There’s a lot of overlap between business VPNs and personal VPNs, but they’re not the same thing exactly.
In terms of how people use them: Personal VPNs are good for streaming, torrenting and securing your online data. Business VPNs are great for connecting with remote workers, accessing other markets and protecting employees using public Wi-Fi.
At their core, they’re still VPNs. They encrypt your online traffic, hide your true location and allow you to anonymously and securely connect to the internet through a network of servers all over the world.
Here’s a closer look at how they differ.
Feature and Pricing Differences
The main differences between personal and business VPNs boil down to what’s under the hood and how much it costs.
Business VPNs usually include a dedicated IP address (or, in some cases, a dedicated VPN server) and a team management console. These features are crucial for managing employees and granting access to sensitive documents and apps. In terms of pricing, business VPNs are typically more expensive and charge a monthly, per-user rate.
Personal VPNs work a little differently. They’re geared toward one primary user or household, (though you may be able to get away with sharing it). When using a personal VPN, it randomly assigns you an IP address that you share with other anonymous VPN users—which can be a good and bad thing depending on how you intend to use the VPN.
Bad thing: if someone does something illegal (or at least against a website’s terms of service) while using that IP address, it could be blacklisted, barring access from everyone using that IP address. Good thing: having a group of people on the same IP address makes it impossible for advertisers or other third-parties from targeting you based on your internet browsing behavior.
Personal VPNs usually charge an annual rate upfront and allow you to connect a set number of devices, typically between five and ten—but sometimes there’s no limit.
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A dedicated IP address (or server)—a core feature for business VPNs—eliminates the downside of a shared IP address by giving you an unchanging, private IP address. You won’t run the risk of someone else getting your IP address blacklisted. Some personal VPNs allow you to add a dedicated IP address for a monthly fee, but it’s hardly, if ever, included.
Privacy and Anonymity Differences
There’s also a philosophical difference between personal and business VPNs: whose data it protects.
A business VPN’s objective is to protect the data of the business, not the employees using the network. For example, with a team management console, it’s possible for the admin of the business VPN to see what the users on the account are doing. But that overall activity is protected from parties outside the business.
A personal VPN has a very different goal. It’s invested in protecting the privacy, data and location of the individual user—from internet service providers, from advertisers, from hackers, from government agencies, from employers. Everyone. The most secure personal VPN providers have strict no-logs policies, meaning they won’t track any of your VPN usage whatsoever.
Choosing a VPN: Do You Really Need the Business Tier?
If you’re a freelancer, a solopreneur or a remote worker, your VPN needs probably fall somewhere in between a business tier and a personal tier. You want privacy and protection but you might not have the funds to spare for a full-on business plan. (And you may not even qualify if you’re operating solo. Most business VPNs have a minimum user requirement.)
In that case, you might want to consider a personal VPN. Some personal VPN services such as NordVPN, Private Internet Access and CyberGhost offer a dedicated IP address as an add-on—giving you the best of both worlds.
We factored this flexibility into our ranking of the best VPNs of 2021.