TechRepublic's Review Methodology for VPNs (2024)

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Our review methodology for virtual private networks involves comprehensive research, expert analysis and first-hand experience.

At TechRepublic, we aspire to provide our readers with a fair and honest assessment of virtual private networks they may invest in. To achieve this, we believe it’s important to share how we evaluate VPNs, what criteria are used to rate each aspect of a VPN and how it all adds up to our final star rating.

We use an in-house algorithm that’s built upon five main categories: pricing, core VPN features (e.g., encryption, server network), ease of use, customer support and expert analysis. Each category is then weighted to account for how important it is to our audience of technology buyers.

SEE: Brute Force and Dictionary Attacks: A Guide for IT Leaders (TechRepublic Premium)

While our algorithm is subject to change, these categories are the main pillars by which we assess each VPN. If you have differing opinions on our chosen criteria, we encourage you to use our methodology and reviews to inform your own evaluation of a particular VPN.

Below is the breakdown of how we review VPNs.

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ESET PROTECT AdvancedVisit WebsiteCompany SizeEmployees per Company SizeMicro (0-49), Small (50-249), Medium (250-999), Large (1,000-4,999), Enterprise (5,000+)Any Company SizeAny Company SizeFeaturesAdvanced Threat Defense, Full Disk Encryption , Modern Endpoint Protection, Server Security
ManageEngine Log360Visit WebsiteCompany SizeEmployees per Company SizeMicro (0-49), Small (50-249), Medium (250-999), Large (1,000-4,999), Enterprise (5,000+)Micro (0-49 Employees), Small (50-249 Employees), Medium (250-999 Employees), Large (1,000-4,999 Employees), Enterprise (5,000+ Employees)Micro, Small, Medium, Large, EnterpriseFeaturesActivity Dashboard, Advanced Threat Analytics, Analytics/Reporting, and more
ManageEngine Desktop CentralVisit WebsiteCompany SizeEmployees per Company SizeMicro (0-49), Small (50-249), Medium (250-999), Large (1,000-4,999), Enterprise (5,000+)Any Company SizeAny Company SizeFeaturesActivity Monitoring, Antivirus, Dashboard, and more

Pricing (20%)

Pricing accounts for 20% of our total score for VPNs. This category comprises subcriteria that include but are not limited to:

  • Multiple subscription options.
  • Accessible free trial.
  • Option to use a free version.
  • Pricing relative to the competition.
  • Overall value for money.

Core VPN features (30%)

Core VPN features, such as servers and security protocols, account for 30% of our total score. This category consists of subcriteria that include but are not limited to:

  • Security reputation and lack of data breaches.
  • Encryption and VPN protocols.
  • No-logs policy and independent audits.
  • Server network (server count and country spread).
  • VPN speed and performance.
  • Ability to unblock geo-restricted content.
  • Easy server switching.
  • Split tunneling capabilities.
  • Protection against DNS leaks.
  • Built-in kill switch.
  • Ad, tracker and malware blocking.
  • Support and availability on multiple platforms.

Ease of use (15%)

Ease of use accounts for 15% of our total VPN score. This category comprises subcriteria that include but are not limited to:

  • Intuitiveness of user interface.
  • In-app design.
  • Installation and setup difficulty.
  • Ability to establish connections.

Customer support (30%)

Customer support accounts for 30% of our total VPN score. This category consists of subcriteria that include but are not limited to:

  • Support options for customers (email, live chat, phone, etc).
  • How quickly customers get a response after posing a question or issue.
  • Availability of help resources such as guides, forums and tutorials.

Expert analysis (5%)

Expert analysis accounts for 5% of our total VPN score. This category consists of subcriteria that include but are not limited to:

  • Personal experience with the product itself.
  • Inclusion of features that set the VPN apart from other providers.
  • Ease of research, which includes availability of demos, product documentation and other materials to verify information.

