Best VPN service in 2020: Safe and fast doesn’t come for free

Shuvashis Das
9 min readDec 2, 2020

Virtual private networks aren’t essential only for securing your unencrypted Wi-Fi connections in coffee shops and airports. Every remote worker should consider a VPN to stay safe online. Here are your top choices in VPN service providers and how to get set up.

Best VPN providers

If you’re curious about how VPNs work or what a VPN provider can do for you, here’s a great VPN overview article. Now that you understand how a VPN service can help keep you safe, let’s kick it off with our list of recommended service providers.


A top-rated VPN provider

Photo by Christian Englmeier on Unsplash
Photo by Christian Englmeier on Unsplash
  • Simultaneous Connections: 5
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: A whole lot
  • Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs
  • Countries: 94
  • Locations: 160
  • Trial/MBG: 30 days

ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPN providers out there, offering a wide range of platforms and protocols. Platforms include Windows, Mac, Linux, routers, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Kindle Fire, and even the Nook device. There are also browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Plus, ExpressVPN works with PlayStation, Apple TV, Xbox, Amazon Fire TV, and the Nintendo Switch. There’s even a manual setup option for Chromecast, Roku, and Nvidia Switch.

With 160 server locations in 94 countries, ExpressVPN has a considerable VPN network across the internet. In CNET’sreview of the service, staff writer Rae Hodge reported that ExpressVPN lost less than 2% of performance with the VPN enabled and using the OpenVPN protocol vs. a direct connection.

While the company does not log browsing history or traffic destinations, it does log dates connected to the VPN service, amount transferred, and VPN server location. We do want to give ExpressVPN kudos for making this information very clear and easily accessible.


Leak-free and unlimited connections

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Firefox, Chrome
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

At two bucks a month for a two-year plan (billed in one chunk), Surfshark offers a good price for a solid offering. In CNET’s testing, no leaks were found (and given that much bigger names leaked connection information, that’s a big win). The company seems to have a very strong security focus, offering AES-256-GCM, RSA-2048, and Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption. To prevent WebRTC leaks, Surfshark offers a special purpose browser plugin designed specifically to combat those leaks.

Surfshark’s performance was higher than NordVPN and Norton Secure VPN, but lower than ExpressVPN and IPVanish. That said, Surfshark also offers a multihop option that allows you to route connections through two VPN servers across the Surfshark private network. We also like that the company offers some inexpensive add-on features, including ad-blocking, anti-tracking, access to a non-logging search engine, and a tool that tracks your email address against data breach lists.


Interesting options to enhance VPN protection

Photo by Karl Köhler on Unsplash
  • Simultaneous Connections: 6
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Countries: 59
  • Servers: 5517
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

NordVPN is one of the most popular consumer VPNs out there. Last year, Nord announced that it had been breached. Unfortunately, the breach had been active for more than 18 months. While there were failures at every level, NordVPN has taken substantial efforts to remedy the breach.

In our review, we liked that it offered capabilities beyond basic VPN, including support of P2P sharing, a service it calls Double VPN that does a second layer of encryption, Onion over VPN which allows for TOR capabilities over its VPN, and even a dedicated IP if you’re trying to run a VPN that also doubles as a server. It supports all the usual platforms and a bunch of home network platforms as well. The company also offers NordVPN Teams, which provides centralized management and billing for a mobile workforce.

Performance testing was adequate, although ping speeds were slow enough that I wouldn’t want to play a twitch video game over the VPN. To be fair, most VPNs have pretty terrible ping speeds, so this isn’t a weakness unique to Nord. Overall, a solid choice, and with a 30-day money-back guarantee, worth a try.


Deep capabilities hidden in an easy-to-use app

  • Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome, plus routers, Fire Stick, and Kodi
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Servers: 1,500
  • Locations: 75
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

IPVanish is a deep and highly configurable product that presents itself as a click-and-go solution. I think the company is selling itself short doing this. A quick visit to its website shows a relatively generic VPN service, but that’s not the whole truth.

Its UI provides a wide range of server selection options, including some great performance graphics. It also has a wide variety of protocols, so no matter what you’re connecting to, you can know what to expect. The company also provides an excellent server list with good current status information. There’s also a raft of configuration options for the app itself.

In terms of performance, connection speed was crazy fast. Overall transfer performance was good. However, from a security perspective, it wasn’t able to hide that I was connecting via a VPN — although the data transferred was secure. Overall, a solid product with a good user experience that’s fine for home connections as long as you’re not trying to hide the fact that you’re on a VPN.

The company also has a partnership with SugarSync and provides 250GB of encrypted cloud storage with each plan.


Open source with a dedicated focus on security

  • Simultaneous Connections: Depends on plan
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Countries: 54
  • Servers: 1,077
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

We really like the ProtonVPN story. The company was created by engineers and scientists who met at CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research — where the Web was invented) with a focus on creating encrypted email and VPN communications with the idea of protecting the communication of activists and journalists. The company is also headquartered in Switzerland, which has very strong privacy laws.

