What is included in a Background Check for Employment?

Whether you’re an employer or an employee, preparing for background checks can be tricky. If you’re hiring, how do you know which information you should look for – and what you’re legally allowed to look at? If you’re looking for a job or being considered for a promotion, how can you prepare for what might come up quickly and effectively?


In this article, we attempt to answer these questions (and a few others) by covering what’s included in a background check. We also go over which services you can use to preview what a professional background checking partner might find, whether background checks are legal, touch on how to run searches properly, and more.

How important are background checks to employers?

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, resume fraud costs employers $600 billion each year. The reasons for this degree of damage vary. On a basic level, people lying about their qualifications and job experience leads to waste, poorly executed tasks, and other problems. Moreover, someone could also misrepresent their education and certifications, being completely unqualified to do the tasks they were hired to do in the first place. Beyond that, people could falsify any number of things. For example, one common trick is to inflate previous paychecks in order to negotiate for a better salary at a new workplace. This may seem relatively benign, but again, small-scale fraud is still fraud, and given that false resumes are so expensive to employers, it’s best to run background checks every time.

One common misconception is that internal hires and executive-level employees are less likely to lie on their resumes. This is true to a degree: Business Week reports that 16% of executive resumes contain false academic claims, compared to nearly 1 in 2 for all resumes. At the same time, 16% is still a lot since we’re talking about people who lead other people and represent organizations at the highest level. This is true for internal hires as well. For example, someone may have passed a basic background check when coming into a company. But since requirements are more stringent at higher levels of organizational structure, that initial check could’ve failed to reveal facts that can count against someone. For this reason, it’s important to run quality background checks – even when hiring executives or promoting staff internally. The low price of a check far outstrips the potential losses incurred by not doing homework.

What’s included in a background check for employment?

Background check information can vary. In advanced checks, the providers in the list above can look through deep web data, send runners to retrieve documents, and more. However, a few things should always figure in any quality background check. These are:

  • Identity verification – this is the first line of defense against fraud, abuse, and misinformation. Confirming someone’s identity is the cornerstone of any thorough background check and should be included in custom searches every time.
  • Employment verification – given how often people falsify their past employment details, this is another important check. You’ll have to obtain consent to get it, but once you do, your search partner will contact past employers to make sure the indicated employment information is correct. Alternatively, you can ask an employee to bring in pay slips and W-2 documents or other paper trails to prove employment.
  • Education and licenses – this is another important check, especially if you need employees who have specific licenses (e.g. gun, driver’s, medical, etc) or academic degrees. It works a lot like the employment verification check. Some educational institutions may not respond to direct queries or submit their information to the public record, but you can still use an educational reporting provider to check.
  • Criminal records – be very careful when performing this check, because doing it without going through the right procedures can land you in a lot of trouble. Depending on what the FCRA and your state laws say, you should be able to look through convictions from the past 5-7 years – but only if specific criteria are met first.
  • Drug use – if you don’t want to hire regular drug users (including cannabis), you can pay a partner to run drug checks on your employees. As with the above point, be very careful to make sure you’re not breaking the FCRA or state laws when you’re doing this. Otherwise, you could land in hot water with local or federal law enforcement.

How can employees prepare for their screening?

Prospective employees might seem to have the disadvantage in their interview. After all, employers make it their business to know yours before hiring. However, applicants can run their own background checks on themselves to see what turns up. With this information in hand, it is much easier to come prepared with an explanation of whatever circumstances show up. This can make all the difference between someone being perceived as un-hirable and someone who has learned from their mistakes and worked to improve themselves.

Search Over 1 Billion Public Records

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When searching for a quality background checking service, prospective employees should keep the following key features of in mind:

  • Deep research – anyone can do a basic Google search and find some everyday information on another person. If you’re using a paid service, it’s important that it goes above and beyond these basics. This is doubly true if you’re about to go through a stringent background check, e.g. for the military or a federal organization.
  • Accurate and clear reports – a quality report should be readily scannable and intuitive to understand. You don’t want to pore over pages and pages to find the handful of information you actually need – so look for thoughtfully designed, straightforward report styles.
  • Speedy results – a basic background check should only take seconds or minutes. A more advanced one can take a few days. Any longer than that, and you’re better off considering a different provider; you certainly want to get the results you need on time, every time.
  • Custom searches – the ability to customize your searches for the specific data sources you need is standard these days. If a provider insists on giving you reports that contain info from all their data sources, it’s best to choose someone else.
  • Mobile access – quality providers have several ways to cater to mobile users. One is with native iOS and Android apps that make it easy to execute searches and carry reports with you without print them out. Absent dedicated software, providers should at least have a mobile-ready dashboard accessible by any browser.
  • Customer support – live support is best, but extended hours are fine too. Some providers give you self-troubleshooting tools to help you diagnose what’s not working.

Now that you know which features are best, let’s talk about some specific services that do background checks well!

1. BeenVerified

BeenVerified is a two-tier background check service. Its basic package covers criminal records, financial records, social media presence, and other public-record data. This is enough to give you a solid idea of who it is you’re talking to or interviewing. If you want other data sources and information about gun licenses, for example, you can always upgrade to the premium version. This also lets you send runners to courts and physical archives to find even more data, which is useful. The best part is that advanced and basic searches are both fast. The former take up to a few days while the latter take seconds, making BeenVerified one of the speedier services on the market.

BeenVerified’s web dashboard is intuitive and well-designed, making it easy for you to find the exact results you’re looking for. This includes easy custom searches, and reports that are both sleek and easy to navigate. Mobile users can enjoy Android and iOS apps that make it easy to execute mobile searches and carry results on the go. Even if you don’t want to use these, there’s an excellent responsive mobile website that works well from all operating systems. Last but not least, you can always get the help you need with BeenVerified thanks to 24/7 customer support that’s helpful and knowledgeable.

BEST BACKGROUND CHECKS: BeenVerified is our overall #1 choice. They provide a fast service that includes physical runners, available at a hard-to-beat price.

2. TruthFinder

Similar to other top-tier background checking services, TruthFinder offers a basic and premium search. The price of entry nets you access to reports drawn from standard data sources: criminal records, driving records, contact details, possible photos, and known family members. If you choose to go for the premium option, you’ll also get social media data from the last few years, gun licenses, and more. But what really makes TruthFinder special is that their technology searches through deep web data to find all kinds of information that is usually completely inaccessible to Google and online users. If you really want to see everything that’s out there on an individual, TruthFinder is an outstanding option.

The service’s interface is easy to use. The desktop version of the dashboard makes custom searches a breeze and makes it easy to look through older results. The Android app is feature-rich and surprisingly quick to download. While there’s no iOS app, their online dashboard is highly response and mobile-ready. No matter which version of the service you end up using, the reports you end up with will be well-designed, easily scannable, and full of easy-to-read information. Even if you do find that you have any problems or questions, 24/7 customer support is always on hand to help you solve them.

