Voice over internet protocol, more commonly called VoIP, is a collection of technologies that make it possible to transmit live conversations across the internet. It’s like using a telephone on the web, only with a handful of extra features that can include video, text, and multimedia messaging. Skype is one of the most recognizable VoIP services around, though dozens of others are used around the world, including Discord, Google Hangouts, Mumble, and Viber.
Voice over IP is extremely popular because it’s easy to use, can be low cost or free, and offers comparable quality to a standard phone connection. Because VoIP uses the internet, however, it carries a few downsides, including government filters that block VoIP usage in certain countries, and basic privacy and eavesdropping concerns. By using a good quality VPN, however, you can bypass VoIP blocking firewalls and talk to anyone in the world without worrying about your privacy.
Why are VPNs Important for VoIP?
Telephone conversations are notoriously easy to hack into. For decades people have been able to tap into non-local phone boxes and listen to the conversations passing back and forth along the wires. Few concerns were raised about it due to the low occurrence of such crimes. Because VoIP shares the same basic weakness as any online data transfer, however, the problem of privacy suddenly becomes a lot more widespread and a lot more serious.
VoIP calls can be intercepted, stored, and even listened to live by anyone with the right equipment and know how. The same data can also be archived by local internet service providers, meaning your calls are constantly being recorded and saved without your permission. In addition to hacking and recording concerns, VoIP is easy to block on a regional level through the use of firewalls. Several countries in the Middle East and Asia, including China and the UAE, expressly forbid using VoIP services such as Skype and WhatsApp. Their reasons range from censorship to simple economics, but the end result for citizens and travelers within their borders is the same: no voice over IP, period.
Virtual private networks are a tidy solution to both the above problems. Think of a VPN like your own personal tunnel through the internet. Before your VoIP data is sent across the web, VPN software encrypts it, wrapping each packet in a layer of scrambled code that makes it nearly impossible to identify. Not only does this mean hackers can’t listen to your calls, but it also tricks government level firewalls into thinking the VoIP traffic is standard internet traffic. You get unrestricted access to any VoIP software you like, and your conversations stay secure.
Evaluating the Best VPNs
There are countless VPN providers on the market today. Each one promises high speeds, strong security, fast downloads, and low monthly rates. Finding the best VPN to use for VoIP means giving certain features more weight over others, including things like speed and server distribution. After all, you don’t want stuttering calls or dropped conversations! We used the following criteria to select the best VPNs to use with voice over IP, ensuring you get top quality service for your hard earned cash.
- Logging policy – A VPN’s security rating is only as strong as its logging policy. Data that passes through a VPN’s servers can be stored just like any service provider. If a third party requests (or demands) access to these logs, the VPN often has to comply, putting your privacy at a serious risk. To negate this vulnerability, the best VPNs feature a strict zero-logging policy. If no logs are generated, no logs can be shared!
- Speed – VPNs can be 10-25% slower than your average internet connection, which is largely due to the extra data created by encrypting traffic. The best VPN companies have found workarounds that deliver lightning fast speeds without skimping on the security. This is extremely important for heavy VoIP users, as slow speeds can lead to terrible call quality.
- Server distribution – Lag is one of the factors that can make or break your voice over IP experience. Lag is created when there’s a delay between the data your computer is sending and the response sent by the non-local device. A number of factors can contribute to lag, but one of the biggest with VPNs is the physical distance between you and the server you’re connected to. The farther data has to travel, the greater chance there’ll be lag. If a VPN service has a wide network, you’re much more likely to have a reliable server option close by, cutting lag down to a minimum.
- Bandwidth and traffic restrictions – Some low quality VPN providers have hidden limitations imposed on the type and amount of traffic you can use per month. Bandwidth caps are frustrating and will end VoIP calls without warning. Speed caps can also sneak up on you, especially if you use a free VPN provider. Still other services block certain types of transfers, including P2P and torrents. Always make sure you have unlimited and unmonitored access to the internet through your VPN provider. No exceptions.
