If you’ve used a VPN before or are thinking of using one, you’ve probably already encountered a couple of different VPN providers. These providers typically advertise useful VPN features that you may be unfamiliar with and want to learn more about. This will help you differentiate between different providers and understand which are better suited to you based on your own needs. 

For instance, if your main goal is to stay protected against common cyber threats, then you’ll want a VPN that provides vital security features such as military-grade encryption, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch. Alternatively, if you’re an advocate for privacy, then you’ll want a VPN that offers anonymous payment methods and has a strict no-logs policy. For all users, usability features are also incredibly important, as these will help you swiftly navigate and make the most of your VPN. OS support, bandwidth allowance, split-tunnelling support, and multiple simultaneous connections are common VPN terms that are important to familiarise yourself with. 

Seeing these terms thrown around can be overwhelming when looking for or using a VPN, especially if you don’t know what they mean. That’s why we’ve created an in-depth and easy-to-understand guide to the most useful VPN features that you’ll see in 2022. So, keep reading to understand the useful usability, security, and privacy features of VPNs!

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VPN Usability Features

Usability features will help make your VPN experience easy and effective, so you can make the most of this tool at all times. Check out the top usability features that are a must-have for VPN users – 

  • Operating System Support – To use a VPN on your preferred device, you need to ensure that it supports the device’s operating system (OS). Most popular VPNs have apps/clients that support major operating systems including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. Some VPNs are even compatible with home routers, smart TVs, and gaming consoles. However, it’s always a good idea to check on a provider’s website to make sure their app/client is compatible with your device. 
  • Simultaneous Connections – If you have more than one device that you want to protect with a VPN, then you need a provider that offers multiple simultaneous connections. This means that you can use a single account to connect to more than one device at the same time. VPNs will typically allow up to 5 or 6 simultaneous connections, meaning that you can have up to 5 or 6 devices connected at once without needing to pay any extra. Some providers such as Surfshark even allow for unlimited simultaneous connections which means that you can use the VPN on all your devices at the exact same time at no extra cost. 
  • Bandwidth Allowance – This refers to how much bandwidth you can use with your VPN. Data bandwidth is defined as the amount of data that is transmitted over an internet connection. Most free VPNs have a capped bandwidth allowance whilst premium VPNs generally offer unlimited bandwidth, meaning you can use your VPN constantly to browse the web, stream, download content, or participate in other online activities without running into any caps or extra charges. 
  • Customer Support – Although it may not seem important, a reliable customer support team can separate the good VPN providers from the best VPN providers. You could run into issues at any time when using a VPN, so you’ll want access to a customer support team who are highly knowledgeable and available 24/7. Additionally, most VPNs have detailed tutorials or guides on their websites which can help you with the setup and use of your VPN, so you can confidently make the most of this tool at all times. 
  • Money-back Guarantee – A money-back guarantee allows users who have paid for a VPN subscription to revive a full refund within a certain time period. This can be anywhere between 7 and 90 days, or even more, but is typically around 30 days, meaning that you have this many days to test out the VPN to decide whether it’s worth the price you paid. Money-back guarantees tend to show a VPN provider’s confidence in their service, so we always recommend opting for those that offer one. These are completely risk-free and as long as you cancel your subscription before the specified time period expires, you will receive a full refund. 

VPN Security Features

Security is arguably the most important aspect of a VPN as it will keep you safe from cyber threats such as hackers and malware. Here are the most useful security features provided by VPNs – 

  • VPN Protocols – Although they may seem complicated, VPN protocols are pretty easy to understand. All you really need to know is that VPN protocols are sets of processes and rules that determine how the encrypted VPN tunnel is formed and how traffic is sent over the private network. Each VPN offers a small selection of VPN protocols available and users between them depending on if they want to prioritise speed, anonymity, or security. Common and trusted VPN protocols include WireGuard, IKEv2, and WireGuard. You can find out more about different types of VPN protocols and see which is best suited to your needs here
  • Kill Switch – A kill switch is a security feature that stops users’ devices from making unprotected connections. This works by continuously monitoring a user’s connection to the VPN server and if it detects an interruption or sudden drop, it will completely stop the user’s connection to the internet altogether. A kill switch is often referred to as VPN’s last line of defence as it stops users from being accidentally exposed in the case of an unstable internet connection, server failure, or other unprecedented interruptions.   `
  • DNS Leak Protection – A DNS (Domain Name System) leak refers to a security flaw where a user’s DNS requests are revealed to their ISP by travelling to the ISP’s default DNS servers. This allows third parties such as a user’s ISP or DNS provider to see their online activities such as which websites they visit and what services they use online. You can check for a DNS leak by heading to a DNS leak test website. To prevent DNS leaks from happening, a VPN will ensure that a user’s device only uses DNS servers that are operated by the provider and that all DNS queries travel through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel. 
  • Ad-blocking Technology – Ad-blocking technology is regularly included in a VPN’s package as it can further protect users from common cyber threats. When enabled, as a user enters a new website, the ad-blocking software will inspect all of a website’s components against a blacklist and prevent any advertising material from loading. This includes pop-ups, autoplay videos, and banner ads. Using a VPN’s built-in ad-blocking technology can benefit users in several ways such as improving page loading times, reducing mobile data usage, and protecting against malvertising (malicious advertising). Discover the best VPNs with built-in ad-blocking technology here
  • Dedicated IP – Whenever you connect to a VPN server, your IP address changes to that of the servers. However, this IP address is shared with other users and is known as shared IP. Differently, a dedicated IP is exclusive to a single user and is not shared with others. A user may want dedicated IP for several reasons such as to secure their online payments, avoid triggering CAPTCHA authentication, and  privately access remote systems. 

VPN Privacy Features

Privacy features offered by VPNs will help you drastically reduce your digital footprint so you can maintain anonymity when online. Take a look at the most valuable privacy features offered by VPNs – 

  • No-logs Policy – A no-logs policy is vital for maintaining anonymity when online and keeping your sensitive information out of the wrong hands. When a VPN provider says they have a no-logs policy, it means they do not collect any user data such as IP addresses, bandwidth usage, connection timestamps, DNS queries, and browsing history. VPNs that do not have this policy are likely to be selling user data to third parties, meaning that they should definitely be avoided. Even if your VPN does not intend to sell your data, there is still a significant risk that comes from them storing this data. If the provider experiences a security breach then your sensitive information can be compromised, jeopardising your privacy. 
  • Obfuscation – All VPNs can prevent your ISP (Internet Service Provider) from seeing what you’re doing online. However, if you also don’t want your ISP knowing that you’re using a VPN to conceal your activity, you need a VPN that provides obfuscation. Obfuscation can hide all traces of the VPN protocol in data packets which makes your VPN traffic appear like regular internet traffic. This will completely hide your VPN usage from your ISP which can stop you from being targeted for bandwidth throttling and allows you to enjoy consistently fast speeds when online. 
  • Payment Methods – Most VPNs allow users to pay for their subscription through credit cards, PayPal, GooglePay, and other popular payment methods. However, for unrivalled anonymity when using a VPN, you should opt for a provider that accepts cryptocurrency as payment alongside standard payment methods. By purchasing your VPN subscription with cryptocurrency and using a separate email address, you can ensure that there is absolutely no identifiable information that can be traced back to you.