Best VPN (UK) in 2020
We tested and reviewed over thirty VPN services
to cherry-pick the eight best ones for our UK readers.
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The internet is tracking everything you do.
So, while many of our readers visit Hosting Data looking to decide on the hosting to get their websites online, VPNs are still a crucial online tool.
We all go online. Overall, there are many more surfers, than sites to surf.
- 4.5 billion people are online
- While only 0.2 billion websites are active
Surfers are a bigger target for cybercriminals - on computers, phones, tablets...so on. This is where “Virtual Private Networks” help. You can easily hide your personal info/online trail & prevent hacks.
Exactly what is a VPN? 👩🏫
So, your private information is usually tracked, as you surf. It’s like skinny dipping in public.
Well, VPNs access that pool in private, so you don’t get spied on by a Peeping Tom 👀 internet service provider (ISP). Normally, you would directly connect to the internet - whether through public WiFi or at home.
Instead, an “encryption tunnel” hides your location. On the other end is a server. This server accesses the internet - on your behalf.
VPNs aren’t completely foolproof. But, they make you less of a target - on trains, cafes, shops. You can never be certain somebody isn't spying as you surf, even with your home internet. With cybercrime, VPNs are as important as locking your house door.
That said, let’s get you protected with the best VPNs UK & otherwise. We tested and reviewed over thirty VPN services from different UK cities and locations. London, Belfast, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bradford, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Lisburn, and others. Here are the top eight performers:
Best VPN (UK 🇬🇧) in 2020: Top Picks 👈
1. NordVPN: Recommended By Experts 👓
Cutting-Edge Security Protocols ⚙️
Even the highest-tier websites can’t cover all angles to protect their visitors once live.
In layman's terms, NordVPN utilizes the highest levels of encryption out there for a VPN… In not-so-layman’s terms, this combines the two most cutting-edge protocols in the industry:
VPNs put security in the hands of the surfer. The OpenVPN client that NordVPN has a HMAC SHA256 hash authentication and AES-256-GCM cipher system. You’ll also find Open Tor.
Block Adware and Malware With CyberSec 🌐
The CyberSec security feature filters malicious sites, as well as adware - and blocks tracking. It's very effective. Activate it in the “General” tab of the “Settings” section.
Multi-Hop Security Layer + No Leaks 🚱
Finally, the Double-VPN servers (multi-hop) gives you an extra layer of encryption and protection in the event of a hacked data center. There were also no IP address or DNS leaks:
- DNS requests controlled by the nordvpn server
- WebRTC blocked in your browser
- IPv6 blocked, preventing leaks
- IPv4 prevented from leaking by the address matching with your VPN client
24/7 Customer Support 📲
You can now get 24/7 live chat support with NordVPN. Just head to the bottom right corner of the website. No login is required, just press the representative chat icon. Reps seem to be friendly and are available quickly. Good infrastructure.
Fastest VPN (UK - or Long-Distance) 🏃🏽♀️
Using the OpenVPN security protocol and the highest level of AES encryption, there was a very minimal decline in the internet speed while the client was running. This was a decrease of as little as 5 megabytes per second - out of a total 155 MB per seconds. There was a drop of under 5 MB for the UK, which shows it's an excellent client for those on the mainland.
Kill Switch 🔫
If your VPN connection drops by mistake, you want some firewall in place to prevent your anonymous connection from becoming deanomytized.
A kill switch automatically blocks incoming traffic in that event. Choose from two types
- App Kill Switch, which closes an application if the VPN connection falters
- Internet Kill Switch, is the most recommended - as it blocks all traffic in that event
Works With Netflix 📺
If you want to create and access an American Netflix account from the UK, this works perfectly. As you stream, your client runs in the background, unblocking the service.
Speeds of this fastest VPN (UK wide & abroad) lets you stream in HD without buffering. This is a terrific option for Netflix. Also for:
- BBC iPlayer
- Amazon Prime
- Popular Podcast Hosting Platforms
Possible the best VPN for streaming UK wide and beyond.
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee 💸
It's a mark of the company's confidence that they offer you a 30-day money-back guarantee. No quibbles. They will give you a full money back if you choose to ask within a month. Simply open up your nordvpn.com account and sign in. From there, you can cancel “automatic payments.” Also cancel through the live chat feature.
Long Plans For Best VPN UK Deals 📜
Keep in mind that - if you want the best UK VPN in terms of monthly rates - you will have to sign up for at least two years. The shorter, the steeper the price. Three years gives you a terrific VPN UK price-point.
