Now, most people reading this already know and we’ve also established in many prior articles that connecting to the internet via a VPN is the best way to keep your data private. If anything it is one substantial step in the way of keeping you ahead of dastardly ISPs, advertisers and local law enforcement from snooping on your private indulgence online.
However, a friend recently mentioned that unlike me the VPN he uses is 100% free. He also went so far as to state that it was pointless having to pay for something when there are so many free alternatives around. I also recall him wagering a challenge to prove that paying for a VPN service was better. But as someone whose spend decades in the tech industry, I acknowledge that not everything you pay for is necessarily good. But then again you get what you pay for too, so they are no free lunches.
I went ahead and did some research to put together this post as a pushback to everyone who thinks that free VPNs are as good as ones you pay for. As a matter of fact, I would challenge anyone reading this to link to a service that’s as good as a paid VPN service provider with all the features I outline paid services offer.
Free VS Reliability
You don’t pay a dime when using a free VPN service, that’s actually the lure of using them in the first place. But if you really read through the agreement before clicking through it, 90% of them clearly state that the free service is not reliable. These services will just as easily sell your browsing profile or any other information to anyone who’s willing to pay. It also goes without saying that many free services also have a paid version with the latter not collecting information about your browsing habits.
My point here is why use a VPN even if it’s free if they are just going to turn around and do the same thing as your friendly ISP? Pretty pointless huh?
The security more than often sucks
The security of so-called free VPN services is questionable at best and for numerous reasons. The first being that they use PPTP or Point-to-Point Tunneling which used to be considered secure a decade ago but not anymore. Also, there are probably some apps that don’t even bother to encrypt the information sent through them. So, they are maybe good for perhaps watching Netflix if you’re in a highly restrictive country but your government could just as easily be watching everything you do!
Paid VPNs, on the other hand, us a Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol or L2TP as they are called. This is just a fancy term for an encrypted connection. Good paid VPN services will first encrypt your data using 256-bit encryption. So, even if your nosy ISP does use some malicious means to watch and collect the traffic flowing to and from your computer, they will need a few hundred years and a million-dollar mainframe to decrypt it!
Well as I said earlier, you get what you pay for, and in this case, you’re paying nothing so expect nothing. Think about the fact that a free service has to pay their overhead somehow and one way they do that is by selling your browsing history to mainly advertisers. So, don’t be surprised if all of a sudden you start seeing a lot of adverting from shady parts of the internet because you happen to be highly active on dating websites or tend to checkout girls on Facebook!
Some free services will also sell advertising. So, each time you go to a website, get ready for a dozen crazy pop-ups. Once you’ve fielded those, you are then faced by unforgiving ads on the website you’re visiting. Not to mention the fact that all of this is slowing down your browsing experience and consuming precious data which you’re apparently paying for by the gigabyte.
Some free services will limit the amount of data you can consume per day. So, all of a sudden, you’ll notice that no websites open up. Plus, some free VPNs have been used in cyber-attacks, like Hola was used back in 2015 against a popular website. Interestingly, the hackers used the customers’ bandwidth to deploy the botnet…ouch!
Paid VPN services don’t bombard you with advertising, they won’t sell your information to third parties, and they certainly won’t limit how much you can use them. Plus, if you do run into technical trouble its possible to call the company and give them a piece of your mind. Then if anything you can continue surfing or stalking anonymously.
The speed – the lack thereof perhaps
Now if you’ve never used dial-up in the good old days, then you have no idea what I’m talking about, but you can get some idea by using a free VPN service. Even if you’re using premium internet that free VPN is going to be a bottleneck simply because its used by so many people. Don’t be surprised if you’re totally unable to load Facebook or tweet an epiphany. After all, bandwidth costs money, and since you’re too cheap to pay for it, the service might as well give you whatever is left over which isn’t much. This also pretty much applies to TOR services.
When you use a paid VPN service, there are good services, and they are great ones. Good services have good enough speed though don’t expect to start streaming in 1080p on YouTube and not have to wait. If you’re serious about streaming, then pay for a great service which is faster.
The misery of being disconnected
Ever wonder why your Skype, Tinder and WhatsApp app just keeps disconnecting and reconnecting randomly? Well if you’re experiencing this issue its most probably because you’re using a free VPN service. As mentioned above a lack of bandwidth can cause apps to disconnect. However, that’s not a problem you’ll ever face with a good paid VPN service because bandwidth is never the issue. Though if they are technical issues you know whom to call!
Why I’ll never use free VPN?
Saving $10 a month isn’t going to make me rich for starters as I explained to my friend. The second thing is I value my time, so there is no reason for me to pay big bucks for 4G internet to only have it bottlenecked by low bandwidth free VPN. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t recommend even the poorest reader here to use free VPN, because you’re better off using a free proxy service to perhaps change your IP to access websites that are not available in your country. If free is the route, you want to take be warned of the fact that it isn’t going to protect you from hackers and the government. It lures you into a false sense of security which ends up doing more damage then you’re saving.
When it comes to security, stability and reliability always bypass the so-called free and cheap options. Be careful whom you choose to be your VPN provider because at the end of the day your privacy is only as good as their intentions!