Our VPN evaluation research methods

To get a holistic view of each VPN we review, we prioritize analysis gained through in-house and hands-on user testing. We also supplement our findings through product demos, documentation and verified customer feedback on sites that include but are not limited to:

  • Gartner Peer Insights.
  • Community forums.

How do I choose the best VPN for my organization?

Choosing the best VPN for your business will largely depend on your organization’s particular circ*mstances and needs. While there isn’t one perfect solution, there are a few key things you can do to get the most out of a VPN subscription.

Maximize free trials and free plans

Look to see whether the VPN you’re interested in has an accessible free trial and/or free version. These let you test drive a particular provider’s flavor of VPN without having to commit to a monthly subscription or initial purchase.

Some VPNs also have money-back guarantees that let you refund an initial payment if you find that their software isn’t a good fit. VPN refund periods usually range from 14 to 45 days, giving users a long-enough time to try out a solution extensively.

Know how you’re going to use the VPN

Another important step is to figure out how your business is going to use a VPN. While all VPNs encrypt online traffic, some solutions place more priority on certain features over others. For example, certain VPNs have security as their number one priority, while others are built for streaming or traveling.

Knowing how your organization plans to use a VPN can help reduce the amount of research you need to do.

If you’re unsure about how a VPN can be integrated into your business, we recommend going through this list of articles (and the Also See section at the bottom):

Look into a VPN provider’s server fleet

VPNs are a great way to unblock geo-restricted content. The way they do that is through their server networks, with servers being spread out all over the world. While all VPNs have servers, not all have large server networks at their disposal.

Look for a provider that provides at least 2,000 to 4,000 servers in its network. If your main use case with a VPN is to unblock region-locked content, the more servers, the better your chances of unblocking.

Another important consideration is server locations. If you have a specific region that you need to unblock content from, it’s a good idea to check whether your VPN of choice has a server in that area. Luckily, most VPNs provide a publicly available list of their servers and their corresponding locations.

Consider cost and devices to be used

This may be a no-brainer but consider cost and whether a VPN fits your organization’s budget. Fortunately, most VPN providers offer a variety of subscription options and contract lengths to accommodate a range of budgets.

Another crucial factor is the number of devices you want connected to a VPN. Not all VPNs have unlimited simultaneous device connections, so make sure you choose a provider that can protect all the devices at your disposal.

Finally, don’t skimp on security

VPNs encrypt your browsing data and keep your online activity secure — at least they should. Look for VPNs that have no-logs policies and are independently audited. “No-logs” policies are claims from VPN providers that state they don’t log or record user data.

While any VPN provider can say they don’t log data, a quality solution would have a no-logs policy that’s backed by third-party testing or an independent audit. This provides an additional layer of confidence that your data isn’t being sold off or given to the wrong hands. If you want to learn more, we have a round-up of the best no-logs VPNs in 2024 you can check out.

It’s also a good rule of thumb to check whether a particular VPN has been involved in any data breach or zero-day vulnerability. Case in point, Ivanti Secure VPN recently had five new zero-day vulnerabilities in 2024, leading to thousands of online devices at risk of being exploited.

Check out our reviews or do a quick Google search of the VPN you’re interested in and see whether there’s any news or history of security breaches.

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Also Read

TechRepublic's Review Methodology for VPNs (2024)


What is the methodology of VPN? ›

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a method by which two end-points create a single, private connection, or tunnel, while using a larger network infrastructure such as the internet or wide area network. When established, a VPN acts like a direct connection to a private network.

Do VPNs actually work? ›

While they will protect your IP and encrypt your internet history, but that is as much as they can do. They won't keep you safe, for instance, if you visit phishing websites or download compromised files. When you use a VPN, you are still at risk of: Trojans.