3. Instant CheckMate

Instant CheckMate is a background checking service that delivers beautiful reports from a variety of sources. These reports can include all available information or be customized to fit your specific needs. If you use the service’s basic tier, the sources will span criminal records, marriage and divorce records, known family members, contact details, and some social media data. If you choose to expand your search, you can pay a premium fee to see financial history, driving licenses, weapons licenses, and more. Together, all these data sources can help you put together a thorough picture of who someone is and what their past was like.

The Instant CheckMate website dashboard is convenient and easy to use. Custom searches are easy to execute in seconds, and prior reports are immediately accessible. Everything is always a click away, and even if you do need help, customer support is available 24/7. The Android app for Instant CheckMate is almost as good as the website, offering an excellent design and feature set. iOS and other users are welcome to use the lovely responsive mobile website (which is better than most background checking services’ apps).

4. Intelius

Intelius searches through a number of different data sources to give you detailed reports on individuals’ pasts. Data sources include criminal records, sex offender registrations, credit reports, property records, and education. Drawing on these, Intelius gives you clear, comprehensive reports that are easy to scan and presentable enough to share with other people and teams. The dashboard is intuitive and easy to use, whether you want to make a new search or manage previous ones. The same extends to the Android and iOS app versions, which are well-designed and highly stable. If you ever have any questions, customer support is available at extended hours – as is a troubleshooter tool that makes figuring out what’s wrong a breeze.

What about free services?

Free background checking services are popular and easy to find on the web. They look through some of the same data sources as the paid services on this page, but with one important caveat. Since there is no financial incentive for a free service to give you quality information, they simply show you what they manage to find; no more, no less. Moreover, free background check services often ask you to upgrade your membership, secretly harvest your own information, show you ads, etc. For all these reasons, we strongly recommend that you go with a commercial service if you’re going to make searches for any important reason. So long as you know how to execute searches correctly, you’ll get far better results this way. After all, the best services are still quite affordable.

Conclusion

Finding someone’s background information doesn’t have to be tricky at all. The only tricky part is knowing the law, other people’s rights, and being clear on what you can and can’t do. Now that you know how to conduct background searches, what are you going to do next? Leave a note below and let us know; we love getting feedback from readers.

Read What is included in a Background Check for Employment? by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to Use a VPN with Outlook and Office 365

Office 365 was first released in 2011 as a part of the Microsoft Office group of products. The biggest benefit of using Office 365 is being able to access applications like Outlook without experiencing firewall blocks. In addition, Office 365 works with a cloud service, so you can access your data remotely without being tied down to your office space or home. While this solution brings with it a plethora of benefits, there are still concerns over security risks that come with using cloud services at scale. Enter virtual private networks to shore up the gap.

However, it’s not enough to just get any old VPN. You need a quality provider to ensure optimal protection, reliability, and ease of use. In this article, we’ll discuss how to pick the right VPN service, offer you our favorite provider recommendations, and delve into benefits of using a VPN.

Why use a VPN for Office 365 and Outlook?

Privacy

Using Office 365, as well as Outlook, comes with many advantages. However, there has been some debate over how safe the cloud is for storing sensitive information. Rather than trusting Microsoft with the data of your entire business (or even personal), choosing a VPN provider will protect all your information at a small price. Whether you are a journalist covering a sensitive topic or an employee doing market research, a VPN with military-grade encryption and a no-logging policy will ensure that no one, from cybercriminals to your ISP, will be able to access your data. It does so by manipulating your IP address and rendering you untraceable.

Accessing the cloud from abroad

A VPN can be a life saver if you are located abroad and need to access your personal files on Office 365. Not only will it become a bulletproof way to work remotely while traveling, but you will be able to access all your personal accounts wherever you are located in the world. Many users have reported connectivity issues or even connection loss when accessing Office 365 applications with an active VPN. However, with one of our recommended providers, you will have no such issue. In addition, you’ll be able to get access to your personal accounts, such as your bank account, while bypassing regional blocks and keeping your data secure when you’re not using Microsoft Office products.

Bypassing censorship blocks

One of the major advantages of using a VPN service is sidestepping geoblocks and firewall restrictions. If you are travelling for work but your work files are restricted under your company’s firewall, a VPN is there to solve all your problems. Additionally, a VPN service will allow you to access massive ranges of Netflix content, as well as other restricted pages or services from abroad. For example, if you are looking to access Wikipedia or Facebook from China, using a VPN will allow you to do so without running into restrictions placed by the Great Firewall of China.

Using Office and Outlook from a public or hotel WiFi

If you are abroad for work and are about to access all your personal files on Office 365 through the hotel or public WiFi, please think twice. You may be unaware of this, but public hotspots are not safe for confidential browsing or emailing on Outlook. This is because there is no encryption on data passing through these servers, and even an untrained hacker will be able to intercept this sort of connection with a simple plugin. In order to keep your personal and professional data private, you will need an encrypted connection, which is something you can get with a quality VPN. Not only will it make you anonymous online, but your files will be inaccessible to malicious hackers and cybercriminals.

How to choose a great VPN

Using a VPN to protect your connection while using Outlook and Office 365 is typically a breeze, but finding the right provider can prove to be a challenge. After all, the VPN market is a crowded one, and many companies claim to be the best, for better or worse. We narrowed down the field using the following search criteria:

  • Strong encryption – You need a VPN service that uses strong encryption like 256-bit AES. This level of data encryption will protect your data and identity from getting into the hands of the government, ISPs, and even hackers.
  • No-logging policy – A comprehensive no-logging policy will ensure that none of your data or personal information is stored in your ISP’s or VPN provider’s system for interested third parties to find. This policy should cover as much data as possible, including browsing history, IP addresses, and timestamps.
  • Server network – the bigger the server network, the more connections you will have in terms of international IPs. This feature will allow you to bypass geoblocks and establish a fast connection. Moreover, larger networks are usually faster.
  • Speed and performance – Choose a provider that doesn’t limit bandwidth, use speed caps, or throttle the connection. What’s more, your provider’s encryption methods should be refined enough to preserve as much of your natural connection speed as possible.
  • Device compatibility – You want your VPN to be compatible with as many devices and operating systems as possible. After all, even the greatest VPN in the world is useless to you if you can’t use it with your device in some way.

Our top VPN recommendations for Outlook and Office 365

Looking for a the perfect VPN for your Office 365-equipped device? Take a look at our top 5 recommended providers:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is our #1 choice of VPN for its unmatched focus on speed and security. With a server network of 2,000+ nodes in 94 countries, you have the option to establish a fast and secure connection no matter where you are in the world. In addition, ExpressVPN places no limitations on bandwidth, traffic, or server switches, making it ideal for corporate use (which can use a lot of data). Getting started is fast and easy too thanks to dedicated apps for a wide range of systems, including Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, and even routers like D-Link and Tomato.

