VPNs are crucial for internet protection and freedom. They can help you evade snooping from your ISP and the government and reap benefits like saving money on online purchases and unblocking restricted sites, among others. But VPNs have their cons as well.
So what are the disadvantages of a VPN? Here are common disadvantages of VPNs:
- Slow Connections
- Configuration Problems
- Can be Blocked by Anti-VPN Software
- Sudden Connection Drops
- May Be Illegal In Your Country
- Can Add Technology Complexity In A Business
- Aren’t Compatible With All Devices
- May Track And Use Your Information
- Are Costly
- Don’t Guarantee Complete Anonymity
- Can Have Malware
Disadvantages Of A VPN
While some of these disadvantages can be blamed on reputable VPN providers, most pertain to bad and free VPN services. However, you need to be aware of all of them before you choose to sign up with any VPN service (check out my review of the best VPN choices here).
1. They Can Experience Slow Connections
Since your connection has to go through a more complicated path to its destination, its speed is reduced to some extent. Your information has to be encrypted and passed through layers of security, and your IP will be rerouted to appear like it’s coming from the VPN’s servers. That’s why you’ll notice a slower connection than when you are connecting normally.
If you use the most powerful VPNs, like NordVPN, you might not notice the speed reduction since they have put up technology that ensures the most efficient rerouting process.
To explain this disadvantage further, here’s what slows internet speed when you’re using a VPN:
Distant Geographical Location Of The Servers
The longer the data packets travel from your location to the VPN servers, the longer it will take to connect to a website. For instance, your internet connection from your New York apartment will be faster when you connect to a Canadian server than one in China.
Have you ever wondered why VPN reviewers mention the spread of servers for a particular VPN? It’s because they need to let you know the extent of VPN coverage for the sake of your speeds.
Therefore, a VPN with poor connection speeds typically has fewer servers than their users need. Even worse, those servers might be located too far from your location, so you’ll experience speed issues no matter how fast your ISP is.
Servers are meant to be used by a specified maximum number of people for them to function effectively. However, some VPN providers try to save on the number of servers they have to invest in for the sake of their customers. This leads to server overload and hence painfully slow connections from your end.
Free VPNs also provide such services where they take numerous non-paying customers, promising quality services like unblocking of Netflix. While the users may be able to reach their favorite shows, they have to wait so long for the connection to happen, but the lag makes them grudgingly give up.
High Encryption Levels
VPNs use the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to conceal your data from snoopers of any kind. It may come in 128-bit, 192-bit, or 256-bit keys depending on the VPN provider. However, one thing should be clear, the higher the encryption level, the higher your data protection measures, and the lesser the connection speed.
If you’re doing operations that don’t require much encryption measures like streaming shows, you can reduce the encryption level to hasten your connection. Every time you wish to connect, think about whether you need security or speed most, and make the required changes in the VPN settings.
Some protocols are for maximizing speeds while others are for ensuring protection. In some low-level VPNs, they trade off fast speeds to ensure your protection. However, top VPNs include all protocols like OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP to ensure high levels of protection coupled with fast speeds.
Poor Data Security
One of the main advantages of VPNs is to bypass bandwidth throttling. Some VPNs are unable to do this, so your ISP provider reduces your bandwidth, and you end up with slow connection and loading times.
So, what happens? If your VPN is free or utterly unreliable and has data leaks, your ISP provider will know which websites you’re visiting, and if they use a lot of bandwidth, they’ll separate your traffic and reduce the speed.
Overall Subpar VPN Architecture
Things like processing speeds and various algorithms incorporated in the VPN servers have an impact on your connection. How your VPN handles the whole process of rerouting your connection and encrypting your data matters.
So, if your VPN provider uses poor quality components to make up their service, you’ll probably feel it on your end. This is what separates the best-performing VPNs from the rest.
Other Causes From Your End
Sometimes, the VPN may be operating fine, but a problem is coming from your end. Slow connections could also be a result of:
- The bandwidth limitations of the data plan you have: If you have a data plan that limits you to a lesser bandwidth than your operations need, you’ll experience problems with or without a VPN.