In terms of product, ProtonVPN has a belt-and-suspenders approach to security, layering strong protocols on top of perfect forward secrecy, on top of strong encryption. Not only does ProtonVPN have a kill switch, but it also has an always-on VPN, which attempts to restore VPN service if it’s dropped mid-communication. Finally, we like that all apps are open source and the company reports that they are independently audited.

Finally, the company offers a very generous free service, allowing one machine to connect at medium speed, but there doesn’t appear to be any limit to the amount of data used in the free plan.


VPN service hosted on its own infrastructure

  • Simultaneous Connections: 5
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, QNAP, Synology, router, TV
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Servers: 700+ on their own infrastructure
  • Locations: 70
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

Golden Frog, the company behind VyperVPN, claims to be “A company as old as the Internet itself,” yet its own about page says the company was founded in 2009. Apparently, the founders of Golden Frog were founding companies back in the 90s, and they conflated the two facts. I’m always a bit uncomfortable when a security company conflates facts.

On the plus side, we like that Golden Frog owns and manages its own infrastructure and does not rely on hosting companies. VPN infrastructure is often a murky thing, with the VPN service providers renting time from available data centers in host countries.

The company offers a huge array of client software, including apps for routers and even BlackBerry devices. Apps support key features like a kill switch, a zero-knowledge DNS service, and their own Chameleon VPN protocol for added security. The company’s no-log service was last audited in 2018, so they’re a bit overdue.

Golden Frog, also registered in Switzerland, is a standout in their effort to provide privacy and thwart censorship. When China began its program of deep packet VPN inspection, Golden Frog’s VyperVPN service added scrambled OpenVPN packets to keep the traffic flowing.

Norton Secure VPN

It’s Norton, a known and trusted brand. What else is there to say?

  • Simultaneous Connections: Based on plan
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Countries: Unspecified
  • Locations: Unspecified
  • Trial/MBG: 60 day

We found performance is middle-of-the-road and platforms are limited to Mac, iOS, Windows, and Android. Don’t even think of using it on routers, Linux, or gaming platforms. Pricing is weirdly and unnecessarily tiered. The service raises its price by ten bucks when you jump from 1 device to 5, and another ten bucks when you jump to ten devices. Given the full ten simultaneous device package is a good deal at $59, it’s odd that it’s nickel-and-diming the lower tiers.

We’re recommending Norton not as much because it’s a great VPN (it’s really kinda meh), but because it’s from a brand we’ve long come to know and trust. The company also offers live 24/7 phone support and has an excellent 60-day money-back guarantee. The company also offers a generous 60-day money-back guarantee, but oddly doesn’t promote it. The only place it’s mentioned is deep inside their refund policy document.


Clear and understandable instructions

  • Simultaneous Connections: 12
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV, Synology, Kindle, Kodi, and routers
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Countries: 30+
  • Servers: 950+
  • Trial/MBG: 30 day

StrongVPN stands out because its setup, website, and support materials are clear and easy to understand. We found setup to offer just the right amount of explanation when we needed it.

The fact that StrongVPN doesn’t log anything is a big win, but it’s offset a bit by the fact that our testing showed endpoints can tell you’re using a VPN. To be sure, data is nicely encrypted, but if you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re on a VPN, Strong isn’t for you. That said, it had solid performance, an excellent UI, and did the job. Plus, they recently upped the number of simultaneous connections from five to twelve. That’s nice to see. The company also includes 250 GB of SugarSync secure storage with all plans.

Hotspot Shield

Astonishing performance

  • Simultaneous Connections: 5
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, router, TV
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Countries: 80
  • Locations: 115
  • Trial/MBG: 45 days

This is a company that has had some ups and downs in its coverage. That said, the company seems to have resolved its issues successfully. But I’m burying the lede for this story. Here’s what you need to know about Hotspot Shield: performance was astonishing.

The company kept sending me bragging emails, claiming exceptional performance. Since reviewers often (always) get “we’re the best” emails, it’s something we ignore like the background noise it usually is. But then my editor challenged me to put Hotspot Shield to the test. And you know what? For most countries, while the VPN connection was active, it actually out-performed non-VPN connection speed. Go ahead and read my review. Surprised the heck out of me.

CyberGhost VPN

A bundle of security features beyond VPN

  • Simultaneous Connections: 7
  • Kill Switch: Yes
  • Platforms: All you’d expect and a lot more
  • Logging: None, except billing data
  • Countries: 89
  • Servers: 6,381
  • Trial/MBG: 45 days

The CyberGhost client is more than a VPN connection driver. The company’s offering is a decently complete full security system, including ad-blocking, malicious website blocking, online footprint blocking (blocking cookies from dropping), and forced https redirect.

With more than 6,000 servers deployed in 89 countries and 112 locations, CyberGhost has a larger number of servers than many of the other VPN providers we surveyed. Performance was adequate. It provided enough bandwidth to stream video and get your job done, but it certainly wasn’t a rocket. Also, if you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN, you’ll want to look elsewhere. That said, for a solid overall security package, CyberGhost is a good option.



Shuvashis Das

“Writing is a great struggle against the silence.” I am Shuvashis, a professional article writer, blog writer, content writer, and proofreader.