ExpressVPN’s security features are highly advanced, with 256-bit AES encryption at its core. Cracking a single key would take a supercomputer millions of years, leaving little hope for hackers, ISPs, or whoever else might want your data. Specific encryption protocols include OpenVPN’s UDP and TCP, as well as SSTP, which helps beat even the most hardcore censorship blocks (think China). Additionally, ExpressVPN has a solid no-logging policy on traffic, DNS requests, and even browsing history, which will ensure that no third parties ever get their hands on your information and personal data. With a built-in kill switch and DNS leak test, you can be certain that you won’t leak data to your ISP – even if your connection drops or something else goes wrong.

Read more about this top-of-the-line service in our full ExpressVPN review.

BEST OVERALL: ExpressVPN is our #1 choice for working with Outlook or Office365. Get 49% off the yearly plan, plus 3 extra months free.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is another one of our top recommendations due to its advanced features and massive server network. The provider has 5,230+ nodes in 62 countries, which makes it the largest network in the entire industry. The location distribution allows you to connect virtually to any location excluding Antarctica, meaning you’ll be able to overcome geoblocks and establish the fastest available connection no matter where you’re using Office. Another important feature is the large number of specialty servers. For example, Obfuscated Servers hide the fact that you are using a VPN while Double VPN servers route your data through two layers of encryption, ensuring no one outside of your circle can access your data.

In addition to the above, NordVPN employs impeccable security features. With 256-bit AES encryption keys, you can be certain that even the world’s strongest supercomputer will not be able to access your data. Furthermore, the provider’s no-logging policy, covering everything from traffic to bandwidth and browsing history, is considered to be the most complete policy in the industry. Additional features for ultimate privacy and security include an automatic kill switch and a DNS leak test, both of which help stop data leaks before they reach your ISP (albeit via different mechanisms).

For more information, check out our full review of NordVPN.

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a great choice of VPN service if what you’re looking for is a combination of reliability and ease of use. You have the option to choose from 6 pre-configured profiles that apply automatic settings based on the use-case. These profiles include “protect my WiFi connection” and “surf anonymously”, both of which are good for increased security while using Office 365 or Outlook. If you want to get more advanced, you have the option to further customize these profiles with toggles like “extra speed” or “block malicious websites”. In addition to this simple configuration system for desktop apps, CyberGhost works seamlessly on almost every major device and operating system from iPhones to video game consoles.

On the security front, CyberGhost uses 256-bit AES encryption which is considered to be unbreakable. This means that third parties won’t be able to view your data, even if they manage to get access to it. Complementing the encryption is a zero-logging policy considered to be immaculate to the point that not even your email address is stored. If you are using the service on desktop, you have additional features that will protect you from data leaks and other security mishaps. These include a connection guard, an in-built kill switch, and an online tracking blocker.

Read more details about the service’s range of features in our full review of CyberGhost.

4. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN, true to its name, is one of the safest VPNs out there. Your data will be locked down with military-grade 2048-bit encryption with AES-256 encryption, meaning any sensitive information will be protected. Specific encryption protocols include OpenVPN, PPTP, and the very fast (but slightly less secure) L2TP. In addition, the zero-logging policy on all traffic ensures that your (and your business’s) privacy is never threatened while you’re using Office. Additional features include an automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection which will alert you should your connection ever be interrupted.

In addition to top-of-the-line security, PrivateVPN offers a great range of basic features and extras. While PrivateVPN’s server network is smaller than other services on our list, the nodes are still distributed across 52 countries and are incredibly powerful, both in terms of bandwidth and speed. This means you get the same kind of speed and low latency you’d enjoy on industry-leading VPNs with smaller networks. Moreover, bandwidth, speed, and server switches are all unlimited so you can use this service for as long as you choose to work.

In addition to all of the above, PrivateVPN lets you connect up to 6 different devices simultaneously: enough for a small office This makes PrivateVPN ideal for corporate Office 365 and Outlook life. The best part, however, is the option to do a free remote setup to help you save time.

Take a look at our full PrivateVPN review.

SPECIAL DEAL: PrivateVPN lets you use Office 365 safely no matter where you happen to be. Sign up for a yearly plan at 65% off, and get an extra month free.

5. PureVPN

PureVPN may be the last service on our list, but it is far from the least. The service covers more locations than any other provider on our list, with 2,000+ nodes in 140 countries. This means you can connect to an IP address from virtually any country you want, getting fast connections to international offices. Furthermore, PureVPN places no limitations on bandwidth, traffic, or server switching so you can use the service 24/7 without worrying about surcharges. Should you ever run into a problem with the connection, there is 24-hour live chat support available to you, and representatives can walk you through the issue to resolve it as fast as possible. PureVPN is available as a desktop or mobile application, browser extension, and even has dedicated apps for routers and smart TVs.

In addition to a solid foundation for a top quality VPN, PureVPN is also technologically powerful. Firstly, the provider uses 256-bit encryption to protect your personal and corporate data when you’re using Office 365 and Outlook. The second line of defense comes from a no-logging policy that covers everything from IP addresses to timestamps and browsing history, protecting your data from prying third parties. Finally, Ozone technology proactively protects your device, data, and identity, 24/7 – even when you’re away from all your devices.

Conclusion

Office 365, including the Outlook application, has been one of the most useful updates to the Microsoft line of products. However, while it allows you to use the applications remotely through the cloud service, the question of security continues to bother users and businesses. Many have reported issues with using Office 365 with a VPN, but by opting for one of our recommended providers, you will be able to overcome regional blocks, keep your data secure, and access all the files remotely wherever you are located in the world.

Have you tried any of these VPN providers with Office 365 or one of its applications? Leave us your feedback down below!

Read How to Use a VPN with Outlook and Office 365 by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

Google Chrome Incognito: Does It Really Deliver Private Browsing

When you’re surfing the web but want to keep your browsing history private, Chrome’s Incognito seems like a great tool. Given the feature’s name and description, users assume that their browsing history will remain private and their activity logs untraceable. And while it’s true that your incognito browser doesn’t keep track of your searches, browsing history, or cookies, the truth is a little more complicated than appearances otherwise suggest.

When browsing in Google Chrome’s incognito mode, your data is still unencrypted. This means a lot of it is easily available to your ISP, various third parties, and perhaps even the government. The good news is that there is a way to keep data private and untraceable. Using a quality VPN will protect your data, help you beat harsh censorship blocks without getting found out, and more. In this article, we’ll discuss how to pick the best VPN for your ultimate security, give you our VPN recommendations, and discuss what Google Chrome incognito mode actually does.

How does the incognito browser work?

In a nutshell, what Google Chrome’s incognito mode does is hide your browsing history so that it cannot be retrieved later. This includes visited addresses, cookies, and other data that is gathered throughout your browsing session. The common misconception is that if you use incognito mode, no one can see what you are doing and you are completely anonymous online. This is not true, and here’s why.