- Processor model: If your CPU is old, the process of encryption and decryption might be too much for it to handle, and this may slow your connections.
- Your ISP connection speed: You can’t fix an already slow connection with a VPN, so deal with that issue before getting a VPN.
2. You May Encounter Configuration Problems
Some VPNs are extremely hard to use, and if you aren’t tech-savvy, you may end up improperly configuring the VPN. This could lead to IP and DNS leaks, which you’re trying to avoid with a VPN in the first place. It’s always best to choose easy to set up VPNs like Surfshark, especially if you’re a beginner.
3. VPNs Can be Blocked by Anti-VPN Software
While it’s everyone’s right to seek privacy by using VPNs, some websites don’t think so. There are numerous reasons for this – the main one being blocking hackers concealed in a swarm of similar IP address users. The IRS is one website that has anti-VPN software.
This is a significant disadvantage since your main aim of getting a VPN is to get around restrictions. However, the answer to this drawback is investing in great VPNs like ExpressVPN, which can get through virtually every block — including VPN blockers. This may be because you wish to keep your internet operations extremely private.
4. You May Experience Sudden Connection Drops
Sometimes, VPNs get disconnected without warning, making you have to reconnect again, which can be tedious. When your connection drops, the encryption and IP rerouting break, hence exposing your information.
However, if you use a VPN with a kill switch feature, you can avoid IP and DNS leaks all the time. This kill switch feature turns off the internet the instant the VPN disconnects. This, of course, isn’t a feature you can afford with some VPNs.
5. VPNs May Be Illegal In Your Country
VPNs are illegal in many countries, especially in Asia. In some, where they are legal, you may find regulations like no use of VPNs that aren’t approved by the government.
If you’re found using a VPN where they’re banned, you’ll have to face consequences like banned internet use, fines, and even jail time. A Chinese man was fined $146 when he was discovered accessing foreign websites using a VPN, and another was sentenced to jail for selling VPNs. Legal issues have proved to be a significant disadvantage for many VPN users, so ensure that you know what you’re doing.
6. They Can Add Technology Complexity In A Business
Although a VPN offers the benefits of private collaboration online, it also adds complex technological procedures that may add extra costs to a business. You’ll have to add a VPN network to anyone who needs private access and communication online.
A network management team may be crucial to have since set up, and maintenance of the VPN operations will be required. If you have a small business and you aren’t tech-savvy, this could mean outsourcing security expertise that adds expenses and may also put your information at risk.
7. Some Aren’t Compatible With All Devices
Popular and updated operating systems might work with a VPN, but others may not. Even worse, device hardware can also bring up compatibility issues with the VPN. Therefore, you may have to update your devices so they may become compatible or even be forced to change them altogether.
8. VPNs May Track And Use Your Information
Although some VPNs tell you about their logging of information, others don’t. They keep track of your every move on the internet, even though they’ll cloak your IP to the websites you visit and even unblock your favorite content. This is common with unreasonably low priced and free VPNs.
Sometimes you may see ads related to the content you consume on the internet daily on their website. This is one indication that they are collecting your data without your knowledge.
9. Good VPNs Are Costly
If you need a private and secure connection, a high price comes with it. If the price is too good to be true, you might come across problems that may cost you a ton of money.
Generally, VPNs add expenses to your budget since, apart from your data plan and the devices you use, you have to add private network costs. And if your software and hardware aren’t compatible with the VPN, you may have to upgrade or change your device — another cost.
10. VPNs Can’t Guarantee Complete Anonymity
If you think you can be in any way completely anonymous online, you’d be lying to yourself. VPNs increase your chances of privacy and security, but they don’t make you entirely anonymous. Some VPN users wonder why some websites aren’t fooled by their fake VPN locations while others are. One breadcrumb of the information you provide online may lead to the next until your identity is discovered.
11. Some VPNs Bring Malware To Devices
Beware of free VPNs since some contain malware that may be transmitted to your device. Others may display ads that you may accidentally click and obtain malware. Recently, some malware was discovered in a popular VPN known as Hola.
