In today’s world, it seems like Big Brother is always watching. Censorship is becoming more of an issue with some countries enforcing new, more harsh policies every day. So how do we combat this and protect ourselves?
One of the most common ways to bypass this, and one that is becoming increasingly more popular, is using a VPN or virtual private network. A VPN allows you to connect to another network over the internet securely. It was initially created to connect business networks or allow an employee to connect to the company network while working at home; however, VPNs have now turned into so much more.
Protect Your Privacy
One of the biggest reasons for securing a VPN, whether a company or an individual, is for the protection of your privacy. So much information gets put onto the web, it is important to have some safeguards in place. A VPN is able to do that and more.
How It Works
The first way a VPN protects you and your information is by encrypting it. When you access a website online, the information you input is run through a VPN server which encrypts your information and conceals your IP address. Any information you send and receive is encrypted and is therefore hidden from anyone trying to access it including your internet service provider (ISP), a hacker, or the government.
In addition, with the use of a VPN, your IP address is linked to the VPN server. This means that if the server is in a different location than you, it looks as if you are browsing from that location. This is how a VPN is able to bypass geo-restrictions on certain websites.
Though all of this protection sounds great, it is important to note that even though your information is protected from most, your VPN provider does have it. This is where a “no logging” policy is extremely important. Be sure to check that the VPN you choose has a strict no logging policy meaning that they too can’t access your information apart from standard information like an email address and payment data.
What Makes One VPN Better Than Another?
What makes one VPN better than another really comes down to personal preference and what you want to use the VPN for. If you are solely searching for protection of your personal information, there are several affordable VPNs that offers a solid encryption, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch.
Checking reviews and performing a DNS leak test on the VPN you are considering can help you make an informed decision.
However, if you are looking for more features like media streaming, gaming, and torrenting, some VPNs will stand out from the rest. For these features, you are going to want to check the VPN’s speeds and servers. A VPN with faster speeds will allow you to download torrents efficiently and watch a show with few interruptions.
The number of servers and server locations will affect the speed of a VPN, how bogged down the servers get, and which sites can be accessed. If you are hoping to view a site that is only offered in a specific country, you will want to make sure that VPN has a server in that country. You may also want to check how many devices you can connect to the VPN, as this could affect your gaming abilities.
Affordability of a VPN
For some, the cost may make one VPN more appealing than another. There are extremely affordable VPNs out there that offer solid protection, but few servers and features. So, if you are looking for all of the bells and whistles, you may have to spend a little more-again, it comes down to your preferences and priorities.
Comparing ExpressVPN and IPVanish
When choosing a VPN to fit your needs, it’s best to look at the VPN comprehensively. ExpressVPN and IPVanish kept appearing in my research of VPN’s, so I decided to investigate them further. They both proved to have impressive security and features.
For most, the main function of a VPN is privacy and protection. You want to know that no matter what, your location, IP address, browsing history, and personal information is hidden and secure. Fortunately, both of these VPNs have excellent privacy components and proven track records.
The first line of defense for a VPN is the encryption of your information. The industry standard is 256-bit encryption, which also happens to be the best, used by governments and militaries around the world. Both ExpressVPN and IPVanish choose to use the 256-bit encryption providing you with excellent security.
Unfortunately, like some internet connections, your VPN server connection can fail or be dropped. When this happens, your device will typically switch to the default server exposing your IP address and information. To prevent this, most VPN’s have what is called a kill switch.
The kill switch stops online activity, or “kills” any software or website you were viewing at the time the connection is lost. Again, both ExpressVPN and IPVanish have this feature. ExpressVPN refers to their specific kill switch as a “Network Lock.”
Although a VPN protects your information and browsing history from outsiders, you are still using their servers which means they have access to that data. This is where a logging policy comes in. Most VPNs claim to have a “No Logging” policy, but reading the fine print is a must.
ExpressVPN does have a pretty strict “No Logging” policy; however, they do keep track of some information. This includes apps you have activated, dates connected to the VPN, your choice of VPN server location, and the amount of data transferred in one day. Though this may seem like a lot, it’s actually pretty standard information collected by VPNs.
IPVanish too claims to have a strict “No Logging” policy. As they are located in the US, it’s hard to know if you can completely trust this claim. At one point, in 2016, they actually handed over data to Homeland Security, but they’ve since been taken over by a new company that seems to value protecting your privacy.
DNS Leak Protection
While neither VPN explicitly stated DNS leak protection, both performed well when it came to DNS leak testing. ExpressVPN does state that they have their own DNS system that runs on every server. This not only allows for faster results but safer ones as well.
