Australia Bureau of Statistics data has shown that Internet access in the country has been climbing sharply over the years. Research also indicates that there will be 311 million connected devices in homes across Australia by 2021. Combine that with ISPs collecting data and government censorship in Australia, it would probably be a good idea to start shopping for a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service provider now.
Yet combine those figures with the fact that almost everyone seems to be chasing after your private data nowadays makes it essential that you begin seriously considering the use of a VPN. They offer much greater security and anonymity on the Internet.
Australian ISPs are Collecting your Data
Officially, Australian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are required by the government to collect data on their customers use of their services. This means that your ISP is not only going through your communications with a fine-tooth comb but is also storing lots of your personal information.
Everything from the type of communication service you use to your location and times of usage is being dutifully recorded. Not even in the United States has the state of consumer digital freedom been so officially impinged as it is in Oz today.
If in case by now you haven’t realised what this means, in a nutshell; Australian Police, Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity and some other agencies can access all the data your ISP is happily collecting – anytime.
The Government is Filtering Your Web Services
When we talk about Internet censorship the first countries that come to mind are often China or Russia. Yet it might come as a shock to most of the known world that many traditionally democratic and free countries have been censoring the Internet, or at least attempting to.
In 2012, the Australian Communications Minister said that because of notices that the government sent to ISPs in the country, over 90% of Australians using the Internet were going to have their content filtered.
Originally the censorship was mean to stop serious crimes such as child abuse and the like, but in 2015 it was expanded to cover the infringement of copyright material. That’s right, P2P users that means you!
In fact, the government has been having a heyday ordering ISPs to censor more and more websites due to the perceived notion of them carrying copyright material. These include The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and TorenHound.
As almost any P2P user can attest to, that’s utter hogwash and simply shows that most governments are simply claiming ignorance and using it as an excuse to shut down sites that commercial companies object to, regardless of the realities of the situation.
Using a VPN would help overcome this prejudice and stop the overbearing behaviour that is currently on display.
What We Look for in a VPN
1. Privacy and anonymity (Protocols, payment options)
Privacy is of the utmost concern when dealing with a VPN service provider and there are two aspects to that – whether they keep records of your usage activities (logging) and the options they provide you with for making payment.
Some VPNs, in fact many, nowadays offer the option to pay via gift certificates of some sort or cryptocurrency. This leaves no paper trail back to you as the user which is a step further than what has been available traditionally.
2. Security (Encryption, tracker blocking, etc)
In terms of security, there are again, two aspects of it – the protocol which the connection is to be established with as well as the encryption method used to secure the data travelling between your device and the VPN servers.
Each protocol has its own merits and some disadvantages, such as being faster but having some security loopholes or some other balance of security versus performance. Encryption-wise, it is common that a higher level of encryption will usually lead to slower performance, since more data will be added on to the data packets.
Other security additions are usually just icing on the cake, such as having built-in ad blockers or the capability to block tracking data on some websites.
3. Speed and stability
Speed, of course comes next since obviously we won’t want to pay to use a service that will slow down our Internet speeds too much. I would say that a good VPN should be able to offer you a minimum of 70% of your actual line speed (not theoretical!) at the very minimum.
4. Geolocation spoofing
There is also the issue of server location, since that helps in geolocation spoofing. Let’s take for example that you are in Italy and want to use BBC’s iBBC Player service to stream videos. Signing up with a VPN that doesn’t have a server in the UK will thus present a slight technical problem.
5. P2P support
The final point will be about P2P file sharing. P2P file sharing places a heavy load on Internet lines and is therefore frowned upon by some ISPs and even some VPN service providers. This is unfortunate, since P2P file sharers are often persecuted in some countries like the United Stated and Singapore (I once had a friend there who received a warning letter from his ISP for downloading a single movie!).
While it may be unreasonable to expect all VPN service providers to cater to P2P file sharing users, there should at least be several servers set aside for their use. This would open the client market considerably and cater to an underserved profile of users.
Ranked: The Best VPN for Australian
Before going through my test results, here I’d like to establish a baseline speed for my Internet. The following is my actual broadband speed based on a service line of 500Mbps, without a VPN connection active:
Exchange rate used: 1) 1USD to 1.37AUD, 2) 1Euro to 1.57AUD
- Over 4,400 servers
- Double DNS
- Secures 6 devices
- PGP for comm. privacy
- Multiple protocols
"NordVPN has a good mix of security, privacy & speed @ hard-to-beat long term prices"
One of the most popular VPN services around, NordVPN has an eye-raising over 5,000 servers spread over 59 countries. Being in the business since 2012, it has managed to keep up with the best and then some.
