Virtual Private Network is a term that almost every internet user today has come across – and many of us have employed it for practical purposes, especially recently with the increase in awareness about internet-based privacy/security concerns.
As with any service that is rapidly gaining popularity, VPN unlimited software has flooded the market to the point that it becomes difficult for all but the most tech-savvy individuals to pick the best VPN service available. The objective of this guide is to educate you on choosing the best VPN for Australia.
You’ll learn why VPNs are important, what factors you need to consider when choosing them, and these will be supplemented with real VPN reviews to give you an idea of what to expect in the market.
Why get a VPN?
There are multiple reasons as to why having a VPN is a smart idea in the modern connected world.
To secure your online privacy
The most fundamental reason is internet privacy: with the proliferation of internet-enabled gadgetry in our lives, much of our online activity can be directly traced back to us unless steps are taken to keep it private. The most significant online identifier is a device’s IP address, which is frequently used by governments (as well as hackers) to trace a person’s physical location as well as gain access to privileged information.
A VPN uses a technology known as ‘virtual tunnelling’ to create a buffer zone between you and the rest of the internet. All your data is routed through another computer (server) to all websites that you access. As a result, anyone who is eavesdropping on your communication is only able to see the address of the server, and not your own personal computer’s.
VPNs also secure the data stream through sophisticated encryption techniques which mean that even if someone can intercept portions of your online traffic, they will not be able to make any sense out of it.
The safeguarding of online privacy has become especially crucial for Australians, since the recent meta-data capture legislation was passed by the government, requiring all ISPs to maintain logs about their customer’s activities online.
To access geo-restricted content
A consequence of communicating with the rest of the internet through another computer is that online services will detect your location as that of the end-point server of the VPN. What this means is that you can use a VPN server to access content that would otherwise be inaccessible in your country.
For example, Netflix US can only be viewed in the United States – to view it in Australia; you can sign up for a VPN that has servers in US states.
When you log in to the VPN, select one of these servers to connect to when you open your Netflix account next, your library will have automatically changed to the US version, giving you access to tons of quality content.
Factors on which VPNs should be judged
The present VPN market is so full of products that it requires careful evaluation of several features to separate the useful ones from the useless ones:
- Encryption standards: The primary purpose of a VPN is to mask your communication from the world – this is achieved through encryption. However, there are many encryption standards available right now, with only some of them being satisfactorily secure. You should look for a VPN that utilises the L2TP/IPSec or OpenVPN standards for encrypting your data stream.
Steer clear of those who use PP2P or vanilla L2TP, since these are weaker protocols that can be compromised by a determined snooper.
- Connection strength: When you access the internet through a VPN, your internet speed and reliability becomes dependent on the connection quality of the VPN service provider, as well as your existing ISP. If you go for an excessively cheap VPN, you may suffer from connection drops and jittery/sluggish download speeds because of their constrained bandwidth.
As a general rule, look for a VPN that offers a bandwidth equivalent to the subscription you have with your ISP, so you can fully utilise your internet connection with the VPN active.
- Server end-points: A decent VPN will have its servers spread all over the world, with multiple servers in popular countries such as the US and UK (because of geo-restricted services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer). In short, the greater number of servers a VPN has, the better connection you will enjoy since a large number of servers will help spread the load instead of having it choke a few servers.
- P2P Policy: Many of us use VPNs to discreetly download content over the P2P (torrent) protocol, which has become the subject of many legal actions over the past few years. However, since these consume a lot of bandwidth, many VPN providers tend to throttle or completely restrict activity over this protocol.
This best VPN for torrenting will have to allow you to utilise this protocol as you would any other online protocol, with no caveats whatsoever.
- Privacy regulations: Certain VPN providers tend to maintain logs about their consumers: for the most part, this is harmless and anonymous data intended to improve their future services, which will have no legal connection to you whatsoever.
However, some VPNs are compelled by their governments to divulge information about their clients – this is particularly true for countries with intrusive online regulations such as the UK, the US and Australia. It is therefore important that you ascertain beforehand that the VPN you select does not maintain any potentially incriminating log files about your activity.
- Device support: Decent VPNs will support all popular internet-enabled platforms of today, including iOS devices, Android devices, Windows devices, Mac OS devices, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and so on.
