Best Web Hosting Services of 2020

Large corporations, small businesses, and individuals are spoilt for choice when looking for the best web hosting provider. There are quite a lot of very good web hosting plans available at the moment. There are also some very heavy discounts available and being offered by top quality web hosting companies, so even the task of identifying the best cheap web hosting solutions has become difficult.

This web hosting review narrows down the field to the five best web hosting companies operating right now and the deals that they are offering on their web hosting plans. We will identify the best web hosting packages for small businesses, the perfect online store systems for business websites and we will find ways that startups can keep their hosting costs down when entering the world of eCommerce. We will explain the different types of hosting accounts available and what a typical hosting package includes.

The best web hosting options

The website hosting industry has its own trade terms, which you will need to learn in order to work out which server hosting type is best for you. Web hosting solutions are offered in the following types:

  • Shared hosting plans
  • WordPress hosting
  • VPS hosting
  • Reseller hosting
  • Dedicated servers
  • Cloud hosting

Each configuration has its own conventions and pricing standards.

Shared hosting plans

Shared plans put several hosting accounts on the same server. This is the most cost-effective form of web hosting and the most widely used. It is suitable for individuals and small companies for either a blog or an online store, or a website that combines both elements.

All accounts are sat on top of a common operating system, which manages the whole server. This could present a security risk because if any customer could get to the operating system, the shell script language would be available to them, allowing them to access the files of other accounts on the server. For this reason, operating system access is always blocked on shared hosting plans.

The user’s credential gains access to a hosting platform that is supported by a control panel. The most frequently used type of control panel in these plans is cPanel. It is impossible to break out of the account management software to get to the operating system. The control panel provides all of the functions that an administrator would usually need operating system access for, such as file handling procedures.

WordPress hosting

Most WordPress hosting plans are shared server hosting accounts with the WordPress software pre-installed. WordPress sites can also be created with any standard shared hosting plan because most web hosting providers make the WordPress software available for free. Where this is the case, the user can get a one-click installation of the CMS from a resident installer, included with the plan.

Many web hosting providers advertise eCommerce hosting packages that are based on a system called WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress. It adapts the content management system to create a typical online store layout. The WooCommerce system also provides guidance for the small business owners setting up an online store on what steps to complete in order to get the site fully operational. A typical WordPress hosting plan will also include a free WooCommerce option. WooCommerce hosting plans are shared hosting services and usually any shared hosting plan that gives access to WordPress also makes WooCommerce available.

VPS hosting

“VPS” stands for “virtual private server.” This is a blend of the cost benefits of a shared server and the privacy and security offered by a dedicated server. In this scenario, special hardware management software divides up the resources of the server, including processors and disk space. This creates separate accounts, which each needs an operating system installed on it.

The partitioning system is called a hypervisor and it is impossible for the user of one account to break through the hypervisor wall and access the files of another account. The settings of the hypervisor can be adjusted, however, so it is very easy for the technical support team to adjust the space allocated to each account. So, users of VPS hosting accounts usually get the option to pay for more processors or more disk space.

VPS hosting packages are less likely to include as many free extras as a shared hosting system. This is because it is assumed that the typical customer of a virtual private server is a larger business that has its own technicians. The advantage of a VPS over a shared hosting plan is that the account holder can get down to the operating system, so it is expected that the customer wants greater control and already has software to install and a technical team to carry out the work.

Some VPS hosting providers will make a free software library available for the customer to install applications on the VPS. In some cases, the customer will be provided with a control panel. In some cases, the customer will get a control panel and won’t get access to the operating system as well. VPS hosting accounts can be used for WordPress hosting and that software can be made available for the customer to be installed or can be installed by the support team of the web hosting provider.

VPS web servers are provided either as a bare server with no operating system or with an operating system installed on it, which is usually Linux. Some VPS hosting packages just include the web server. This is called an unmanaged VPS hosting service. The alternative is a managed VPS hosting package, which includes the services of a technical support team.

Reseller hosting

Reseller hosting is a sub-type of VPS hosting. In these plans, the account holder has the right to subdivide the account and sell on those subaccounts to others. In this case, the reseller makes money by levying fees for each sub-account that totals more than the original web hosting provider charges for the reseller hosting package.

A reseller hosting package usually allows white labeling, so that the reseller can replace all logos and identifiers of the original hosting service to create his own branding. The customers of the reseller do not realize that they are not dealing with the owner of the underlying server. They will never access the customer support team of the original web hosting company but will get access to a support team provided by the reseller.

