Testing a VPN can be a tricky task. There are many parameters to consider, a range of factors and characteristics to consider, and everyone has their own view of what is important and what is not. As a result, giving a definitive verdict is relatively difficult.
What we do is examine and test the many features offered by the vpn providers and then try to give you a clear and concise summary.
Before each in-depth analysis, you will find a summary of the major points so that you can get an overall idea of our opinion on the product.
Then we detail each of the parameters more explicitly, without using overly technical terms and without boring, lengthy paragraphs.
It is worth mentioning that we are absolutely not a marketing site for this or that vpn and that the suppliers do not dictate the results of our tests.
Table of contents
The VPN provider's data sheet
We begin our process of evaluating a VPN by visiting its website and collecting detailed information about the service and its features.
- Total number of servers.
- Number of possible countries.
- Number of servers per country.
- Choice of platform available
- Cryption and protocol.
The simple search for relevant information already indicates of what a VPN will look like.For example, a dubious provider will lack details, its website will often be poorly organized, it will be difficult to find information. The information may be inconsistent or outdated, and some marketing tricks, such as unrealistic promises, may be discovered.
Features and security structure of the vpn provider
We start by looking for data on supported protocols, encryption and authentication. OpenVPN support is preferable, IKEv2 is not far behind, L2TP / IPSec is acceptable, but the outdated and insecure PPTP should be avoided.
VPN providers don’t always fully state their policies, and it is sometimes necessary to look into the support for clues. If the service has live chat, we try to get more information by asking technical questions.
The functionality of the application is essential. Quality VPNs will use their own DNS servers and implement DNS leak protection (IPv4 and IPv6) to reduce the chances that your internet activities will no longer be protected.
It is also important that the application has a kill switch to automatically block Internet access if the VPN connection is lost.
Please note: the fact that a service has a “kill switch” on the list of features does not mean that this feature is available on all platforms. Mobile apps often have fewer features, for example, so we check every one of them.
Trust and Privacy
Another suitable policy may be to tell you what VPN providers log, why they do it, and what happens to that data. For example, a provider might want to record the last connection time and the bandwidth used in a session, but not record incoming or outgoing IP addresses.
these data are useful allows VPN providers to monitor service usage and identify inactive accounts (which makes sense), but doesn’t let anyone know what you are doing online.
Speed and performance testing of the VPN provider's servers
When we test a server we look at:
- His availability.
- His location
- Connection time
- Latency and download speed.
We separate the location of the servers into 5 groups.
- United States
- Rest of the world
To try to get a more realistic idea of how a VPN is performing, we’re testing up to 30 servers in a single group with the widest range of locations possible. For the United States, for example, we are testing servers on the east coast, central and west coast.
Of course, we can’t test all servers, which means some of the best or the slowest may slip away. However, this is sufficient to get a representative idea of the VPN’s perfomance.
Ability to bypass geoblocking (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC, etc...).
Many VPNs claim to be able to allow you to bypass geo-blocking, by allowing you to access content that you would not otherwise have access to, but in reality, few do.
A good VPN provider will clearly state which services it provides access (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) and which it cannot. Technical support may include articles explaining what you can do if a site is not unblocked, and invites you to contact the support team directly if you need help.
More dubious VPNs will come across as making big promises, claiming they “let you unblock all web geo-restrictions” or display Netflix and other logos to indicate they are available, without further specifying. But if you search a little, you won’t find any information or a simple warning that they can’t guarantee anything.
To test geo-blocking ourselves, we try to access US content from Netflix and Hulu with US servers, BBC with UK servers and Mycanal with French servers.
ease of use
A VPN can have a large network of fast and reliable servers, but that’s not enough if its applications make the service difficult to use. Therefore we place great importance on the software, its functionality and its ease of use.
We expect a VPN to provide its own apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Support for other platforms is not as important, but provides us with valuable information about the provider.
The vast majority of users won’t worry if their VPN has a Linux client, for example, but its existence alone tells us that the provider has resources, real VPN experience, and is doing their best to reach out and help the greatest number of users.
Some services also offer browser extensions. These are generally more limited than apps, as most only protect browser traffic, and not other programs running on your device. However, there are exceptions.
The usability of the application is very important and although very subjective, we try to consider the most important factors. The interface should make it easy to find the server you need or reconnect to commonly used locations. A simple list sorted in alphabetical order, with a search field and a system of favorites, may be suitable. Applications with card systems that require you to make multiple clicks to log in will see their “ease of use” rating drop drastically.
A good application allows you to filter locations by continent. We especially like having a hint on server speed (ping time, server load data), and if you can prioritize the fastest servers, that’s even better.
One of the most common features is to mark locations as favorites, placing them in a separate list at the top of the screen. ExpressVPN does even better by also offering a “recent” tab, where you can find and connect to recently used servers with a few clicks.
It is essential that users know when the VPN is protecting them. Therefore, the application should display notifications showing whether or not they are logged in. The interface should make this information easily visible, for example, by changing the color of the application window to indicate when they are connected.
We also check how easy it is to switch servers when you are logged in. Some applications make this difficult and only display the list of servers when disconnected. We prefer apps that make the process much more natural.
Many applications also offer an “automatic” or “fastest server” selection mode, and they (in theory) choose the best server for you. However, it doesn’t always work as well as expected, which is why we check it to make sure the results are reliable.
It is also important to consider the different parameters. At a minimum, we want to see a “kill switch”, ensuring that Internet access will be blocked if the connection is dropped. An app that can automatically connect when you access new networks is great because you won’t have to remember to do it yourself. And a “connect at device startup” option is also very useful, especially if you can choose the default location (a specific server, the last one you used, etc).
Finally, we look at the application’s default settings and verify that these settings are configured correctly. Many users don’t spend a lot of time exploring these options. It is therefore important that these parameters are properly configured.
VPN Provider Customer Support
VPNs can encounter all kinds of problems, and it’s important that every provider offers fast, accurate, and reliable support.
VPNs can run into all kinds of hard-to-diagnose issues, and it’s important that every provider offers fast, accurate, and reliable support. The website should include all helpful guides for setting up, using, and troubleshooting your vpn.
VPNs can run into all kinds of hard-to-diagnose issues, and it’s important that every provider offers fast, accurate, and reliable support. The website should include all helpful guides for setting up, using, and troubleshooting any problems.
The installation section should provide tutorials for the various platforms that can be used, and should cover as many operating system versions as possible.
In addition, it is important that you can contact technical support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via live chat (live chat), but also support via email or ticket. Sometimes the best suppliers respond within minutes.
We test the support of each VPN provider that we publish the review, with identical questions for each of them to get an idea of their quality.