Author Archives: Alex Grant
Author Archives: Alex Grant
For a solid encryption and P2P file sharing TorGuard offers a very good product with extremely fast speeds in the U.S. It also offers plenty of features for security buffs. However, having a U.S.-based operation can make the strictest privacy enthusiasts think twice about signing up.
Based in the United States, TorGuard is a popular VPN service that, to the surprise of some, is not actually related to the well-known Tor browser. It offers servers in 51 countries, though experienced users may wish it had more features and beginners might prefer better customer service. With that said, TorGuard is fast, which is a huge plus for most users.
TorGuard offers a variety of plans at middle-of-the-road prices. On the plus side, TorGuard offers a seven-day trial period, letting users try out the service for free. The basic anonymous proxy plan is $5.95 per month and includes access to SOCKS5 (Socket Secure), HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), SSH (Secure Shell), and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). There's also access to more than 2,000 IPs in more than 50 countries, along with unlimited bandwidth.
Likely the most popular option is the anonymous VPN plan, which runs at $9.99 per month. TorGuard claims that this OpenConnect SSL-based VPN is the fastest VPN protocol on the Internet. Subscribers get access to a stealth proxy and five simultaneous connections. Around-the-clock support (24/7; 365 days) is also offered, but good luck getting an actual human on the phone. You're much better off communicating through email.
An anonymous email plan is available for $6.95 per month and includes unlimited mail storage at an offshore location, secure email deletion, forward secrecy, two-factor authorization, and protection against MITM (man-in-the-middle) attacks. Meanwhile, the privacy bundle is available for $11.54 a month and includes anonymous VPN and proxy access, offering maximum privacy.
While all these plans are a bit more pricey than the average competitor, TorGuard does offer discounts if you choose to bill your account quarterly, semi-annually, annually, or biennially. Additionally, you can pay with pretty much anything, including PayPal, a credit card, gift card, and Bitcoin.
TorGuard includes five simultaneous connections to start with, and you can add on additional connections for $1 per month each. This makes it convenient for connecting multiple devices, especially for a family. Like we mentioned before, you can pony up for the anonymous email plan or the basic anonymous proxy plan. The VPN service offers more security than the latter, but the anonymous proxy is handy if you're looking to unblock P2P file sharing and geo-restricted content.
More than 50 servers are available, letting you choose one closer to your actual location in order to boost speeds. A stealth connection lets you bypass firewalls, and a kill switch is available for OS X and Windows, which stops you from leaking data to their Internet service provider. For a bit of added protection, you can also turn on a malware blocker and ad blocker.
TorGuard showed no signs of DNS server leakage and reported pretty good speeds for its connection. However, you can try different servers around the country (and world) to try and boost connection speeds.
TorGuard offers a simple, yet fast mobile client for users on the go. While not rich with features, its connection is fast for iOS, iPad, and Android. However, some users have expressed connection problems with the mobile client for iOS.
For many users, privacy stands above all else when they're looking for a VPN option, and for good reason. Unfortunately, TorGuard is registered to Nevis in the Caribbean and falls under U.S. Jurisdiction. This means that, potentially, the federal government could issue warrants for the collection of information—a possibility that is not perhaps not so far-fetched due to the current administration's policies. This is a risk with any VPN rooted in the U.S. and its territories. With that said, TorGuard states that it keeps no connection or usage logs.
The default encryption that TorGuard used for a time was Blowfish-128, which is not known to be top-of-the-line. Fortunately, you can now use a much better AES-256 encryption, which provides much more security for those looking to bypass firewalls. Also, TorGuard offers various levels of encryption so that you can choose your own level of security, in case there are any connection problems.
The available stealth connection is a great tool for bypassing firewalls and unblocking websites. However, what's most useful about TorGuard is the fact that it has more than 50 servers located around the globe. This is very handy for anyone looking to access geo-restricted content.
For a solid encryption and P2P file sharing TorGuard offers a very good product with extremely fast speeds in the U.S. It also offers plenty of features for security buffs. However, having a U.S.-based operation can make the strictest privacy enthusiasts think twice about signing up.