Dedicated servers

A dedicated server is an entire server rented to one customer.  This can be offered with or without an installed operating system. Where no operating system is pre-installed, the account holder is usually offered a list of operating system options, which are usually all flavors of Linux. The account holder also has the option of sourcing an operating system and installing it on the rented server.

Dedicated hosting is offered as either an unmanaged plan or a managed package that includes technicians. The dedicated server packages usually include very few extras other than an uptime guarantee, a stated disk capacity and processor count, and a bandwidth pledge. It is common for the dedicated hosting plan to include a dedicated IP address. Dedicated servers are usually only of interest to large corporations with a heavy web presence.

Cloud hosting

The term “cloud hosting” can be applied to any web hosting package. However, in its narrowest definition, cloud hosting refers to a platform that is installed on a server. A platform is san extra layer added to an operating system. It provides commonly used services. In the case of cloud hosting, the most commonly used platform is OpenStack. The platform manages server resources so that they can be accessed by remote users. This platform can be loaded onto a VPS or a dedicated server.

Typical web hosting package contents

There is very tough competition in the web hosting world right now and, as well as offering big discounts, web hosting providers are piling in extra services to try to attract customers. The shared hosting plan has the highest volume of business and this is where new customers can get the most free extras with a hosting package. Here are some of the lures that are currently on offer:

Free domain name – Most of the web hosting providers are also domain registration services. New websites will need both hosting and a domain name, so it makes sense to buy them both together.

Free SSL certificate – An eCommerce website has to use the HTTPS schema otherwise the connection isn’t secure enough for people to enter their credit card details. The SSL certificate is an essential component of HTTPS. Also, Google blocks access to sites that don’t use HTTPS.

Unlimited websites – Most of the overhead involved in web hosting lies in setting up an account, the cost of enabling multiple websites on the same account is marginal and it also encourages hosting customers to buy more domains from the associated domain name registration division.  

Unlimited bandwidth – A web server will refuse connections and the website will appear to be offline if there is not enough processing capacity at the internet interface.

Unlimited email accounts – a website’s proprietor and staff need to be able to use the same domain name on email addresses as the domain name of the website. These should be managed from the control panel of the hosting account.

SSD disks – Solid state disks are faster than other configurations. Faster disks mean the processor can fetch the necessary files for requested web pages and send them out quicker.

Unlimited storage – HTML files don’t take up much space. However, images, videos, and other visual content do need a lot of room. Databases and other services can also use a lot of space and access log files will keep growing through the life of the site. Unlimited disk space removes the worry of running out of room.

Content delivery network (CDN) – A CDN stores copies of the website in data centers around the world. Being close to faraway visitors means that web page code has less distance to travel. Therefore, CDNs improve the load times of websites. They also keep the site available during downtime on the main server. The most successful CDN provider is called Cloudflare.

The best web hosting providers

We have created a shortlist of the best web hosting providers. These are the web hosting companies to investigate for the best web hosting packages, whether that is a shared hosting plan, VPS hosting, or a dedicated server.

The five best web hosting providers of 2020 are:

  1. Bluehost
  2. HostGator
  3. Hostinger
  4. GoDaddy
  5. SiteGround

The plans offered by each of these web hosting providers are detailed in the following sections.

Continue reading “Best Web Hosting Services of 2020”

Best Web Hosting Services for Small Business

Small business owners know that they have to control costs in order to compete with bigger competitors. Having a website is a great way to reach out to potential customers with little cost.

Getting a business site together can be a daunting task for those without technical knowledge. It is difficult to know where to start. Well, here’s a tip. Start by getting a domain name and a web hosting package. Fortunately, domain registration companies are usually also web hosting providers. Better still, it is very common for these website hosting companies to bundle in a free domain name with a web hosting plan. The best web hosting services include all of the components needed to create and manage a small business website.

So, find the right small business web hosting company to ease the journey to ecommerce success. Cut hosting costs by combining all of the business hosting website utilities your new site will need.

Small business hosting options

There are three types of web hosting services, each offering a different server hosting solution. These are:

  • Shared hosting plan
  • VPS hosting
  • Dedicated servers

Most of the servers used for web hosting use the Linux operating system. However, some web hosting companies offer their customers the hosting option of a Windows operating system.