So, What Makes A Bad VPN?
The best way to know whether a VPN is good or bad is by trying it. This will, however, take lots of time and money. Sometimes, you might encounter VPNs that don’t respect their refund policies, and you end up losing your money after the trial.
However, you can go to another safer and faster route. You can check out the VPN website, products, and everything that can hint the outcome of their services. The following are some red flags that can make you identify bad VPNs:
Logs And Shares Your Data
Although some people are against VPNs that log data, logging isn’t necessarily bad. However, it is terrible when a VPN company states that they don’t log any data, yet they come up with your logs when called upon. It makes you wonder what else they could be lying about.
The truth is: there’s not a complete “no-log policy.” Some reviewers in the past told their readers always to choose a no-log VPN. This subsequently made VPN companies market their services in that manner.
“We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration. Our guiding principle toward data collection is to collect only the minimal data required to operate a world-class VPN service at scale…”
Bad VPNs aren’t transparent about what they do and don’t do. They are usually vague in their statements. For example, saying that they’re a zero log VPN and leaving it at that doesn’t help. PureVPN did that a while back and yet aided the FBI in an investigation that led to a jail sentence for Ryan Lin.
- Websites you visit.
- Files you download.
- Any other internet data logs.
Infects Your Device With Malware
VPNs are supposed to protect your device from intrusions, but some do otherwise. According to Wired, many VPN apps are now using malware to spy on users. VPN malware mainly shows up in the form of ads that you may click, affiliate links, or through the network itself.
Doesn’t Respect Its Policies
A good VPN stays true to its policies from the data they claim to log to the legitimacy of their refund policy. Some will stall your refund processing time until the period runs out. They may start by asking irrelevant questions and fail to reply early or at all.
If you identify any claims online that indicate their inability to mean what they say, go to the next one. Sometimes it may be one troublesome customer, but other times, you’ll find a dozen of them. That should be a fierce red flag telling you to keep off.
Lacks Content On Its Website
A company that’s serious about the privacy of their customers would at least have updated pages on their website. They’ll probably have invested in a knowledgeable writer to talk about their product in an informative manner.
In a VPN company that means business, expect to see definitive guides that entail set up as well as troubleshooting. Also, expect them to explain various things that would be difficult for an average customer to understand, i.e., the protocols used in their technology.
Their content should be up to date, not missing something published or updated the same year. However, if the website looks dead and the content includes marketing alone, that is a red flag to consider.
Makes It Hard To Identify The Company
When you want to trust someone with your privacy and security, it’s natural to want to know who they are. This is usually confirmed by information regarding who the providers are, where they are located, a little background, mission and vision statements, among other details.
However, a lousy VPN would try as much as possible to hide all this information. They might put up their mission and vision all in an attempt to get in your head, but details that can call for evidence will be vague or missing.
Some bad VPNs have an app with no company website or any other information that you can use to hold them accountable. If you merely want to unblock some sites with no privacy concerns, that’s okay. Otherwise, avoid them like the plague.
Oversells With Unrealistic Promises
A VPN is giving you false claims if:
- They claim to provide many more services for the price they ask for.
- They include unrealistic promises like “We’ll protect you against all online threats.”
Don’t dismiss VPNs that claim to be the fastest or most secure though — almost every VPN provider says that since it is possible. However, a VPN that claims to increase the speed of your internet connection without explaining how should be avoided.
Has Vague Descriptions Of Its Features
If you visit the website of a lousy VPN, you’ll be hit by vague descriptions of what a VPN does. For instance, instead of stating the encryption and tunneling protocols that they use (like AES 128-bit, 256-bit, PPTP, OpenVPN, L2TP, IKev2), they may just say, “We use the most powerful encryption you need for your online protection.”
A bad VPN won’t mention how many servers they have or which countries they are in. Anything to show you how powerful they are as they claim to be will be absent since they can’t afford to talk about subpar features.