When trying to protect data and browsing online, a secure VPN is essential. Though it has its quirks, VPNArea has the right building blocks to provide the security that is necessary and has tools to support the needs of any user.
As technology advances, it is becoming more and more necessary to be intentional about securing yourself online. Too many people wait until they’ve been targeted and taken advantage of before they implement security measures, which is silly because that peace of mind is so simple to obtain. I stumbled across the idea of VPN’s when I was working on a project for my company and had to handle private client information on a business trip, which meant I wasn’t on our secure internal network.
A VPN allows you to mask your IP address while online by sending the outgoing information through its servers to be encrypted and masked under a new IP address. Since your IP address is essentially your fingerprint on the internet, masking it makes it virtually impossible for a hacker to target you. As an added bonus, it also tricks your ISP, or Internet Service Provider, to think that you’re somewhere that you aren’t, which further confuses potential hackers and comes with a lot of other perks.
Upon doing my research, I came across quite a few VPN services, engineered in different ways to serve a variety of needs. Some are better aimed to serve gamers who want to connect to a faster server; others are for people sharing files who need security and fluidity; others are aimed at larger companies with sensitive data, protecting them from DDoS attacks. The one that caught my eye was VPNArea because it had all the privacy and protection I was looking for.
You may not realize it but, when choosing a VPN service, it is very important to look to see where they’re based. VPNArea is founded in Bulgaria and all of their records and operations are in Switzerland, which was great news for me. It may seem odd but the good ones are based in countries that might seem unlikely. This is because they are trying to avoid a coalition called the “Fourteen Eyes” which is a group of countries (Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Holland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain) that have banded together against VPNs and privacy rights.
Any company that is run from one of these countries is subject to releasing information about their clients and their usage if pursued by the police or government. If anonymity and privacy is your goal, you want to avoid a VPN from those countries.
VPNArea does not log your information; anything you do or search or any data that is sent across their networks is immediately deleted and gone so there is no trace that the data has ever been there. For me, this was paramount. If any of the data I was transferring to and from our server got out and if any of our clients were exploited because of it, the entire company would be put in jeopardy.
VPNArea offers 3 tiers of service: monthly, 6-month subscriptions, or yearly subscriptions. When you select a higher tier, you pay less; the monthly plan is $9.90/month but if you choose the 6 month plan you only pay a little less ($8.33/month) and where you get the best deal is at 1 year for $4.92/month. That is a savings of almost half! The only downside, though, is you have to pay the full year in advance.
Don’t worry, though. VPNArea offers a 7 day money-back guarantee if you decide that you are not happy with the service.
The other nice part is that they honor their policy of anonymity by offering both traditional payment methods alongside anonymous methods such as Bitcoin.
Another great feature the AreaVPN offers is a free dedicated IP and server at no charge. You have a handful of countries to choose from for your server and, though they’re only available for a few months, it is free. Most people wouldn’t need that option but it is definitely nice to know that if you did need a dedicated IP address and server it would be available to you.
In an attempt to provide this tool to everyone, VPNArea has created a whole host of different program iterations. Not only do they have the major, current operating systems but they also have older versions and less common platforms such as Linux and Ubuntu.
When you’re first downloading for your computer, you’re presented with 17 platform choices, which is wonderful. Be sure to check your operating system so that you’re installing the correct iteration. Then hit the "Setup File" button. This downloaded the .dmg file to my downloads and I double clicked to open it... From there, things got very confusing. The file opened a window asking you to drag the VPNArea Chameleon to the applications folder...
When I did that only a shell of an application opened. It asked you to log in on the right and had the menu on the left but none of the sections had any content in them. I went back to the install page and noticed that there were detailed instructions on how to properly install the application. They weren’t far different from what I had done but they did say to transfer the downloaded .dmg file to the applications folder before opening it. So, when trying to give it another go, I couldn’t replace the Chameleon application with the newly installed version because it said the application was open.