A shared hosting plan puts several customers on the same server. These plans are the most cost-effective and so are the most widely used type of web hosting used today for small businesses. The server has account software loaded on it that keeps the services used by each customer separate. However, they all share a common operating system.

A customer who could get down to the operating system could access the files spaces of all other customers on the same server. For this reason, shared hosting packages include a control panel. The control panel blocks access to the operating system while also providing all of the functions that a customer would need operating system access for.

VPS stands for “virtual private server.” In VPS hosting, several customers use the same server, in a similar manner to shared hosting plans. The big difference is that the disk space and other server resources are partitioned before the operating system is installed. The partitioning isn’t physical, it is managed by a software system, called a hypervisor. However, the operating system is contained within the account and so there is no way that one customer could access the files of another on the same server.

Hypervisors are flexible, so it is possible for the web hosting company’s technical support team to adjust the settings on the partitions and expand the space allocated to each customer.

A dedicated server plan allocates an entire server to one customer. This gives the account holder a lot of resources and so it is rarely a hosting option chosen by small businesses. Both dedicated hosting and VPS hosting plans can be offered as a bare server, or with the services of a technical support team included. The server only plan is called an unmanaged dedicated server and the plan that includes technicians is called a managed dedicated hosting package. VPS hosting plans can also be offered as a managed service.

Other services that some web hosting providers offer are called cloud hosting and reseller hosting. These are variations on VPS hosting. A cloud hosting plan includes a cloud platform installed on the account. Reseller hosting packages give space on the server that can be subdivided, so the main account holder can create a hosting service and market and manage accounts without having to buy a server. In this scenario, the reseller gets hypervisor software that manages the divisions between subaccounts within the main reseller account.

Shared hosting plans

Small business owners usually get all of their requirements met by shared hosting plans. Web hosting providers know that the main market for these types of hosting accounts and they present hosting packages that make creating a website easy. As experienced specialists in the field, these web hosting companies know exactly what utilities are needed in order to successfully create and manage a website for e-commerce.

The bonus features that are common to shared hosting plans are:

A free domain name – most web hosting providers are also domain registration services and so can source domain names at marginal cost.

A free SSL certificate – this is needed to create an HTTPS connection. E-commerce sites can’t collect payments without HTTPS protection and Google Chrome now blocks access to sites that don’t use the schema. Most hosting companies get SSL certificates for free from Let’s Encrypt.

Unlimited bandwidth – That means the webserver passes through all traffic no matter how high the volume. This is a great feature for small business owners that hope for a lot of customers.

Unlimited storage space – A website has pages that need to be stored and also should keep logs of access. Other files that would need disk space include sales transaction records, generated orders, and invoices, and payment transaction logs. SSD disks operate at faster speeds than traditional storage media.

Multiple websites – Most web hosting providers offer a cheap plan that will only host one website and higher plans that host more or even an unlimited number of sites.

A content delivery network (CDN) – A website can be accessed from all over the world, but data transfer times to faraway countries are slow. A CDN stores copies of the site at data centers all over the world to improve load times to all locations and cover for downtime at the main host. The most successful provider of CDNs is called Cloudflare.

A content management system (CMS) – This will aid the creation of web pages and organize the menu structure of a website. The most popular CMS in the world is WordPress. Other well-known systems include Drupal and Joomla.

A control panel – hosting control panels remove the need for the website administrator to know operating system commands. The most common type of control panel used for shared hosting plans is called cPanel.

A website builder – An environment that helps non-technical people create a website with drag-and-drop layout assembly features. This is not necessary where a CMS is in use because that will include templates and wizards that guide the site creation process.

A typical small business owner knows all about the subject of a website but nothing about how to get that information onto web pages and make it accessible to the public. The best web hosting packages for small business owners should make running a website easy.

The best web hosting plans for small businesses

This hosting review will cut down the time you need to spend in order to find then ideal web hosting plans for your small business. Then best web hosting providers are:

  1. HostGator
  2. GoDaddy
  3. Bluehost
  4. SiteGround
  5. Hostinger

The following sections detail the best web hosting plans offered by our recommended business website hosting providers.

Continue reading “Best Web Hosting Services for Small Business”

Best Free VPN Services

Free VPN services are hard to come by. Running a VPN costs a lot of money, so it has to be asked how these free services cover their costs. There are many scam VPNs that manage to entice in victims with the promise of a free service. However, most of these don’t include any privacy protection and many of them actually sell your data or even your internet bandwidth.

