VPNs have been around for many years, and you’ve probably heard people talk about them before – but now more than ever there seems to be a lot of attention being given to VPNs. It’s not surprising, really – over the past few years we’ve transferred more and more of our lives online. We communicate with friends, pay our bills and do our taxes, read and research, watch movies and TV and play games online. However, privacy isn’t always guaranteed, no matter what you’re doing in the digital world. Nothing’s truly private online at all – unless you secure it yourself. That’s where using a VPN comes in. Though as with any product or service, not every VPN is built the same. Read on to find out everything you need to know regarding internet privacy and choosing the right VPN.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”, and the name says precisely what it does – it’s a service which you connect to from your device, and then access online sites and services through. Everything that goes via the VPN connection is encrypted so nobody but you and the destination device can read it, and because it’s the VPN connecting to the website rather than your own computer, you don’t leave a trail of metadata to tell curious people where you’ve been.
But why would you want to go to all this trouble to ensure privacy when you have nothing to hide? Well, as recent events have shown, you don’t need to be doing anything nefarious to attract the attention of prying eyes for the wrong reasons, and you still have an ultimate right to your complete privacy. A VPN provides privacy and the assurance that your data is secure. This can be a big deal for everything from banking and online shopping to social media. The better VPNs state upfront that they don’t keep logs of anything you do online, too.
But that’s not the only thing VPNs are useful for these days – their explosion in popularity is because they can solve a couple of other problems as well.
How do I keep my Internet Use Private?
Everything we do online conveys some information about us, and due to Australian Law, everything is kept on file for some time. Recent media reports have shown that this data is being accessed at an alarming rate by all sorts of organisations who shouldn’t be – even though the only information they can see is your unique internet address (known as an “IP address”) and the list of web sites you visited. That data (known as “metadata” because it only provides an overview of what you did online) can tell an inaccurate story about you, and it can be used by some agencies to “profile” you for anything from advertising to investigation.
Even before these laws were in place, it was never a great idea to do anything personal online without some form of privacy measure, and that’s a big part of the reason why VPNs have been getting increasingly popular over the past few years.
What are the Best VPN Plans Available?
From the ever-popular NordVPN to non-tech friendly Tunnelbear, we’ve taken a look at all the best VPN providers available in Australia. So let’s take a look at five VPNs which are up at the top of the food chain and deserve to be at the top of your shopping list.
Price: $8.32 to $12.95 USD per month
Servers: Over 3000
Rated by many as the best in the business because of their stellar speeds and full support for everything speed-dependent – including peer-to-peer downloading, with up to five simultaneous connections supported – ExpressVPN stands ahead of the pack in sheer service quality. With apps and configurations available for pretty much every device you could ever need a VPN on – including dedicated apps for popular Asus, Netgear and Linksys routers – you can protect individual devices or put your entire home network behind a VPN with ease. 24/7 customer support is available via email and live chat, and while pricing is a little on the high side compared to some competitors, those who value raw speed will not mind paying the premium (and at $99.95 USD for a year with frequent promo offers available, it’s still very affordable for the quality you get). There’s no free trial, but a full refund is available within 30 days if you’re not happy.
Defeat content restrictions with ExpressVPN
Get unlimited access to Netflix content from anywhere in the world. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Price: $2.99 to $11.95 USD per month
Well-liked for its ease of use and aggressively competitive pricing, NordVPN is worthy of sharing the rare air at the top of the VPN rankings. The secret to NordVPN’s success is its ease of use across multiple platforms and devices, and its dedication to strong, military-grade encryption and absolute privacy. The huge server pool means you can narrow down your connection location to a particular location inside a country if you want to, and regardless of where you connect, NordVPN offers automatic un-geo-blocking of content with servers and connections designed for smooth, fast video streaming and speedy downloads. With very affordable pricing and a 30-day money-back guarantee, if you love streaming, in particular, this is a VPN to put on your list.
NordVPN Offers the Best of Internet Without Borders
Access your favourite streaming sites and get the best content without any Australian restrictions with NordVPN. Get secure browsing for as low as $3.71/mth USD on a 2-year plan or $11.95/mth USD on a monthly basis.