While your data and browser history will be inaccessible to those who try to view it on your computer, all your data down to every entry, including your timestamps and bandwidth, is traceable back to your IP address, making incognito mode not private at all. In fact, Google clearly states within the incognito browser that your activity may still be visible to:

  • Websites you visit, including the ads and resources used on those sites
  • Your employer, school, or whoever runs the network you’re using
  • Your internet service provider

Unless the biggest security breach you fear is one from people around you physically, this means that incognito mode’s security is nowhere near “secure”. People can still trace what you do online to you – and unless you encrypt your data with a VPN, the government and other third parties will be able to view it easily.

What information isn’t hidden in incognito?

Google Chrome’s incognito mode does not store your private browsing information, but your data is still up for grabs to interested third parties with trained professionals. Below, we have outlined how the incognito browser is not safe, and who can gain access to your personal information.

Your ISP

It’s true – if a person physically attempts to retrieve your browsing history when you’ve been surfing the web in incognito mode, they won’t find any entries. However, since this private mode only affects your system and not your connection, your ISP can get its hands on your traffic information all the same. Since ISPs store logs on your traffic and are sometimes known to send your data to interested third parties (e.g. the government), your online activities are still being tracked. This is where a top-of-the-line VPN comes in – strong encryption and a solid no-logging policy will ensure that this is a situation you will never find yourself in.

Your employer

Similar to your ISP, your boss is just as likely to come across your online history even if you’ve been browsing in incognito mode. When someone is using the company WiFi, it’s easy to get your hands on their personal information and trace it back to their IP. This is why you should never assume that your employer cannot see your online activities in incognito mode, even if you are browsing on your personal device in private mode.

Websites you visit 

It’s a known fact that websites like Google, Facebook, and even Twitter keep track of users’ personal information and search history. This doesn’t change when it comes to incognito mode. These sort of websites tend to store your information and use it for targeted ads next time you are browsing online. While cookies are not usually saved in incognito mode, specific actions will still save your information. For example, you may have noticed that even when logging into a website after having done it once in incognito mode, the autofill still gives you a suggestion for your username and password.

So what are the benefits of using incognito mode?

While incognito mode isn’t a good tool for real privacy, it is useful for some things. Firstly, since cookies are not saved in incognito mode, you can save yourself some money on flight tickets, hotel and shopping deals, and more. Your IP address may still be trackable, but these websites have no way to access your search history, and in turn, spike your prices for services. Another major benefit is that you can access several accounts at once, one on incognito mode and one in a regular browser window. For example, if you need to access two Gmail accounts at once, this is a very simple and fast way to do so without having to log out of one account in order to sign into another.

Last but not least, incognito mode is a surefire way to protect yourself from computer lurkers. While behind the scenes the process is more complicated, leaving security loopholes in one too many places, incognito mode will ensure that when someone tries to physically access your browsing history, they won’t be able to find anything. Your ISP, the government, and even your employer can possibly still access your online data, but if someone starts sifting through your browser for information, the browsing history will be clear.

How to pick a VPN for ultimate online security

We have narrowed down the most important VPN criteria down to the five points indicated below. Prioritizing these features will allow you to make an informed decision so that you can make the most of signing up for a VPN service.

  • Strong encryption – Google Chrome doesn’t encrypt your data, so you need a VPN that does. Look for 256-bit AES encryption to ensure your identity and online activities always remain private.
  • Zero-logging policy – The best VPN providers have strict zero-logging policies covering everything from your personal information to timestamps and browsing history. This security measure will ensure that no one from the government to cybercriminals can get their hands on your data or trace it back to your identity.
  • Server network – the more servers a VPN provider has in its network, the more options you’ll have when it comes to choosing an IP address. Since masking your real IP address is one of the security layers of a VPN service, this feature is important.
  • Speed and bandwidth – the last thing you want to do is have your connection slowed down or run out of bandwidth. Choose a provider with fast connection speeds, unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited server switching. This will enable you to use the service all day, every day.
  • Device compatibility – depending on whether you are home or on the move, you may want to use a VPN service on multiple devices. Choose a provider with software for multiple operating systems in order to protect your data on all devices.

Our VPN recommendations for Google Chrome

Take a look at our top VPN recommendations for keeping your data secure at all times.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is our number one choice when it comes to top-of-the-line security features. Best known for its speed, ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption which is incredibly hard to break – even for a government or corporation. Specific encryption protocols include UDP and TCP, which combine speed and security, as well as censorship-beating SSTP. Furthermore, ExpressVPN has a strong no-logging policy on traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, and even browsing history, meaning nobody can get their hands on any data that can be traced back to your device or identity. Even better, ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. Since it’s outside UK jurisdiction, it’s exempt from the Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements, so your data will never be a part of information exchanges between major governments.

Along with its strong privacy features, ExpressVPN is one of the fastest providers on the market – just as the name suggests. With 2,000+ proxy servers in 94 countries, connections are always fast and latencies low. As an added bonus, you get a massive range of IPs and server types to choose from. ExpressVPN doesn’t use speed caps or place limitations on bandwidth, which means you can all of these as much as you want without running out of resources. All users have the option to connect up to three devices with one account, and the service is available on all major operating systems including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.

Read more about the benefits of using this service in our full ExpressVPN review.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is one of our top choices due to its advanced features aimed at providing security and beating censorship without sacrificing ease of use. With 5,232 servers in 62 countries, NordVPN has one of the biggest networks in the industry – and it’s still expanding. Some of these servers are unique, like the Double VPN nodes that route your data through two proxy servers, adding an extra layer of encryption to your connection. Speaking of encryption: NordVPN uses 256-bit AES keys with more combinations than there are atoms in the universe to protect your data. Furthermore, the provider has one of the most complete no-logging policies out there, covering everything from IP addresses to timestamps and bandwidth. Throw in security extras like an automatic kill switch and a DNS leak test, and you get one of the safest VPNs in the industry, period.

As full of features as it is, NordVPN never overwhelms you to use. The software sports a straightforward, attractive user interface that’s great for beginners and advanced users alike. Apps are available for all common operating systems, with manual instructions for multiple routers, the PS4, various Xboxes, and more devices. Last but not least, you get up to six devices simultaneously so you can protect multiple devices and other household members too.

For more information, check out our full review of NordVPN.

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost security features start with encryption that uses military-grade 256-bit keys on all data. This security standard is so tough it’d take the world’s strongest supercomputer millions of years to crack, making your data very well-protected indeed. Encryption protocols include UDP and TCP via OpenVPN, as well as lightning-fast L2TP/IPSec. In addition, CyberGhost employs an immaculate zero logging policy that covers almost all data, even your email address, meaning that your activities are practically untraceable to your identity. As a third layer of protection, a large server network with 3,100+ servers in 59 countries gives you a large number of regional IPs to spoof without using your real address. CyberGhost also has an in-built connection guard and kill switch – added security features that further protect your data, even if your VPN connection drops.