What is the safest VPN? ›

The Best VPN Services of 2024
  • NordVPN - Best VPN for Privacy.
  • Surfshark - Best VPN for Security.
  • Private Internet Access VPN - Best VPN for Windows.
  • Hotspot Shield - Best VPN for Netflix.
  • Norton Secure VPN - Best VPN With Dynamic IP Addresses.
  • IPVanish - Best Customer Support.
  • ExpressVPN - Best Encryption.
Apr 16, 2024

How much does a VPN cost? ›

The average cost of a VPN typically ranges from $3 to $10 per month, depending on the subscription length and features offered.

What are the 4 main types of VPN explain each VPN? ›

Remote access VPNs — for remote employees accessing the company network; Site-to-site VPNs — for company networks accessing each other; Personal VPNs — for individuals who want to safely access their home network; Mobile VPNs — a VPN that you access from the client app on your phone.

Is having a VPN illegal? ›

Are VPNs legal to use? Yes, VPNs are legal in most countries around the world, including the US, Canada, and most of Europe. However, you might risk heavy fines or even imprisonment for using a VPN in a country that bans it, for example, North Korea or Iraq.

Is there a downside to VPN? ›

While VPNs have a lot of perks, there are potential downsides, too. A VPN can reduce internet speed and increase latency, which slows down online activities. Using a VPN can get your accounts blocked by social media sites for suspicious activity.

Are free VPNs useless? ›

One of the primary reasons for using a VPN is to benefit from the strong encryption protocols that keep your data secure. However, many free VPNs employ weak or outdated encryption protocols like PPTP, which can leave you vulnerable to cyber threats, data theft and more.

What is the #1 best VPN? ›

ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN is CNET's pick for the best VPN overall. The veteran VPN provider consistently demonstrates a strong commitment to privacy and transparency, is excellent for streaming plus remains user-friendly on any platform.

What VPN does not protect you from? ›

VPNs are not designed to protect your device from malware, viruses or other cyber threats. They secure your data transmission and mask your online identity, but they don't have the ability to scan or block malicious software. Therefore, it's essential to use additional security measures alongside a VPN.

Is VPN safe or risky? ›

A VPN connection is made through highly secure protocols at a level of encryption that has never been cracked. This, coupled with the anonymity of IP masking and location spoofing, renders your online presence nearly untraceable. If you or your organization handle sensitive information, then a VPN is a must.

What is the most expensive VPN? ›

For the best, you'll need to pay a premium. ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPN providers currently on the market.

How much does a VPN slow down the internet? ›

The usage usually increases by around 5-10% due to the encryption process. In terms of speed, your VPN can only be as fast as your internet connection. In fact, slight drops of around 10-20% in speed are absolutely normal when using a VPN since its main priority should always be security and privacy.

Is it worth paying for VPN? ›

It's a common question, especially if you're unfamiliar with the benefits of using a VPN. Getting a VPN is valuable, especially if you prioritize online privacy and want all your internet activity, including communication between devices and servers, encrypted.

What is the best VPN method? ›

The best VPN protocol for you depends on a number of factors, including what device you're using, how much balance between security and speed you want, what type of activities you're doing online, and more. OpenVPN and WireGuard are generally considered the best VPN protocols for day-to-day use.

What are the three elements of a VPN? ›

Imagine the internet as a bunch of roads that connect your home (your device) to a variety of destinations (websites and services). A VPN uses three basic components to work: the tunnel, the encryption, and the server.

What are three types of protocols used by a VPN? ›

The most common VPN protocols
  • OpenVPN. OpenVPN is a cryptographic protocol that emphasizes security. ...
  • IPSec / IKEv2. Internet key exchange version 2 (IKEv2) is often used in combination with Internet Protocol Security (IPSec). ...
  • L2TP/IPSec. ...
  • PPTP. ...
  • WireGuard. ...
  • SSTP. ...
  • IPSec vs OpenVPN. ...
  • PPTP vs OpenVPN.
Sep 22, 2023

Does VPN use tunneling techniques? ›

Tunneling works by encapsulating packets: wrapping packets inside of other packets. (Packets are small pieces of data that can be re-assembled at their destination into a larger file.) Tunneling is often used in virtual private networks (VPNs).


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