ExpressVPN

Cool factor 5/5
Usability 4/5
Value for money 3/5

Working from home during the lockdown has highlighted the importance of digital security. Some people no longer have access to office-grade security while connected to their home Wi-Fi networks. If you’re concerned about keeping your data secure and your online activity private, using a virtual private network (VPN) is essential.

It is also non-negotiable if you work from coffee shops or public Wi-Fi hotspots.

A VPN offers a secure connection and encrypts your data. It by-passes regional restrictions for streaming services, and if you’re in a country with internet censorship you can get access to sites that are blocked by the government. The VPN gives you anonymity by masking your location.

The internet is flooded with VPN services, but a good one is always paid for. Finding the right one can be tricky if you factor in streaming services and how fast you can get access to them.

The FM has been testing ExpressVPN for over a month. Everything has been working seamlessly in the background, as it should. ExpressVPN has a reputation for reliability, speed and security; and can be used on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Chromebook, and so forth.

Once you are logged into your account, you need to register your IP address on its portal before using the service. I’ve added it to my laptop, smartphone, streaming box, and so forth, and have been able to get access to services like HBO Max, Disney+ and Hulu.

I can choose between the Netflix US and Netflix SA catalogues by toggling these platforms on or off. Each user account allows up to five simultaneous connections.

When it comes to the smartphone app, I toggle it when I need to. Local websites load faster when you’re using an SA IP address rather than masking it to seem from outside the country.

I can get certain features on Instagram when I’m using a US connection.

Express VPN has over 3,000 servers at 160 locations in 94 countries, including locations in Africa — the most for any VPN service. The firm is audited by third parties to verify privacy protection.

All of this comes at a price, though. A one-month subscription is $12.95 (about R194) but a six-month one costs $9.99 a month, billed at $59.95 every six months. The annual plan, at $8.32 a month, which is billed at $99.95 every 12 months, is the most cost-effective.

ExpressVPN is one of the more expensive options. A 30-day trial and money-back guarantee can help you determine if it’s worth it for you.

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