Online security is becoming more and more important for everyone. This is especially true in the United Kingdom, where new laws have allowed higher levels of surveillance by government bodies and commercial entities alike.
Just like a firewall protects the data on your computer, a Virtual Private Network can protect your information when you’re online.
A VPN can be used to ensure user data, and critical information is not being hacked when connected to an online network – be it public or private.
To help us identify the nominees for the best VPN for the UK award, and, ultimately, pick a winner, here are all the criteria to which we pay particular attention.
Number of Servers
One of the most significant factors to consider for any top VPN provider is the number of servers they have available. Ideally, the VPN will have multiple pieces of hardware registered in many countries.
Geographical diversity matters because it allows you to circumvent specific local licensing and content screening regulations by registering your IP Address as a different location. Depending on the server you use, your VPN could give you access to a wider pool of media content – not just those in the UK – while still protecting your data and concealing your real IP address.
While server count is not a crucial aspect of network security, it is a major benefit to you personally and one that plays a major factor in our scoring system.
Speed and Bandwidth
Due to the way a VPN operates, you typically experience a decrease in available bandwidth and a slowdown in your internet speed. The severity of this decline will likely depend on the level of security your provider offers. The original speed of your internet connection also matters.
A VPN works by rerouting your data through a secure server before that data reaches the internet. Naturally, this diversion can take a little extra time. And the further the server from the UK, the slower the connection will be.
Some VPN services are better at handling large flows of information than others, and it’s an aspect we look at closely. The ideal UK VPN should help maintain your privacy and security with little impact on your browsing experience.
Most providers on the market offer unlimited bandwidth to subscribers. However, some cheaper plans cap bandwidth at a certain level, reducing the amount of data your connection can handle at one time. That, too, is something we take into consideration when picking a winner.
VPN’s use several different methods to conceal your identity and personal data. These methods are collectively referred to as security protocols.
Security protocols can differ from one VPN provider to the next. It’s a good idea to take this information into account when choosing the best UK service and, indeed, we do.
Thankfully the safest encryption protocol happens to be one of the most commonly available. It’s called OpenVPN. When reviewing various services during the nomination process, it’s something to which we pay particular attention.
Other protocols include SSTP and PPTP, which are older but functional, and LT2P/IPsec, which is mobile-specific. Extra points are definitely awarded for the latter.
VPNs can do a lot to protect your identity and personal information online. However, many do not offer anonymity to a degree they could due to logging.
While their goals may not necessarily be as nefarious, if you plan on using a VPN to stay anonymous, a no-logging policy is a significant feature to keep in mind. And, indeed, it is a feature we weight heavily when picking the winning service.
It’s important to note that VPNs with zero-logging policies are usually located in countries with relaxed online record laws, and the United Kingdom is, unfortunately, not one of those countries.
Naturally, a VPN isn’t much good if you can’t use it. Some apps only function on specific platforms. Generally, the broader the support, the better.
For a provider to even be nominated for our award, we expect a custom client for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Anything beyond that is a bonus that is taken into account in the overall scoring.
Support for other platforms, not necessarily through a client, is also expected, but not necessary. If such support is there, however, detailed setup instructions are a must.
Nice to Have Features
At this point, we have covered all the significant features we look at when picking the best VPN for the UK. There are, however, a few nice-to-haves that can add an extra level of convenience or usability to a service.
The more of these optional features a VPN has, the more points they receive to their overall score.
The features are as follows:
- Kill Switch – Despite the scary-sounding name, a kill switch is vital to keeping your internet privacy intact. If it detects your VPN connection has failed, it stops any information from leaking over your regular connection.
More often than not, a connection drop is the result of a temporary network failure. And, while these are rare, they do happen.
- DNS Leak Protection – Another useful but optional feature is DNS leak protection. It ensures no DNS queries – a process necessary anytime you access a website or an internet service – go to anything but a secure DNS server.
Without DNS leak protection, some queries may end up going to your UK ISP, as if you were not using a VPN at all. This can be a major breach of security as it will allow the ISP to identify every location you visit online.
- Money-Back Guarantee – This feature is relatively self-explanatory. Having the ability to ask for your money back if you deem a VPN service does not meet your needs is something we’re used to and expect.
Some VPNs make marketing claims that do not necessarily reflect in reality. Offering a generous money-back guarantee makes a provider that much more likely to be picked as the best of the best for the UK.
The above six points are what we take into account when selecting our best VPN for the UK. Each criterion is scored out of ten, and the results tallied up. The provider with the highest score is crowned as the winner.