I tried to delete the application manually and it gave me the same error, but there was no icon on the toolbar of my laptop. In the “Force Quit” no corresponding application appeared either. From there, I gave up and went to my desktop computer to install it there. I was able to follow the instructions and properly install the program and I even got it up and running! The interface is attractive and simple, with a menu on the left that allows you to toggle between the current VPN connection, a list of servers and their current speeds, an optional Kill Switch, Anti DNS Leak, Auto IP Changer, and Settings.
The “Home” screen is where you can see your connection and change to a different server. The text box below it logs all actions taken so you can review that if you wish.
There are no shortage of servers available, either. Each of the countries shown is represented as having server connections in each.
The servers are listed alphabetically by country initially but offer a header bar that lets you organize the list, however, suits you best. Additionally, on the bottom of the page, you can run a speed test for a few or all of the networks. Once the speed test is complete, you could organize the list by fastest ping speed or highest upload rate, depending on what you need at that moment.
The “Kill Switch” functions is an optional security measure that allows you to authorize the program to shut down any sensitive programs when it disconnects from the network and subsequently the server protecting your IP Address. If you’re handling sensitive material, this can be a very helpful tool, as it serves as a guard dog against information slipping out in the case that the VPN got disconnected and you didn’t notice
The Anti-DNS Leak function allows you to run DNS Leak tests on servers before you connect to them, which provides another layer of security. Another additional layer of security can be found by using the Auto IP Changer function, which allows you to select which servers you want to utilize and how often you want your ISP to change. Once you get it going, it automatically changes your IP address for you every once in awhile.
I have to stop here and make note of a few oddities that I encountered. When I opened the application for the very first time I did not see an icon appear on my toolbar of my laptop. The application floated on top of every other application running and there was no way to minimize it, only move it, so I moved it to the lower right corner of my screen while I wasn’t using it and pulled it back into the middle when I needed to check or change something. The major problem came in when I was done for the day and closed the screen out. When I tried to open it back up nothing happened; nothing at all. Again, no icon, but this time no window, either. I struggled for a while and then decided the best route was to uninstall and reinstall the program but there was no uninstall function. When I tried to “trash” the application I was returned with an error saying the application was still open and could not be thrown away. Upon looking in the “Force Quit” tool, no application was found. I was basically stuck in the mud and unable to do anything. The same thing happened on my desktop, too.
Speed is an essential quality most VPN users are looking for, so I decided to test the service on my desktop computer. The results I got are as follows:
The VPN showing to be the “fastest” has very similar speeds to my network connection, which is great. No muddied waters, not sluggish speeds but still all the protection I wanted. The USA Netflix server, however, was significantly slower on the ping speed and download speed, which could be due to the server being heavily used at the time, though there was no way of knowing the capacity usage. You will also notice that there are no tests for any far away locations. This is because every time I tried to connect in the UK or South America or Japan I was unable to successfully run a speed test without the test crashing and the WiFi connection disconnecting. Also, any connection I was able to get that was far away would essentially stall out and not connect. I was unable to do even a simple google search when connected to an international server.
Because of my connection issues with international servers, I was interested to see if the problem was from a leaking connection with some of the DNS servers. Unfortunately, the DNS Leak Test came back with less than stellar results. This is just one example but multiple servers reported similar results.
I switched to a US-based server and tried again and it showed no leak. Just to double check, I ran a TorGuard leak test and came up with no leaks.
Just for peace of mind, I ran an IPV6 Leak Test which showed that it was not leaking.
Because I use an iPhone, I downloaded and tried the app, just to see how it worked. It wasn’t the most intuitive app I’ve ever seen but you have to take into account that it was probably developed by a bunch of technologically savvy people, a group which I am not a part of. The idea is to help make coffee-shop browsing safer and emails while on-the-road secure.
The VPNArea app downloaded very quickly and I was able to log into it using the same login and password as the desktop application. However, I was a bit confused at first when I chose a server and it popped up a request to open an app called OpenVPN. I went back to the App Store and downloaded the OpenVPN app and, again, had to sign into it using my credentials from VPNArea. Once I opened the link to the server from the VPNArea app in the OpenVPN app I was able to get the VPN to connect and protect my phone. Note, though, that it asks you to sign in every time you change servers, which is a bit tedious. Essentially, the VPNArea app is where you go to find a server that suits your needs and then you open that server in the OpenVPN app and connect to it.