While CyberGhost provides an ideal balance of speed and security, one of its main appeals is its ease of use. The app takes moments to download and install, and the minimalist display allows you to easily set up and navigate all your VPN features. You have the option to choose from six different profiles, including “unblock basic websites” and “protect my Wi-Fi connection”. These profiles are automatically preconfigured with the appropriate settings for the use case, which saves you time manually setting up the VPN. CyberGhost is available on all major operating systems and devices, including Android and Chrome OS.

Read our full review of CyberGhost here.

4. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN, as indicated by the name, keeps your data secure whether you are shopping, browsing, or streaming. The provider uses 2048-bit keys with AES-256 technology, generating keys that are virtually unbreakable. Furthermore, the VPN’s logging policy ensures that none of your information is stored in the provider’s system, including your IP addresses, timestamps, and traffic information. As a final layer of protection, PrivateVPN is based in Sweden: a country that is known for respecting users’ privacy and giving them control of their data. Moreover, there are no government regulations requiring PrivateVPN to keep logs on your data, so any logs that do get kept are safe.

PrivateVPN has apps for all popular operating systems, and these are as friendly as the service is secure. The simple software design means that connecting and getting the features you need is easy. Furthermore, the provider has dedicated apps for a wide variety of devices and platforms, with installation guides available for each and every one. This means that beginners will find it almost just as simple to install this VPN as users who have previous experience. PrivateVPN has both instruction articles and person-to-person assistance in order to help you with your questions or problems at all times.

Take a look at our full PrivateVPN review.

5. PureVPN

PureVPN is a top-tier VPN provider that has some of the most sophisticated features out there. Your data is protected with 256-bit encryption, making it practically impossible for anyone to view it – even if they manage to access it. Furthermore, PureVPN’s Ozone technology protect your device and data, 24/7, even when you’re offline. Between these features and a comprehensive no-logging policy, criminals, governments, and corporations will all find it extremely difficult to crack your data. There are also extras, like the internet kill switch that ensures your privacy remains intact at all times by shutting down your internet should you ever get disconnected.

PureVPN has a massive network of 2,000+ servers covering virtually every location in the world; 140 countries to be exact. This means that you have plenty of options in terms of location and speed. Furthermore, there are no limitations on bandwidth, speed, or even server switching, enabling you to use the VPN at all times. The provider even gives you five simultaneous connections per account, so you can stay online on all your devices (or as a family) at all times.

Conclusion

While most people rely on incognito mode for ultimate privacy, things are a little different to what they seem. Private mode can get you cheaper flights and hotels, better shopping deals, and access to multiple accounts at once. Furthermore, it will ensure that no one physically goes through your browsing history on your device. However, in order to keep your data reliably protected at all times, you need a VPN with strong security features. By opting by one of our recommended providers, you will grant yourself a myriad of benefits that come with using a VPN service.

Leave us comments down below about your experiences with Google incognito mode!

Read Google Chrome Incognito: Does It Really Deliver Private Browsing by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

What Does the UK Government Know About You?

Whether a country ranks high or low for internet freedom, nationwide surveillance is carried out by virtually every government. This is often done to prevent terrorism, fight crime, and protect residents – but history has shown that individuals and organizations abuse their powers and misuse our personal data. This begs an obvious question: what does my government know about me, and how does it use this information?

In the UK, the government enforces one of the most thorough and ubiquitous data surveillance policies in the world. Data collection covers everything from one’s criminal records to DNA and travel history. In order to protect yourself from being tracked, you need a top quality VPN service that encrypts your data and gives you a non-UK IP. This will protect you while helping you bypass regional restrictions, bypass censorship blocks, and access the best online deals available online. In this article, we’ll discuss how to choose the best VPN for ultimate security, give you our provider recommendations, and explain what the UK government does and doesn’t know about you.

Choosing the best VPN for your data protection

When it comes to data protection in the UK, a simple free VPN won’t cut it. You need the features below if you want a chance against the UK government’s tight security features.

  • Strong encryption – look for military-grade encryption such as the 256-bit AES technology. This will ensure that no one, from the government to your ISP, can gain access to your data.
  • Zero-logging – a zero-logging policy will protect you from being tracked online, either by the government or your ISP. Make sure to choose a VPN provider whose no-logging policy covers everything from traffic to IP addresses to your browsing history.
  • In-built security features – there are some security features that will allow you to stay safe online. For example, DNS leak protection makes sure that none of your data requests go through your ISP. Extras like this are a useful tool in data protection.
  • Speed – a VPN tends to slow down your internet connection. However, a good provider will make this difference unnoticeable. Opt for a provider with high connection speeds, no limitations on bandwidth, and no speed caps or throttling.
  • Server network – in a nutshell, the larger the server network, the more options you have in terms of both speed and location. This feature will also let you bypass regional restrictions and beat harsh censorship blocks.

Our VPN recommendations for the UK

Now that you’re familiar with the most important security features in a VPN, check out our top provider recommendations for protecting your data from the government in the UK.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is our number one choice for protecting your data in the UK. Firstly, the provider is based in the British Virgin Islands – a location that is outside of the UK jurisdiction and exempt from the Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements. This means that none of the governments in the alliance can track your data or keep logs of it for extended periods of time. Furthermore, the service uses 256-bit AES encryption that is considered unbreakable. It would take the world’s strongest supercomputer millions of years to even attempt to crack it. Encryption protocols include OpenVPN’s UDP and TCP, as well as more security-oriented ones like SSTP. ExpressVPN’s no-logging policy is one of the best in the industry, covering your traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, and browsing history. This means that the UK’s police, ISPs, and government officials won’t be able to see any of your online activity or trace it back to your identity.

Along with its major focus on privacy, ExpressVPN is, as indicated by the name, lightning-fast. With a server network of 2,000+ servers in 94 countries, you can get an IP address from almost any location in the world, and the connection will always be one of the fastest. Furthermore, ExpressVPN has no limitations on bandwidth and doesn’t use speed caps or throttle your connection. There are dedicated apps for all major systems, including Windows, Mac, Android, Chrome, Safari, and even game consoles and smart TVs. You have the option to connect up to three devices simultaneously, so your data will be protected no matter where you browse from.

Read more about the provider’s military-grade security in our full ExpressVPN review.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is a security-first provider that’s one of the best for the UK. Its massive network of 5,200+ servers in 62 countries includes a variety of specialty servers that are designed for privacy. Obfuscated servers, for example, hide the fact that you are using a VPN and help you remain off the radar. Double VPN takes your data through two proxy servers and adds an extra layer of encryption to all your traffic. Throw in a zero-logging policy that’s one of the best in VPN history and you get a very high level of protection from the UK government. Additionally, NordVPN is based in Panama, which is a neutral government exempt from the Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements between major governments. This makes NordVPN immune to any takedown requests that may come its way.

NordVPN is also easy and intuitive to use. The app has a straightforward, stylish user interface, which is impressive considering how rich the service is in features. The mobile software is practically as advanced as the desktop version, which is usually not the case with VPN providers. NordVPN is available on Mac OS, Windows, Android, iOS, and even RaspberryPi. It also allows you to connect a whopping 6 devices at once, and places no limitations on bandwidth or server switching, making it an ideal service for everyday use.