2. Surfshark: Best VPN UK Discounts 💳
Not Recommended for China
China has an enormous population and so many people use VPNs in order to transmit information in and out of the country without being monitored by network admins/firewalls. If Chinese domain registrars registered the site you’re surfing (or you’re in China), this applies.
As of now (Feb 2020), there are no working servers in the apps, and even manual Shadowsock connections get blocked very quickly once you detect one. This makes it a very poor choice of VPN for those who want to access Chinese servers or to access servers from inside China.
Solid Normal Speeds 🎿
Safe to say, all of the apps on our list show good performance across all major dimensions.
Speed drops for the UK are pretty minimal. They are not as impressive as NordVPN, but neither are they horribly sluggish. With - say - a 75 Mbps test line, you can expect somewhere around 64-66 Mbps (a 12% drop).
Limited PEAK Speeds ⛰️
This is a major aspect to be weary of. Surfshark seems to have a max speed of 110 Mbps. That’s good enough for most online tasks, including ordinary streaming.
But, the best VPN UK clients can reach over 300 Mbps speeds easily.
Know if you need your VPN for a demanding, high-graphics task. Expect to be able to stream your favorite HD streaming services as per normal. Demanding games may be a harder push.
Great Discounts 🤲
Make sure to look around for a coupon and you can get fantastic discounts on plans. Grab a 2-year plan with a 30-day money-back guarantee for just 1 squid 50 pennies. Pay via a huge selection of options, from cryptocurrency to PayPal.
Advanced Security Features 💂🏽♀️
We don’t care if the website you’re visiting uses the best security ever - VPNs are needed to protect you, on your end of things… Fortunately, Surfshark stays updated.
As of now, two-factor authentication has now been added. They're also constantly adding in new servers, as well as infrastructure. There are no logs, so your data cannot be shared from the company to anyone else.
You also have split-tunneling which allows you to use a VPN for specific streams of traffic. The encryption is at the highest level that you will see in any industry-leading VPN, with 256 AES encryption.
Lastly, there’s a kill-switch. Automatically have the VPN shut down your IP trail if it should fail.
Next Best VPN For Streaming (UK Or Abroad) 🌊
Tests show that ExpressVPN works with the major streaming providers like Netflix. Especially for people not operating inside of China - and those who don't need to stream intensive graphics like games - this VPN could be a good solution for you.
Not sure? No problem: Try them for 30 days. They’re confident enough to offer money back.
3. ExpressVPN: Jambpacked With Features 📼
Smart Location Feature 📍
The VPN has awesome features. Let’s start with the Smart Location optimizations tool. With only a single mouse click, the client will assess your distance, speed, and latency - and then match you up with the best possible server available. A superb feature. You’re guaranteed it will be the fastest VPN (UK & abroad) that it can, and have the most reliable connection available at any point.
Symmetrical Encryption 📛
It also has robust, cutting-edge security features and protocols. For one, it does not track usage logs, which means it's impossible for the VPN to share anything about your personal browsing. Our review team views this type of security ability to be as innovative as it gets.
Second, the encryption system is symmetrical, which means that the same key you your data is encrypted with must be used for decryption. Essentially, it is impossible for you to be hacked, even for an immensely powerful machine.
Stealth Servers 🕵🏾♀️
Many users in China use ExpressVPN to bypass the country’s “Great Firewall.” This is because Express VPN uses stealth servers, which is why some people call these types of VPNs “Stealth VPNs” for short.
Stealth servers disguise traffic going through your VPN as just regular web traffic. Even when inspected by your network admins/firewalls, your traffic will appear regular. This kind of feature is enormously useful in countries that censor the internet:
- United Arab Emirates
In-Built Split Tunneling 🚇
This very cool feature - one of many that this VPN offers - lets you split your encryption tunnel. Now, all VPNs use encryption tunneling. But only a few allow you to split that tunnel, so that you can access both local and foreign services at the same time. This gives very cool benefits like drawing bandwidth from both your VPN and ISP. This way, you don’t use up all of your VPNs resources... You can also access LAN devices while still connected to the VPN.
- Use local IP addresses to access local web services - while streaming foreign movies
- Access network printers - while securely surfing the internet
- Take advantage of safe downloads - without slowing down other web activities
You’ll have to cough up nearly double the cost for NordVPN’s plan. The one benefit is you get shorter plan lengths. If you go for a one-year plan, you’ll only save about 30 pennies a month, though - compared to Nord’s one-year deal.
