another important security feature. These tools allow you to forego the downloading of required software to run OpenVPN. The benefits of this revolve around privacy and anonymity, mainly. You get to keep your IP hidden and avoid any risks because of the third-party app.
At the same time, using a SOCKS5 proxy takes a toll on your security. There is only a thin layer of encryption on these proxies, certainly not AES-256. While you will have a faster internet connection, your security will dwindle as a result.
You either love or hate the aesthetics and structure of the IPVanish app. The reason for this is simple – it’s ultra-modern and it focuses on the most essential information. The technicality is also quite elevated.
IPVanish has a browser extension for Chrome, and a functional kill-switch as well.
Fully functional and efficient customer service is a rarity in itself when it comes to VPNs. In fact, other than the premium VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, most other online security services don’t have a 24/7 live chat.
IPVanish builds upon the notoriety of bad customer support by offering unreliable and slow email-based support.
The only way you can get some help is by checking the FAQ section and sending them an email ticket. You will receive a notification email shortly, telling you that they’ve received your request and that it would take 1-2 days to get a reply.
You heard that right. That’s 1-2 days to potentially know whether their servers work with Netflix or not.
If you have the gall to report a problem on Friday, expect a reply on Monday, at the very least.
Therefore, if your idea of an efficient and immediate customer isn’t that of 48+ hours response time, then we suggest you stay away from IPVanish.
Conclusion – IPVanish is so-so in terms of other premium VPNs. However, the Socks5 proxies are indeed handy, the server speed is good enough, and the overall security gives us peace of mind.