Private Internet Access
Price: $3.33 to $6.95 USD per month
Combining budget pricing with ease of use, Private Internet Access (PIA) is an excellent choice for those that just want a reliable, trusted and affordable VPN that doesn’t get into the more specific applications for a VPN, but which instead only provides privacy, security (including on public wi-fi) and easy set-up. PIA doesn’t explicitly offer un-geo-blocking support, though in many cases you’ll find that you can get around geo-blocking anyway just by connecting to another country. Ad and malware blocking is, however, built-in as an automatic feature, plus PIA lets you have multiple connections at once – up to 10 simultaneous connections. There’s no free trial, but you can get a full refund within seven days.
Price: Free to $4.99 USD per month
With its friendly cartoon bear mascot (obviously targeting non-technical users), Tunnelbear won’t be the first choice for everyone – if you’re after extensive global connection options and more advanced features, you should be looking at some of the offerings above. But if you’re new to VPNs and want to give one a try to see what they can do for you – and then pay a modest amount of money for one that’s easy to set up and use on all your devices – then Tunnelbear may be for you. Uniquely, it offers a free plan. Free VPNs are usually not to be trusted, but Tunnelbear is a respected company, and for the princely sum of zero dollars, you can use it completely free as long as you use less than 500MB of data a month, expandable to 1GB if you want more. That alone makes recommending Tunnelbear easy – while not as fully-featured as the best, it may be perfect for you, and it costs nothing to find out!
Norton Secure VPN
Price: $85 to $130 AUD per year, $30-$50 AUD as an add-on to other Norton products
One for those who need to use a VPN for the more everyday tasks rather than, the more creative or recreational uses of the internet, this VPN product from the global security giant Symantec promises “bank-grade” encryption for all your data, and works seamlessly with other products in the Norton security range. The appeal of Norton products for many people is in the assurance provided by the brand itself along with their no-fuss ease of use and trustworthiness. This one may also be far more suitable as a VPN for work use, especially since the structure of the company is a known, publicly listed certainty. 24-hour phone support is also available, and the product comes with a generous 60-day money-back guarantee. It’s also one of the very few VPNs that you can purchase with Australian currency.
VPN & Smart DNS Plans
|VPN Plan||Details||Offer||Price (USD)||hidden price|
|NordVPN 1-month plan||$11.95 per month.||11.95|
|ExpressVPN 1-month plan||$12.95 per month.||12.95|
Last audited 1 February 2021
How do I get past geoblocking?
As long time Netflix users will know, “geoblocking” can be a real pain. How it works is annoyingly simple. Your internet connection has a unique address assigned to it (your IP address), and every single IP address is registered in a particular location on the planet. So if you try to stream TV shows, say, from US service Hulu, you’ll find yourself unable to play any actual video. That’s because your connection is telling Hulu that you’re located in Australia, and since their service isn’t available here, you’re blocked. Similarly, you might be browsing videos on YouTube, wanting to watch the latest John Oliver clip, only to find out “this video is not available in your country.”
With a VPN, you can choose where you want to appear to be from a range of locations around the world (exactly how many locations and where varies between VPN services). By connecting via your VPN to Los Angeles, you can remove the geoblocking and watch without barriers. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Some VPNs are better at getting around geoblocking than others – but it’s an essential tool if you don’t like being told what you can watch.
Another side advantage of this can be that some web sites and services charge different prices for their products depending on which country you’re in. With a VPN, it’s as easy as a button click to appear to be from whichever country you like, to help you find the best deal.
How does a VPN affect Online Gaming?
A good VPN can also be crucial if you’re regularly playing online video games, especially those who have game servers located outside of Australia. The reason for this is simple – you want the distance between you and the server to be as short as possible. However, because of the way the global internet works, you can find your connection travelling via the scenic route, resulting in lag and long loading times. One popular US-based MMO, for example, is currently sending its Australian players’ connections via Hong Kong and Europe before finally making the trip across the Atlantic and ending up at its game server in Texas. That’s a long trip that translates into a miserable gaming experience. By connecting with a well-designed VPN you can cut that global journey out entirely, and just connect directly. This process has made such a huge difference that specialist gaming VPN services have started appearing.
Summary: Is a VPN Worth It?
Ultimately, if you’ve got a functional VPN at your disposal, it’s worth the extra cost per month to have a secure, dependable internet connection to keep you safe, keep things private and make your online life a lot more flexible. Whether you use it all the time, or just turn the VPN on when you’ve got a particular need for privacy or just need to change location, for a few dollars a month a VPN is a solid investment for just about everyone.