Express VPN Review
Express VPN is a user-friendly software, with a huge 137-strong server collection spread over 89 countries. It offers consistently brisk download speeds, which are ideal for HD streaming – given how it has plenty of servers present in the US and UK, you can enjoy uninterrupted access to Netflix US, American giant Hulu Plus as well as BBC iPlayer services!
It utilises industry leading 256-bit encryption with the OpenVPN standard to secure your data streams against eavesdroppers. Express VPN torrent users will be pleased to know that the service does not restrict your download speeds over the P2P protocol at all. Thanks to the dedicated support pages, setting it up and using it on your internet-enabled device is no issue at all. Platform-specific, intuitive apps are available for desktop and mobile platforms.
It isn’t the most inexpensive VPN service out there, but it does come with a month-long money-back guarantee in case you’re not sure about a long-term commitment. All in all, this is the best VPN for Australians right now.
NordVPN is a very complete and reasonably priced VPN service, utilising the strongest 2048-bit SSL encrypted OpenVPN protocol for its client software, as well as the equally dependable L2TP/IPSec for specific platforms.
It offers static IPs (even DDoS resistant ones for its clients) so that their address doesn’t change every time a NordVPN login is made from their device. The service allows you to make up to six simultaneous connections (i.e. use six independent devices over a single VPN subscription) which is great for users who want to remain always online.
The client software itself is quite intuitive and utilitarian but does not make an effort to explain technical jargon such as UDP and TCP, that it uses quite liberally.
This software fully supports torrents, and although benchmarks indicate a drop in connection speed/latency when NordVPN is running, the impact is barely noticeable when it comes to actual use, e.g. heavy streaming.
A couple of things to note: server locations are average for the industry (80 in 27 countries), and the month-long money-back guarantee is only valid if NordVPN fails to work: dissatisfaction does not merit a refund.
IPVanish VPN review
IPVanish is a well-rounded, highly secure (if somewhat expensive) VPN service that guarantees total privacy and anonymity for its consumers, as well as lightning-fast Tier-1 unlimited bandwidths (including over the P2P / torrent protocol).
Utilising both L2TP/IPSec and OpenVPN protocols for its clients on various platforms, IPVanish has a whopping 500 server count in over 60 countries, which means you can access any restricted service/app from anywhere in the world. You can use your IPVanish account for connecting two devices simultaneously as well.
On the flip side, no IPVanish free trial is available, and you only get a 7-day money-back guarantee for deciding whether you like it or not.
HideMyAss VPN review
Being close to a household name when it comes to VPNs, HMA VPN has a very extensive server network spread all over the globe (over 770 in 151 different countries).
While OpenVPN support (in addition to weaker PPTP and L2TP) is offered, and HideMyAss download speeds are passable, the major issue with HideMyAss is that it is based in the UK, which requires them to maintain data logs for all consumers. Even though they stress that they do not maintain data logs, they do retain connection logs for maintenance purposes.
Given past events which involved the arrests of HideMyAss’s paid customers based on information the service gave to the authorities, this is a major slap on the VPN provider’s claims of anonymity.
In light of these serious privacy concerns, it is inadvisable to use this service for anything more than casual, anonymous browsing.
Switzerland based VyprVPN service is a very innovative and feature-laden offering that utilises sophisticated technology to ensure the privacy of its customers.
Besides the expected OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec and PPTP support, it also uses a proprietary Chameleon standard – a modified version of OpenVPN that scrambles your data packets to defeat deep-packet inspection employed by many censorship policies.
The Tier-1 network, owned and operated by Golden Frog, i.e. VyprVPN’s parent company, and 700+ servers spread over 50 locations globally, ensures totally reliable and exceptionally breezy download speeds and functionality.
The service also offers a dedicated DNS proxy (cannot be used separately, requires a VyprVPN sign up first) as well as NAT firewall for added usability.
However, this software does completely lack support for P2P. Since Golden Frog is partially based in the United States, it can be legally compelled to divulge customer information under laws such as the Patriot Act – the fact that they keep connection logs for 30 days doesn’t help with this.
VyprVPN price is slightly above-average too, so all in all, it only recommended for users who want to circumvent geo-censored content that requires a lot of bandwidth.
Another very secure VPN provider is Torguard – worth checking out too.