Substantial Long-Distance Speed Drops 🔻
Speed drops are typically small - somewhere between 6% and 11% for the UK & US. But, for very far away servers - like Hong Kong and Australia - this might be a lot higher; even up to 35%.
But, Competitive UK-Local & US Speeds
ExpressVPN is a strong competitor to know VPN. It's as trustworthy and reliable. As the name suggests, Expressvpn holds its own in terms of its speed, which makes it an excellent choice for streaming HD media and online gaming.
The DNS (smart domain name system), also allows Express VPN users to access overseas streaming sites like Netflix.
Finally, the 30-day refund guarantee has no hidden catch, no hidden fees. If you do not get your money's worth out of the VPN, simply grab a refund, no questions asked. Our review team likes this hallmark sign of trustworthiness.
4. VyprVPN: Technical Capabilities 🤓
Unblock Popular Media Services 🔓
It does very well, some companies like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime video, to YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. This app also allows you to torrent via Peer-to-Peer networks.
However, the company who owns Vypr hasn't made any specific policy on whether they allow torrenting, so it may be best to use another company that explicitly allows it.
Low Physical Server Location Ratio 👻
VyprVPN makes heavy use of virtual locations, which has significant drawbacks.
Physical servers in physical locations aren’t always the deal. So, if you connect to a server in Medellin, Colombia, you might find this is actually in Miami, Florida.
In fact, the company does not officially let you know how many physical locations it has. Figures as high as 60% virtual have been disclosed online. This is not an obvious security issue, but may interfere with people trying to avoid using servers in specific locations.
Decent But Unimpressive Speeds 🐎
To be fair, this company has reliable speeds that are pretty decent. There aren’t issues with timed out connections or application errors. But you will find a significant percentage drop in speed. European tests show 10-15% drops in connection speeds with the VPN running.
Good Discounts 📉
You may be able to find a two-year package for under 2 squid monthly. Essentially, VPNs like this that offer good price deals make protecting yourself online extremely affordable.
Vypr has all the features you’d expect of a VPN, minus the large number of virtual locations.
VyprVPN for Business/Business Cloud ☁️
Taking an online business idea to the stratosphere? Opt for VyprVPN for Business/Cloud. These applications let you secure your communications - so that everything that happens cannot be seen from the outside. It's quite a heavy yearly cost, but you get a dedicated IP address and a personal dedicated server. Essentially, this gives you the ability to self host.
The power of server resources in your hands - much more flexibility and customized.
700 Servers & China/”Censored States” Circumventions 🛰️
The app’s available on every continent, with notably few African/South American servers. Find a server in over 70 countries, from 700 servers. More than 200,000 IP addresses are available. Dynamic server switching is allowed - without third-party involvement.
For those in China - or other countries with extensive VPN censorship - find a large list of servers that you can manually connect to, in order to be invisible to network admin/firewalls.
5. Pure VPN: Wide Range of Physical Locations 🌎
This is not the VPN to choose if you want super speed. You may find some good connection speeds in place of Western Europe - like Stockholm, Sweden - but many others in Europe show incredibly poor speeds.
Take a look around, and do not go for this VPN if you want to do very intensive graphics.
More Locations Than Other VPNs 🗺️
NordVPN has over 5000 servers in just over 60 countries. While that’s an enormous amount of servers - 5000 compared to PureVPN’s 2000 - there are many more countries where Pure’s servers are located. This is very cool diversification, giving yourself maximum flexibility. Choose a server in over 140 countries.
Yet, Not Good For China 👎
More isn’t always better… You can use pureVPN in China but it is tricky to set up, as well as unreliable. If you want a VPN that can be trusted to simply function in China, choose a VPN with a trusted “stealth server” like ExpressVPN’s.
Policy Against Torrenting ☠️
While, technically, you can torrent with pure VPN, we do not recommend it. PureVPN’s logging policy explicitly does not support torrenting. Using PureVPN for streaming or using major entertainment services. Grab Sky.TV, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and ESPN, among more. Servers are optimized for this.
31-Day Money-Back Guarantee 📆
Throwing an extra 1 in, PureVPN cheekily lets you know that they're confident. If the 256 encryption, 24/7 customer support, and full range of security protocols do not satisfy you, opt for a full refund.
