2014 VPN Year in Review

The last 18 months has been all about awareness as Snowden’s messages hit the media.  In 2013 we saw major corporation after major corporation get hacked.  Online identity theft and fraud also received more attention.  With all the security threats online we continue to see the impact on the VPN market.  It was a year of growth and innovation that’s not likely to slow down in 2015.  Let’s take a look at the 2014 VPN year in review.

2014 VPN Year in Review

This post isn’t about the security threats that made up 2014.  There were plenty of them including Heartbleed which impacted just about everyone.  Today though we want to focus on what happened in the VPN market in 2014.  The positive impacts that VPN providers are making in helping protect the privacy of users around the world.  Their continuing efforts are helping open the market to a wider range of users than ever before.

It’s interesting, when thinking about this post I looked at our 2012 year in review and saw just how far we’ve come over the last two years.  We saw a push toward VPNs being used to unblock geographic restrictions during the 2012 Olympic Games in London.  Since then Smart DNS has grown into a market of its own.  VPN and Smart DNS companies are seeing more and more users whose primary goal is to unblock sites.

The shift toward using VPN to unblock content in other countries has been interesting to watch over the last few years.  When we started VPNSP the focus was on privacy.  The importance of using a VPN to protect your privacy and anonymity hasn’t changed.  Instead the goal of unblocking geographic restrictions has expanded the VPN market and created a new Smart DNS market.  The result has been continued growth and innovation.

We’ve been covering the personal VPN market for over five years now and have literally seen hundreds of companies join the industry.  Some have come and gone, others are building a strong business, and a few have risen to the top.  It’s interesting to look back five years and realize that some of the top VPN providers weren’t around back then.  It makes you wonder what the next five years will have in store.  Perhaps even the next year.

In 2014 we saw the continued growth and expansion of some already large VPN networks.  Providers like Hide My Ass, IPVanish and PureVPN put a lot of time, effort and funding into their networks.  Hide My Ass continues to lead the way in this area with servers spanning 140 countries.  HMA more than doubled the size of their network in 2014.  The year also saw large network expansions from IPVanish, PureVPN and ExpressVPN.

On the innovation side we saw a lot of new client and mobile app releases in 2014.  I’m a big fan of keeping things simple.  Nice interface design that’s easy to use.  The fewer clicks and less options you have to deal with the better.  I was happy to see a number of VPN services streamline their client interfaces and release cleaner UI designs.  We also saw more providers adding advanced features like customizable encryption and kill switches to protect your privacy anytime you disconnect from the VPN server.

I mentioned the growth of Smart DNS earlier.  Let me explain what that means. Smart DNS allows you to access sites in other countries as if you were physically located there.  Smart DNS doesn’t include the privacy protection and data encryption of a VPN.  It’s sole purpose is to unblock geographic restrictions.  A VPV will also unblock sites in other countries but can slow down you’re connection some for the encryption.  We saw a lot of VPN providers add Smart DNS to their offerings and expect to see that trend continue in the year to come.

More and more people are focusing on accessing content in other countries.  Along with that goal we’ve seen more users who want to enjoy services like Netflix on a wide range of devices.  Some have turned to Smart DNS since most devices will let you change DNS settings.  Others are turning to custom DD-WRT and Tomato routers.  This is an area we’ve seen grow quite a bit over the last couple years.  I think we’ll see that growth continue as more and more users realize they can use VPN or Smart DNS to get around the geographic restrictions and enjoy content in other countries.  A custom router will let you use a single VPN account on all the devices on your network.  Giving you access to streaming media and live sporting events around the world.

As you can see 2014 was an important year for VPN companies and their members.  I know there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical when it comes to the future of the Internet.  As we rely more and more on the Internet the powers that be will do everything they can to control it.  That’s even more reason to support online privacy services.  While 2014 was a great year I look forward with even more anticipation to 2015 and beyond.

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