Fortunately, there are ways to get a really good VPN for free and there is a nice trick to get top-quality service from the very best VPN providers.

What is a VPN?

“VPN” stands for “virtual private network.” The service establishes a private ling between a client program, running on the protected device, and a VPN server. Most VPN providers have several VPN servers.  

The important point to note about the VPN services is its server locations. This is because when the customer starts a VPN connection to the VPN server will give that user an IP address that relates to its own location. Thus, the VPN provider masks the true location of its subscribers, enabling those members to unblock the location restrictions practices by many internet services and websites, such as streaming services.

Although many applications that connect to the internet have encryption built-in, this security is often not quite good enough. A VPN adds an extra level of security, which amounts to privacy. There are many actions that intermediaries, such as internet service providers (ISPs) can perform on the connections of internet users even though they can’t read the contents of the messages (called IP packets) that they forward on to the internet.

The VPN masks the true destination of a customer’s connections, so the ISP isn’t able to log the customer’s online activities or block access to any websites. This privacy is also very useful for people who live in countries where the government blocks access to a lot of information sources, such as China, Hong Kong, and Iran.

In a lot of countries, people are not even allowed to use WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. A VPN makes the use of those blocked apps possible.

How can a VPN be a free service?

Although it is nice to get things for free, it is right to be skeptical about free VPN services. It isn’t possible to run a VPN without any cost at all, so the VPN provider will need an income in order to operate.

Unfortunately, some companies take advantage of the technical nature of VPNs and use the offer of a free VPN service as a front to monitor the online activities of its users and sell that information to marketers. So, it is ironic that a service that has the word “private” in its name is often used as a cover by those who want to monitor the internet connections of the public and make money off user data or by injecting adverts into web pages as they load into a browser.

Finding the best free VPN services

Not all VPN options are good and using a free VPN is a risk unless you do thorough research into the service before installing the VPN app. There are some quick ways to assess the suitability of a free VPN. Some of the best VPN services offer free versions. These are as reputable as the paid VPNs but usually have some service limits.

A cheeky way to get a premium service for free is to take advantage of the money-back guarantees that they offer. Premium VPNs don’t give free trials, but their refund policies mean that anyone can use the service for free for a month. In this scenario, it is necessary to make an upfront payment, but the VPN provider returns all of that money on demand, so the payment is more like a deposit.

The advantage of using the free plan of a reputable VPN is that it will provide good connection speeds. There is no point in using a VPN service to unblock access to an overseas video streaming service if that VPN slows the connection speed down to the point where the video pauses frequently.

The best free VPN services for 2020

This roundup of the best free VPNs focuses on the free versions of well-known and high-value premium VPNs plus the top VPN services that offer money-back guarantees. Although it might seem to be stretching the definition of “free” to include exploiting the refund policies of the best VPNs, that is better than letting you go off and try all of those VPN services that are always free. Most of the free VPN services are no use at all and some of them are actually damaging. You can read more about the free VPN services that you should avoid later in this review.

Here is our list of the ten best free VPN services.

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. Surfshark
  3. NordVPN
  4. TunnelBear
  5. Windscribe
  6. ProtonVPN Free
  7. Hide.me
  8. Speedify
  9. ZenMate
  10. Avira Phantom

Of these ten suggestions, the first free – ExpressVPN,  Surfshark, and NordVPN – are paid VPN services that offer a money-back guarantee, so these are just temporary solutions to the task of finding a free VPN.

The other seven free options are the free versions of paid VPNs; all of these have some form of service restriction which makes them less user-friendly that the paid plans offered by the same VPN providers. These restrictions include a reduced data allowance, a reduced number of server locations, or the exclusion of certain capabilities, such as the ability to get into some premium streaming services, such as Netflix or the BBC iPlayer.

Continue reading “Best Free VPN Services”

Best WordPress Hosting Providers

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) for websites. A CMS provides storage folders for text, image, and video, an editor to create the layout of the pages, a menu structure to aid access to the pages, and methods to insert header information and image labels that will help to boost the position of those pages in search engines.

The WordPress system is easy to use and is free of charge. These two factors make the CMS very popular. The system underpins more than 60 million websites. A third of the world’s top 10 million websites are based on WordPress. The software for WordPress is managed by WordPress.org and is free for anyone to download and install.

Website hosting vs WordPress hosting

However, running a web server is a complicated endeavor and only the largest web-based businesses bother to host WordPress in-house. Particularly now that businesses are becoming more attracted to cloud services, it makes more sense to rent space on a server rather than own one.