Good Discounts On Longer Plans 📰
PureVPN used to discount 70% for their one-year plan. That number dropped to 47%, but you can still get the 70% discount on two-year plans - pretty cool, offering a one-year less obligation than other plans - for the best cheap VPN, UK deals.
Pay anonymously and get the typical features you would expect of an industry-leading VPN.
Intruding Eyes Measures 👁️
The following terms may sound strange if you've not heard of them before:
- Five Eyes surveillance alliances
- Nine Eyes surveillance alliances
- & 14 Eyes surveillance alliances
These terms appear in privacy communities, concerning privacy tools like VPNSs. It simply refers to international surveillance alliances that various countries of the world have adopted.
These alliances gather mass surveillance data together - your data. This activity has been happening for decades, extending all the way back to World War II. The major thing is to avoid Five Eyes (US & Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand).
Your information may be sent to:
- the FBI
- & general criminal investigations
If you do not want this to happen, Intruding Eyes measures can be your shield.
Top Tip ⭐:
So far on the list, NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and VyperVPN are all located outside of “5-Eyes” countries, so can provide this protection, too.
6. Private Internet Access: Your On-the-Go “Cafe” Tool ☕
Zero Logs 🚫
Not only does Private Internet Access claim to keep zero logs, it's proven this to be true in court. Quite simply, a VPN that logs your information is not safe to use. The moment that your information has been logged, it can be compromised through attacks and leaks.
Particularly if your VPN is based in a “5/9/14-Eyes” country, it could be forced to reveal your browsing activities to government surveillance agencies. VPNs that have no logs, protect themselves as well as you. They have nothing to reveal to the courts, FBI agents, and so on.
Small Desktop Application 🖥️
The desktop application size is only 26 megabytes and takes no time to install. The interface is not particularly modern and sleek, partly because everything is so simple to set up. This is a strength and weakness.
Overall, our review team likes that this app has all the features you’d expect of a great VPN. There are few fiddly aspects - such as not being able to customize your login information and having to retrieve it by email every time you log into a different device.
Still, you get all the abilities you need.
Change Your Encryption Level 🔢
PPTP (Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol) is actually the fastest encryption level but - also - the least secure of those available for VPN systems.
However, you may find that you want to increase your speed at some point for some reason - and that there is minimal data to compromise. In that case, you can alter your security protocol. Turn up speed through PPTP, or turn up security through 256-AES. Do this from the mobile or desktop app.
Pay Anonymously 🕶️
For those out there who don't want to have the history of their VPN purchase out there - in relation to their personal information - you can pay for it through anonymous means. Use crypto, like Bitcoin or Ethereum.
Good UK Server Speeds 🏎️
This is pretty good - not on the level of NordVPN or ExpressVPN - but decent for a great cheap VPN UK ready. Expect drops in speeds of around about 15%, which means you should have no problem streaming in HD.
You should fair well with online gaming - as long as you already have a decent ISP bandwidth.
No Data Leaks 🛁
VPN providers that have data leaks are more compromised when it comes to being spied on. This is a risk for networks - as well as government agencies - gathering information about your activities.
If you would prefer not to have your data leak into such a mysterious pool, this company passes all of the tests.
7. Trust.Zone: Cheap And Basic 🚴♀️
Many Offers But SurfShark Has Better 💪🏽
Our review team would have liked it if Trust.Zone undercut their competitors a little bit more. As for now, we can’t see why they would be a better deal than SurfShark, who also runs a great cheap VPN (UK plan).
With a company with such limited infrastructure, a two-year contract is a gambit:
- very good price - though not as cheap as SurfShark’s
- 10-day money-back guarantee - but Surfshark gives 30
- 3-day free test - but this still adds to 13 days money-back
Even if you try the 3-day deal, there is only 1GB to play with.
Inferior Infrastructure - But Access GeoBlocked Content 📡
In terms of infrastructure:
- customer support does not have live chats - only email ticketing
- email ticketing is only available during certain hours - Monday to Friday
If you want to get to Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ESPN, and so on, Trust.Zone is a very affordable way of going about it. You will have high speed drops, but this might not matter if you have a fast ISP and aren’t doing intense, interactive graphics.
Speeds Workable - But Very Few Servers 📶
There are over 31 countries that you can select servers from, but only 128 servers in total. Compare that to the 5000+ that NordVPN has, and it's no great leap to conclude that the network is small in size. We can’t recommend this for those surfing in-and-around China.
