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How We Test & Review VPNs

VPNs provide the easiest way to protect your online privacy.

And over the last few years, the market has become saturated with hundreds of new VPN services.

Some get the job done, others not so much.

At vpnAlert, we understand that it can be quite challenging to sort through the chaff. So, we’ve made it our mission to test the different VPNs, and see if they actually deliver what they claim on the tin.

We take the review process seriously, and unlike many other sites, our reviews are impartial and free from outside influence.

Now let’s take a look at the various steps of our VPN review process!

We Purchase the VPN

If the VPN has a premium subscription, we pay for it.

We never rely on free accounts or accept demo versions from providers.

With pride ourselves on being objective and with each VPN review, we aim to get the actual experience that an average customer gets, and that includes going through the payment process ourselves.

That said, if the VPN we are testing has a free version, we test it as well to make sure you have all the information on the table.

We Install on Multiple Platforms

It may sound like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many reviewers don’t even bother to run the software.

Once we have an active subscription, we download and set up the VPN on each of our six main testing devices.

In so doing, we are able to collect first-hand data on both performance and usability.

Generally, we use Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV, but this depends on how compatible the VPN is.

We point out all supported devices as well as the platforms that get the “dedicated app” treatment.

We Evaluate the VPN Service

This is the most critical part of our review process and it involves analyzing the specific aspects and features of the VPN.

Our methodology covers the following:

1. We Check the Logging Policy & Jurisdiction

Online privacy is probably the main reason you are looking for a VPN. As such, we make sure every VPN we recommend protects your anonymity.

We start by looking at the privacy policy.

Fraudulent VPN providers will claim to have a “no-log service”, but still go on to record and store your browsing history.

Information collected by some providers

We take time to carefully read through the fine print to make sure their logging practices are as safe as advertised and that you are not being exploited.

Besides the privacy policy, we also look at:

Company Location

Where is the provider located? Is it a 14-Eyes jurisdiction?

Can they be compelled to retain or share your data with the government?

Background & Reputation

After jurisdiction, we look at who owns and runs the company?

Are they reliable and trustworthy?

We dig deep into the providers’ history to find out if they have ever violated their user policy or suffered from security breaches

2. How Secure Is the VPN?

A VPN that cannot safeguard your data is not worth your time and money.

We evaluate the encryption standard – does the VPN offer the safest combination?

Additionally, we check out whether the VPN offers essential features:

3. We Test for IP, DNS, & WebRTC Leaks

It wouldn’t be a “real world test”, if our experts didn’t check for connection leaks. 

If a VPN leaks your IP, that means it’s not doing its job right.

When conducting the leak checks, we use Wireshark, a powerful open-source network protocol analyzer.

On top of that, we also use online testing tools from different providers to make sure the information is as accurate as possible.

Testing Surfshark
WebRTC Detection

4. How Fast Is It?

When it comes to VPNs, what you gain is privacy and security, you lose in speed.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for slow service.

We conduct extensive speed tests using speedtest.net to give you a clear picture of the VPN’s performance.

We check both upload and download speeds, as well as latency.

We take all the three metrics into account when calculating the overall score, but, naturally, we prioritize download speeds.

For consistency purposes, we conduct almost all our speed tests using OpenVPN.

5. Does It Unblock Netflix & Other Streaming Services?

While many VPNs can easily access restricted sites, Netflix is a whole other ball game.

The streaming service employs tough geo-blocking measures and actively detects and bans VPN IPs.

We test each VPN to see if it works with Netflix.

We also find out which servers work best, helping you avoid the usual trial and error process.

Checking if a VPN successfully unblocks Netflix

6. Check If It Allows P2P/Torrenting

Not all VPNs allow torrent traffic on their servers.

And even those that do, not all are honest about it.

With that in mind, we always conduct comprehensive tests to see if each VPN supports peer-to-peer file sharing.

If the VPN allows P2P traffic in only a fraction of their network, we again identify and list the compatible servers.

7. We Analyze the VPN Apps’ Usability

You don’t have to be a tech geek to use a VPN. 

Unfortunately, many providers pay little regard to usability and user experience. We look at factors like ease of setup, interface design, and level of configuration to find out how user-friendly the VPN is.

8. We Test & Grade Their Customer Support

Customer service experience is an integral part of our review process, too.

While almost all VPN providers promise “best in class” customer service, only a few live up to those claims.

We contact the support agents via live chat, email, and support tickets, and we do so at various times of the day to see if the customer service is available 24/7.

Testing VPN' customer support experience

At the end of it all, we analyze our experience based on responsiveness, helpfulness, and the overall pleasantry and clarity of the responses we get.

9. We Compare Cost With Value

"Price is what you pay, value is what you get."

When it comes to VPNs, expensive doesn’t always mean better, and cheap doesn’t it’s a bargain.

VPNs differ in both cost and features, and as such rating pricing plans alone can be misleading.

To see if a VPN presents good value for money, we compare its cost with its performance and the features on offer.

We also look at free trials and refund policies.

How We Score the VPNs

After evaluating the VPN’s features, performance, and benefits, we condense all factors into seven distinct categories and then rate and rank the VPNs.

Each service is rated on a scale of 0 to 10 based on its performance in each of the categories as well as the weighting of each criterion.

But, after posting the VPN review, we do not simply stop there.

We continue to keep track of the changing trends in the VPN industry, and we regularly retest the VPNs and update the scores accordingly.

That’s it.

That’s how we review and test VPNs.

As you can see, we take online privacy seriously, and are always willing to go the extra mile.

Now that you know our review process, we invite you to check out our VPN reviews.

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