Web hosting services have long been a thriving sector even before cloud servers became popular. The leading web hosting companies also act as domain name registrars. As any business planning to start up a website needs to procure a domain name, these registrars were in a very good position to pitch their web hosting services to businesses right at the point that they were looking into the nuts and bolts of starting up a website.

As an incentive, many web hosting providers offer a free domain name with their website hosting plans so they can ensure that startups buy the hosting package and domain name together. Given the huge market for WordPress, it became a very good marketing idea to offer “WordPress website hosting” rather than pitching a website hosting plan that WordPress could be installed on.

In truth, just about all of the big hosting providers make the WordPress software available to their hosting account customers. The web hosting environment is usually set up so that people with no technical knowledge can manage a website.

The control panel of the hosting account usually includes an installer, which will install any of the system utilities in the hosting package’s library, including WordPress. In short, don’t pay more for a WordPress web hosting package than is being charged for a standard shared hosting plan because they work out to be the same service.

So, the main difference between a managed WordPress hosting plan and a regular shared hosting plan is that the managed WordPress hosting service will have the WordPress software already installed in it, but the user of a general shared hosting account will have to make one click on an installer utility and get it to install WordPress. In both cases, the WordPress environment will still need to be adapted to suit the specific requirements of the user.

WordPress benefits

WordPress doesn’t require any technical skills to use. As such, it enables small business owners to create their own websites without the need to hire-in expensive experts.

The main screen of the system has a menu down the left side that enables the user to set up a standard website and add pages to it. The nature of the site can be completely altered by WordPress plugins. There are a very large number of plugins for WordPress. Some are templates, that give a website a structure, some are utilities, such as extra layout formats or SEO assessment modules. Some, add-ons, such as WooCommerce, create an entire eCommerce site and others add on a shopping cart.

Depending on which plugins are installed, the WordPress environment will guide the user through the site creation process, like a website builder. For example, WooCommerce has alerts, telling users to add products and setting tasks, such as linking to a PayPal account.

Once WordPress has been activated on a hosting account, it will take over all of the website management functions, so those who plan to create a WordPress site, don’t need to look for managed hosting solutions or extra assistance, such as a website builder as features of the hosting package as long as the service includes an installer and WordPress in its library.

WordPress site hosting features

A WordPress web hosting package includes more than just a processor to run the WordPress software. The control panel of the hosting account is important.

The most common form of hosting package that WordPress users go for is the shared hosting plan. A shared hosting plan places several accounts on the same server. No one would want any of the other customers to be able to break into their accounts. This would be possible if account holders could get down to the operating system. Therefore, there is always a control panel a shared WordPress hosting account. This removes the need for hosting account holders to access the operating system because it includes all the functions that the users need, such as file directory management. While providing those utilities, the setup of the control panel makes it impossible for any user to get to the operating system.

Typical utilities in the control panel include domain name management functions and also web hosting settings. These include the management of software and the installation of an SSL certificate.

The SSL certificate is at the heart of the HTTPS system. HTTPS is a secure transport mechanism over the internet and it is vital for any e-commerce site. One common incentive offered with web hosting providers is a free SSL certificate. This is easy for them to do because they acquire them for free from Let’s Encrypt, a not-for-profit service run by the Internet Security Research Group.

A typical hosting package also includes disk space for file storage. These will be the files that hold the content of the website and also the programs that make up the software that runs the website. Other data that can be stored on web hosting disk space include log files and customer records. Many WordPress hosting packages include unlimited storage. SSD storage uses solid-state disks and provides quicker access.

Hosting packages also include email accounts. Often, the entry-level hosting plan will only include one email account but other plans include an email system manager and unlimited email accounts.

Other benefits frequently included in WordPress web hosting plans and shared hosting plans in general include free site migrations and automatic updates for WordPress software.

One more service to look out for is a content delivery network (CDN). This is a method to speed up delivery (load time) of a website by storing copies of its pages on intermediate servers located strategically around the globe. So, each site covered by the plan will be duplicated in several different data centers. This service also covers for the downtime of the main server. Some web hosting providers include Cloudflare CDN service with the plan while others offer it as a paid add-on.

The best WordPress hosting providers

Web hosting companies offer three types of server access. The most widely used of these is the shared hosting plan. However, there are two other hosting options. These are VPS hosting and dedicated servers.