One area that can potentially be an issue for VPNs is speed. Because you could be using a server thousands of miles away, it’s important to know that you will have a good connection with adequate speeds for what you want to accomplish. After digging into ExpressVPN and IPVanish, I found that they both fared pretty well on speed tests.
All VPNs claim to have super fast speeds, but you never know for sure what to expect. However, after looking at several lists, ExpressVPN was consistently near, if not at, the top as having one of the fastest speeds. Out of 100 Mbps, ExpressVPN was able to produce download speeds of 83.15 Mbps, which is remarkable and somewhat rare with VPNs.
With IPVanish, they go as far as to actually claim to be “The World’s Fastest VPN.” But how does that claim hold up in a speed test? Well, it may not be the fastest, but it wasn’t too far off from ExpressVPN. Out of 100 Mbps, IPVanish had download speeds of 82.67 Mbps, also giving them pretty impressive speeds.
One thing that can affect the speed of a VPN is the number of servers a VPN has. With multiple users, a VPN can get bogged down if too many people are using the same server. Plus, more servers often means access to more sites without censorship and geo-restricting.
Servers and Server Locations
For ExpressVPN, I was pleased to see that not only did they have 3,000 servers, but they were located in 160 cities within 94 countries. This offers users a wide variety of servers to choose from whether trying to access a certain site, find a faster speed, or hide or change their IP address. In addition, ExpressVPN is still adding servers which will continue to provide users with greater options and speeds as they continue to grow.
Though not as many servers as ExpressVPN, with over 1,300 servers in more than 75 locations, IPVanish still stands out with their server selection. They too claim to be growing and adding servers, offering more protection and greater variety in the content that their customers can access. Even with half the servers of ExpressVPN, the speeds that IPVanish has been able to produce are quite impressive.
While your main goal with a VPN may be protected and possibly streaming, the extra features allow VPNs to really stand out. It is these details that help decide whether one VPN is worth it over another. Below are some of the features you can find with ExpressVPN and IPVanish.
Multiple Connections Allowed
Paying for a VPN doesn’t seem so bad when you know that you can have it on several different devices. Not only does ExpressVPN and IPVanish work on multiple platforms, but they both also allow you to have a VPN connection on multiple devices. ExpressVPN will allow up to three connections, while IPVanish allows up to ten!
Another great feature with both ExpressVPN and IPVanish is unlimited bandwidth. This allows you to browse and download as much content as you want. Also, these VPNs never throttle your connection like a standard internet service provider.
For an added layer of protection, both VPNs also have TOR or The Orion Network. TOR pushes your traffic information over several different servers making it even more difficult, if not impossible, to find your information. Those living in countries with strict surveillance or censorship could benefit greatly from this feature.
When you are paying for a service like a VPN, it’s important to feel supported and have a clear understanding of how to use it. That is where customer service comes in. While most websites have some sort of help or support feature, how helpful are they really?
As with most VPNs, both ExpressVPN and IPVanish have a live chat function that is visible upon visiting their website. They also have the traditional route of email support and putting in a help ticket. While ExpressVPN showed excellent customer service, especially with their live chat, it took IPVanish a few days to respond, which is concerning if you are working with a deadline.
Guides and FAQ’s
One redeeming quality of IPVanish, however, is that they have several guides and FAQ’s. Though you may have to do some digging on your own, this may provide faster answers to your questions. ExpressVPN also had helpful instructions, guides, and even a blog to stay up to date on tips and news about internet privacy.
With excellent speeds, you would assume that the streaming services of these two VPNs would be top-notch. While neither ExpressVPN or IPVanish put a lot of focus on streaming, ExpressVPN does mention they have sports streaming, while IPVanish also states access to streaming websites. With media and entertainment streaming being such a popular reason for obtaining a VPN, it’s important to know how well these two perform.
Do They Pass the Test?
Since Netflix is one of the most commonly searched sites and one of the strictest against VPNs, it’s often used as the standard on how well a VPN can stream. When tested with ExpressVPN, I was thrilled to see the ease with which this VPN could access Netflix. While not every server worked, there were several that did, providing subscribers with options.
While the results with IPVanish weren’t as successful, after three unsuccessful attempts, there was one server located that could stream Netflix. It did have some lag, so this VPN may not be the best choice for your media streaming desires. However, if you are only an occasional entertainment site seeker, this VPN still has potential.
While gaming on a VPN may not seem like the best idea given that speeds aren’t always consistent, there are actually a lot of benefits, as well. Not only can you obtain games that tend to be geo-restricted, but you can access servers that are located in other regions, and play from anywhere. The key, however, is finding a VPN with great protection, download speeds and, if you’re lucky, one that reduces your ping time.