Being based in Panama as it is, there is no concern on their anonymity and logging provisions since the country does not have any data retention laws yet. Combine that with world-class encryption standards and Double VPN protection and you’ve got a winner on your hands.
Australian servers on NordVPN managed to eke out around 45Mbps to 50Mbps speed.
While prices for Nord start at industry standard level, this VPN is good for those who aim to stick with it for long periods. It has massive discounts on 3-year plans that are likely to blow the competition away.
Read our in-depth review on NordVPN.
- No restrictions
- Offshore privacy
- DNS/IPv6 leak prot
- 24/7 support
- Multiple protocol support
"Best for those who want stability, security & solid performance. Highly recommended!"
My mistake was in selecting ExpressVPN as the first one on the to-review list, which made me fail to fully appreciate the Mercedes of VPNs for what it truly was. I set the bar extremely high and came away feeling disappointed that it had merely managed to meet the requirements I set – barely.
Having now spent an extremely long period of time poking holes in many VPN services, I realise upon reflection that ExpressVPN truly excels at what it does. It hits the right notes in combination on the list of everything we look for in a VPN and then some.
I feel as if this is the perfect VPN service because of that right balance in ingredients, which is not an easy thing to achieve in a service field as technical as this. Combine that with having to manage infrastructure around the world to reach those standards makes it even more impressive.
Speed-wise, ExpressVPN managed to offer mostly stable speeds across the board no matter how far from my physical location. The Australia servers performed strongly and should be more than capable of managing almost any line in the country.
ExpressVPN may not be the cheapest VPN service in the business, but that is more than offset by their sterling performance. Read our ExpressVPN Review for more information!
- Multi-Hop connection
- Supports many platforms
- No logs
"Frills-free and consistent in performance, Surfshark is making its name as a strong upcoming contender."
Surfshark has always seemed to me one of the most perfect VPN service providers around due to many factors. Yet somehow, things have always come around to the fact that they’re still relatively new. For a security service provider, being in the market for a short less-than-two-year span doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Yet at every turn, in terms of sheer performance and simplicity, Surfshark has proven me wrong. I find it inevitable that I maintain a close eye on them and will revise my opinion periodically. So far, it has been an extremely positive experience.
Australian benefit in terms of VPN speed in two critical areas. The first is that it has strong infrastructure, while the second is that they occupy a critical Asia-Pacific location for data traffic. Surfshark seems to have capitalized on this well and speeds from their Australia servers are impressive.
Although Singapore is much closer to me than Australia (physically), Surfshark has done its balancing act well. In fact, in almost all countries where their servers are, Surfshark seems to be able to maintain a minimum standard of performance.
I would say that speeds for Aussies will show relatively strongly no matter what servers they connect to – anywhere on the Surfshark network. You can also be thankful for low Surfshark prices and relatively strong Aussie dollars to give you a fair shake, pricewise.
Read our in-depth review on Surfshark for more information!
- Supports all devices
- Ads & malware block
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Stealth VPN
- Multiple GCM & CBC ciphers
"TorGuard was designed to fill the needs of P2P users and does so admirably"
My first impression of TorGuard VPN was that it seemed a little … odd. It didn’t have the bling and marketing shine that many services today offer and seemed so technical that I doubted it would appeal to many who looked at it glancingly.
How wrong I was! Although this service started out focussed on P2P users, it is clear from the balance of features versus simplicity that the designers have thought things through thoroughly. In its infancy it faced opposition on many fronts because of its P2P focus.
Today however, TorGuard has become a service that has grown to meet the high standards of VPNs like ExpressVPN and has servers in over 50 countries globally.
The speed of their Australia-based servers is decent and were in fact higher than many areas closer to my physical location. This is a good sign that they have paid close attention to infrastructure in the Aussie region.
However, as I mentioned earlier, their lack of marketing bling dhows off in a slightly dated-looking user interface for their Windows client. I strongly advise you to look past that though, since in terms of performance they are outstanding.
Expect to pay relative lower prices than most top VPNs would charge – but not all that cheap.
- Offers Data Compression
- Ad Blocking
- Supports 7 Devices
"CyberGhost has managed to decently fine-tune its servers for performance"
Although not an unknown in VPN circles, CyberGHost nonetheless doesn’t really fit into what I consider top-tier VPN criteria. While its true that in some cases it toes the line of features and performance, there remains enough doubt for me to not feel fully comfortable in recommending them.
