If you use a VPN or plan to sign up for one, there are some easy-to-overlook features that can help you get the most out of your new virtual private network. Let’s take a look at six of them.
A kill switch
We’ll start with one of the most important features a VPN can have: a kill switch. In short, a kill switch “kills” your internet connection if your VPN goes down for any reason. This is important as your traffic can be identified while a VPN does not work. A kill switch prevents this.
A kill switch is especially important for people using a VPN to escape censorship and torrenting, although they’re useful for almost everyone. Luckily, most VPNs have them turned on by default, although some don’t have them at all — while others, like NordVPN, require you to turn them on. To learn how, check out our NordVPN guide.
Streaming service cracking
While we know that a good chunk of VPN users already know that you can crack Netflix’s regional libraries using a VPN, we have a feeling that not everyone is fully aware of just how many other services you can access as well.
For example, European users can access the US-only service Hulu (although they still need a US credit card), while viewers around the world can use a VPN to access BBC iPlayer and watch the UK channel’s library for free. All you have to do is enter a fictitious UK address and you’re good to go.
You can also use your VPN to access any number of other streaming services, including some that specialize in sports. Whether you are a European American Football fan or a US based soccer fan, you can always find a game to watch.
Modern VPN protocols
Another important thing to check about your VPN is to see what VPN protocol it uses to connect to the internet. A VPN protocol is the set of rules that machines use to communicate with each other, and in the case of VPNs, it can affect both the security and speed of your connection. The best VPN protocols keep things moving quickly while keeping you safe.
The best VPNs usually use OpenVPN or even a proprietary protocol, but it’s definitely something you want to check and make sure of. You can usually find protocols in the settings menu and we recommend trying different protocols to get the best results. However, be sure to only focus on proven protocols like OpenVPN so you can be assured of staying safe.
Another cool feature is split tunneling, the ability to decide which programs or apps use the VPN connection and which don’t. It might not seem all that useful at first, but it’s perfect in several scenarios. For example, you could download a Steam game over an unsecured connection and get good speeds while still browsing securely with the VPN turned on.
It’s also good for BitTorrent use, as it means you can safely seed a file while continuing to browse at your normal speed. If this feature sounds good to you, make sure your VPN of choice has it, as not all VPNs include it. For example, NordVPN and ExpressVPN have it, while some others don’t.
Multiple simultaneous connections
If you want to get the most out of your VPN subscription, keep in mind that almost all providers allow you to have multiple connections active at the same time. This means you can have the VPN active on multiple devices at the same time.
That’s great if you have both a desktop and a laptop and a smartphone, but it also means you can share your subscription with others and help cover the costs a bit. Some VPNs allow up to 10 simultaneous connections, meaning every member of your family can surf safely without spending an extra penny.
One important thing to always do when trying out a new VPN is to check its speed and security. While some like ExpressVPN, offer built-in tools, we prefer to use independent measurements to see how your new software is performing. To run a VPN speed test, you could try using this speedtest.netfor example.
Aside from speed, you should also test whether a VPN is working properly by running leak tests and a few other security measurements. It only takes a few minutes to walk your new VPN through these steps, and it’s a great way to ensure you get what you paid for, so we encourage everyone to do it.
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