What is VPN Software? Analysis of Features, Types, Benefits and Pricing

Who doesn’t love the Internet? Everyone has grown heavily dependent on the World Wide Web that it has become a bare necessity for almost everyone on the planet. However, the Internet has become a dangerous place for many users. For this reason, many have become wary of the threats that unscrupulous individuals pose on personal and financial information. As technology evolved, so have the capabilities of hackers, agencies and companies seeking to capitalize on personal information, which can be collected online. Today, many have become unwilling victims of identity theft and credit card fraud, the two worse things that could happen to an Internet user. The very reason why new technologies have been developed to provide protection to counter these threats.

So what is VPN? To provide a short definition of  VPN (virtual private network) software, one must know about its origins. The solution was developed with the goal of providing protection against online threats by giving Internet users the gift of anonymity. This new breed of software has become the most effective deterrent to cybercrime, which seems to be the primary purpose of VPN. Currently, a great number of individuals and companies have been using such platform to safeguard their online activities. In fact, the global VPN market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 13% by the end of 2022 and reach a stunning $106 billion. This growth is seen to be fueled by the growth of the cyber security sector, an  increase in the number of security proliferation, the  growth of industries and the increase in the use of mobile devices. However, the high cost of deployment and lack of technical skills could hamper this growth.

In this article, we will seek to answer the question, what is VPN?. It is highly expected to give you valuable information about the mechanism behind such platform and provide guidance on how to properly choose one. The following will be discussed in the succeeding sections:

  1. How Does VPN Software Work?
  2. Benefits of VPN Software
  3. Features of VPN Software
  4. How Much Does VPN Software Cost?
  5. Examples of VPN Software
  6. Potential Issues
  7. VPN Software Market Trends

How does VPN Software Work?

So what does VPN do? Basically, a VPN is a group of computers or networks, which are connected over the Internet. For businesses, VPN services serve as avenues for getting access to networks when they are not physically on the same network. Such service can also be used to encrypt communications over public networks.

VPNs are usually deployed through local installation or by logging on to a service’s website. To give you an idea as to how VPN works, the software allows your computer to basically exchange keys with a remote server, through which all data traffic is encrypted and kept secure, safe from prying eyes. Such service helps one browse the Internet without the worry of being tracked, monitored and identified without one’s permission. A VPN also helps in accessing blocked sites and in circumventing censorship. 

So why use VPN? Online privacy and security is the most sensible reason for one to adopt a VPN software. A key feature of a VPN is its ability to hide your real IP address by providing you with a temporary one. This makes all your online activities a secret, making it impossible to trace your location. This essentially answers the question, what is VPN?.

What are the Benefits of VPN Software?

VPN software has a lot to offer in terms of online privacy and security. The following are among the most common benefits of VPN:

  1. Privacy: Using a VPN, user connections cannot be linked to their computers, you can freely visit any site or browse the web  without your ISP knowing about it.
  2. Security: VPN networks cannot be hacked and all user activity are encrypted and can’t be read while in transit. This makes VPN connections very secure.
  3. Access to Websites: As a VPN can go around censorship, agencies cannot prevent users from accessing websites anywhere in the world.
  4. Anonymity: Users’ IP addresses are hidden while using a VPN, making them unidentifiable. This is due to the fact that the IP address they are using are constantly replaced. It even gives the illusion of being somewhere else in the world.
  5. Does Not Affect the Internet Experience: All things about one’s experience in using the Internet remains the same.

These benefits outline the multiple advantages of VPN over other platforms in providing Internet security. It may not come as cheap as we’d like it to be but it’s definitely worth every penny.

What are the Features of VPN Software?

