What is the Difference Between Free and Paid VPN Services?

VPN services are rapidly gaining traction and are being adopted for a multitude of reasons. The software also comes in two forms, free VPN and paid. This article will explore the differences between what these forms have to offer, commencing by delving further into what VPNs are.

What is a VPN?

VPN is an acronym for virtual private network. Its main function is to hide the IP address of users through the re-routing of traffic.

This means that all data becomes encrypted and is thus protected from cyber attacks and data leakage. The use of VPN means that people are enabled to bypass restrictions and blocks, whether these blocks are enforced by ISPs or by government organisations. VPN is popularly adopted to access streaming sites but may also be used for other means such as:


  • Using public Wi-Fi more securely – For those who make actions such as checking their bank account status or emails in public, a significant threat can be posed. The use of unsecured public networks (Wi-Fi networks without a password) increases the likelihood of your browsing activity being exposed or your payment details being revealed. To avoid the above, VPN services will encrypt your use of the internet and make it harder for your details to be exposed
  • Avoiding price discrimination when shopping online – It is extremely common for online shopping websites to supply a variation of prices, for the same services and products, purely depending on the location the buyer is situated at. To avoid pricing discrimination, the wiping of browser cookies and adoption of VPN is extremely efficient. You may find that by shopping from a different location through the software you will find cheaper prices and get the same item in a more cost effective manner
  • Increasing privacy – VPN services apply limitations to the number of people who can access and log your information, alongside safeguarding details about your IP address.
  • Avoiding targeted bandwidth throttling – Activities such as gaming and streaming require a larger amount of internet bandwidth. This requirement is monitored by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and this is when bandwidth throttling takes place. Throttling is used as a means of reducing internet traffic and reduces the speed of your internet connection. Using a VPN means that your ISP is unable to monitor the activity stemming from your IP address, as your device will no longer be registered there. This consequently enables you to use a large bandwidth with minimal disruptions or limitations

Differences Between Free and Paid VPNs

The main difference between the two is, of course, the difference in cost. Extending beyond this factor are other elements, such as browsing limitations. These limitations arise from low quality service providers and centre usage, for example some free services limit usage to 500MB each month. If the free service being offered is of low quality, then networks such as BBC iPlayer or Netflix will fail to be unblocked on your device. Sometimes, other limitations may be placed such as limitations on bandwidth or speed.

These issues rarely arise with regards to paid VPNs, but on the other hand there are also free VPNS which are of great quality and still do not display limits. For example, Urban VPN unblocks Netflix and is accompanied with an unlimited bandwidth. With Urban VPN, over eighty locations are available.

Supplementing this is the fact that the VPN has an integrated kill switch which means that no encrypted data will be leaked if the software ever goes down, and therefore customer security is guaranteed. Additional features include a mobile app, and due to the lack of a fee, a free trial is essentially available.

Is VPN Always Safe?

The harsh answer is no. Unreliable service providers will use weak encryptions and security services, these operate in a manner akin to malware. Ultimately, services like this run the risk of hackers or spying agencies gaining your information.

Some services also sell your information, such as Betternet VPN which openly acknowledges its sharing of data with advertisers. More worryingly is Hola VPN, which sells the unused bandwidth of its clients to the Global Data Market. Some paid VPNs utilise AES 256-bit encryption, offering security. However, simply paying for a VPN does not guarantee its safety, and it’s recommended to trial free VPNs before paying.

To conclude a VPN is a virtual private network which reroutes internet traffic to obscure IP addresses. It is used for tasks such as: using public Wi-Fi more securely, avoiding price discrimination when shopping online, increasing general privacy, and avoiding targeted bandwidth throttling.

VPNs are also adopted in order to bypass blocks and restrictions. The differences between paid and free VPNs generally depend on the quality of the service being offered. If the service is low quality, then there may be limitations on which websites you can unblock or limitations on usage and bandwidth. VPNs are not always safe, and once more the level of encryption and privacy varies in correlation to the quality of the service at hand.


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