In terms of offering, CyberGhost has enough servers to match VPN giant Nord yet lags in performance despite that infrastructure. One primary reason for this could be that most of their servers are congregated in Europe.
For me in Malaysia and for those of you seeking a good VPN for Australia, this might not be the best news. On a 500Mbps connection, I could barely sustain a fraction of that when connecting to one of their Aussie servers.
Then again, what it may lack in performance it seems to make up for in security add-ons. For example, it blocks online tracking and does its best to force HTTPS to most websites AND even has built-in virus protection and ad blocking.
With prices for long term plans dropping to as low as $3.50 (AUD 4.81) a month, this might be a bargain if you’re merely seeking anonymity and aren’t too concerned about maxing out your line speed.
- Forced 256-bit Encryption
- Unlimited P2P
- Supports 10 Devices
"Terrible customer support. If you can look past that, IPVanish has its ups on some points"
With controversy on the cardinal sin (for VPNs) of providing user logs to authorities, IPVanish started out in my review with a dark cloud hanging over it. This was compounded by efforts of its marketing team to swept facts under the carpet claiming they didn’t know and weren’t aware since the company changed hands.
YET, looked past that I had to, or the review would have gone down the drain before it began. Very unfortunately, IPVanish had little to recommend itself. Admittedly, some of the thing they do such as enforcing 256-bit encryption on its users would be a plus from some points of view.
Although I managed to get decent speeds out their Singapore based server, other options I tried were lacklustre in performance. For Australia, I managed to eke out barely more than 10% of my actual line speed, which was also a little disconcerting.
Normally in these cases I would attempt to work with the service provider to see if the situation could be remedied, but sadly IPVanish had terrible customer service. From late responses (3 days by email!) to unhelpful instructions – there was no way I was going to waste weeks working on a problem with them.
Overall a very controversial result from a company that is already working with a tarred reputation.
- No Logs Policy
- IPv6 Supported
- Static IPs Available
"Founded by Peter Sunde of The Pirate Bay fame, iPredator is interesting but has severe limitations"
For any fan of P2P file sharing, The Pirate Bay is a name that is unmissable in the torrent industry. Known for championing P2P around the world and getting persecuted from all directions, it would logically seem that this VPN would be one of the most independent and fiercely loyal to its customers that a service can be.
Yet the service seems like a half-hearted attempt into the business while at the same time attempting to charge industry norms. For example, it has no client software and help is limited to whatever open source documentation and forums you can find. (Let alone its restriction to only Swedish servers.)
Yet despite this, coupled with apparently middling performance, the concept is interesting simply because its somehow associated to The Pirate Bay in name.
- Supports WireGuard Protocol
- Allows P2P Traffic
- Does not Monitor Traffic
"One of the few VPN services to support WireGuard protocol"
If speed is your thing then AzireVPN should impress since there have been reports that it has allowed some users to utilize line speeds of up to 500Mbps. Yet at the same time, the company is relatively young, being established only in 2012.
AzierVPn supports encryption of up to 256-bit with SHA512 HMAC and TLS authentication. If you’re one of the paranoid gang, this is about as high up the food chain as it gets – commercially at any rate.
With dedicated apps for mainstream platforms, it unfortunately does not have any extras such as RaspBerry Pie or PlayStation coverage. Its also limited in a sense having only 20 servers across five countries.
Hopefully, this will enable them to focus their optimization efforts and eventually bring us a VPN service that is truly world-class.
As some of you may have noticed, I have bashed about some of the service providers while at the same time feeling that I have judged others too harshly. To put things into greater context, I feel the need to advise you that aside from pure performance figures, individual needs are another important factor to consider.
From my point of view, I have been assessing VPN service providers and thus will have high standards for all of them to meet in every area – which is usually impossible. On that note, to some of you, speed is everything, to others, anonymity and privacy may be. Some are willing to sacrifice on less while others will prefer to pare costs to a minimum.
Given that, I hope you’ll read between the lines and make a choice which offers a balance that suits your needs.
To recap, here is the top 3 VPN Australia:
SECURITY & PRIVACY
From a pure quality point of view, I think I have made clear where my preferences lie with this ranking. In the context of what would be the best VPN for the Australian market, I think that many of you will heave a relieved sigh to realise that Singapore is quite close to you and the servers there perform well almost entirely across the board.
Hence, in terms of performance, I guess Australian users are lucky, being able to opt for almost any one of the above. Et as I’ve mentioned, do consider other factors and whether you can live with them.
I, for one, would never opt for a service provider that sucks in customer service, for example.