Having greater access to the internet is something many of us need, or simply just want. Gamers, journalists, bloggers, curious souls, etc. But in reaching further into the internet, we risk our privacy, and we risk security. VPNs give that back to us.
There are free and paid VPN services available for people who seek privacy whilst roaming the Internet. Because the providers of free VPN services do not make money from your subscription they may not be as secure as paid VPN services and may also not have as much access as paid VPN servers do.
Free stuff is good stuff, right? Not always. Sometimes, if you search hard enough, you can find a good unpaid VPN service, but it’s not always guaranteed to provide your internet traffic with the security of protecting your privacy. They are, after all, doing this for free. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between paid VPN vs free VPN and what each can do for you and your privacy.
Do You Have to Pay for a VPN?
You do not have to pay for a VPN, you can subscribe to free VPNs though the service may not be as thorough as paid VPNs.
There are unpaid VPN services around, and they are easy to find. Most free VPN services will also offer a paid subscription service, and this is because the free VPN will not allow access to everything.
This is great for those who can get what they need from the free service, but for those who come up against VPN firewalls and blocks and slow data, and limited data usage, this is not so great.
How Does Free VPN Work?
As with any VPN service, when you need to protect your online privacy, you first log in to your VPN provider before opening the internet. Your IP address and internet traffic are encrypted immediately so that people cannot access your internet data and see what you’re doing online.
Why are some VPNs free?
Most free VPN providers create this free service to give you a taste of freedom but actually limit your internet speed and bandwidth behind the scenes. Making you want more and tempting you into a paid service. It’s just good, or mischievous, marketing.
The taste of online freedom is something you may talk to peers and friends about. So by word-of-mouth marketing, this VPN provider is also racking in on the marketing by gaining new leads and customers through you, by giving you just enough to tell others how great the service is.
It’s what many would call a “catch”. Have you ever asked anyone “what’s the catch?” when an offer has sounded too good? Free VPNs are throwing you the ball, so should you catch it?
Are Free VPNs Safe to Use?
Although VPNs are there to provide user privacy and security, not all VPNs are safe to use. This goes for the paid servers too. But free VPNs are more likely to track your internet traffic and activity.
Here is why free VPNs might not be so safe to use:
- You are probably paying for the free service with your data
- Data “harvesting”
- Insufficient data protection
- More in-app advertising for the service to make some profit
- According to Top10VPN, most free VPNs have Chinese ownership. This is concerning because VPNs are “illegal” in China.
- Weak and limited privacy policies
- Cheap, corner-cutting security
How Paying for Your VPN Makes a Difference
To put this simply, pay motivates people to do things.
For example, you work in an office creating spreadsheets all day and don’t particularly like your job, unless you’re Lesley Knope from Parks and Recreation that is. Would you continue to turn up to this job every day if you were to stop being paid? If your pay was cut, would you start limiting your hours and delegate your work to someone else?
Rightfully so, you can expect that a paid VPN will, in most cases, provide you with up-to-scratch security and privacy on your internet traffic because the providers have your pay as their incentive to make something work.
Here are the benefits of paying for your VPN:
- Bandwidth and internet speed are not constrained
- Wider access to more VPN server locations
- Less in-app advertising
- Stronger security protection and privacy policies
- VPN provider does not track your usage and traffic (not guaranteed)
- Download files safely
- If installed correctly, there should be no “leaks” and no data harvesting
While VPNs protect your privacy on public networks by using alternate servers to encrypt your IP address and internet search traffic, paid VPNs offer a higher level of protection than unpaid VPNs and also give you broader access to websites and streaming services that might usually be unattainable to you.
Netflix, for example, offers different streaming servers in each country. So movies that you can watch on Netflix in the US aren’t necessarily available to Netflix users in Australia. One of the most popular reasons for people using VPNs, other than journalism research, is for users to gain access to movies on Netflix in other countries! The things we do for entertainment…
Paid Vs Free VPN
Whether your service is free or paid, your VPN provider can still see what sites you visit and can keep a close eye on you if need be. Other than this, paid VPN providers do offer better security and stronger privacy policies that you can usually rely on for internet traffic encryption and protection.
Here are the main differences between paid VPN and free VPN:
- Firmer privacy policies to protect your privacy
- Your data is not compromised
- Less or no in-house advertisement
- Less likely to be tracked by VPN provider
- Paid VPNs support secure socket tunneling protocols
- Although VPN can slow down your internet speeds, paid VPNs provide faster internet speeds
- The large number of servers don’t make you wait to connect
- Paid VPNs offer support services
- Data may be harvested and compromised along with being sold to third party companies
- Advertisiments, tailored to your internet activity, to try and boost service revenue
- VPN providers may track and sell data from your internet traffic to make money
- VPNs are not legal in China and many free VPNs are owned by Chinese residents which could be a breach of security.
- Internet speeds are slowed drastically due to overuse by people using free VPNs
- Limited servers mean you might have to wait to be connected while in use by others
- Lack of customer service
VPN is especially useful if you need to use a public connection, like in a coffee shop or an airport. Using an unpaid VPN server may result in compromising or “leaking” your internet traffic usage so that it is not genuinely private to others.
Before using a free VPN, you should conduct your research thoroughly so that you understand the risks of using this free and quite possibly, compromising service.
For those who don’t like the thought of their internet service provider (ISP) keeping close tabs on them, a paid VPN service is ideal for you. Paying for your VPN will provide you with a greater level of security while free VPNs aren’t all guaranteed to offer the best services in security protection.
Always do your research before making a decision and remember that your paid VPN provider will not use the information they track on you to share with third parties while a free VPN service may do to make some money.