Best VPN Providers: What Australians Need To Know

Not all VPNs are created equal. Some keep logs, some cap your traffic, some don't work on mobile, some don't work at all. This is what you need to know about choosing a VPN provider, as well as a few recommendations to get you started.

What The Hell Is A VPN?

You may have heard a lot about VPNs over the last few months thanks to a few different pieces of legislation that have passed through the Australian government. One is a scheme that would see all your data collected and archived by your ISP for law enforcement purposes and the other is a system designed to block pirate sites. What both these schemes fail to address is where VPN users fit in.

Put simply, a virtual private network is a group of computers (or discrete networks) connected together through over a public network — namely, the internet. Businesses use VPNs to connect to remote data centres, or for employees to connect remotely to the physical network of their workplace. Individuals can use VPNs to get access to network resources when they’re not physically on the same LAN (local area network), or as a method for securing and encrypting their communications when they’re using an untrusted public network.

What a VPN does is route all the traffic of your computer (or your entire network, if you're running it on a router rather than a PC) not directly to the Internet through your ISP, but first through a different server that has the effect of anonymising your traffic's point of origin. A VPN will add an additional hop to the route your data takes between your PC and a site like Facebook, but it's that extra hop that obfuscates its original location.

When you connect to a VPN, you launch a VPN client on your computer (or click a link on a special website), log in with your credentials, and your computer exchanges trusted keys with a remote server. Once both computers have verified each other’s identity, all of your internet communication is encrypted and secured from eavesdropping.

There are a few different types of VPN. You can pay to access a bespoke VPN provider every month which would see your data piped through a private pipe, or you can use a peer-to-peer VPN service that uses other people's computers as the endpoints. The latter is more problematic, as we'll cover in a moment.

Why Would You Need One?

There are a few different reasons to employ a VPN.

You could be a traveller who needs to access files stored on a server in your home country. You may want to use it to get access to another country's Netflix library like the US or UK. You may want it to connect to your employer's corporate network. You may just want it to keep your data safe and secure from anyone who might be trying to listen in.

No matter what you use a VPN for, you'll need to keep a few things in mind.

Before You Sign Up

Before you start piping all of your data through someone else's connection — whether it's another internet denizen, or a company that specifically offers VPN services — it's worth keeping a few things in mind about virtual private network operators.

Firstly: whether you use a VPN or not, your data is never 100 per cent safe. Ever. That means you should be especially cautious of VPN providers, given you are sending your data through their pipes from the moment you fire it up.

It's crucial to know what your both your data and your IP address are being used for, especially when it comes to peer-to-peer VPNs. Hola was recently busted for hijacking users' computers to sell their bandwidth, for example, and it's a perfect example of the danger of a VPN turning you into the money-making product.

What you need to do is be sure that the VPN provider you've chosen to use is open and honest about its traffic and security policies. Find one with accessible documents that detail how your data is handled from point to point.

You should also make sure that the VPN you sign up to isn't about to cap the bandwidth or the quantity of the data going through the tunnel. Make sure that when you sign up you get your money's worth, and sign up to a plan that doesn't limit your traffic or cap you based on certain download quotas. What's the point of paying for a VPN, only to have it cut you off halfway through the month?

It's also worth keeping an eye out for a VPN provider that will give you mobile options as well as desktop support. The internet goes everywhere with you on your smartphone, so your VPN should be able to as well.

Keep It Simple

Depending on what you want to use your VPN for, you might not even need to shell out cash every month for access to a VPN. You may just need to keep it simple and trust Google.

As the Sydney Morning Herald points out, sometimes getting around certain ISP-level blocking technology is as simple as pointing your DNS settings at Google's own DNS server.

This isn't a VPN, but for certain uses it will have the same effect. Google's Domain Name Servers (hosted at 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4) have been used by protesters in countries like Turkey and Egypt to get around ISP-level DNS poisoning, and now it can be used by Aussies to get around similar site blocking methods.

This won't get you around every site block on the planet, however: you'll still need a VPN if you want international media service like Netflix and Hulu to think you're in a different country, or to safeguard your data through a secure tunnel.

So Which Services Are Good?

With these recommendations in mind, we've collected five great VPNs for you to get started with.

TorGuard

TorGuard is great for a few reasons.

First of all, it has a huge variety of different server endpoints around the world. It claims to have 1200 different servers in over 42 different countries, so whether you're using it to hop a streaming provider's geofence or hide your traffic, it's fit for purpose.