But how to choose a VPN software? This is the question that keeps popping up in the minds of those thinking about using such solution. There are a variety of ways by which you can determine what VPN suits you. Here are some features of VPN that you should look for:

  1. Privacy: You should know what kind of privacy you really need. Is it for surfing, downloading, going past the Great Firewall of China or simply accessing blocked sites? Many VPN services offer one or more of these capabilities.
  2. Price: Make sure that the price you pay should be would be equivalent to the service you get. You can do this by comparing features and prices of different services.
  3. Speed: It’s common knowledge that using VPN comes with reduction in Internet speed. This is due to the fact that signals need to travel longer distances and the demands of the encryption and decryption processes. Choose a service that has minimal impact on Internet speed.
  4. Security: One should consider the level of security that a service offers. This can prevent hackers and agencies from accessing your data.
  5. Number of servers/countries: For VPN services, the more servers there are, the better the service. This allows users to connect from virtually all over the world. It will also enable them to change their locations at will.
  6. Simultaneous connections: Many services allow users to use only one device at a time. However, may providers allow customers to connect multiple devices all at the same time.
  7. Support: Customer support must be reliable, fast and easy to access. It should also be able to answer questions in the least amount of time.
  8. Free trials/money back guarantees: These two ensure that users get to evaluate a service first before committing to one.
  9. Software/features: Platforms should not be limited to ease of use, they should include features such as kill switches and DNS leak prevention tools, which provide a further layer of protection.
  10. Cross-platform support: A VPN solution should be able to run on any device. To do this, setup guides for different platforms should be provided by the vendor.

How Much Does VPN Software Cost?

Although many vendors offer free options for VPNs, these most often than not tend to be ridden with ads and fall short of the privacy requirements that users require compared to paid services. Also, free versions in most cases, do not accommodate the number of users most prospects require. It is therefore safe to say that the cost of VPN depends on the capabilities that one needs.

Paid VPN options are generally available on a monthly subscription basis. Many vendors offer such services for around $7 a month or an annual fee of $50. For those who need additional encryption or security, many plans are offered on premium rates, these packages could cost you around $70 a year.

There are as many VPN options as there are pricing models and not all VPN software are created equal. This is why choosing a VPN involves balancing between price and functionality. Some vendors offer options that allow payment on a per-user/per-month basis, these pricing models could go for as low as $3 a month. Ideal for users on a tight budget.

Examples of VPN Software

1. TunnelBear

Among the best free VPN software out in the market, TunnelBear is easy to use and supports both desktop and mobile devices. It has an automatic connection option, which eliminates the need to make changes to its default settings.

The solution supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android platforms. It comes with plugins for browsers like Chrome and Opera, effectively protecting any device that can run a browser. Installation is a breeze and the product does not require additional tweaking. Its Vigilant Mode prevents data leakage while TunnelBear reconnects. It has the ability to make VPN traffic look as normal HTTPS traffic. In the area of security, the platform offers a list of highly-trusted Wi-Fi networks.

TunnelBear’s free package allows for 5 GB of traffic monthly and can connect up to to 5 devices simultaneously. But for those who want more advanced functionalities, the solution is being offered at alternative pricing schemes.

2. NordVPN

One of the most popular VPN solutions around the world, NordVPN boasts more than 550 servers in 49 different countries. These servers help users in a variety of needs, such as encryption of incoming and outgoing data, directing of data traffic to a Tor network to provide user anonymity and protection against DoS attacks.

Another notable feature is security, NordVPN has a kill switch feature that constantly monitors traffic between devices and servers. In the event that the data traffic is interrupted, the system will cut off the connection automatically, this prevents any data leakage that may occur. A DNS leak prevention feature, on the other hand, changes your DNS so that it points to a VPN server, preventing data theft from your true DNS.

The software can be downloaded and platforms such as OS X, Windus and Linux are supported, along with Android and iOS devices. This enable users to run the software on desktops, laptops, smartphones or tablets. NordVPN can also be downloaded to routers so that devices connected to such routers can also enjoy VPN protection.

3. PureVPN

PureVPN is a leading VPN service known for its service quality and customer support. It boasts 450 servers in 101 countries, enabling users to browse the web or run any online software without having to reveal their IP address, very useful in getting around Internet censorship.

Because data traffic is encrypted, user data cannot be stolen. Users can route traffic from apps through the solution using its split tunneling feature. A kill switch terminates Internet connection automatically in the event that VPN connection is interrupted, preventing accidental IP address leakage.

