There are many conditions and settings in a virtual private network service that you might not be aware of. If you are a privacy-oriented user that follows their interest in the long term, then you should go beyond the typical list of features and look under the hood of your VPN tool to see what makes it tick.
In this article, we are showing you 13 things you should look for in VPN small print. It is important to know these things before buying a VPN service, because they can help you make the right decision. By thoroughly doing your research, you can employ the services of a virtual private network tool that you can trust.
Let us show you the topics we have planned for today (click to jump).
- Frequency of updates
- Money-back guarantee
- Number of simultaneous connections
- Unsupported devices
- Company location
- Logging policy
- Discouraged torrenting
- Unsupported streaming
- Fake server locations
- 24/7 live chat support
- Kill switch
- Split tunneling
1. Frequency of updates
A VPN service is no good if it receives updates rarely. Any software developer knows that they must consistently update their products, in order to fix bugs, bring in new features, make improvements, and generally fulfill the wishes of their customers.
If you are wondering about how to tell if a VPN application gets plenty of updates, you can visit the official website and begin by taking a look at the copyright year on the bottom of the page. You would be surprised about how many so-called “reliable” VPN providers live in the past.
You can also check the blog, news or press release section of the site to see how frequently those pages get updated. Another solution is to try and find a “changelog” or “release notes” page that shows exact info about the latest updates and when they took place.
These details may not seem relevant, but if you check the VPN in small print, you can get a clear idea about how serious the VPN developer is.
2. Money-back guarantee
We will not even go through the trouble of explaining why should never use a free VPN service as a long-term solution. All you need to know is that it does not work the way you might expect.
So, you cannot get away with a dependable VPN tool without paying for it. Some providers give you the possibility to test their product for free before deciding whether or not to buy it. Others do not.
Whatever the case may be, it is mandatory to opt for a VPN service that comes with a money-back guarantee (usually within the first 30 days), so check for it in VPN small print.
This way, if you are not completely satisfied with the product after one month of testing it out, you should not have to worry about getting your money back to look for something else.
3. Number of simultaneous connections
Most people are prone to share whatever they purchase with their beloved ones, such as friends or members of the family.
When it comes to a VPN service, you should also take into account the number of simultaneous connections supported by the tool. If the info is not visible, check the VPN in small print.
If the VPN allows only one connection, then imagine that your brother will not be able to connect to the VPN server the same time as you.
Even if you are the only person using your account, you will not be able to connect to a VPN server on your smartphone if you are also connected on the desktop at the same time.
And, if you are wondering why is it so essential to have multiple simultaneous connections if you are just one person, then consider that you can use this technique to save money on flights or get better deals on hotel booking.
4. Unsupported devices
Fortunately, we have reached a wonderful digital age that enriches us with many different devices, such as computers, laptops, notebooks, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, and smart TVs.
If you plan on using the VPN service on all your devices, whether you want to unlock streaming services like Netflix or just enjoy secure browsing, check in small print if the VPN supports your own devices.
For example, if you have a Windows computer, an Android smartphone and a laptop that runs Linux, the VPN service of your choice should work with all of them.
There is an alternate solution, though: if the VPN service does not support a particular device or if the device in question does not support VPN technology, then you should be able to install the VPN service on a router to be able to share the VPN connection with all devices around your house.
5. Company location
The majority of VPN users are not concerned with the physical whereabouts of the VPN company, as long as they can connect to VPN server from all over the world.
However, the company location should definitely concern you, especially if you are a privacy-oriented user. This is because the firm is bound to the laws of its country.
For instance, countries in the European Union have data retention laws. And, if the VPN provider collects info about your activity, then it can be used against you if you have broken any laws. It is tied to the VPN’s logging policy.
Evidently, it can be quite challenging to keep up with the legislation of all countries where VPN companies are located. As a general rule of thumb, when checking VPN in small print, it is better to avoid countries from the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes or 14 Eyes alliances.
6. Logging policy
If you suspect that you will be using the VPN service for questionable activities, like downloading torrents whose copyright rules you are not sure of, then you must look in the VPN small print for the logging policy.
All VPN providers collect some form of logs, but it depends which type. For example, connection logs are harmless because they are only concerned with the technical info behind the VPN client, like how much of data was transferred.
At the same time, you should steer away from any VPN provider that comes with a point-blank “no logs” policy. Zero logging is impossible when it comes to VPN, and any company that claims differently has something to hide.
7. Discouraged torrenting
We previously talked about downloading torrents with questionable copyright content, which is illegal in most parts of the world.