The speed drop is around 30% on average in Europe. Once again, the review team thinks this company could have done well with a very competitive monthly plan that undercuts the competition.
Secure & Easy Multi-Device Compatibility 🔌
Use on your mobile, tablet, or desktop. If you're not a fussy person, you can buy yourself a two-year plan that gives you the ability to access geoblocked services - for a very small price per month that you probably won't notice.
The security is also state-of-the-art with 256-bit encryption.
10% Cryptocurrency Discounts 📀
A quite unique feature, they offer 10% off for people who pay via cryptocurrency. They offer a wide range of cryptocurrencies - for taking payments - from Emercoin, Verge, Cloakcoin, to Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Just be sure to figure out what you think of the company quickly!
8. Hide My Ass: End of The Line VPN ⛵
No Netflix...And It Gets Worse 🎦
We’ve reached the end of the line of great VPNs out right now. Treat this entry as a lesson in why you need to select your VPN wisely... In this first instance, if you're part of the 21st century, you've probably used a streaming service to experience media.
We’ve found that HMA is very unreliable with regards to accessing Netflix. Not recommended!
You may find that you’re blocked out of abroad versions of many streaming services. HMA does not explicitly say that they disallow their VPN to be used for this function...but they allude to it.
Hint ⭐: This app is for those who:
- don’t want to stream
- & care little about government spying
Virtual Server Locations #️⃣
We’ll group this VPN with ViperVPN - because it relies very heavily on virtual server locations. So, while there are a stipulated 1000 + servers in 290+ locations, across 190 + countries, many of these are not physical servers. For this reason, we cannot recommend Hide My Ass for users in-and-around China.
You may yourself with complications in particularly stringent countries that monitor the physical locations of users. Still, we give them a 5-out-5 for the company name. Just fantastic.
Logs Personal Data 📃
Our review team really does not like VPNs that log your personal data. There are redeeming things about this VPN that let us include it in our review, but be aware that certain bits of information will be who recorded by the company:
- email addresses
- license keys
- subscription dates
All recorded… And, they also record information around service data:
- timestamps of your connections
- IP address of the HMA server used by you
- the subnet of your originating IP address
- amount of data transmitted
...and, if you use their free HMA web proxy, they collect even more data:
- the originating IP address
- timestamp of your connection
- encoded URLs of the websites you visit
- Files accessed on the websites visited via the proxy
NO Prevention of “Eyes Intrusion” 🤪
The moment one piece of information about you is accessible - by the “5/9/14 Eyes” surveillance agencies - the rest of it can be obtained.
We hope HMA does what other VPNs - like Private Internet Access - have, and remove logs. Sure, if you avoid using the free proxies, your IP address will be hidden. But, we cannot at all say the VPN is sufficient to go untracked - not with sufficient network determination.
Works On All Devices (5 Connections) 🎛️
Let’s end on a cheery note, with what the VPN can do. The Hide My Ass app works on every device. Install the app on as many as you like - you can run up to 5 simultaneous connections. Encryption is military-grade. There are lots of custom apps for all the different OS’s - with installation advice on the website.
UK VPN Buying Guide ⭐
The Winners & Losers By Category
The top 3 VPNs to go for, in descending order:
VyprVPN has unique cloud and business features here, allowing self-hosted communication “bubbles” - where no third-party can possible eavesdrop.
(Avoid Confusion: “VPN” sounds similar, but a great VPS host offers a very different service).
Privacy Measures 💌
In truth, every VPN on the list passes with flying colours, but note that Hide My Ass has problems regarding protecting against government surveillance.
VPN Location 🌋
“Geo jurisdictions” are an immense reason for people opting for VPNs. If you don’t want to be spied on when dealing with traffic in a censorship state like China or the UAE, go for these two (no particular order):
VPN Protocols 🎚️
OpenVPN is the best protocol and all of our top UK VPNs use it, offering free open-source, point-to-point browsing of the internet.
For more on protocols, see the FAQ section 👇.
Server Network Size 📁
NordVPN has the biggest network, with over 5000 servers in over 60 countries. Others have more countries (like PureVPN), though Hide My Ass relies on virtual locations.
No-Logging Policy 🗄️
When a VPN “logs” your data, it means it records your activities on some level. This is best avoided, as the whole purpose of a VPN is to be incognito. On this list, possibly avoid PureVPN and certainly avoid Hide My Ass - as they have dubious log in policies, or have in the recent past (in PureVPN’s case).
