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One of the questions I'm asked most often by readers is why do VPNs have to be so expensive? Many of these folks say they are loath to add yet another fee to their monthly bills or that they are operating on a limited budget.
Also: The 10 best VPNs: Top services compared
Many have read my advice about staying away from free VPNs because it's unclear how those vendors make their money or even whether or not your data is being mined as it's transiting across the free VPN providers' networks.
So, they understand it's better when VPN vendors make their money from their customers rather than from shadowy marketing or even criminal enterprises. That said, some of my readers have asked me whether there are cheap VPN providers we can recommend.
Yes, with some caveats. First, what is "cheap?" For some folks, cheap might be under $10 per month. While for others, cheap is under a buck. Since I didn't find any VPN deals for less than a dollar a month, I'm arbitrarily defining "cheap" as less than $2 per month.
At that price point, we're entering something of an uncharted space. I'm going to "recommend" four services that are all between $1 and $2 a month. The gotcha is that I haven't tested any of these services, and I haven't found much in the way of in-depth reviews other than listings in "best of" lists. So, you pays your money and you takes your chance.
With that caution out of the way, here are my top picks for the best cheap VPNs.
Let's kick this off with VyprVPN (there's no "e" in Vypr). VyprVPN is a service of Golden Frog, a company founded by serial Internet founders Ron and Carolyn Yokubaitis. Golden Frog is incorporated in Switzerland.
Of the super-cheap VPNs we're including in this article, VyprVPN is the one with the most flexibility for business customers. The company offers a full SDK to integrate VyprVPN into other third-party proprietary solutions.
One such customer of that SDK is QNAP, one of the NAS vendors we reviewed particularly positively. We found this quote from Y.T. Lee, vice president of QNAP, particularly relevant because it speaks to the performance of the VyprVPN network.
"We selected VyprVPN due to the performance and speed of their network. Golden Frog has invested in its back-end infrastructure and is the only personal VPN provider that manages its entire infrastructure without third parties. They have an outstanding software development team who creates intuitive applications, and we couldn't be more excited to offer VyprVPN to our customers."
Our next contender is LimeVPN, and ... I'm not entirely sure about these folks. They claim a $1 per month service on their home page, which would make them the least expensive on this list. But when you click the Join Now button, that offer is nowhere to be found. It turns out you first have to hit the Join Now button, see the more expensive offering, click into that offering, and then sign up for the two-year plan. Whew. Way to promote your best plan, LimeVPN!
We also couldn't find out anything about who was providing this service. The About page says, "LimeVPN is a team of skilled IT professionals with more than 10 years experience in the IT industry." So, is that 10 folks with a year of experience each? Or two guys with five years of experience each? Or does each worker have a decade of experience? It doesn't matter, because this service is cheap, cheap, cheap.
On the plus side, the company says it uses 256-bit encryption with a 2048-bit key (over the usual VPN protocols). Interestingly, the company also states, "No 3rd parties -- Our own VPN servers, our DNS, our code, our engineers." It could be interesting if they control their own servers, even if they only operate in eight countries.
Also, the service doesn't come with any of the usual VPN apps. The service does have a hefty help library, but you'll need to find and configure your own VPN programs to use LimeVPN. So, there's that.
Atlas VPN is the second least expensive VPN service we found. That said, we were kind of (happily) surprised that the company had enlisted the services of an outside company to perform a security audit. That's good practice.
Compared to higher-priced VPN providers, the number of locations offered by Atlas VPN is pretty small. The company operates about 500 servers, compared to the tens of thousands of servers operated by its more expensive competitors.
We did like that the company uses a warrant canary, which helps you know whether or not the company has been asked to cooperate with government investigations. Atlas VPN is a service of Peakstart Technologies Inc, a US company registered in Delaware.
*Keep in mind that "unlimited" is never unlimited. If you push the system or otherwise impact service performance, you're likely to be limited
According to its About page, ZenMate is a German company founded by Simon Specka and his buddy Markus Hanel. The company was incubated in the Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator and looks to have some German venture capital funding.
In terms of client experience, the service offers simple one-click, clean and well-designed apps. Additionally, there are installation guides for using ZenMate with smart TVs, routers, and gaming platforms.
I do have some concerns due to an exposé posted by my CNET colleague Rae Hodge. In it, she points out that ZenMate was purchased in 2018 by notorious scareware provider Kape Technologies. The company claims it has given up its evil ways, but before installing ZenMate on your systems, I recommend you read Rae's article.
*Same caution as above. "Unlimited" is never truly unlimited.
So there you go. Four VPNs that cost less than $2 per month when you buy two or three years at once. If you have room in your budget or you want to learn more about the benefits of VPN, see my complete guide: What is a VPN and why do you need one? Everything you need to know.
The VPN to your office will secure your link to your office. If you want to secure your link anywhere else, you'll need a VPN service.
If it's your data and you want it to be secure, yes. The same choices are valid regardless of the kind of device you use to transmit and receive data over the Internet.
Using a VPN is one of the easiest ways to get cheaper flights since it can connect you with foreign servers and hide your IP address. A VPN disguises your virtual location and personal identity from travel companies worldwide.
Let's be clear: Using a VPN does add a bit of a load on your computer and can often slow down your connection. That's because your data is encrypted, decrypted, and sent through intermediate servers. Game responsiveness might suffer. You might have enough lag to lose the shot if you're a first-person shooter player. That said, both computers and VPNs have gotten much faster. When I first used a VPN, every... thing ... slowed ... down ... to ... an ... unbearable ... c-r-a-w-l.
But now, the negative impact is almost unnoticeable, and at least one service we spotlight below (Hotspot Shield) actually increased performance, making it one of the fastest VPNs we've seen.
Also, most (but not all) of the VPN providers we spotlight limit the number of devices you can connect simultaneously, so you may have to pick and choose which home devices to connect.
The best cheap VPN is Atlas VPN. At just $1.39 per month, this service provides the most security along with unlimited connections to give you a cheaper alternative to NordVPN and ExpressVPN. Plus, you get a 30-day refund guarantee, that's hard to beat!
Atlas VPN is a surprisingly good VPN for the price, according to our analysis. It offers unlimited connections across 27 countries for only $1.39 a month. However, Atlas VPN is not as reliable nor does it have as many servers and locations as higher-end VPN services such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
We're spotlighting paid services in this article, although some of them offer a free tier. I generally don't recommend free VPN services because I don't consider them secure. Think about this: Running a good VPN service requires hundreds of servers worldwide and a ton of networking resources. It was beaucoup expensive. If you're not paying to support that infrastructure, who is? Probably advertisers or data miners. If you use a free service, your data or your eyeballs will probably be sold, and that's never a good thing. After all, you're using a VPN, so your data remains secure. You wouldn't want to have all that data go to some company to sift through -- it completely defeats the purpose.
Now, before you choose a VPN service, free or paid, I want to make it clear that no one tool can guarantee your privacy. First, anything can be hacked. But more to the point, a VPN protects your data from your computer to the VPN service. It doesn't protect what you put on servers. It doesn't protect your data from the VPN provider's VPN servers to whatever site or cloud-based application you're using. It doesn't give you good passwords or multifactor authentication. Privacy and security require you to be diligent throughout your digital journey, and VPNs, while quite helpful, are not a miracle cure.
I could write an entire article about how VPNs work and how to choose, and, in fact, I did. Rather than repeating it all here, I'm going to point you to What is a VPN and why do you need one? Everything you need to know.
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