Secondly, TorGuard doesn't keep any logs, so even if the Feds do come sniffing around for your data, there's no way for them to figure out where you've been online. #getawarrant

Thirdly, it's affordable. TorGuard offers a range of different plans depending on what you're after in your VPN provider. There's a service that gets you just an proxy server for security, a pro-level service, an email-centric service or a bundle that includes it all. And even with a range of plans available, the most expensive offering tops out at $US11.54 per month so you won't break the bank.

PIA: Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is a great little tool that offers privacy on a shoestring budget.

It has server endpoints all over the world, doesn't log a thing and gives you access to all of it for just $US6.95 a month or $US39.95 a year.

Plus, PIA has a commitment to speed, so your connection shouldn't bottleneck when it enters and exits the VPN tunnel.

CyberGhost

Despite the fact it has the word "cyber" in the name (ugh), CyberGhost is a great VPN for privacy and portability.

It offers apps for your iOS and Android devices, as well as support for the leading desktop platforms like Windows and Mac OS X.

It's even cheaper than PIA, giving you access to a free, speed-limited tier, as well as offering a $US5.83 monthly tier that uncaps your speed for one device only. For simultaneous usage across multiple devices, you're looking at a monthly payment of $US10.99.

IPVanish

IPVanish is the most expensive of the five we're recommending here, but with higher prices comes better assurances. IPVanish trades on absolute security. They promise that "no hackers, no governments, no firewalls" will get you down when you use their service. I'd take that with a grain of salt, personally, but if security is the name of your game, you need something you can trust.

It's $US10 per month, or you can go with an annual subscription for $US77.

IPVanish also works on smartphones and tablets, which is nice.

Do It Yourself

The last one we have for you requires a little more work than the ones featured above.

Naturally, the DIY approach is popular with our friends at Lifehacker. If you don’t need exit servers in different countries, and your primary requirement is to encrypt and secure your data when you’re away from home, you can roll yout own VPN with OpenVPN or a number of other free, open-source tools.

Many of the best routers on the market support OpenVPN. Alternatively, DD-WRT or Tomato firmware both offer VPN access, so if you can install either of those on your router, you’ll be set. The beauty of a home-rolled VPN is that you get to set the level of encryption, and you have complete control over who connects, who has access to what parts of your home network, and where your data goes from there.

This setup is particularly appealing for people travelling who want to encrypt their data while they’re on the road, but if you work with a couple of friends, it’s easy to set up a mesh network that would get you around content restrictions and port blocks. Similarly, advanced users can fire up a VPN on their preferred host or VPS provider, and keep their VPN running there while they connect to it when necessary. You won’t receive quite as much as a professional VPN service provides, but you might get everything that you need at zero cost.

What's your VPN provider of choice? Tell us in the comments!

Alan Henry also contributed to this article.


Comments

    Hi guys, just a quick note to say that any comment with a link to ReviewMyVPN dot com will be deleted.

    I can't speak for whether it is a legitimate website or not, but going on the volume of spam links to it being submitted in Gizmodo comments I recommend you DO NOT visit it.

      I have been using Getflix for my DNS security. They lately announced their DNS-over-VPN, FullVPN and SmartVPN services. They are all handy for many occasions.

        Im using Geflix as well. works for all my streaming services + they have a VPN that comes with ur sub, and torrent friendly VPNs servers as well

          I have spent a lot of time finding a VPN service and have just gone with PureVPN, Good speed so far, allows torrenting, and what seems to be best security and privacy https://www.purevpn.com/

          Last edited 15/03/16 4:39 pm

            I spent a bit of time testing a few different services and have now settled with Express VPN http://bit.ly/express-vpn . I am connecting to their AU-Sydney server and getting excellent speeds, better than others I've trialed.

