With the VPN market expanding, to stand out from the crowd, some service providers fish for new customers by offering ‘unlimited lifetime subscriptions’ at meager prices going for $20 or less. While this can be a favorable value proposition for some, there are a few points one should consider before being tempted by such marketing clichés.
If you’re looking for a VPN (Virtual private network), you’ve probably encountered lifetime VPN offers. This is the kind of offer that gives a lifetime VPN subscription by paying a one-time fee.
At the time of writing, some providers are offering subscriptions for 20-30 dollars or less.
Unlimited and lifetime VPN deals are tempting. Marketers are well-aware of the value proposition presented by such contracts, thus it’s difficult to argue against.
Can you get a lifetime of something for less than a good bottle of wine? Somehow, it doesn’t make any sense. In fact, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
So, what does it take to craft a reliable VPN service?
VPN servers – the easiest part
First of all, you will need some serious money. Either for IT infrastructure or human resources. Let’s get into the numbers and start with the most accessible part – servers.
Say, on average one virtual server costs around $80 a month. Trusted providers usually have 100+ servers, while some of the advanced services offer 1000+.
Since the majority of users buys VPNs for streaming, one server can handle up to 20 users. Often servers have a bandwidth limit – the amount that was allocated to the hosting plan. After this is exceeded (and it doesn’t take long when streaming), the provider pays extra.
Moreover, streaming platforms, such as Netflix, find ways to identify and block such servers. Then you need to buy more sophisticated (and, of course, expensive) residential servers. Sometimes the prices start from a thousand.
VPN technologist: it‘s not like you can Google it
According to Surfshark VPN chief technology officer (CTO) Magnus Steinberg, to implement top-notch IT solutions, you must hire specialists with years of experience, which raises the overall costs of a VPN service. Also, count in UX designers, marketers, analysts, support… The list goes on and on.
‘It goes without saying, specialists who think of ways to improve are the most expensive. Accurate insights take years of experience and require deep knowledge. It’s not like you can Google the solution – because if you can, so can anyone,’ – says Steinberg.
It’s probably quite unsurprising that IT jobs are the highest paying jobs in the World. For example, security expertise is the most valuable IT skill today, worth on average $100,650 a year. Some cybersecurity experts are billing major companies $10,000 a day! In fact, cybersecurity professionals are in such high demand, that you don’t need to be a hacker to get a high-paying job.
Lack of expertise poses a risk to VPN users
Cybersecurity is a never-ending competition between team A, consisting of companies helping people stay secure and private, and team B – snoopers, crackers, totalitarian governments, anyone willing to breach your privacy, find a backdoor to spy on you or steal your sensitive information.
Hence, it’s not enough to create a VPN. You must continuously maintain and improve it, find hack-proof technological advancements that your competitors lack, pay for servers, etc.
All of this is vital to guarantee diamond-strong security and online privacy for customers. Steinberg adds: ‘If you run a security service and don’t manage to stay ahead of cyber-threats, you’re not reliable, your lack of expertise poses a risk to your clients.’
On top of that, technology, says Steinberg, is also a multilevel problem. First of all, implemented solutions in time get outdated and therefore become more expensive to maintain.
‘Also, as I mentioned before, you can’t create a VPN and leave it running its course. There’s no such thing. For example, tunneling protocols. Only some time ago PPTP, L2TP, etc. were an industry standard, and now they are considered outdated. You won’t find trusted VPN providers still relying on these protocols,’ – explains Steinberg.
Add the costs of servers, salaries for professionals, maintenance and you learn that running a VPN is an expensive endeavor.
However, some providers offer a lifetime VPN for $20-30 – an amount that wouldn’t even cover the cost of a server per person.
We tried contacting different providers offering unlimited lifetime VPN subscriptions at unbelievably low prices. Unfortunately, we either did not receive any answer at all, whereas one provider claimed they had nothing to do with the deal:
With this in mind, the answer to the question ‘how is it possible to guarantee a lifetime VPN at lower prices than a good meal?’ is left unanswered.
This only makes the whole deal a little bit shadier – are these providers avoiding inconvenient questions, or is somebody offering questionable deals and thus damaging the image of the provider?
Beware of VPN scams
When the ultimate cost is your privacy, if you find a service, make sure it’s worth signing up for. So, how not to get lost while choosing your VPN service?
Usually, reliable VPN providers promise a strict no logs policy. For that, they must be based in countries that don’t require to log the data of internet users – the British Virgin Islands, Panama, etc.
Speed is essential for accessing a quality streaming service. This requires both expensive servers and the best infrastructure solutions. You shouldn’t have a problem loading a movie on Netflix.
Robust and forward-thinking VPN providers implement the best possible technologies. They rely on AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocols, IP masking, zero-knowledge DNS – just to name a few.
And of course, the provider has to keep an eye on the newest trends because in the IT industry, what’s a standard insight today can be old news tomorrow.
These terms might sound ‘heavy’ for those less tech-savvy people, but it’s enough to keep them in mind as necessary keywords.
What’s the price of the service? If the rates are lower than the industry standard (or everything’s for free), you can get suspicious.
Also, a 30-day money-back guarantee is vital so that you can test the service and get your money back in case you’re dissatisfied.
After all, if the VPN provider delivers what it preaches, it shouldn’t be worried to guarantee your money back.
Finally, do a little research – what reviews does the provider receive? How many reviews are there? To reclaim users’ trust in VPNs, companies hire independent investigators to audit their service. Cure53 audited Surfshark and concluded that our Chrome and Firefox extensions stand out for their robust security.
If possible, don’t buy subscriptions from lesser known third party vendors. And, last but not least, be critical every time you encounter a suspicious lifetime VPN offer.
This article was updated: April 4, 2019
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