We all know there are great VPNs out there: VPNs that do a great job of protecting your privacy your privacy without sacrificing too much in the way of speed or security. But how much do they really cost?
There are, of course, premium VPNs you have to pay for. But what’s the deal with these VPNs being marketed as “free”? Are they really free? And if they are, are they really as good as benchmark VPNs? The answer may not be as simple as you think. Let’s find out.
The Marketing Psychology Behind “Free”
There’s something interesting about human nature when it comes to freebies. We love freebies! We go wild for “BOGO” sales and double coupons. And we appreciate all our free, little gizmos and junk toys that break a week later. And we’re proud of all the cash we saved!
But we often forget to ask why this “free lunch” came our way— and what it will cost us on the back end.
To be fair, human nature is appropriately skeptical about some free items. When it comes to automotive safety, we wouldn’t buy a car whose crash safety inspection was done by some unpaid flunky. And how likely would you be to pick up a toddler’s car seat in the bargain bin during a clearance sale? We know instinctually that these are bad ideas. After all, as grandma taught us, “You get what you pay for.”
When “Free” Isn’t Free
Knowing that most freebies come with strings attached, why do we still look for the cheapest bargain when it comes to online security? Pay good money for that alarm system . . . sure. Offer top dollar for that bicycle helmet . . . no problem. But those dollars are spent for physical safety. Most of us still take our digital safety for granted. Even though it’s just as important.
Maybe you have a friend whose credit card info compromised, or saw a commercial warning against full-on identity theft. But no, that can’t happen to you. It happens to other people. We’ll just stick with free online security. It’ll be good enough.
But My Friend Told Me About this Trusted and Free VPN!
The problem with free online services, whether a VPN or an email provider, is that those companies are incurring ENORMOUS (and ongoing) costs for engineering, development, marketing, server maintenance and bandwidth. They employ real people, and yet their product is free?
Free? What sorcery is this?!
As you probably guessed, it’s not magic at all. It’s a trade-off for your valuable information. Your location, your demographics, your proprietary intellectual property, your browsing history, your purchasing habits, your investment risk profile, your credit score. In other words—your privacy.
For free services, you are gifting them anything and everything you do online. So, can you trust a free VPN? Well, you can trust that they will sell you as commodity, so others can collect data on you.
Sure, you can find a handful of free VPNs out there, but you’re not getting the full benefits as promised by the fundamental concept of a Virtual Private Network. “Private” – it’s right there in the name!
Lackluster Encryption Standards
Aside from selling your data to any company or government agency offering the highest bid, free VPNs have little incentive to offer you’re the best available encryption protocols and layering technology, because the best of anything costs the most of anything.
Just as selling your data compromises your privacy, under-engineered encryption protocols and lazy delivery systems leave you and your important information vulnerable to hackers.
Unenthusiastic or Nonexistent Customer Support
If you aren’t paying a VPN for their product, how responsive do you think they’ll be when their service starts going haywire? Endless buffering. Kill switches that don’t work. Server connections that don’t mask your IP address. Connections that route through government shell companies to monitor your every move.
Good luck finding 24/7 support for free. You’re on your own.
If you’ve read all this and are willing to roll the dice with your privacy and security, you should know that free VPNs also throttle your speeds. Slower speeds are more affordable for them, since they aren’t making direct subscription income from you.
Just as leading Internet Service Providers have been shown to throttle speeds to save money and give preference to wealthier corporations for better traffic, a free VPN will hamstring your loading speeds and anchor down those downloads with the dead weight of all its freeloaders.
Final Thoughts: Free VPN vs. Free Trials
While free VPNs have their drawbacks, most reputable paid VPNs offer free trials, which are very different than free VPNs. A free trial offers you at least a week (sometimes up to a full month) of their top-notch paid product, for free. This let’s you test out all the bells and whistles and see what you’ve been missing out on compared to your bargain-bin VPN provider.
Free trials may limit some of the speeds you’d get with the paid version, but they will at least ensure your privacy and security, because after all, they want you to become a paying customer. Paid customers enjoys superior customer service, military-grade encryption, attractive user interfaces, easy and intuitive setup, and state-of-the-art product performance.