Some VPN providers are upfront about this and strongly discourage torrenting while using their product. It is especially true if they collect logs and are aware of the fact that they will hand it over to the authorities if demanded. Again, this has to do with the laws of the country and the company location, not the firm’s wishes.
Therefore, you should get in touch with the VPN provider or check in fine print before buying the service. Simply ask about their policy towards torrenting and what would happen if you downloaded illegal files.
This does not mean you should expect a pat on the back. On the contrary, you should get the mandatory “we do not encourage anyone in illicit activities” line.
But you should also get something like “we cannot monitor your VPN activities, including torrenting,” which translates to you doing anything you want because you cannot be seen anyway.
8. Unsupported streaming
You would be surprised at the low number of VPN providers that can actually unlock streaming services which are not normally available in your country, particularly Netflix.
So, if one of your priorities is to watch Netflix with a VPN, you better do your homework, check in VPN small print and contact the VPN provider to ask about their policy towards Netflix and other streaming services.
Just keep in mind that Netflix has different video libraries personalized for each country. And the country you are definitely interested in is the United States because it has the richest content library.
9. Fake server locations
This piece of information is not so popular. But many VPN providers, even the best ones, have fake server locations bundled with their product.
It means that, when you connect to a seemingly exotic VPN server that says Sri Lanka, Nepal or Indonesia, you might actually wake up in Singapore.
VPN companies usually do this because the country does not have the necessary infrastructure to host a VPN server, and the provider does not want to leave it out.
However, it cannot be overlooked that these false claims make the VPN provider look like a liar who is only interested in adding more server locations to its list to beat the competition and make itself look more attractive.
We are not necessarily saying that you should not use a VPN with fake server locations, just that the company should be honest about it. Whatever your opinion is about it, make sure to check the VPN in small print for false server locations.
Besides, your relationship with a VPN service provider is all about honesty: if they are lying about the server locations, what else are they lying about? Perhaps the logging policy is not as ironclad as it claimed to be.
10. 24/7 live chat support
All other 12 points on this list can be clarified with this one: live chat support. Having email support and forums is great, but nothing beats the comfort and speed of a live chat system that can be used at a moment’s notice.
From the perspective of the company, managing this kind of system is not cheap at all. But it is certainly a testimony to the professional approach toward the customers.
To test it out, check the VPN in fine print, contact the live chat of a VPN service, and ask some questions. Some answers should be readily available on the official website anyway, but you can tell if the operator knows what they are talking about or just copy pasting what is already written on the site.
11. Kill switch
The kill switch of a VPN service acts like the emergency button: in case the Internet connection disrupts out of the blue, the VPN cuts off all Internet access immediately.
This way, it prevents IP leaks that can occur in the time it takes the VPN to reconnect after the Internet connection is re-established.
Instead, CyberGhost has a permanent kill switch that is always on and cannot be deactivated. The moral of the story is to check the VPN in small print for the kill switch even if it is not visible in the software application.
SmartDNS technology is an incredible feature for Netflix lovers. It gives you the possibility to unlock streaming services without encrypting your connection.
That translates to unparalleled speed that could never be equaled by a VPN tool. Unfortunately, there are few VPN services that support SmartDNS because both cannot work at the same time.
Nevertheless, if you plan to watch Netflix and access other streaming sites, take our word for it. Check the VPN in fine print and find out if the VPN service of your choice has SmartDNS support. Be careful though, since you should not confuse it with custom DNS.
13. Split tunneling
When applied in VPN, split tunneling is an amazing technology that isolates VPN traffic from regular Internet traffic.
This way, you can access resources from your local network while staying connected to the VPN. Usually, the filters can be set by application.
For instance, you can configure your VPN service to run on a single web browser where you can watch Netflix. At the same time, you can access the fileserver of your office to continue working without any issues.
Split tunneling also helps with boosting the speed of your VPN connection and with preserving your network bandwidth when you are using a limited mobile data plan.
Therefore, if you are not sure about whether or not a virtual private network service has the split tunneling feature, check in VPN small print or contact support.
Taking everything into account, we would like you remind you about the importance of carefully investigating a VPN service before buying it, especially if you plan on using it on the long term.
There are many myths surrounding VPN applications, along with a lot of shady VPN services. And you should know what you are getting yourself into when placing your trust of a virtual private network provider designed to secure your browsing, protect your privacy, and preserve your anonymity on the web. As such, you should always check the VPN in small print.