We’ve recently been paying a lot of attention to security for our clients at Site Care. We’ve always been conscious of best practices, but we’re really starting to invest in security so we can make it something that sets us apart, and not just lip service. The last thing we want is for one of our clients to have their site compromised, and especially due to a mistake that was made while we were managing it.
We’re just about done with our implementation of LastPass Enterprise, and I’ve been testing different VPN clients for the last 3 or 4 months to see what would be a good fit for our team. As soon as we roll out our VPN, we’re going to look at 2 Factor authentication for all of our client sites to see if there’s a way we can implement that without creating more headaches for our customers. Like I said, security is a big focus for us right now so we’re hopefully pulling out all the stops.
As I was shopping for VPNs, I was overwhelmed by the number of options that were available. There were articles all over the internet telling me which solution was best, but these days with so many “try before you buy” offerings, that’s usually the approach I like to take when I’m testing software, even though it takes more time.
When I worked in IT Security, we always used hardware VPNs, which were excellent, and the control is definitely a nice bonus, but they wouldn’t quite hit the mark for our needs at Site Care.
- It’s expensive – The cost can be a deterrent but that’s not why I ended up choosing a software solution
- It’s more work – Setup, configuration, and maintenance is an ongoing cost and creates another job for me
- It’s not redundant – Limited to one physical location, which means one point of failure (If our office network goes offline, work stops)
- It has limited features and locations – Again we’re limited to one server. Lots of times being able to troubleshoot or work from other global locations is a nice thing to have, and not possible with a hardware VPN.
Choosing the Best VPN Provider for Our Needs
As I mentioned before, there are so many VPN providers out there. From major enterprise corporations like Norton, to my local ISP. In a lot of ways it’s like choosing a web host. Pick the one that solves all of your problems in the best possible way, and go with that one.
I did trials, and even paid for a few months with VyprVPN, GetCloak, Private Internet Access, ExpressVPN, and IP Vanish. There were a lot of things I liked about all of them, and things I didn’t like about some of them too. To be totally honest there are things I don’t love about the one I ended up choosing, but they’re nit picky and don’t really have anything to do with the most important items which are security and privacy.
Cloak was by far the most elegant and easiest to use VPN. I had a funny issue with their service that I’ll get into in a minute, but if I were in the market for an incredibly simple to use VPN, and only needed to use it on the Mac platform, I’d definitely give Cloak the nod. It’s a beautifully simple answer to a tough problem.
I did have a few privacy concerns with the Cloak service. At a certain point I downloaded a file that was protected by copyright laws (whoops, my bad), and within a day my account was disabled by Cloak because they received a warning from the DMCA. Now I don’t blame them at all for disabling my account. They need to protect their service and all of their other users, but the fact that they were so easily able to trace the download back to me made me nervous about privacy and how much they’re logging. Other than that little hiccup it was a great service, but wasn’t enough for what we needed at Site Care.
VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, and IP Vanish
VyprVPN wasn’t quite as easy to use as Cloak, but it was still incredibly easy to use, and it’s cross-platform and includes mobile apps so those were some really nice additions. All of the software was very polished, and seemed really stable. They also include some encrypted storage, and support all of the major VPN protocols on their Pro and Premier levels.
My only real concern with VyprVPN was it’s close connection with the GigaNews Usenet service, and a less than detailed FAQ answer about how they store and log user data. It also only allows 2 or 3 simultaneous connections on their upper tier plans, so cost starts to become a bigger factor at that point.
My experience with ExpressVPN and IP Vanish was very similar to VyprVPN, so I bundled them all together. They’re all cross-platform, they all had apps with reasonable to good interfaces, and they were all easy to use. ExpressVPN and IP Vanish. The one thing that was different about both of those services was their strict no logging policy, meaning your activity should be anonymous and protected.
I should also note that VyprVPN was the fastest VPN I tested across their entire network. A few other services had faster connections in certain locations, but VyprVPN seemed to be the fastest across the most locations.
Private Internet Access
Ultimately I ended up choosing Private Internet Access for a variety of reasons, but I’ll tell you right up front that it wasn’t because of their branding, website, or their apps. They’re all so damn ugly, and their branding is weak. Simple, yes, but visually speaking their offering was the worst out of all the software I tested.
At the end of the day though, when it comes to networking and security, pretty doesn’t really matter as long as it’s still easy to use. Here are the main reasons we ended up going with Private Internet Access:
- It supports all of the major VPN protocols, and can even be used at the router level for protecting your whole network.
- It had the most available VPN servers of any of the providers, with over 2,000 worldwide.
- They have a strict no logging policy, and even recommend you use an alias and bitcoin when you pay for their service. I didn’t go quite that far since we aren’t looking to do anything sketchy, but I liked that they make anonymity a priority.
- It’s truly cross-platform with support for mobile devices and routers. Again, the apps are ugly, but they do the trick.
- They have a NAT firewall in place to block inbound traffic. Some other VPN providers can open your computer to inbound requests.
- Their top plan is only $40 per year and includes up to 5 simultaneous connections. Compared to the cost of other services per connection, it’s incredibly inexpensive.
- It was fast. One of the biggest gripes with VPNs is speed. Using PIA I’m able to get about 90 Mbps on my 150 Mbps home connection using the servers closest to me. Some other providers that I tested were much worse, topping out at ~ 10 Mbps.
Hopefully all that information helps. This definitely isn’t an in-depth look at every VPN provider, but at least it’s a look into some of the things I took into consideration while looking, and which ended up being the best fit for Site Care.
Do you have a VPN provider that you love? Do you use a VPN at all? What keeps you from jumping in if you aren’t?