Whether it’s through your favourite podcast or the latest video from that new vlogger everyone’s hyping up, chances are you’ve been told to use a virtual private network (VPN) at some point in the past few years. More realistically, you’ve seen and heard multiple ad reads for VPNs, all claiming to offer the greatest access to content not available in your geographic region.
But choosing a VPN isn’t as simple as typing the letters “V”, “P”, and “N” into your search bar and clicking on the one that comes up top in the results. Research must, for instance, be done to ensure you are using the correct one for your area. You also have to weigh things like cost and what you’ll primarily be using the service for into consideration.
With that in mind, here are six things you should know before signing up for a VPN service.
- Decide your needs
Certain VPNs are better suited to specific types of content. Some, for example, are better for gaming, while others are better for streaming. Still others have a greater focus on privacy and security, making them better options for activists, people working with sensitive information, or even just remote workers who value their privacy when using public WiFi.
Once you’ve established exactly what you need access to, you can start further refining your searches by prioritizing what’s most important to you.
- Identifying your priorities
Even if two or three VPN services appear to meet your needs, you can quickly figure out which ones best cater to the priorities you’ve set out for yourself. If you’re not particularly technologically inclined, for example, your biggest priority might be ease of use. If you’re a gamer, meanwhile, you might be more concerned with speed. And if you’re using it for work purposes, then security will be vital. Each priority and your ranking of it will play a significant role in determining which type of VPN you use.
- Which device?
Do your research to decide which VPNs are best suited to the devices you’re most likely to need them on. Hola, for instance, offers a proprietary browser with a VPN built-in, a browser extension and apps, meaning it can be used on phones, tablets, computers and smart TVs as well as on peripherals like the Amazon Fire Stick.
- Which country?
Some VPNs are, unfortunately, restricted in certain countries preventing thousands, if not millions of people from accessing the kind of content that should be a basic right. It’s therefore critical that you use a VPN that gives you maximum content access without falling foul of the law. While we believe that everyone should have the same level of internet access, no matter where they live, we are committed to staying within the regulations set out in each country we’re available in. Thanks to that balance, Hola is available in more than 190 countries.
- Can it be free?
Often if you are to use a VPN you have to pay a fee. But for many all over the world with access issues, paying for internet freedom is not an option. Moreover, some that claim to be free are often of poor quality and provide a slow service. You should be especially aware of the ones that are ad-supported.
At Hola, we’ve taken a freemium approach. Hola’s free product is built as a peer-to-peer overlay network for HTTP, which may route the sites you choose through other Hola users’ devices as well as through servers. Users that opt-in to the peers’ community agree to contribute their device’s resources to the network. Hola takes up resources from these users’ devices. This makes Hola the first service that has minimal underlying operational costs.
As well as the free version of Hola, Hola’s Premium product extends the benefits of Hola Free to more sites and more platforms, such as mobile devices, SmartTVs, game consoles etc. For this, Hola Premium uses a dedicated network of high-performance servers, thereby allowing users to opt out of becoming a peer.
- Why peer-to-peer
At Hola!, we’ve also taken a peer-to-peer (P2P) approach. That’s because P2P networks allow a community of like-minded people all over the world to access the content they want, wherever they may be.
In many countries, access to reliable online information is being restricted. They are being deprived of their online freedom. The internet is not borderless but is being roadblocked at an ever-increasing rate. By providing a peer-to-peer network, Hola empowers its users to contribute their unused resources to those who need them most – we create a community of empowerment, together.
Ultimately then, it should be clear that a VPN isn’t just a VPN. In fact, we prefer the term Online Access Tool – as ultimately, Access is what we have found our users deem to be their priority.
Choosing which tools you use should be done with care and consideration. Do so properly, and you’ll be in a much better position to find one that cares as much about its customers, and a free and open web, as it does about making a profit.
Tomer Mozes-Sadeh, Director of Product at Hola