Lacks Proper Customer Support
Testing the reliability of a VPN through their customer support is a smart tactic. A bad VPN won’t answer your questions for a long time, or they may merely send general information they find on the internet.
Bad VPNs You Should Avoid
After scrutinizing some VPNs, it became clear which ones you can trust and which ones you should avoid. They could have one or all of the deal-breakers, but either way, the following VPNs are bad.
Users choose Hola because it’s a free VPN; however, it’s not worth the risks. Hola doesn’t necessarily have servers where you can rewrite your network, no. It operates on a peer to peer, VPN model, where Hola users connect their networks and use the IP addresses of each other’s computers. It is more of a peer to peer proxy service than a VPN but was advertised otherwise.
With Hola, your data isn’t safe because of a lack of encryption and selling of your information to third parties. Also, you might encounter IP bans since some websites have discovered the proxies. Netflix, for instance, has become tough to crack, and you’ll need more luck than Hola.
Another VPN with false promises is BetterNet VPN. It claims to unblock Netflix and Hulu, among other restricted sites, but it’s all lies. Neither the free or premium version can do it.
You will see bad Betternet reviews from most, if not all, VPN review sites, so it’s best to steer away. This VPN has a reputation for harboring malware, logging some information even though they claim otherwise, having IP and DNS leaks, among other security risks.
Hide My Ass
Given that Cody Kretsinger thought Hide My Ass VPN would do what it claims, this VPN service became “Sell My Ass” the moment the FBI came knocking on the door. Although they can give out your details when they notice any illegal activities, they discriminate against cases since some didn’t make it to the law.
So, if you merely want to watch TV shows while miles away from the access area, you can use Hide My Ass. However, even with the no-log policy in place, don’t trust that this VPN provider
won’t sell your information to third parties.
OneVPN holds a terrible reputation among some users. Their server numbers and locations are fishy since they bring up connection issues, and when you ask them, they take forever to reply. When they eventually reply, they claim that some servers are under maintenance.
Some customers claim that they couldn’t log in at some point, and when they ask customer support, they were nowhere to be found. How they operate and their answers haven’t yet sparked confidence. Even after being dared to confirm their legitimacy, they don’t show up. Until they prove that they are as good as they claim, it’s best to avoid this VPN.
BITGuard was mainly made for torrenting purposes. However, they also have an internet protection package that is overpriced. Not to mention, the legitimacy of their services is sketchy since there’s no free trial or money-back guarantee to fall back on in case they aren’t appealing. Even worse, they have vague privacy policies you can’t afford to trust.
While no technology can provide the versatile functions that a VPN provides, you can find VPN alternatives to help you protect your information on the internet. Some function around the principles and protocols that VPNs use while others are merely some steps to help you increase internet security.
Tor or The Onion Router is a technology that bounces off your connection through relays by volunteer servers around the world hence concealing your location and the information you access online.
With Tor, you can access some geo-blocked websites, keep your online details private, and conceal the IP you’re logging in from. However, keep in mind that Tor makes connections slow since your data has to travel multiple times through the relays.
When using a proxy, your internet request goes through a proxy server to a particular site. The proxy server acts as an intermediary, and your IP address remains hidden to the site you’re accessing and other prying eyes.
A proxy helps you also avoid restrictions since you can access blocked sites using fake IP addresses. However, a proxy won’t keep you safe from malware, so keep anti-malware in your device at all times. HIDEme, KProxy, and Megaproxy are some of the best proxies you can find.
Other Ways You Can Stay Protected Without Using VPNs
Other than particular tools you can employ to keep your identity and data private, you can use other strategies to get closer to the safety zone.
Always make sure that you:
- Encrypt your emails
- Don’t access and share sensitive information on public Wi-Fi
- Turn off location
- Use antivirus software
- Establish firewalls
- Keep your hardware and software updated
Even with all the advantages that come with using a VPN, some disadvantages still exist. Fortunately, most of the cons come with the free VPNs and the unreasonably cheap ones. Even if there are other ways you can protect yourself from internet threats, the best way to ensure maximum privacy and protection is by using a VPN.