Of course, I had to test to see if the app was secure so I ran an IPLeak.net test, which showed that there was no DNS leak found. What this means is that the DNS server is solidly protecting your information.
Once connected, I ran a series of SpeedTest.net tests. I ran each test both on the 3G network and on the WiFi network. The speeds were all over the place and didn’t really seem to have a whole lot of consistency. The download speeds on 3G were significantly slower at a nearby server (about 25mbps less) when on the 3G network but when on WiFi the speed increased on the VPN connection by almost 13mbps! The fastest connection I could find was in Detroit, Michigan. Though the ping speed slowed, the upload and download speeds were only slightly diminished from the non-VPN connection. Not surprisingly, when I connected to a server in London, UK, halfway across the world, the speeds slowed significantly.
BBC and Netflix
When I'm traveling, I need to watch movies and tv shows on my phone or iPad, so I was curious to see if I could connect to content on the BBC iPlayer , which is normally restricted from those outside the United Kingdom. I was happy to find that, although the VPN was flagged on Safari, both Firefox and Chrome browsers were able to connect and view the content. As an added bonus, I was able to view Netflix and Hulu in various countries across the world which allowed me quite a significant diversity in content available to me.
Something worth noting is that when you transfer from WiFi to 3G and back again, the VPN has to disconnect but the app is designed to immediately reconnect you to the server again. I doubt that much data could be transferred in that few-second gap of time but it would be better if the app mimicked the kill-switch option that is given in the desktop program, killing internet connection to apps while they’re unprotected to the VPN.
If I’m being honest, it was very inconvenient that, when I was having trouble with the application, there was no one to help me on live-chat. This was on a Friday morning at around 10am EST and I did not receive an email in response until Monday evening, three and a half days later. Both the weekend and the distance to the home office might come into play on this issue but, as most any everyday user might, I was ready to move on to a different VPN service. Their response was very open and willing to help but they asked for error codes and I couldn’t even access them because my screen had closed and would not reopen.
Privacy is incredibly important in the world of VPN users and that is why VPNArea is acclaimed to be one of the best. They have a no-logs policy and none of the information on who their users are or what they are doing is even stored. Because they aren’t part of the 14 eyes coalition, they don’t have to. The government cannot force them to provide information, even with a subpoena. Another important feature is being able to maintain anonymity while paying so there is no trace. They even let you pay anonymously using Bitcoin.
From what I could tell, there was no legal controversy surrounding VPNArea nor did anyone else have much negative to say about it, barring some comments on slow speeds.
One of the most important security features a VPN service can offer is an SSL Certificate which allows the user the confidence of a secure tunnel between VPN servers. VPNArea offers that security with the boost of a 256-bit encryption. When it comes to hacking, a 256-bit encryption exponentially increases the difficulty for decoding information, making it virtually impossible to get at the data being transferred.
Of course, the additional security tools within the application only enhance this security. The DNS Leak testing definitely goes above and beyond anything I’ve seen on other services and the ability to automatically change your IP address at a specified interval of time blew my mind. I may not do anything that needs that level of protection but if you were handling sensitive information that would really make you feel safer.
As I mentioned earlier, I love to watch a little BBC when I’m traveling and I enjoy perusing media from other cultures around the world so getting access to blocked websites is a significant perk for me. I’m sure many people utilize VPN’s as a way to connect to data or websites that might otherwise be made unavailable to them for a variety of reasons. Because of connection issues on the desktop application, I was unable to see if this was possible. However, on the mobile app, I was able to connect pretty quickly and only one of my browsers was flagged. It was really nice to be able to connect quickly and succinctly without a bunch of trouble. For reference purposes, VPNArea offers many networks that are geared toward users looking to utilize services such as Netflix. Specifically, they have a USA server with a Netflix EU-hub and another that is just for Netflix, a UK Netflix server and another UK server for BBC content.
