A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a special ‘tunnel’ that you can use to encrypt your internet connection.
It could be an important decision for you to get into the habit of using VPNs these days, especially when you are using third party WiFi services, conducting important transactions like banking or shopping online, trying to access blocked content, and the list goes on.
There are many reasons why a VPN can be a good idea for you, and if you’re here, I’m sure you already know the reason(s).
In very basic terms, a VPN encrypts the traffic from the moment it leaves your computer to the moment it hits the VPN provider’s server, adding an extra layer of security and privacy to everything that you do online. They make surfing the internet private, secure, and allow you access blocked content.
The problem is, there are a lot of different providers to choose from. Here is a quick look at two of the most popular: Hide My Ass vs. PIA
Hide My Ass (HMA)
Hide My Ass is a popular service that allows you to have up to two devices connected per account (so you could use your smartphone and your laptop with it, for example). There are servers in 190 different locations around the world, and it can allocate 116,728 IP addresses.
HMA is well ahead of the competition when it comes to the number of IP addresses available, and the performance of the servers. It is unlikely that you’d ever see HMA banned by Google thanks to the number of IPs available, and when it comes to general surfing it performs well.
HMA support is usually responsive and very helpful. The software is easy to use, so you don’t have to worry about configuring it on your desktop or on most mobile devices. The instructions are easy to follow, and it’s generally just a matter of click and go.
When it comes to security, Hide My Ass is one of the market leaders, with 128 bit and 256 bit encryption, SSL, TLS, PPTP and L2TP all supported.
HMA is always updating their services, so some of these features may have changed. I would recommend visiting their website to get a full up to date list of all their features. Visit HideMyAss.com here.
Private Internet Access (PIA)
Private Internet Access is a popular VPN among those who like to tinker, but it’s a little bit harder to set up than HMA.
That being said, whenever a big website in the computer niche does a “top VPN list”, PIA always seems to come up on top. And these are non biased reviews and votes.
Performance wise, if you can get PIA up and running, then the VPN does an excellent job. It offers good speeds and stable performance, and it can be used on up to two devices, just like Hide My Ass.
The one area where PIA is let down slightly is support. It can be difficult to get in touch with them, and since the setup process is slightly less intuitive, you will more than likely need to ask for help. If you’re confident in networking, or enjoy tinkering, this won’t be an issue, but it is definitely not a ‘click and go’ system.
In terms of security, PIA has almost everything you need. You can use it with OpenVPN, L2TP or PPTP, and there are encryption options available for each, with OpenVPN offering 256 bit encryption. This is a great system for people who value their privacy and security. Learn more on their official website here.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Both Hide My Ass and Private Internet Access offer a good level of security and encryption.
It’s pretty easy to sign up for PIA anonymously, and you have a lot of control over how that encryption works, so it’s ideal for those who really do care about their privacy. No logs are kept, and the only thing they store is your email information and payment information. So it’s very private.
If you’re not concerned with massive amounts of IP addresses and don’t want any logs stored, then go with PIA. It’s also cheaper than Hide My Ass. View their plans here.
For those who want more IP and server location selection in order to access geo-locked services, HMA is a good choice. Visit HideMyAss.com for a full list of their features and pricing plans.
The logging policy of HMA could be a drawback, though, since they keep your data for up to three months. Keep in mind, they don't actually store any website information, just your login times. Here is a quote from their privacy page:
This should not be an issue for most people, but if you are using it in a country with strict communication or censorship laws and you are concerned about your safety, then you may want to look at Private Internet Access because of their no data storage policy, just to be on the safe side.
Bottom line, HMA is larger and more popular, but PIA seems to get the best reviews from big established websites and companies like PC Mag and lifehacker.