CEO of VPN.com. We help brands, entrepreneurs, politicians and athletes acquire premium domain names for their vision.
A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts data so that third parties can't access personal information. With passwords being stolen by hackers and personal data being sold by companies to advertisers, VPNs offer one of the few promising ways to protect your privacy online.
That said, many people are unsure about how much to pay for a VPN. To answer this question, it's important to take your business or individual needs into consideration.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a piece of software that encrypts your data and hides your IP address while online. Businesses often use VPNs to protect sensitive data, but anyone can use one for personal use. The VPN sends your data through a VPN server that encrypts the data and then transfers it back to you. As a result, outside parties can't see your information even when using public WiFi.
If you work remotely, VPNs can protect malicious parties from spying on your customers' information. VPNs can also protect art, software, manuscripts, music and programs that might get leaked otherwise. However, you don't need a specific reason to use a VPN. Many people use VPNs simply to protect their privacy.
MORE FROMFORBES ADVISOR
VPNs, however, come with a few drawbacks. Since the data goes through a remote server, you might experience speed and connectivity issues. VPNs also prevent you from using services that require a visible IP address. If the VPN connection drops suddenly, you could also browse the internet for hours without realizing that you lost protection.
Still, VPNs are a valuable resource to protect your data.
How much does a VPN cost?
On average, VPNs cost about $10 per month, but they can cost as much as $20 and as little as $3 per month.
Most VPNs have pay-by-the-month options if you don't want to sign up for a yearly contract. However, monthly subscriptions are generally the most expensive. If you plan on long-term VPN use, three-month contracts and beyond come with increasingly larger discounts. Some services start at $10 or more, then drop to less than $3 when signing up for an entire year.
Many VPNs offer a free-trial program. Even if you've used a VPN before, take advantage of the free trial. Each VPN has its own set of features that influence your browsing experience. If you're looking at an expensive VPN, a free trial helps you decide if the software is worth the price tag.
Some VPN companies offer discounts around the holidays, especially Black Friday. Others have discounts for students and veterans. Look for coupons, and keep an eye out for deals. Just note that some discounts expire after a certain time period.
In all cases, research each option before you subscribe—not every VPN has the features you need.
How much should I pay for a VPN?
Ask yourself what you need before you buy a VPN. Each VPN has different limits on data usage, number of servers, time that you can spend online and number of devices that you can connect. Some VPNs have no limits. Other features include the ability to mask your geographical location and watch Netflix in different countries. Additionally, make sure that the VPN is compatible with the devices that you use.
Once you know what you need, browse the VPNs that have your required features. You might have to pay more for advanced features, but expensive VPNs aren't necessarily better. Many cheap VPNs have the same features as pricier options. Still, don't assume that cheap VPNs have everything you need—you might end up with a lower speed or data limit that makes streaming impossible.
Overall, there's no price that works for everyone. If you're on a budget, figure out which features you're willing to sacrifice. Keep in mind that you can turn off the VPN any time if it's absolutely necessary. Additionally, note that even the most expensive VPNs give you a discount when you sign up for a long-term contract. You'll get every feature without the expensive price tag.
Are free VPNs worth it?
Instead of paying for a VPN, you could use one of the free VPNs. These VPNs claim to offer the same services without the monthly fee. However, free VPNs often have features that defeat the purpose of using a VPN in the first place.
VPNs have access to your data, IP address and personal information. While legitimate VPNs protect your data from third parties, VPNs can collect this data and sell it to advertisers. Free VPNs may read your text messages, listen to your phone calls or spy on you through your webcam. Check the permissions before you sign up for a free VPN, and avoid VPNs that seem invasive.
Some "free VPNs" are actually malware disguised as harmless software. Unfortunately, you won't know until you install the VPN and find a virus on your device. Other VPNs suffer from leaks that compromise your sensitive data. Third parties could use this information to track your location, steal your identity or hack into your bank account.
Ultimately, paid VPNs offer more protection, extra features and the security that you get from installing legitimate software. Since they make money off subscriptions, they don't sell your data to advertisers. They also pay for high-quality servers to minimize potential data leaks. Most paid VPNs have customer service that you can contact when you need help.
On average, VPNs cost about $10 a month on average, although you can save money by signing a long-term contract. Free VPNs exist, but they could come with malware and data leaks. Paid VPNs generally offer more security and essential features like high speeds, unlimited data and location masking.
A VPN requires a small investment. But by considering your needs and conducting the proper research, it could provide you with much-needed security while surfing the web, reading emails and working on classified projects.
Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?