Ease of Use 🚽
For simplicity, Hide My Ass and Trust.Zone stand out - though both come with other drawbacks to keep in mind.
Customer Service 👋
It's important for just about any online service to offer great customer support. Without it, you'll be doomed to fixing issues that their service causes all by yourself.
All of our VPNs have great customer service support, with these exceptions:
- Hide My Ass (Only Email Support/Community Forums/Knowledge Base)
- Trust.Zone (Only Knowledge Base & Email)
If you’re interested in this aspect, be wary of PureVPN and Private Internet Access - as these have less advanced and/or glitchy interfaces.
The others look like creations made by some beautiful web design software.
Device Compatibility 💾
Across the board, all of our VPNs have full device and OS compatibility. About 5 connections at once is the top-tier limit. (Except SurfShark - it allows unlimited device connections!)
Your Budget 📊
NordVPN offers the best bang for the buck, while ExpressVPN is on the more costly side. The cheapest on the list is VyprVPN.
Encryption Protocols Explained
Previously in this article, we mentioned that OpenVPN is the best protocol used by all of the VPN services on our list, but what exactly is a "VPN Protocol"? In a nutshell, a VPN protocol is a set of processes and instructions between your machine (VPN client) and the VPN server to make a strong and safe connection.
At the time of writing, there are five different VPN protocols likely used by your chosen VPN provider: OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, and SSTP.
If you feel slightly intimidated after reading these terms, do not be alarmed. Very few people know what all of these terms mean, and in all honesty, most people don't have to be protocol savvy unless they work in IT. That being said, if you're interested in learning about VPN protocols, here's a quick summary of the most common encryption protocols used by some of the best VPN providers in the UK.
Open-Source protocol, or OpenVPN, is an industry-standard VPN protocol that's fast, reliable, secure and suitable for all types of VPN users. Which explains why OpenVPN is an extremely popular protocol among third-party VPN providers.
One of the main reasons OpenVPN is considered to be one of the most secure protocols on the market stems from the fact that it uses custom security protocols that depend greatly on OpenSSL. While it certainly isn't the fastest VPN protocol on the market, it's a stable and secure option used by many of the providers on our list.
Jointly developed by Microsoft in 1999, Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the oldest encryption protocol on the market. Even though PPTP is known for being the least secure protocol due to the lower encryption standard, it's one of the fastest VPN protocols around, making it ideal for streaming and gaming online.
That being said, security should be your main priority when looking for a VPN service, and while PPTP does use 129-bit encryption, it offers virtually no security benefits. Which is why we only recommend PTTP to advanced users.
Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is a VPN protocol developed by Microsoft that was initially released for Windows Vista SP1, followed by RouterOS and SEIL. Given that SSTP was made for Windows Vista SP1, it's a great option for Windows users, even today. As you would assume, setting up SSTP on other operating systems may prove difficult, though it isn't impossible to use this VPN protocol on Linux and Mac OS.
When it comes to security, SSTP is considerably superior when compared with PPTP as it can be configured with strong AES (256-bit) encryption.
Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol is a VPN protocol that, for security reasons, is typically paired with IPSec. Developed by Microsoft and Cisco, L2TP/IPSec is essentially an improved version of PPTP that you can use to download torrents and securely browse the web. It's slower than OpenVPN, but it's a fast and secure alternative if, for whatever reason, OpenVPN isn't an option.
Similar to L2TP/IPSec, Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) is a secure protocol that was jointly created by Microsoft and Cisco in the '90s. Even though we label it as one, IKEv2 is not strictly a VPN protocol, but it does act like one. Compared with the other VPN protocols on our list, IKEv2 is best suited for mobile device users looking for a speedy, reliable and secure VPN protocol.
In terms of security, Internet Key Exchange version 2 supports AES encryption and, much like L2TP, utilises the IPSec encryption suite. That said, it must be noted that this VPN protocol is not largely supported and therefore it could prove fairly difficult to set up if you aren't using a compatible device.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and its successor Transport Layer Security (TLS) are the most widely used cryptographic protocols at present. This is one of the protocols you've most likely heard of when connecting to a secure HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) website.
Any site with HTTPS in the URL is secured by an SSL certificate used to keep a connection secure and protect any sensitive data being sent between a VPN client and a VPN server.