            Last edited 12/10/16 8:51 pm

            I'm an Australian citizen so I know what issues internet users are facing after the Data Retention Law. I have tried lots of software but only ExpressVPN is reliable and secure, ExpressVPN allow you to browse anonymously with high speed. (https://goo.gl/K137yr

            Last edited 22/10/16 10:14 pm

        If you want to stream TV shows and Movies or download the files from torrent clients like BitTorrent or Utorrent then ExpressVPN is the ultimate choice which hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic from hackers and government surveillance program. http://bit.ly/1TLtYAw

        Last edited 24/10/16 5:54 pm

          If you only want to stream movies and shows, then you don't need a proper VPN connection. You can just subscribe to a DNS tunneling service, which will do the job nicely and will also cost you less.
          It's called SmartDNS http://www.myvpn.club/smartdns

          Last edited 10/10/16 10:00 am

      Well, I've been using Ivacy VPN for a month now. I bought it when they were running a summer campaign (I think). Currently they are running a life-time discount offer campaign which offers 72% discount on their annual plan. As I had a chat with the support guy about the summer campaign, he said that it's a life-time offer and that I'll have to pay the same amount once my offer expires. The offer is still valid I guess says so on their website (www.ivacy.com ). The offer I guess is going to end soon, and I think a VPN subscription for as low as $3.33/mo is not a bad offer.

    What was Hola recently busted for?

      Link was broken, fixed now :)

        It's still broken for me. I get page not found error :(

          Link is still broken. The link is giving you a URL with this page prefixing the other URL. Just remove the first url from the address bar.

        You a missing the 'http://' off the beginning of the link.

        a href="www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/06/reminder-dont-use-hola-to-beat-data-retention-and-site-blocking/"

        Hola was busted for steeling consumers bandwith I believe.

      It's not that Hola itself is dangerous, it's that Hola is written in a manner that is easily exploitable.

      Hola is a disgrace. They shouldn't even have the right to call their service "VPN".

      They have benn selling users bandwidth. I was also using it since than I decided to uninstall it and purchased Private Internet Access which is far more better than these kind of free services.

    I use PIA. Good so far . Auto connects to lowest latency best server. I get download speeds of up to 1.5MB per sec which is good enough to me.

      Yep, PIA is the best I've used, no logging of any data of any kind, is worth the lower speeds AFIC.

      It's also got mobile apps that seem to work pretty well.

        Yes i use it on my Galaxy S4 and Galaxy tablet 8inch.works great.

      Love PIA - i can torrent all day, every day.

      I'm on 100/40 NBN and can still saturate it on PIA, getting 10MBPS +

        NBN is a remote dream for me living in a country town with 20mbps.

          My comment was more to point out the fact that even on the fastest residential service in Australia I can still maximise my bandwidth on PIA. So you could expect full speed on your connection through the same provider.

    I use Getflix. Like it so far but not too sure what others think about it? Anyone care to comment?

      Their DNS setup is good for access to overseas content. And will likely render the government's blocking plans moot.

      Have not tried the VPN connectivity though yet. On the to-do list.

        Good to know more people are using them and liking it. Yes their DNS is awesome. The added VPN just adds more to it. I have yet try the VPN out!

        I've used their VPN service option a few times now. Speeds are not that great i.e. 200-400kbps on NBN100 line. Now this can be the endpoint I selected (Sweden). I'm yet to try different endpoints.

        They also offer their VPN service over OpenVPN. Tried that as well and same low speed using Sweden as the end-point.

        I didn't even realise they provided a VPN service... sweet! Just got more bang for my buck without even realising it!

      I also use Getflix, and I've found their VPN to be pretty good.

      Obviously their DNS setup is fantastic, so the two combined is well worth the price.

      Haven't tested it out yet and been meaning to when I get the chance since you get it with the DNS service anyway!

      I tried their VPN out last night, internet browsing was OK, torrents barely if at all worked though. I probably need to test the different servers a bit more though.

      Last edited 25/06/15 8:11 pm

      I've been on getflix for a while and love it. Just signed my 3rd account too and stopped UnblockUS. They recently launched a free vpn service for users, but the jury's still out on its verdict since its so new. I highly recommend getflix to as many people as I can. Wish the would pay me full time ;-)

      I use their DNS and the new VPN service, works pretty great!
      got my Qnap set up to dial in to the VPN, rest of the network is on the DNS

        I am just looking at getting a Qnap (469L on a great special down the road), just wondering how hard it is to set up like this?

      Not sure about Getflix but I use PureVPN http://www.purevpn.com/ and its work very well. Provides good speed. Quite affordable with 450+ servers in 100+ countries and many others features.

      Last edited 04/03/16 8:53 pm

      I was using UnblockUs (DNS) and PIA (VPN) and I am now using Getflix exclusively. All three are good, speeds on the Getflix VPN are not as good as PIA but they are improving as this service matures. I moved from two to one for simplicity and cost. PIA was $35 for the year, Unblockus was $4-$5 a month. I got a deal with Getflix a couple of months ago that was $22 for both services for a year. Getflix have sales every couple of weeks and their customer service is pretty good.