Windows, Mac, Android and iOS platforms are supported. However, Linux, BlackBerry, Boxee Box, HP WebOS and DD-WRT can be manually connected. Users can also simultaneously connect up to five devices with a single account. Uptime and fast Internet speeds are assured with PureVPN’s gigabit network. For users who enjoy video streaming or online games, the service offers unlimited bandwidth.

The solution is available in a variety of pricing models, which include monthly, bi-annual and annual payment schemes.

4. Proxy.sh 

A powerful VPN software that has over 200 servers in 40 different countries in five continents, Proxy.sh supports L2TP/IPsec, PPTP and OpenVPN on most desktops or mobile devices. For encryption, the system makes use of 4096 bits RSA keys and 128 bits Blowfish, which constantly changes every hour.

A SafeJumper tool enables users to connect to any preferred network anytime, anywhere. It is likewise able to view connection time and traffic volumes. The solution can create shortcuts for faster connections. Users can be assured that their information are safe with the service’s no log policy and knowing that all their online activities are encrypted.

The service is available at flexible prices starting with a three-day plan that can be availed for $2. More advanced features are available in other plans, which include a basic plan for $5, a solid plan for $10 and a dedicated plan for $25 per month. These packages give users access to Proxy.sh servers in different countries and unlimited bandwidth. Custom plans are also in the offing, which can be arranged by contacting support.

5. ExpressVPN

A lightweight, easy to use and powerful VPN software, ExpressVPN offers users 256-bit encryption and standard OpenVPN. The solution has a myriad of functionalities for those who want a reliable VPN service. Aside from traditional payment methods, the service accepts bitcoins.

Anonymity is assured as ExpressVPN does not log user data, making it ideal for those who enjoy torrenting, but the service has a policy against downloading copyrighted material. Those who engage in such activity can have their accounts cancelled. In such situations, the service could opt to provide information about an account if compelled by law.

ExpressVPN has around 100 servers all over the world, spanning every continent. One can switch servers on the line from virtually any location, very useful for users who want to be in different locations or those in far away places. Internet speed is fast as the service provides unlimited bandwidth. During connection, lag can be experienced, but quickly resolves itself in a matter of moments. The service supports PC, Mac, iOS and Android, while customer support in the form of remote desktop, Skype, live chat and email is available 24/7.

One can avail of the service at $12.95, a bit pricey for a VPN service, but for those who want to try it out first, a 30-day money back guarantee is available.

Issues with VPN Software

Despite all the features and benefits of VPN software, it does come with problems that can negatively impact user experience. Here are some of them:

  1. Rejected VPN connection: Rejection of VPN connection is one of the most common problem associated with the solution’s use. There are a lot of factors that can cause this problem, among them failure of the Routing and Remote Access service, DNS problems, issues with the authentication process and lack of dial-in privileges.
  2. Acceptance of Unauthorized Connections: Although an uncommon problem, this situation does occur and could cause far more serious security issues. This problem could be caused by bugs in operating systems.
  3. Unable to Reach Locations Beyond VPN Servers: Also a common problem, this issue is caused by lack of permission to access the entire VPN network or a number of routing factors. This can be resolved by tweaking the settings.
  4. Unable to Establish a Tunnel: A problem that could persist despite the absence of obvious causes, this issue may be caused by IP packet filtering or the presence of a proxy server between the client and the VPN server. Again tweaking the configurations setting can resolve this issue.

The problem with the Internet nowadays is that governments, Internet Service Providers, advertisers and hackers have been increasingly invading user privacy. Even online sellers now monitor activity based on IP addresses.

As Internet security has become paramount in today’s world, more and more companies have been adopting VPN software mainly to protect privacy, block ads and access blocked websites. As a matter of fact, the global VPN market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13% by the end of 2022 and reach $106 billion. This growth is seen to be driven by the growth of the cyber security sector, the increase in the number of security proliferation, the growth of industries and increase in the use of mobile devices. However, this projections could be hampered by high deployment cost and lack of technical skills.

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