But what is Transport Layer Security? TLS is an updated and more secure version of SSL, and while VPN providers regularly use the term "SSL" to refer to their security certificates, you will often end up purchasing a more updated TLS certificate.
VPN Routing & Devices: How Is Data Routed Through the VPN? 🔧
After reading all of those confusing terms, you're probably wondering how your data gets routed through the VPN. To make things simple and easy to understand here's a quick summary.
Provider-Provisioned VPN Building-Blocks 🔩
Provider-Provisioned VPNs, or PPVPNs, is a fairly recent technology primarily used by companies to allow employees safe remote access to their business network. PPVPNs work by using virtual traffic links known as "tunnels" that operate at either one or two of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) Layers. This is typically OSI Layer 2 (L2) or Layer 3 (L3). The building blocks mentioned below can be either L2, L3 or a combination of the two.
PE Devices 🧮
A Provider Edge (PE) device is a switch or router that interacts with Provider backbone devices (P devices) and a Consumer Edge (CE) device. As this is the case, PE devices are routers that sit at the edge of the Service Provider core network that connects straight to a router at the consumer site.
P Devices 🔑
Unlike a PE device, Provider (P) routers are located inside the Service Provider core network, rather than on the edges. Given that they are located inside the core, P devices connect with PE devices but do not directly interact with Consumer Edge devices.
C Devices 💽
Customer (C) devices are located inside a customer's network, rather than in the Service Provider core network. Unlike the other routers we have mentioned, C devices are not aware of the virtual private networks existence.
CE Devices 💻
Consumer Edge (CE) devices are routers located within a customer's premises that have a direct link to the Provider Edge router and provide access to the Provider-Provisioned VPN. CE routers are frequently known as Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) devices.
User-Visible PPVPN Services 💾
With all of that being said, what exactly does a Provider-Provisioned VPN offer? Below, we have listed some of the features that PPVPN users can make use of. Let's begin with OSI Layer 2 Services.
OSI Layer 2 Services 📡
A VLAN, or Virtual Local Area Network, allows you to group multiple devices together on separate physical LANs (Local Area Networks). As Virtual Local Networks can be distributed across multiple switches, each VLAN should be addressed as its own broadcast domain or subnet.
A Virtual Private Local Area Network Service (VPLS) is a type of VPN that allows customers to create a LAN structure that supports the connection of geographically separate sites. This allows all services in a Virtual Private LAN Service to appear on the very same Local Area Network, irrespective of the location of the sites.
Ethernet-Over IP Tunneling, or EoIP Tunneling, is a MikroTik RouterOS protocol used to generate an Ethernet tunnel between two separate routers.
An IP-Only LAN Service (IPLS) is essentially a simplified version of a Virtual Private Local Area Network Service that provides a service for IP-only traffic using PE routers.
In telecommunication and networking, a pseudo-wire (or pseudowire) is an emulation of a transparent wired, point-to-point connection across a PSN (Packet-Switching Network).
OSI Layer 3 VPN Service 📲
MPLS VPN 🌐
An MPLS Layer 3 VPN is a type of Virtual Private Network infrastructure that appropriately uses multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) methods to provide services.
Virtual Router VPN 🔗
A Virtual Router VPN allows you to share an internet connection with multiple nearby devices. It does this by acting like a regular home router and allows your device to work as a hotspot.
Unencrypted Tunnels 🚇
In Virtual Private Networks where no encryption tunnelling is provided, a Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) is used. While unencrypted tunnels leave the VPN unprotected, it can still make your connection anonymous.
Private vs Public Encryption Keys ☎️
Every VPN service utilises two types of encryption keys: private and public. But which is superior? Unlike public keys, private encryption keys are only known to the client and the server. On the contrary, public encryption keys are known to every single client on the same network.
Both private and public 3DES and AES encryption keys are measured in bits and very in lengths between 128- and 256-bits. Although the most common method is 128-bits, more secure VPN providers now utilise 256-bit encryption.
How Does a VPN Compare With a Proxy Server? 📞
Similar to a VPN, a proxy server acts like a web filter and firewall. The main difference is that a proxy server can merely direct web requests, whereas a VPN is able to anonymise and route all network traffic.
HTTP Proxies 🎧
Hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) is a protocol you've likely come across when browsing the web. If you don't know what it means, HTTPS is essentially a secure version of HTTP used to send data between a website and the web browser.
SOCKS Proxies 🛡️
A Socket Secure (SOCKS) proxy is a protocol that makes it easier for servers to communicate through a firewall by routing traffic to the server. They can be used for streaming, torrenting, file sharing and even gaming.
Transparent proxies ⚔️
Inline proxies, more commonly known as transparent proxies, are primarily used by businesses to monitor and manage access. You may have come across a transparent proxy when trying to connect to public WiFi networks such as Starbucks WiFi.
Top UK VPN FAQs
Lightning-Round Time ⚡
Is It Worth Having a VPN? - Better Safe Than Sorry 💊
VPNs were once exclusively used by offices, the government, corporations, and their partners. The network provided a way for sensitive work to happen in private online. Some who used VPNs outside of work were associated with the “dark web” and crime.
Over the years, there were many high-profile hacks - from tabloid scandals to WikiLeaks. Since, regular folk realize that they are essentially naked when online. Many have no idea how dangerous it is to browse free Wi-Fi.
While sipping a skinny latte at the local cafe, there could be a hacker sitting in the corner, tracking your browsing history.
Are VPN Legal in the UK? - Broadly-Speaking
There is no specific law of legislation preventing people from using a VPN in the UK. That’s unless you’re doing illegal things online, like selling illicit goods.
A surprising number of countries don’t allow VPNs, such as China, Russia, Turkey and the UAE. Since 2016, a bunch of UK legislations (“called The Snoopers’ Charter”) gave parliament the right to have immense surveillance powers on web surfers.
The Guardian said, the UK’s surveillance powers are “unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.” VPNs are more important for UK residents, in this sense.
Is It Illegal to Watch Netflix With a VPN? - Nope, Funnily Enough 📹
If you’re not a US citizen, US versions of Netflix will be blocked to you. A VPN can let you access streams by running your browsing session through a US-based server IP address. This makes Netflix assume you’re based in the US, removing blocks. The company encourages its users to use their service based on actual locations.
As of now, it is not considered illegal to change your location to access overseas streams.
Which Free VPN Is Best? - Hotspot Shield 🛡️
There are a lot of quality free VPNs on the market, but they often have:
- hidden costs for getting Netflix
- malware and adware
- loads of ads
Some VPNs actually compromise your privacy. If not, they often provide poor bandwidth, speeds, available server locations, etc.
Hotspot Shield is one of the quickest and most reliable free VPNs. It’s only available on a US-based server. You’re limited to 500 MB data daily, good for internet checks - not streaming.
We often recommend awesome free web hosts. You just have to be as careful - to be safe.
Can I Leave My VPN On All the Time? - Sometimes It’s Good To Turn It Off ⏹️
If you’re streaming ‘geoblocked’ content, leave it on until you’re done. The moment you disconnect your VPN, your IP will be revealed - that will kick you out of the site if you click another page.
A cool Hulu trick is to turn off your VPN shortly after you begin viewing.
Draw bandwidth from your regular ISP for the rest of the video (instead of the VPN). Make sure it’s partially loaded first. (Doesn’t work with Netflix.) If your session is slow, you might also want to switch the VPN off tactically.
How Safe is VPN? - Go For More Rep & Bit-Rate 🔼
Our review team doesn’t recommend free VPNs - other than a few. Even amongst paid VPNs, it’s important to choose a reputable provider who won’t sell off your private data to advertisers.
Top VPNs will provide protection but not necessarily offer the same security protocol. (Focus on the number if the words are meaningless...higher is better for security).
- PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) -- 128-bit encryption (fastest protocol)
- SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol) -- 256-bit encryption
- L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) -- 256
- IKEv2/IPsec (Internet Key Exchange) -- 256
- OpenVPN -- 256
A VPN is one of the simplest ways to protect your data when online. Long passwords and Facebook security settings are not enough, even for everyday things like buying things from Amazon.
Related: How to Test VPN
Use VPNs when connected to your internet provider or in WiFi hotspots 📶. VPNs are also a great option for remote workers, officers, and their partners - privately share data with each other.
An app might look and sound good (like Hide My Ass) but you have to know the pros and cons.
Short Summary ⭐:
- NordVPN is the all-round best VPN UK - and the fastest VPN (UK/abroad)
- ExpressVPN gives you cool features for censored states
- VyprVPN is the cheapest - while offering full privacy
Give our review a second look - many other apps fulfill what the above ones offer, and you may be more drawn to them! Alternativelly, check out the best web hosting the UK has to offer if you're interested.