- Compatibility – VoIP services work well on PCs and laptops, but they’re extremely convenient to use on your mobile phone or tablet as well. To take advantage of your VPN while using VoIP, you’ll need to run the VPN’s software on the same device you’re making your call. Most good quality VPN providers offer free apps and software for a wide range of hardware, including Android and iOS devices.
- Jurisdiction – Another strong privacy feature is the country where your VPN service is registered. Some governments have strict logging regulations that force VPNs to keep records and turn them over if an agency requests access. To avoid this potential privacy breach, many VPNs are registered in countries with privacy-friendly laws that allow them to operate without third party intervention.
NordVPN is an extremely high quality VPN provider well-suited for voice over IP users. The company operates an enormous network of over 1,000 servers in 56 different countries, a list that’s constantly growing as the months go by. NordVPN configures many of these servers for optimum speed, as well. Both features combined ensure you have plenty of fast, low-lag options for a crisp VoIP connection.
NordVPN does some wonderful things with privacy and online security. Select servers wrap data in 2048-bit SSL encryption, well over the industry average. VoIP conversations that take advantage of this double wrapped encryption are unbreakable, even to massive supercomputers. Combined with NordVPN’s zero-logging policy that covers everything from traffic to bandwidth, IP addresses, and time stamps, you’re guaranteed a fast and private connection to the internet every time you log on.
More amazing features from NordVPN:
- Easy to use software for a wide variety of devices, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
- Unlimited bandwidth for all devices and no restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic.
- Jurisdiction in the privacy-friendly country of Panama.
ExpressVPN does extraordinary things for VoIP users. The company has a strong network of 145 servers in 94 different countries, plenty to choose from for a lag-free connection. Speed tests to most of these areas are consistently high, as well, providing some of the fastest VPN service in the industry. If you’re at all worried about losing call quality, ExpressVPN is absolutely the way to go.
On the privacy side of things, ExpressVPN features a zero traffic logging policy to help keep your data out of third party hands, DNS leak protection, an automatic kill switch, and completely unmonitored and unlimited bandwidth. 256-bit AES encryption prevents ISPs and hackers from snooping on private conversations, letting you use any VoIP you like without having to worry about security issues.
Additional ExpressVPN features you’ll love:
- Great custom apps for all modern devices and operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and more.
- Built-in speed test feature so you can always find the fastest server.
- Excellent overall speeds to and from cities around the world.
True to its name, IPVanish is a great VPN for anyone who values their privacy and wants to stay invisible online. The service exists to promote a free and open internet, allowing users to bypass censorship filters and leap over government blockades with ease. To that end, the service’s network covers 850 servers in 60 different countries with over 40,000 IP addresses between them. This provides an enormous amount of freedom for VoIP users who need a solid connection without any lag.
Along with speed and server selection, IPVanish also offers a great set of privacy and accessibility features to help keep you safe online. 256-bit AES encryption wraps all of your data in a safe shell, while zero traffic logs ensure no activity is ever stored outside of your computer. There’s also unlimited bandwidth, no speed caps, and no restriction on P2P or torrent traffic, all of which are great for watching videos, downloading large files, or having conversations through VoIP.
IPVanish has a number of other great features, including:
- Straightforward software designed for ease of use. Supports Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and many more.
- Support for five simultaneous device connections and unlimited server switching.
- Anonymous torrenting.
VyprVPN has a reputation for going to extreme lengths to ensure user privacy and freedom of access. To start things off, VyprVPN owns its entire network of servers, all 700 in 70 different locations. This gives them the ability to customize and control both hardware and software configurations for optimum speed and efficiency, all while keeping third parties out of the picture. You’ll never have to worry about getting stuck with a slow or lagging server, and no matter where you connect your data will stay secure.