Ultimately, I was not very happy with the services offered by VPN area. The desktop application caused me a lot of trouble and I spent more than a full day trying to navigate a way to fix it. I ended up utilizing 3 computers and each time I still experienced the same issues. Yes, the application works when installed correctly but it hovers over the top of every other program and gets in the way and if you close it the program cannot be reopened. The mobile app was the redeeming factor because it worked seamlessly. I felt confident that my information was secure and didn’t notice any trouble with speed. True, I do not do anything that requires a speedy connection such as gaming or P2P file sharing but VPNArea has networks specifically geared toward them. After my experience, I will be canceling my subscription to this service and pursuing a refund as it does not work on my laptop and that is my primary need when I travel.
Well-established, user-friendly and solidly secure, VyprVPN seemed to be evolving before my eyes. Recent glitches in streaming mentioned on the Internet did not affect my usage and software updates appeared soon after set up.
VyprVPN is online services provider Golden Frog’s entry in the virtual privacy network (VPN) market. Founded in 2009 by Ron and Carolyn Yokubaitis (veterans with nearly a quarter century of Internet experience, each) Golden Frog is incorporated in Switzerland with headquarters in Austin, Texas. Along with listing core values like advocacy, innovation, ease of use, quality and ownership of all its servers, hardware, DNS and networks, Golden Frog frankly states it cannot promise Internet anonymity, but that it will improve your online privacy and security.
VyprVPN offers a 3-day free trial and a menu of three paid plans – basic, pro, and premier – each with a choice of monthly or annual billing. Each plan gives you simultaneous connections and unlimited data. Pro and premier provide protection from deep packet inspection (DPI) except on iOS devices.
VyprVPN does not accept BitCoin but does accept third payments via Alipay.
Installing VyprVPN on an unfamiliar computer using a much newer OS than I’m used to caused some initial Stump the Old Guy befuddlement, but was quickly resolved without pestering the young people or resorting to lengthy online chats with customer support.
Here again, I made this way harder than I needed to. Reading right past “Fastest Server” and “Show All Server Locations” on the drop down menu under the VyprVPN icon on the toolbar, I chose “Show VpyrVPN,” then puzzled a minute away until I figured out I needed to click on the location icon on the right side of the blue “Connect Fastest Server” button to pull up a list of more than 700 servers. Pretty sure any problems were a “Me” thing.
Are easy. Use the drop down menu to “Show “VpyrVPN” and use the little switchy thingys on the control panel if all you need is connect to your motel’s shady Wi-Fi, block malicious sites or turn the kill switch on and off, on and off, on and off. You’ll need to use the drop down menu for fancier stuff like switching security protocols or a whole bunch of advanced choices I don’t understand.
While tests showed significant drops in PING and download speeds, I didn’t notice any problems at all when streaming movies/TV on BBC’s iPlayer or Netflix.
Confirmation Email for my account took longer than I expected, but I got an immediate response when I contacted customer support.
PING of 75 is bad news for gamers. Download speed dropped by 65%. Uploads largely unchanged, dropping 6%.
VyprVPN worked just as well on a mobile device as on my desktop, streaming BBC vids without a hiccup and connecting to various servers with no trouble whatever.
Golden Frog incorporated in Switzerland to take advantage of that country’s favorable privacy laws, which protect your personal data and prohibit using your IP address to track your Internet usage.
That said, although VyprVPN does not log your DNS requests it DOES log time stamps, bandwidth, IP addresses, and DOES NOT permit you to use BitCoin.
VyprVPN cooperates with all Fourteen Eyes countries. And, although it has servers in four countries (Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam) that are considered Enemies of the Internet by Reporters Without Frontiers, none have jurisdiction over VyprVPN.
Have to provide CC and some personal info not only for a subscription but also for a free test.