Read our full review of NordVPN for more details.

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is one of the most reliable VPN services – and it’s incredibly user friendly to boot. Upon launch, you can choose from 6 different pre-configured profiles, each tailored to different use-cases. For example, you can choose to “protect your Wi-Fi connection” or “surf anonymously” in order to ensure that your data is safe from the UK government as well as your ISP. Furthermore, these profiles are customizable with toggles that can protect your privacy even further, like “block online tracking” or “block malicious websites”.

While CyberGhost appeals to newbies due to its simple interface, it’s just as rich in core features as other industry leaders. The provider uses military-grade 256-bit AES encryption, which makes your data inaccessible to anyone unless you voluntarily hand it over. Furthermore, CyberGhost’s no-logging policy covers almost everything, from timestamps to even your email address. The massive server network of 3,100+ nodes in 59 countries gives you a wide range of IP addresses to choose from, meaning you never need to reveal your real one. Other security features include a connection guard, a kill switch, and an online tracking blocker, all of which will keep your information protected the entire time you are using the VPN service.

Take a look at our full review of CyberGhost to learn more about its privacy features.

4. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN provides its users with the perfect balance of security and speed, no matter whether you are located in the UK or another Commonwealth nation. The service uses 2048-bit encryption with AES-256, keeping your data protected at all times behind a veil of cryptography with more key combinations than atoms in the known universe. VPN protocols include Open VPN’s UDP and TCP, PPTP, and L2TP/IPSec, which is fast and helps beat censorship blocks. Furthermore, PrivateVPN’s zero-logging policy ensures that the government or your ISP won’t be able to come across any logs of your traffic since almost none will be stored on the servers’ database. Extra security features include an automatic kill switch and built-in DNS leak protection.

PrivateVPN has a slightly more modest server network totalling 100+ servers in 59+ countries, but said servers deliver all the speed and power you might need. Furthermore, you will be able to stay safe and anonymous online with this variety of locations. PrivateVPN places no limitations on bandwidth, speed, or even server switching, so the inevitable slowdown of a VPN service will be hardly noticeable. The provider has dedicated apps for all major operating systems and devices, and if you want to avoid all hassle, you can choose to the free remote setup done for you.

Check out our full PrivateVPN review.

5. PureVPN

PureVPN’s service offers some of the best privacy features on the market. The provider uses top-of-the-line 256-bit AES encryption so no government lurkers or ISPs can access your data at any point. The no logging policy is thorough and ensures that no one can trace what you were doing online. Together, the encryption and zero-logging mean that your data is extremely difficult for third parties to access. Extra features include an automatic kill switch will automatically shut down your internet should you get disconnected, so at no point do you risk being tracked without realizing it.

Along with its impressive range of security features is PureVPN’s impressive self-owned network of 2,000+ servers in 140 countries. The network covers virtually every location in the world, so you get a massive range of IP addresses including ones from pro-data security countries like Sweden. PureVPN is available on desktop and mobile applications, as well as browser extensions. Additionally, the provider’s 24-hour live chat support will help you solve any connection issues as they come up, so you won’t need to browse without a VPN ever again.

Is it legal for the government to track my information?

The short answer is “yes”. In 2016, the Investigatory Powers Act was introduced in order to limit how much surveillance power intelligence agencies have. However, what this act really did is force phone companies and ISPs to start keeping records of websites for at least 12 months. This effectively means the UK government now has records of every website every person has visited in that time frame, including metadata covering phone calls. So let’s say you visited a website. The government will have access to the time you visited the page, how long you were browsing for, your IP address, and other details about your device and its connection. While this record doesn’t include the actual URL, the base domain will appear in their database.

A VPN with strong security features is one of the only tools that can help you prevent this sort of invasion of privacy. It will keep your data protected with strong encryption, and ensure that no logs on your data are stored at any point for the government, your ISP, or cybercriminals to find. With the amount of important information we place online, including our credit card details, this sort of privacy measure seems more mandatory than recommended.

Who else can access my personal information?

While the UK government has its own ways to gather information on its citizens, gathering information can be much simpler than it seems. Several third parties can give government officials more than enough information, including Google, CCTV, and some national databases.

Google

As you probably know by now, Google knows everything about you. With the wide range of apps, products, and services offered by Google, they have access to some of your most private information at all times. For example, if you use Gmail as your e-mail service, it has access to everything from your appointments, contacts, and even conversations with other users. In short, Google can easily build a profile around all your online information. Below is a list of things that the UK government can find out about you if they get access to Google records.

  • Search history
  • Browsing history
  • Contacts, emails (all), and other conversations
  • Locations visited (via Google maps)
  • How you look and your voice
  • Videos streamed and news stories read

National databases

The UK government has a wide range of national databases, all of which are controlled under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. These databases gather different information on citizens, but it only goes to show that none of your personal data is protected. Some of the information held by these databases includes:

  • Employment, immigration status, and workplace disputes
  • Income, personal financial records, and credit records
  • Passport information, trips abroad, and where you live
  • Criminal records and details of arrest
  • All medical records, including hospital visits and information on family members
  • DNA
  • Vehicle tracking – a network that captures approximately 30 million records daily

CCTV

CCTV cameras in the UK are used as a security measure in order to keep track of criminal activity. With anywhere between 4 and 6 million cameras all over the country, the UK has one of the biggest CCTV networks worldwide. However, surprisingly enough, most of these cameras are operated by companies and individuals. Anyone can get their hands on CCTV footage of themselves under the Data Protection Act for a small fee, and if your business is using these cameras, you must inform people that they may be recorded.

Conclusion

As it turns out, despite its democratic political stance, the UK knows more about its citizens than meets the eye. If you are currently residing in Britain, the government has a lot of information gathered on you, including your address and even online browsing history. Furthermore, the UK’s participation in the Five Eyes alliance even further reduces your level of privacy, since these governments have had cases of spying on each other’s citizens.

In order to ensure that your security is always intact and your information stays secure, you will need to encrypt your online data and make sure your ISP isn’t storing it online. For this, you will need a quality VPN. Any one of our recommended providers will not only give you back control over your own data, but gain you back your privacy.

Read What Does the UK Government Know About You? by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

5 Best Enterprise WordPress Hosting Companies in 2019

WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world. By various estimates, as many as 40% of the web runs on this venerable platform. This includes a large number of organizations who need enterprise-level features and support. To meet these needs, a growing number of hosts is offering managed services wherein they take care of all your hosting needs and promise 24/7 uptime, fast load speeds, your data’s cyber security, and more.

The problem is that with so many offers on the market, it can be hard to tell which providers are credible, and which aren’t. This article will help you by covering 5 of 2019’s best enterprise-level managed hosting services. We’ll go over what each provider offers, and also discuss why regular hosting isn’t enough for most organizations. We’ll also cover the advantages of managed hosting and how you can avoid regular hosting companies misrepresenting themselves as managed hosts.