      Ummmm .... Getflix doesn't provide a normal VPN and is NOT suitable where you need privacy protection (like torrents). It is only for accessing Netflix etc in places (eg. public wifi) that forces their own DNS. This is what Getflix says about their VPN:
      "The best part is, the VPN is only used for DNS, all other connections (e.g. web browsing, streaming) use your regular Internet so your browsing wont slow down (unlike a regular VPN)."

        Actually, Getflix started offering a full VPN a few months ago (on top of their existing DNS service and DNS-over-VPN). Although strangely you'll struggle to find any mention of it on the public area of their site.

        But once you log in to your account, the VPN option is there on the dashboard along with the various other settings.

          Yes, I see it now:
          https://getflix.zendesk.com/hc/en-gb/articles/204475964-Full-VPN-Introduction

      Getflix works well..

      If we are gong by VPN + DNS here to and not just VPN only provider, then Unblock-us is another one to try. However Getflix is the only one of these two that has Full VPN access, where unblock-us only does a "smart VPN" solution.. (only uses it for channels they support).

      However, my take is, well ya that's all peachy, but that's not exactly a VPN service is it is THEY decide what traffic routes to.

      Last edited 29/06/15 4:58 pm

    I can thoroughly recommend tigervpn

    I'm using PIA, it's definitely slower than not using, but the connection is rock solid (apart from on mobile devices) and seems secure.

    Although I only used their DNS service, Getflix offer a VPN service too. So you get their smart DNS service for Netflix, Hulu etc for no drop in speed, and then VPN access for other needs.

    I use PIA, took some configuring though, my advice to anyone using a VPN is to check you don't have an IP or DNS leak, there are heaps of sites that will test it for you, ipleak.com is a good start and will test your torrent client as well.

    I found Chrome was useless and no matter what I did it would leak my Optus IP address, found a hack for firefox and manually changed my DNS settings to those supplied by PIA and its working great now. No leaks, browsing for the US and torrenting from the Netherlands.

      The DNS Leak Protection in the PIA software package works quiet well, although in certain situations, can cause networking connectivity issues.

      The IP leak you are referring to is in relation to WebRTC, which causes your browser to leak your real IP address. Chrome does not have any feature do completely disable WebRTC, which is why I've switched to Firefox, which provides with ability to disable it and stop your IP from leaking.

      www.ipleak.net is a good site for testing leaks etc. If configured correctly, your should only see your VPN IP Address listed for both your IP and DNS server.

      Last edited 25/06/15 2:15 pm

        yeah .net thats the one I meant. I tried using the DNS Leak Protection built into PIA but was still getting a DNS leak until I changed my DNS settings, the tutorial I followed recommended either using google or PIA's own dns settings and that fixed it anyway.

        Chrome has a webRTC leak add on. It solved my leak.

      apparently for chrome there is a downloadable extension webrtc block but not sure how well it works as I have always been using waterfox (firefox for 64bit windows)

    I'm using Private Internet Access - Definitely notice a speed drop, but that's to be expected.

    Optus Cable - Unlimited Plan
    Direct to internet - 700kbps - 2.5mbps
    VPN 300kbps - 1mbps

    I'm considering grabbing a second router with WiFi and setting it up as a VPN connection direct to PIA, that way switching between VPN and direct connection is as easy as connecting to a different WiFi, good for tablets etc.

    Also can everyone post their average normal speeds, vs VPN speeds?

    Last edited 25/06/15 1:32 pm

      I just run mine out of a linux VM with an openvpn gui, besides tablets, what benefits would entirely separate networks provide?

      NBN 100 Mbps normally get 93
      Pia turned on
      45Mbps is highest

      Normally get about 6mbps connected via purevpn to a server in brunei and got 14mbps

    I checked out many and purchased CactusVPN. Very simple to use, includes smartDNS. can be setup on mobiles, competitive and had a free trial period.