A VPS is a virtual private server. In this configuration, several customers are hosted on the same server but the server is segmented right down to the hardware. Each account has its own operating system. This makes it impossible for each account holder to access the operating system of another account on the same server and so access to the operating system is allowed. A dedicated server is a server that is rented in its entirety to one customer.

In this hosting comparison, we will only examine the shared hosting plans because there are by far the most common types of hosting services in use today.

Here is our list of the five best web hosting providers for WordPress sites:

  1. Bluehost
  2. SiteGround
  3. DreamHost
  4. HostGator
  5. A2 Hosting

You can read more about each of these hosting options in the following sections.

Continue reading “Best WordPress Hosting Providers”

Best VPNs of 2020

A virtual private network is a software system that renders a connection over the internet as private as if it was a network inside a secure building with access controls. This technology, which became known as VPN, was originally created so that businesses could link the networks of several sites together without having to pay out the high cost of leasing a private line. VPN connections became even more useful to companies when people started working from home.

Now private individuals need VPNs. When the world wide web first started to become widely available, people were reluctant to buy things online because that their credit card details and personal information could be stolen by wiretappers as it traveled across the internet. The invention of HTTPS solved that problem. However, increasingly sophisticated network monitoring systems have now made it necessary for people to step up their internet security to another level. They also need online privacy.

Why do I need online privacy?

Privacy is a bit more than security. With security, you want people to be blocked from stealing your data. However, a breach of privacy is another risk. In real life, you pan but bars on your windows and locks on the doors to stop people breaking in and stealing your information – that’s security. However, bars on the windows won’t stop a Peeping Tom from looking through your windows and watching what you are doing – that’s an invasion of privacy.

Privacy gets even harder to ensure in the real world when you leave your property. You can’t control other people out in public. Someone might be following you and recording everything you do. The government can control what you can do and where you can go by blocking off roads or closing down the places that you like to hang out.

You would be very angry if someone was logging all of your activities and you might be willing to join a public protest if the government started controlling the places you could go to. However, it’s too late. Those things are happening to you already without you even realizing it. The reason that you don’t know about the tracking and the controls is because they happen silently and invisibly on the internet.

How is my privacy being invaded on the internet?

Every member of the public has to take out a contract with an internet service provider in order to get onto the internet. The internet service provider (ISP) is not a branch of the government or an agency of the police. However, laws introduced by the governments of the world have co-opted ISPs into policing everyone’s online activities.

ISPs are obliged to record all of the activities of their customers. This involves logging every site that a customer visits and classifying the type of internet traffic that a person engages in, such as downloading videos. Those records have to be held on file for a period – the exact length of time varies from country to country. With those logs in existence, law enforcement agencies and copyright lawyers have a rich source of information to access whenever they need it.

You have no privacy at all. You don’t even have the right to be notified when records of your activities are being searched. In fact, your ISP: is legally banned from informing you of the execution of a warrant.

How are my actions on the internet being controlled?

Your ISP can see every site you visit and every site you visit can see exactly where you are. Each endpoint of an internet connection can be traced. So, even if the contents of your connection are encrypted, there is still a lot of information that strangers can gather on you.

Your ISP has the option of blocking your access to certain sites and refusing to pass on your internet traffic for particular activities. This is particularly the case with torrenting. The ISP can block your access to torrent tracker sites, such as The Pirate Bay. It can also interrupt your peer connections by sending a disconnect instruction to the torrent clients of all participants.

The downloading of copyrighted material without permission or payment is particularly risky nowadays thanks to those activity logs held by ISPS. Copyright lawyers and law enforcement agencies can get access to those records and take you to court for copyright infringement.

Even if you pay to access entertainment online, your actions are still heavily controlled. Some content is blocked by order of the government and those bans cover a very large slice of the internet in countries such as China and Iran. Government controls are very easy to implement online.

Geo-restrictions and throttling

Entertainment streaming services also control your freedom online. Even though you are paying them, they tell you what to do. They can block your access to their video libraries just because you are in the wrong place. This is possible because every device connected to the internet has to have a unique internet address, which is called the IP address.

Each IP address can be traced to a physical location. This is why you can’t watch videos at Hulu if you travel outside of the United States and why you can’t access the BBC iPlayer from outside the UK. This is also how Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime can tell where you are and change its video library accordingly.