Hosting types overview

There are 3 main types of hosting. One of them is self-hosting through a physical or virtual machine. This can be a convenient way to host a WordPress installation, but it comes with its own weaknesses and limitations. Specifically, you have to manage everything, and you’re the only one responsible for your own uptime. This means you have to stay on top of updates, plugins, cyber security measures, patches, as well as your own content and website design. It also means that if anything goes wrong, you’re on your own with zero backup. For this reason, it’s rare for enterprise level publishers to self-host.

The other two types of hosting are shared hosting and managed hosting. Shared hosting is what brands like GoDaddy, HostGator, BlueHost, and others sell. It consists of a large number of users – from two to hundreds – sharing a single virtual or physical machine. The advantage of this kind of hosting is that it’s very cheap. You can get a typical subscription for a few dollars per month. This is a wonderful price point, especially since most hosts promise you unlimited bandwidth, unlimited processing power, etc. The problem is that they can’t actually deliver on these promises. When you’re sharing a machine with other websites, you only get whatever power and bandwidth aren’t already in use by someone else. Moreover, if something goes wrong with another user’s installation, e.g. a DDoS attack or a virus, your data becomes at risk too.

The best alternative is to use managed hosting. In this scenario, you get your own separate machine. You also get a team of experts who help you manage your physical or virtual machine. The result is the cloud-based equivalent of a self-hosted server managed by a team of qualified specialists. This kind of thing would cost dozens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, but with a managed hosting provider, you can get it for a small fraction of that price. This is a perfect solution for enterprise clients who need outstanding servers and support. To understand why, let’s get a little more specific about the problems with regular hosting in the next section.

The 4 problems with shared hosting for enterprise users

With shared hosting, multiple users share the same server. This is a good way to drive down costs, but it also has four primary problems, explained below.

  1. No extras. A server can cost thousands of dollars per month to run. The average shared hosting plan costs about $7-8/month. To make a profit, hosting companies do two things. First, they give you absolutely no extras. If you want quality support, free SSL certificates, hands-on help, etc, you’re going to be disappointed. Moreover, you’re going to get a lot of upsells if you do want extras like migration, private domain registration, a CDN, etc. All of this is bad if you’re a private user, and unacceptable if you’re an organization.
  2. Weak security. A shared host won’t give you a free SSL certificate so you can get an HTTPS:// website. They won’t backup your files for you, nor run automatic malware screenings on a regular basis. If you figure out that something’s going wrong, you’re not going to get timely help because serving you is low-priority from a shared hosting provider’s point of view. Moreover, sharing a machine with others means that if someone else gets attacked or gets a virus, you may face downtime, data theft or loss, etc.
  3. Limited resources. A lot of hosts tout “unlimited resources” plans that give you infinite bandwidth, tens of gigabytes of storage space, plenty of RAM, and so on and so forth. Since you’re using a single machine and sharing it with up to hundreds of other websites, this is obviously not what you really get. What you really get is a very limited allocation of resources. If you attempt to exceed these, you get throttled with capped speed, limited processing power, etc. This often results in clients leaving, but in a certain light it works out in the end, as shared hosts are left almost exclusively with paying customers who use very little in the way of resources.
  4. Everything is manual. With a shared host, you have to do your own backups, run your own updates, access the cPanel on your own, etc. This can be fine for solorepreneurs – but if you’re an organization, you probably need a solution where someone else takes care of all these routing processes.

In the next section, we’ll explain how managed hosting solves all of the above problems. The caveat is that many brands advertising themselves as managed hosts are actually shared hosts. We’ll explain how you can tell the difference later on in this article, but for now, let’s move on to the advantages of managed hosting.

How managed hosting is better

Managed hosting gives you your own virtual or physical server. It also gives you a team of specialists who help manage your installation. Here’s how this helps solve all of shared hosting’s problems.

  • No bad neighbor problem. Since you get your own resources, there’s no way for a virus or a DDoS attack directed at another website to affect you. It also means that your own resources really are unlimited. If the machine assigned to you runs out of power, you can simply scale up and get a more powerful machine. You don’t have to worry about getting throttled or downtime.
  • Security. A managed hosting provider takes care of all the small details you need to stay secure. They back up your data regularly, they update and patch your WordPress installation, and they run malware sweeps to make sure your data is safe. The best brands will even give you DDoS protection to help make sure your website is safe.
  • Support. With a good managed hosting provider, you’re basically getting an A-team of IT specialists who’re always on hand to help you out. Top brands even offer 24/7 support to make sure you get the help you need, when you need it, without having to wait.
  • Extras. Managed hosts tend to give you lots of cool extras. One common one is a Content Distribution Network, which speeds up your website by storing static data in a worldwide network of servers. Other extras include free SSL certificates, regular (automatic) backups, etc.

Next, let’s take a look at the best enterprise managed hosts for 2019.

Top enterprise-level hosting plans

Large organizations like HTC, jQuery, and thousands of others are using managed hosting services to run their WordPress installations. But how can you know which brands you can trust for your own website? We answer the question below by going over some of the best managed hosts in the business.

1. Presslabs

Presslabs is a rare managed hosting provider that combines attractive pricing with powerful performance and a rich feature set.

Let’s start with the pricing. Presslabs lets you create a developer account for free. Taking your website online costs $599 plus $0.10 per extra 1,000 page views per month. This is very affordable for an enterprise plan, and you get a lot of bang for your proverbial buck in terms of performance.

In a 2018 industry-wide benchmark test by ReviewSignal, Presslabs excelled in multiple areas:

  • While serving up to 10,000 users in a 30 minute period, they only returned 56 errors (compared to 1,901 for Pressable and 786 for WP Engine).
  • Their average response time – 208ms – is among the lowest in the business. This means that with Presslabs, your users will virtually always load your website quickly and successfully.
  • Moreover, peakthroughput is high at 90.85 MB/s, meaning you can safely trust Presslabs to handle your audio and video content with no slowdown.
  • The total number of requests processed was over 2 million, beating WordPress.com’s VIP service by over 14%.

Given Presslabs’ low price point, these results are nothing short of incredible. But that’s not all.

Presslabs gives you oodles of extra features. This includes a free SSL certificate that improves your website security and a CDN with HTTP/2 for 24/7 uptime for your static content. Incremental backups are made every 15 minutes: the best we’ve seen among all managed hosting providers.

The dashboard and work environment is beautiful, powered by ReactJS technology, and collaboration is easy thanks to a suite of agency and publisher features. Other hosting providers charge thousands of dollars for similar feature sets, so if you’re looking for best-in-class enterprise-oriented brands, this is your best choice.

2. WordPress VIP

VIP was the first managed hosting provider for WordPress. Today, they’ve built on their years of experience to remain on top of the industry – especially for enterprise clients.