Another unique feature is VyprVPN’s Chameleon technology. This protocol helps defeat deep packet inspection, a method often deployed by governments to detect the type of traffic coming from a user’s device. With deep packet inspection services like VoIP or torrents can be blocked even if they’re encrypted. Chameleon makes sure that doesn’t happen, which makes it an extremely useful feature in censorship-heavy and VoIP unfriendly areas like China, Turkey, or the UAE.
VyprVPN also includes the following:
- Support for a wide variety of operating systems, including Android and iOS.
- No bandwidth limitations and no restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic.
- Zero logging policy that covers both traffic and DNS requests.
Save on International Calling with a VoIP and a VPN
Most major VoIP services charge per minute for overseas calls. These rates can vary depending on the country you’re calling from, which can be an absolute nightmare if you happen to be traveling. One of the more interesting benefits of using a VPN with VoIP is the ability to change your international calling rate at the click of a button. Simply switch VPN servers, reconnect, and suddenly you’re getting a new and better rate!
Depending on your physical location there may be some slight tradeoffs when you choose a different VPN server. For example, India’s per-minute calling rates tend to be the lowest in the world. It might be tempting to choose one of their servers when you make a VoIP call, but if you’re on the other side of the world, you can experience serious lag.
Check your VoIP provider’s international calling rates before switching virtual locations to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. Choose a balance between server distance and per minute cost and you’ll save money without suffering from slow speeds. Also check out these tips on using VoIP to reduce your phone bill.
Other Benefits of Using a VPN
A VPN can do more than just secure your VoIP conversations and help you bypass VoIP blockades. Data encryption affords a number of extra benefits you can use at home and abroad, and being able to change your virtual location is an extraordinarily useful feature. After a few days you’ll wonder how you ever got by without a VPN!
Here are some of the benefits of using a VPN for everyday activities:
Stop mass surveillance and online tracking – ISPs usually keep detailed logs recording everything each user does, including search engine requests and sites visited. Government agencies can also watch people on a massive scale and track all activity back to their name and home address. Standard internet connections are easy to monitor, but with a VPN in place, it suddenly becomes next to impossible. A VPN’s encryption handles most of the anonymity, while being assigned a non-local IP address removes your personal details from every packet of data. No matter where you go or what you do, if you use a VPN, your privacy is assured.
Watch videos from other regions – Video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, HBO Go, and YouTube can restrict their content based on user location. Many TV shows and movies are only available in certain regions, which puts a lot of people at an extreme disadvantage. With a VPN you can easily switch your virtual location to any country in the world. Can’t watch your favorite film at home? Change servers, reload, and start streaming.
Stay safe while traveling – Traveling abroad means accessing all sorts of unknown networks, everything from free Wi-Fi to hotel internet. Hackers frequently use these connections to skim data from unsuspecting users, and sending data through an ISP you aren’t familiar with can be dangerous itself. By using a VPN while traveling you can protect your identity and encrypt your traffic so no one can trace anything back to you.
Access censored websites – Governments and businesses around the world engage in various levels of censorship. Sometimes it’s a simple list of blocked websites, other times it’s forbidden access to an entire category of content. Either way, VPNs can defeat most of these blocks without any extra effort on your part. If you can’t access Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, or your favorite VoIP service, logging into a VPN will usually grant you immediate access.
Free VPNs are Bad for VoIP
There’s a strong temptation to use a free VPN with your VoIP software. These services are all over the place, flooding every mobile app store and banner advertisement around. They promise fast speeds and private connections without the hefty price tag, which sounds too good to be true! The unfortunate reality is that free VPNs often sell user data to turn a profit. Instead of keeping your data private, you’re handing over personal information and giving a company full permission to use and abuse it. On top of that, free VPNs often throttle connections and have limited bandwidth and server availability, which leads to a low quality VoIP experience every time.
You’re always better off investing in a high quality, low cost virtual private network. Good VPNs have extremely affordable plans and have policies in place that prevent your data from being shared or sold. They also offer superior speeds and lag-free servers, both of which are necessary for using VoIP services.