How to find the best VPN for your needs

How to Guides

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become the tool of choice for many people looking for more privacy while surfing on the internet or to bypass geo-blocking and be able to access specific content. For others, routing traffic through a VPN is a necesssity when they want to access systems of their employer, while working from a home office.

But what can a VPN actually do and what are their limits? Should you use one and if so, how do you choose a trustworthy provider? In this article, we want to shed light on the controversial world of VPNs to help you make a decision.

How does a VPN work?

Most people have heard the term VPN, although the vast majority probably could not explain the technicalities of running a VPN service. The name Virtual Private Networks already gives us a hint of how the technology works. It is a virtual network you connect to and it is designed to keep your actions private. The VPN acts like a tunnel through which your data or the websites you visit are channeled. The data transmissions are encrypted so that third parties can‘t observe from the outside what you are doing. Usually, your request would go directly to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and they would fulfil the request by connecting you with the requested source on the internet. That also allows them to track every move you make online, and many ISPs are known to work with government agencies for surveillance or to sell your browsing data to advertising companies.

In the case of the VPN, however, your data is encrypted before it goes to the ISP, so they don‘t know what you are up to. Then the request is forwarded to the VPN server, which then routes the request further to the desired destination.

When visiting websites, for example, that means that you connect to the server of the VPN provider and from there, you connect to the actual website you want to visit. That process is automatic, of course (as part of the VPN service), so surfing online doesn‘t become a hassle. That way, the operator of the website can‘t see your IP address (as they normally would be able to if they use analytics software) and thus see where you are located.

Pros of VPNs

1. Improved Privacy and Security: The main reason for using a VPN is often to increase privacy and security. By masking the IP address and encrypting data, VPNs do help counteract this vector of tracking, which is commonly used by websites, advertisers, and Internet Service Providers. It can also be useful to protect yourself from man-in-the-middle attacks in public Wi-Fi networks.

2. Bypass Geo-Restrictions: Some countries and governments censor internet access and users of those countries can‘t access the open web. In these cases, a VPN can allow a user to bypass these restrictions and surf without limitations. In other cases, VPNs allow users to go past regional restrictions of their streaming providers, such as Netflix, in order to access content that otherwise wouldn‘t be available in their country.

3. Safe Remote Access: A lot of companies require their employees to use a VPN when they want to remotely access their networks. With the rise of home office workers during the pandemic, this practice has become widely adopted among businesses of all sizes.

Cons of VPNs

1. No magic bullet: The world of tracking is sophisticated and VPNs are not a magic bullet. The combination of tracking methods such as browser fingerprinting, cookies and other methods still allows for identifying you and tracking your online behavior. VPNs are not a complete tool for online anonymity.

2. Slower Internet Speed: Using a VPN can slow down your internet connection, through the process of encrypting your data and channeling the traffic through another server. Speed is often an important selling point, with VPN companies competing with each other over who is the fastest on the market.

3. Data Logs: Not all VPNs have your best interest in mind. A trustworthy VPN provider should have a strict no-logs policy and allow for third party audits, to ensure their claims are verifiable. Other VPN companies have made bad headlines in the past for logging and selling user data and thus undermining the whole purpose of the service

5. Legal Limitations: Some countries with authoritarian governments prohibit the use of VPNs and users take on a legal risk if they choose to use a VPN. Bypassing geo-restrictions is also against the terms of service of most providers, such as YouTube and Netflix, and could potentially lead to the account being banned.

VPNs and money

Big VPN providers have become quite known in some online communities, as in the example of the aggressive Influencer-Marketing of Nord VPN sponsoring (what felt like) every third YouTube video for years.

There are also countless comparison websites on the internet, claiming to have found “The best VPN provider“ for the current year. Oftentimes, when you look at the legal notice of these websites, the operator is located in a small country outside the US or the EU, with many choosing to run their business in countries that can be used to create off-shore companies and refrain from strict tax and legal regulations, which leaves users with a shady and negative connotation.

The reality is that these sites receive generous affiliate commissions by the VPN providers they recommend, with some of these sites earning six-figure revenues or more. One of these sites,, made over 12 million dollars in net profit after taxes in 2021 and sold to Aura for an amount in the 8-9 figures.

As you can see, there‘s a lot of money to be made with VPNs, and that‘s a reason to look closer at the market, as we have to assume that not every provider has their user‘s best interest in mind.

Also, when you look at the apps of some VPN providers, it can very well happen that the VPN service they offer is good, but that they have Google trackers or other third party tracking in their apps, which again opens another vector for you to be tracked.

Another aspect to consider are the available payment methods. If reducing online tracking is your goal, there are VPN companies such as Mullvad, that offer users to pay in cash or with anonymous gift cards, allowing for a much more private way to purchase access to the service than through Paypal or Stripe only.

How do you spot a dubious VPN provider?

If a provider makes big claims about keeping you completely anonymous on the web and allowing you to leave no traces, you should be suspicious. Basically, if a claim sounds to good to be true and the marketing is really shiny and grandiose, you‘re probably onto something. In any case, reading the privacy policies may avoid bad surprises, if you find the time and effort to do so.

The website allows you to check if the mobile app has any known trackers integrated and allows you to check which cookies and analytics the website of the provider uses. If you find lots of big tech tracking there, that may be an indicator to be cautious.

And last but not least, if you use a VPN for your Android mobile, you can download and install iodéOS for free and use the iodé blocker app to directly spot and intercept realtime trackers from your VPN.

How do you spot a trustworthy VPN provider?

A trustworthy VPN provider doesn‘t make claims that they can‘t fulfill and allows for outside audits that test the technicalities of the service. Look for independent audits, the reputation of the company, and use the tools provided above to make a first check yourself.

A noteworthy example is Mullvad VPN. The company is based in Sweden. According to Exodus Privacy, their mobile app has no trackers whatsoever and on the website, there are no third-party requests and no cookies. The company never pays for reviews, doesn‘t have affiliates nor does it pay influencers for advertising and they do not allow third-party ads on their website. They have a no-logs policy and have maintained a very good reputation in the last few years.

Did you know?

Our iodé blocker app doesn‘t use the VPN slot of Android, which allows you to use a trusted VPN service while also benefiting from iodé‘s integrated tracking protection. You can download and install iodéOS for free, or you can buy a smartphone directly from us, with iodéOS preinstalled.

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