The tracing of your activities online also means that ISPs can selectively slow down your connection speeds for live video streaming. ISPs have been caught doing this. It is called “throttling” and it is particularly practiced by ISPs that also have their own entertainment services, such as cable TV companies. Comcast, for example, has been caught on a number of occasions trying to kill off Netflix by slowing down all of its traffic to the point where it is unwatchable.

Gaining internet freedom with a VPN

A VPN makes it impossible for the sites you visit to know where you really are. It also prevents your ISP, government agents, and lawyers from knowing what you are doing on the internet. The VPN gives you privacy and so you have the freedom to do whatever you want on the internet.

You probably want to know straight away where to get a VPN, so the explanation of how VPNs work has been written into the end of this account. Before that section, find out about the best VPNs in 2020.

The best VPN services

There are a lot of VPNs on the market today and most of them are no good. You will also find free VPNs, but most of those are no use at all. A VPN performs a complicated task, the best VPN providers maintain thousands of servers, and they frequently ditch and replace their pool of IP addresses. All of that work costs money and so it stands to reason that free VPN services can’t afford the investment needed to properly run a VPN.

The top video streaming services, including Netflix, know about VPNs and they have installed “proxy detection systems” to block their traffic. So, the best VPN uses obfuscation techniques to dodge these checks and get their customers in. The lesser tier of VPN companies tell potential customers that no VPN is capable of unblocking Netflix. Of course, that’s not true. Many of the VPNs on our list can do it.

Here is our list of the best VPN services in 2020:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. CyberGhost
  4. SurfShark
  5. Private Internet Access
  6. IPVanish
  7. TunnelBear
  8. VyprVPN

You can read more about each VPNs in the following sections.

Continue reading “Best VPNs of 2020”

Best VPNs for Streaming

Video streaming has been a growing internet service since Broadband was introduced. Householders across the USA and all over the world are turning to on-demand video streaming content to supplement the entertainment that they get in a cable TV package.

Cord cutters are even doing away with cable TV subscriptions and saving themselves money by switching to live TV streaming services that have the same TV channels and offer the same TV shows as cable or satellite TV.

There is a lot of online entertainment available in the world. However, almost no one is able to access more than a small percentage of all of the streaming content that has been made available.

Broadcasting rights

Both on-demand video streaming services and live TV video streaming services limit access to their streaming content based on the viewer’s location. These blocks are what the industry calls “regional restrictions.”

The limits on who can access the videos on a streaming server are a result of the traditional shape of the broadcasting industry. For decades, terrestrial TV services had to have a license to operate from the government of the country that they wanted to broadcast in. That licensing system gave each channel a near-exclusive right to broadcast entertainment over the air in a particular country or area of a country.

In many nations, most of the TV stations were state-owned and governments also made a lot of money from the licenses that private-sector broadcasters had to pay. The broadcasters paid for the exclusive right to show a production within their territories. Because of this, the distributors of entertainment organized their sales efforts into the marketing of broadcast rights per country or per region.

When video streaming services started up, the technology of the distribution network meant that they were able to deliver streaming video anywhere in the world. However, the entertainment industry was still dominated by national broadcasters and the streaming services had to fit into the regional sales model of the entertainment industry.

With the rights to broadcast a TV show or movie in just one country, video streaming services than needed to ensure that people outside of their area couldn’t get access to the video to watch it while standing in a different part of the world. This is because a different company would have the right to show the video in other locations.

Implementing regional restrictions

The unique nature of the entertainment industry means that broadcast rights are based on where the viewer is located and not where the broadcaster is based. If video streaming services don’t limit the locations that their videos can be viewed, they would be sued out of existence.

Fortunately for streaming platforms, every request for a video has to have a return address on it. The addressing system for the internet is called the IP address. Every device connected to the internet has to have a unique IP address and every IP address can be traced to a location. So, all the video streaming site has to do is check on the origin of a request and send the video stream if the request comes from the right area or send a blocking message.

Unblocking streaming servers

It can be annoying if you subscribe to a video streaming service and then find that you are blocked from watching if you go abroad on vacation. Similarly, you might hear of a really good free video streaming service but then get blocked when you try to watch videos from it.

There is a way to get around regional restrictions. You just need to seem to be in the place where people are allowed access to the videos of a streaming service. There is a type of internet service called a virtual private network (VPN) that performs this trick.