    I have used PIA before but didn't have good results, always had slow downloads but i changed to TorrentPrivacy and they seem to be bit better, you have the option to use their in built torrent program or you can use utorrent or vuze (if that is still your thing) securely.

      yes - this! All VPN features/prices...etc aside, It would be amazing to get an idea of what speed drops people experience on each service. I've not been able to find any decent information about this anywhere. I totally get that distance/server load...etc makes a difference. But some form of ball park figures would be very interesting to see

        On my ADSL currently I see no difference is speed between VPN or no-VPN using PIA. 1.4MBps regardless. I will be moving to NBN at my new place in a few weeks which I think will be more telling. @luke do you have a fast connection currently?

          Normally, i can get around 1.4MBps on steam without a vpn but with PIA VPN i was lucky to break 50kbps, i haven't tried steam with Torrent Privacy.

          The thing is with VPN's is that they are so unreliable, some can have shit results with one and good with another where some other user can have different results.

            Yeah that's crazy I get really consistent speeds through PIA downloading with qbittorrent and using the SOCK5 (IIRC) proxy settings.

              BTW, qbittorrent ignores proxy settings and downloads through ISP, i would double check that, same goes for Deluge, they both use a version of libtorrent that’s known to leak!!

                Well I've used the test torrent on ipleak.net and a few other sites and they have all shown that the proxy is working and showing my download location as the Netherlands so I'm going to say that's not the case anymore. I'm fairly certain it doesnt ignore the proxy settings as when I had them incorrect it wouldn't download at all.

                Last edited 26/06/15 4:07 pm

    PIA here. Speed is variable - but it's inconsistent. Also has less DNS leakage on Mac and Linux, compared with Windows using default settings (testing via ipleak.net). Has SOCKS proxy for torrenting, if you're into that kind of thing. Client can be a bitch to uninstall.

    I've been using Unotelly. been ok for about 8 months, no issues. cheap. Thoughts....always looking for better.

    I've been using CyberGhost for 18 months. I picked it up when they offered a 'Buy a year, get one free' promo. (So $35 pa). Its not bad. It works, speed is ok but not top notch. but importantly unmetered. I am routing through Europe so it has some distance to travel. Thing that bothers me most is the client can be knocked offline by maintenance or error, and doesn't reconnect (even though its supposed to). Usually I'll have to click a box or error message to get the VPN to re-establish. (regarding speed: On a non-VPN connection I get about 1.2Mb/s throughput. On VPN i get around 600-800kb/s on average)

    PIA customer here for about 18 months and no issues. No real noticeable lose of speed. My modem/router connects around 6.5Mbps, which is normal for my location, and downloads bounce around 600KBps.

    DNS Leak Protection built into the client for added protection.

    And up to 5 devices can use the one account con-currently, which is a huge bonus in my situation.

    I have been using ExpressVPN, sad not to see it in the list although it got good ratings in Australia.
    So far, I had no issues and it gives me average speed of 500kbps and the highest being 900-1mbps depending on the server.
    any comments on ExpressVPN?

      Yep. Just joined them Monday. They walked me through a few steps and its been good. I want to put it on my router but router hasn't got settings for it so I might buy another one that does. Apart from that, the speeds are good, like you said. Highly recommend them.

      Been using expressvpn for a year now and got family and friends on it. Can use on all my devices and Mac and pc

    The VPN service providers mentioned in the article are good, but I might like to add another such good VPN that goes by the name of ivacy. I've been using it for quite some time now. The service is great with no problems whatsoever.

    What I find interesting with all the VPN articles is they quote the US price and say it not expensive but when you look at the currency conversion $10.00 US is $12.92 in Australian Dollars.

    So it is $35 more a year once you convert the currency.

    Maybe you should also be pointing that out to people.

    I've just signed up to NordVPN a couple of days ago. Very easy to set up and use, and speeds are excellent.

      Same here for NordVPN. Very fast speeds and really pleased with the $36.00US yearly subscription

      Same, although I get the odd server drop out and get dc'ed. It is also not as easy as PureVPN (the only other VPN I've used) for setting up on a tablet/smartphone.

    So I have an unlimited fttp 100/40 connection (new house), what VPN would you guys recommend that doesn't sacrifice speed and has no download cap, or is such a thing not possible and should I get a Usenet account?

    Cheers

      I also have FTTP 100/40 connection and i use PIA, using speed test on a US server its constantly around 40mbps download, and maxes out my connection speed with 40mbps upload, But PIA connection seems to prioritise you the longer your connected to a server because i get consistent 8MB/s (64mbps) download on some torrents which is only slightly lower than i get without the VPN on.

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