How ExpressVPN and IPVanish Stack Up
In reviewing how these two VPNs responded to gaming, I was pleasantly surprised. Both were often seen in the top of the best gaming VPNs, with ExpressVPN coming in at number one. IPVanish was closely behind coming in at number four.
So what makes these two VPNs so good for gamers? For ExpressVPN, it’s excellent speed and easy-to-use apps that made this VPN stand apart from all the others. While IPVanish also came down to speed and the ability to find a solid server by ping time and also usage options.
Another major use of a VPN is torrenting or peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing. This can allow you to download the material you may not otherwise have access to, or disseminate files among a large group of people. While that has great benefits for an individual, it’s also extremely beneficial for companies.
While ExpressVPN doesn’t come right out and say they allow torrenting, they have all the functions to support it from great encryption to unlimited bandwidth. IPVanish, on the other hand, does address their allowance of anonymous torrenting. They also commit to never slowing down your connection speed for P2P sharing.
Price Comparison ExpressVPN vs IPVanish
When comparing or choosing a VPN to go with, the price is always a factor to consider. While most VPNs are not outrageously expensive, some are more affordable than others. It is best to compare the features with the price to make sure you are getting the best deal for the money you are spending.
Pricing and Plans
With ExpressVPN, like most, the longer the plan, the more money you will save. On a monthly basis, expect to pay around $12.95 a month, putting ExpressVPN on the higher end of VPNs. However, if you are willing to commit to ExpressVPN for a while, they do offer a 12-month deal that costs only $8.32 per month, saving you 35%.
Comparatively, IPVanish is much more affordable starting with a monthly cost of $5.00. If you are looking for a longer plan to save more, a three-month plan will cost $4.50 per month, while a year is only $3.25 a month. Though this may seem like a significant difference between the two VPNs, it’s always best to look at the features and how they fit your VPN goals before making a decision.
While ExpressVPN and IPVanish seem similar in a lot of ways, reviewing their features and added value really did expose some differences. While they seem to both be great options, it all comes down to preference and what you would like to use a VPN for.
Using for Privacy Only
Whether choosing ExpressVPN or IPVanish for protection of your privacy, you really can’t go wrong. They both use a military grade-encryption, have a kill switch, have the ability to use TOR, and were found with no DNS leaks.
When solely looking at protection, IPVanish may have a slight edge over ExpressVPN and that is only because it is a little more affordable and can connect to more than three devices.
Looking at the Whole Package
On the other hand, if you are looking to be protected, have great gaming and streaming features, quick speeds, and excellent customer service, you have to go with ExpressVPN. Though you may spend a little more, having the support you need and speeds you want may be well worth it.
You are limited in the number of devices you can use, knowing you can search the web, download, and stream with complete anonymity offers peace of mind and security.
As you continue to investigate VPNs, here are a few commonly asked questions that you too may be seeking answers to. They don’t always appear during the research of a specific VPN, but are great to know regardless.
Will ExpressVPN or IPVanish Circumvent the Great Firewall of China?
One feature that most, if not all, VPNs really harp on is censorship and being able to access websites that are geo-restricted. They claim that no matter where you are, as long as they have a server in the country the site is from, they can get you access. But how does this play out when up against China’s Firewall, one of the greatest in the world?
In a study that tested these two VPNs seven times, the results were mixed. ExpressVPN held true to their claims and was able to circumvent China’s Firewall at least six out of seven times. On the other hand, IPVanish was not, which may come as a result of them being a US-based company.
With these results, if you are a resident of China, or looking to travel there soon, ExpressVPN is going to be your better option to access content while in that country. However, be forewarned that China enhances its firewall routinely and what works today has the potential to not work tomorrow.
What Is a DNS Leak and How Does My VPN Protect Me?
To fully understand a DNS leak, you must first understand what a DNS is. When we search for a website, we typically type in the name (URL) and hit enter, but there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. First, every website has a numerical address (IP address) that the URL must be converted into to access the site. This conversion happens with a DNS, or domain name system, server.
So why does this become an issue and how do leaks occur? This can first occur by your device defaulting to a DNS server provided by your ISP. When this happens, your information is exposed and can be viewed or accessed by the ISP. Secondly, if your VPN uses DNS servers from a third party, they too can access your search history, breaching security once again.
The VPN’s Role
Fortunately, there are many VPNs out there that have DNS leak protection. One of the best ways to protect against this is by having a VPN that owns and operates their own DNS servers. Keeping it “in house” allows for the same anonymity and encryption so you can feel confident browsing the internet and never fear the risk of a leak.