A VPN connection ties all of the internet traffic to and from your device so that it all passes through a VPN server. All requests going onward out of the VPN service has the VPN server’s IP address on it. So, customers that want to seem to be in another country just pick a VPN server in that place. When the request for a video arrives at the streaming service, it has a return address that is in the right place and the streaming server sends the video stream back. The VPN server forwards all of that traffic back to the protected device down a secure VPN connection, which is called a tunnel.

With a streaming VPN, the VPN provider expects to get a lot of volume and so will offer unlimited bandwidth and high connection speeds. The best VPNs for streaming offer a long list of server locations, a large number of servers to handle a lot of traffic, and high connection speeds. The fastest VPNs usually cost more money but they prevent breaks in the stream for buffering and guarantee a high-quality viewing experience.

ISP interference

One more problem that customers of video streaming platforms have to deal with is action by the internet service provider (ISP). Many ISPs have implemented what is called “throttling.” This is the selective slowing of certain internet connection according to the type of traffic that it is carrying.

Throttling has been particularly prevalent in the USA because many householders get their internet service from a cable TV operator. These TV systems were threatened by rival premium TV streaming services when they first started up. This is particularly the experience of Netflix. Comcast was caught intentionally throttling video streams in order to try to kill off the viability of Netflix. Even when Netflix paid a subsidy to Comcast and got the ISP to sign a contract vowing to stop throttling, the ISP just carried on with the sabotage.

VPNs solve the problem of throttling because they protect all traffic on an internet connection where it passes through the gateway of the ISP. This means that the ISP can’t tell which traffic is a video stream and so can’t target video traffic.

The best VPN services for streaming

The best VPN providers for video streaming have easy to use VPN apps, offer good download speeds, allow many simultaneous connections, a large server network, and unlimited bandwidth. We have researched the market and identified six VPN service providers that work very well for accessing streaming sites from anywhere in the world.

Here is our list of the six best VPNs for streaming:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. Surfshark
  3. NordVPN
  4. IPVanish
  5. CyberGhost VPN
  6. VyprVPN

You can read more about each of these options in the following sections.

Continue reading “Best VPNs for Streaming”

Best VPNs for Torrenting

Unfortunately, most files available through torrenting are pirated. If you must engage in torrenting activities, make sure that your identity is protected by a VPN.

Although the Peer-to-Peer protocol (P2P) and file sharing methodologies are not illegal, downloading copyrighted material without permission from the owners of the rights to it is illegal. People have been prosecuted for downloading with torrenting systems, such as the BitTorrent protocol. In the USA it is even classified as a criminal offense – conspiracy to commit copyright infringement. Don’t take risks and make sure that you are untraceable when you download with P2P file-sharing systems.

It isn’t so easy to be completely anonymous on the internet. The way that the internet is designed requires that each address (called the IP address) is unique. If each person connected to the internet has a unique address, that person can be tracked down. Individuals can’t connect to the internet directly – they need an internet service provider (ISP).

Anonymity for P2P traffic

All the internet traffic of every member of the public, including torrenters, has to pass through the system of one ISP or another. Wherever there are network gateways, there are opportunities for activity logging and wherever there are retained records, there is the opportunity to trace and prosecute individuals.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) mask the true location, and therefore, the identity of their customers. However, there has to be a mapping between the real IP address of a customer and the fake IP address used to represent requests sent over the internet by the devices of that customer. That mapping is another record that can close the circuit and enable prosecutors to trace each internet connection all the way back through the VPN to the torrenter’s door.

For this reason, it is essential to be sure that a VPN wipes out those mappings as soon as a client session ends. Just about every VPN provider advertises that it “keeps no logs” However, not all of them are telling the truth. Those mappings do find their way into archive files with some VPN services. It is important to be sure that a “no logs policy” really does mean that the transaction records of customers are destroyed regularly, making VPN connections completely anonymous.

The best torrenting VPN services

This review will recommend the best VPN companies for torrenters. Transferring large files requires high download speeds and a logging policy that will provide anonymity. Strong encryption and IP and DNS leak protection are also important factors to look for in a torrent VPN service.

Here is our list of the ten best VPNs for torrenting:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. Surfshark
  4. IPVanish
  5. CyberGhost VPN
  6. Private Internet Access
  7. Windscribe
  8. PrivateVPN
  9. StrongVPN
  10. SaferVPN

These VPN services got on our list because each has high download speeds for torrenting and strict no-logs policy. They all also offer unlimited bandwidth, good customer support, and a money-back guarantee. You can read more about each of these VPN companies in the following sections.

Continue reading “Best VPNs for Torrenting”