Let’s start with the features. With WordPress VIP, you get a free CDN service. This means that your static content is delegated to an international network of servers that help speed up load times for users. As an extra advantage, if your main server goes down, page visitors will see all your static content anyway. In addition to this, WordPress VIP has a large number of extras. For example, hourly backups help keep your information and data safe. A turnkey infrastructure makes your website easy to scale. Support is available 24/7, meaning you can get the help you need, when you need it, without paying a cent over your monthly fee. An SSL certificate comes free with the service and is a prerequisite for taking your website live.

In addition to the above features, WordPress VIP was a top performer in the benchmark we referenced above. While they served fewer total requests than Presslabs, they’re still a top-3 service in this department, with nearly 1.75 million requests in 30 minutes. Their peak throughput was high, at 118+ MB/s, meaning you can use a VIP WordPress installation to run video, audio, and other data-dense content. The total number of errors in serving 10,000 users was just 3, and with an impressive RPS of 1,400, VIP has a proven ability to serve large numbers of page visitors without sacrificing stability.

The only area where WordPress VIP is truly weak is pricing. Compared to Presslabs’ $599/month, their starter fee of $5,000/month is exorbitant – especially when you factor in that getting started incurs a one-time $5,000 fee as well. It may make sense if you’re a huge company – VIP’s clients include MSNBC and Time Magazine – but for smaller enterprises, VIP is often too expensive to consider.

3. Pantheon

Pantheon is a feature-rich managed hosting provider with flexible pricing policies. They’re particularly attractive to enterprises who want to get a managed host without going over budget. There are no set-up charges and no overage charges, meaning you can get started without worrying about money.

The feature set is both versatile and generous. Users get free fully managed migrations and up to 3 websites (including 3 free sandbox sites). Support is available around the clock, meaning you never have to wait for it. A free SSL certificate for your users’ security comes with all enterprise-level Pantheon subscriptions. So does a global CDN network powered by Fastly: one of the most reliable CDN services on the web. There are no bandwidth limits, and the cloud infrastructure used is Google Cloud Platform: a stable, reliable system you can rely on.

Pantheon was a strong performer in the benchmark we referred to above. Their total errors in serving 10,000 users numbered at just 88: more than VIP and Presslabs, but still well under 1%. The total number of requests was on the low side (1.37 million), but given that you’re unlikely to get over a million users in 30 minutes in real life, that’s fine for most brands. Average response time was outstanding at just 154 ms, with enough peak throughput to run multiple 4k video streams simultaneously (85.72 MB/s).

In addition to all of the above, Pantheon is decidedly budget-friendly. While their cheapest (basic) subscription is unsuitable for enterprises, you can cobble together a solid plan for $500-$800, which is excellent. If you’re a small company or strapped for money, it’s hard to go wrong with Pantheon.

4. Flywheel

Next on our list we have Flywheel: a managed hosting provider with a price point only slightly above a shared host. To wit, you can get a plan that works for solopreneurs and professionals for just $69/month. As an agency, you can get a plan for $229/month. In both cases, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better price point on the market, which makes Flywheel a natural choice for smaller businesses.

Despite being a budget choice, Flywheel is no slouch on features and performance. Their website staging environment is user-friendly and convenient. They offer users nightly backups, which means your data is safe in case of an attack, data loss, etc. Flywheel’s Blueprint service makes designing high-level websites easy, and with their collaboration tools, you can easily collaborate with team members on design and development. There’s even an option to speed up your website using a proprietary Flywheel algorithm.

In addition to the above, Flywheel has numerous features that improve security and speed. You can buy a CDN service from Flywheel, or use your own for free. This lets you improve your site’s load speeds by caching static content with an international network of servers. SSL certificates are free for enterprise users, meaning your users can enjoy encrypted connections and improved security. There’s a free malware clean-up service, and you can manually configure caching settings to further speed up load times. If you’re looking to start with managed hosting on a very small budget, Flywheel’s a solid choice. Just remember that if you decide to scale up, switching managed hosting providers can be a pain – so make sure Flywheel can do everything you need it to before making a decision.

5. Pagely

Last but not least, we have Pagely: a quality service that focuses on serving security-oriented enterprise clients. Their strength lies in their data security and user privacy features. For starters, all their data is hosted on Amazon Web Services: a service with extensive privacy and compliance rules. This means that breaking into your website and harming it in any way is immensely difficult when you’re with pagely. Further, the service includes complete site scans for malware and DDoS attacks (among other things). This gives Pagely’s customers extra peace of mind, removing a lot of the manual work that goes into cyber security. You also get a free CDN to make your website’s static content available 24/7, even when your main server is under attack or otherwise unavailable (e.g. for maintenance). The total bandwidth for these CDNs is 2 TB, which is impressive to say the least, and another reason to choose Pagely.

In addition to all of the above, Pagely is rich in secondary features. For example, they use varnish caching: an advanced caching model that can reduce return visitors’ load times to milliseconds. The support system is available 24/7, with knowledgeable support staff on hand to help you no matter what your question is. WordPress Core and plugins are upgraded automatically, with virtually no effort required from your side.

One thing that may turn some users off is Pagely’s service model. Enterprise plans start at $2,500, which is quite expensive. At the same time, you have to be a little more hands-on with some aspects of your website than with other providers. You don’t have to do everything yourself, of course, but Pagely will require you to be involved with minor processes, like plugin updates, which is a drawback for some organizations.

A word of warning about faux managed hosting providers

As more and more businesses understand the limitations of shared hosting, the market for managed alternatives is growing. Unfortunately, a number of shared hosting providers has started branding their offers as “managed hosting”. What really happens, though, is that they give you a separate virtual machine on what is usually an overloaded physical server. The only difference from regular hosting is that you’re in a separate digital environment; all the other problems are still there.

The solution is to make sure that any managed hosting provider you consider actually offers managed services. Look for providers who advertise regular back-ups, automatic WordPress core and plugin updates, as well as 24/7 live support. If a provider doesn’t have these services, they’re not really selling managed hosting. Furthermore, if a provider expects you to do most of the work in installing a CDN, getting an SSL certificate, etc, be careful; they’re likely to be a shared hosting provider that’s misrepresenting what they do.

Conclusion

Managed hosting can solve a lot of problems for your organization. It can guarantee 24/7 uptime, protect your data, increase load speeds, drive down costs, and more – all while helping you save time and money on internal WordPress management. It’s easy to see why so many businesses are moving from self-hosting and shared hosting to the managed equivalent.

At the same time, it should be clear that managed hosting services aren’t all created equal. Making sure you pick a quality provider is important, because making a mistake here can be costly for your website’s performance and brand reputation. The last thing you want is to go with someone who diminishes your website’s performance. You also don’t want to go with a provider you have to leave later, as this can result in downtime and limited access for your page visitors.

Now that you know who the best providers on the market are, who do you think you’ll end up going with? Leave a comment and let us know below. We love getting feedback and would be happy to hear what you have to say!

Read 5 Best Enterprise WordPress Hosting Companies in 2019 by George P.H. on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter