Free VPN vs. Paid VPN - Which Is Better?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is something that has become very popular in recent times. With all the talk about decreased privacy among big social media networks and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), it's become an important discussion topic. If you are considering getting a VPN, you will want to recognize the differences between the competing offerings. Likewise, you want to understand the pros and cons of free VPNs vs. paid VPNs.

What is a Free VPN?

A free VPN is a VPN that you don't have to pay for. Typically, any VPN provider willing and able to offer 'free' VPN servers will have a hidden price. That hidden price is your data.

What is a Paid VPN?

A paid VPN is a private network that you pay for access to from a provider. These providers typically put your anonymity and your privacy at the forefront of their service. Therefore, you will be able to use it in full confidence that you are getting privacy and strong encryption.

Pros of Free VPNs:

1. Free

Perhaps the one and only "pro" associated with a free provider. However, it is a huge one considering you will not have to pay anything monetarily to gain access to it. Because of this, for those who have no worries about their data, you may find that the VPN being 'free' is more than enough reason to use it. Your data might not necessarily be all that important to you for those who are using the VPN to bypass geo-restrictions for Netflix or other streaming services. Therefore, you may be willing to sacrifice your data to gain access to the servers without paying.

Cons of Free VPNs:

1. Privacy

Privacy is the major con associated with a free provider. After all, the servers that the VPNs provide cost money. Therefore, they aren't giving you access to the servers out of the goodness of their hearts. Instead, you will be paying for the use of these servers, but you might not know-how. If anything is begin offered free, you can bet that your data is being monetized. Just like social media networks like Facebook, you are paying the price for using it. Depending on what you are using the VPN for, you may find the price in privacy too significant to consider using a free VPN provider. Whereas, if you aren't necessarily concerned with your data being used, you may find that the benefit of it being free is more than worth it.

2. Security

Another major con associated with free providers is the lack of security. These providers are typically not the most trustworthy. This is especially true if they aren't explicitly telling you how they are monetizing the service. Therefore, you may find that they are putting forth a lackluster effort to secure your data. They may even be using outdated security protocols that you wouldn't want to use for anything important.

3. Less Servers or Data Cap

Free VPNs only offer a few servers, which may not be enough to unblock content in a particular country. If you can access unlimited servers, then there is a bandwidth limit, so content streaming would be complicated too. A free VPN has limits on server usage, whereas commercial VPNs have hundreds or thousands servers to choose from. This allows users to access geo-restricted content from any country without any limits.

Pros of Paid VPNs:

1. Security

This is one of the significant pros associated with paying for a VPN. By paying for the VPN, it is clear how the provider is monetizing the service. After all, the servers are not free. They are relatively expensive. Therefore, by having the provider charge for the service, you know that they can make money without monetizing your data. Likewise, they are much more likely to invest in better security protocols with stronger levels of encryption. As mentioned, your benefit from more robust security being used will be predicated on how and why you are using the private network. For instance, if you are only using it to bypass Geo-restrictions on Netflix, you will likely not be interested in significant encryption. If you are using it for other more privacy-focused reasons, you will likely put the encryption level and the protocol being used above everything else.

2. Quality

A free VPN provider is going to be overused. The fact is, a lot of people are either unwilling or unable to pay for a VPN. This is especially true if they are only using it infrequently for things like bypassing Geo-restrictions. Because of this, you will get inferior quality with a free VPN. After all, more people are using it, and the company is less incentivized to update the servers and keep them running smoothly. Whereas, when you are paying for a VPN provider, there is a much higher barrier to entry. Therefore, their servers will be less loaded, and there will be a higher chance that you are prioritized on their servers. They will also be incentivized to keep their servers running smoothly and keep upgrading their servers. Therefore, you can expect higher quality when you pay for a VPN.

3. Customer Service

Another major pro that you can associate with a paid VPN would be a higher customer service quality. After all, if you aren't directly paying for anything, you shouldn't necessarily expect world-class customer service. After all, losing you as a customer isn't going to impact the company's bottom line directly. Whereas, if you are a paying customer, losing you would cost a lot. Therefore, you are much more likely to get a higher level of customer service not only because they care about you as a customer but because they have the incentive to spend money on customer service and retention.

What To Look For In a VPN Provider?

1. Encryption and Protocols

One of the main things that should be prioritized if you are willing and able to pay for a VPN provider would be their encryption and protocols offered. These are two essential things because they will dictate how safe your data is. If you are using a paid VPN to secure your data and to prevent snooping from your ISP, you will want to get a VPN provider that is going to be capable of providing everything you need. Ideally, you want a provider that is capable of offering 256-bit data encryption. This will ensure that your traffic is properly encrypted and that it is tough to break. A lot of the free VPNs or the VPNs that are very cheap will max out at 128-bit encryption, which may be sufficient for those looking to bypass Geo-restrictions, but not for those who will be using the VPN for privacy.

2. Speed

Another major thing that you are likely going to be looking for is the VPN provider's speed. A lot of the newer VPNs that are investing in Wire-guard are going to be much faster. You want to look at their speed and whether or not they have severs in the proper regions for you to take full advantage. You should be looking at servers based on what you are using the VPN for and whether the servers are close enough to allow for optimal connection speed.

3. Price

There are so many different VPNs that you can choose from in the marketplace. Because of this, you shouldn't look at VPNs that are going to be overly expensive. Many of the best VPN providers will offer you exceptional performance and security at a very low price monthly. This is especially true if you are willing and able to pay for a long term subscription. Therefore, you should be making a full-price comparison to ensure that you are buying service at an affordable and competitive price-point. However, you shouldn't cheapen out if you are aiming for security and privacy. After all, the cheaper the VPN is, the more likely they are monetizing your data or overloading their servers with countless users who can inhibit performance over the long haul. Therefore, you want to look for one with a good value proposition and one that is worth it for your use-case.

Is It Worth Paying For a VPN Service?

The answer to this question ultimately comes down to what is essential to you. If you are only planning on using the service for relatively unimportant things like bypassing geo-restrictions, you may not find the cost to be worth it. However, for pretty much everyone else, it is worth it. Nowadays, it would help if you aimed to protect your data and enhance your privacy as much as possible. If you are selling out your data to a free VPN provider, you never know what they will do with it. The cost for a paid VPN isn't significant enough to consider the trade-off of having a free service be worth it. You can find a VPN provider willing and able to offer superior privacy, security, and customer service for a very good price. Therefore, you shouldn't be willing to use a free VPN provider to save a few dollars here and there.

Tips on how to choose a VPN provider