Adds an extra layer of security to state of the art AES-256 cipher with RSA-2048 handshake encryption. However, VyprVPN only offers OpenVPN and its proprietary Chameleon meta data scrambling technology if you pay extra for its Pro and Premier plans. The basic plan uses less secure PPTP and L2TP/IPsec protocols. Of particular interest, if you’re using your mobile device is the extra protection the company’s NAT firewall puts between you and malicious traffic. VpyrVPN owns its own servers and gets a top SSL rating.
Despite dire warnings all ‘round the InterWebs, I had absolutely zero issues viewing TV shows and movies on my employer’s desktop (other than spending time watching TV shows and movies when I probably should’ve been doing other things). Ditto for BBC on iPlayer (This new series “Taboo” looks very cool). Lots of yada-yada-yada on the website, but, apparently, SmartDNS kicks in without you having to do anything, which was nice for a NeanderTech like me.
VyprVPN provides solid security, a promise of extra security from prying eyes and an ease of use that I greatly appreciated. Perhaps VyprVPN’s best feature is an intangible – I learned more about VPNs in an hour or so on its website than I did during a day spent Googling info about IPs, DNSs, AESs and a whole bunch more alphabet soup acronyms. I expect that regular use of VyprVPN’s could turn me into something of a VPN super sleuth.
When seeking anonymity of data and browsing, you need a reliable and secure VPN that you can trust. NordVPN has over 3,500 servers across the world and can be tailored to fit any user’s needs, from gaming to P2P file sharing, data security to expanded content availability.
One of the best VPN services I’ve found to date is NordVPN. NordVPN has been around since 2012 and was started by four friends who wanted to create a liberated Internet experience. Their main goals are to combat censorship and unwanted surveillance. They started small, with only one server, but now have over 3,500 servers.
NordVPN is based in Panama and therefore not part of the 5-eyes and 14-eyes alliances. This allows you total anonymity. The alliances are made up of countries that recognize VPNs as a potential risk and agree to share source IP location information in an effort to improve security. But with NordVPN, the government cannot order them to provide customer data.
There is only one level of VPN service offered by NordVPN; either you’re in or you’re out. Service is divided, rather, on how long you would like to be a part of their service. You can choose to pay month-by-month for $11.95/month; pay $83.88 per year; or pay $107.55 for a three-year subscription. Each plan comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, so if you’re not satisfied with the service you can get a refund
When you first log on, the program opens up to a menu bar on the left and a world map on the right. The world map shows a wide variety of points on it that you can click. When you click on, say, Germany it will connect you to which VPN it deems to be the best at that moment. If you prefer, you can choose between the multiple connections available in each country by double clicking on the map point. Depending on the country chosen, you will have more or fewer server choices. At the very top of the program, it has a slider that shows you whether or not you are connected to a VPN and which specific server you’re attached to. If you’re offline, it shows as red and says you are not connected.
Germany, specifically, has about 60 options and each is shown listed alongside its server load percentage and the distance to the server in miles, both of which can be of great help when determining which connection to choose. The server load is the capacity of the server being used currently which, when near its capacity, can slow response time. The distance to the server affects you ping, which is essentially the reaction time of your connection to a server. The farther you are from the server the slower the ping which really only affects people who might be using a network for gaming where you might need a fast ping to avoid lagging. As an added bonus, it lets you mark your favorite servers by clicking on the heart on the right and then keeps a list for you on the main menu.
The “Smart-Play™” function gives you access to streaming services from nearby networks. Essentially, what that means is that you can access the streaming media from different countries without being denied access due to being outside the country. For example, I wanted to see what would happen if I accessed Netflix from a different country’s ISP and was pleasantly surprised with a wide variety of different content when I chose an IP address from France. Upon asking the Customer Service Representative, they currently support Australia, Italy, India, France, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, South Africa, UK and US Netflix. I was also able to access-restricted video streaming from the BBC by connecting to a UK server. At first, I was blocked out more often than I was allowed in and connecting successfully required a lot of trial and error. This is a great example of why you should utilize the support staff because when I asked them how to connect they gave me a specific list of servers to utilize and I was able to connect immediately without a problem.
You can also choose the option to “Connect On Start” and which VPN network you want to connect to. If you have a favorite that works well for your needs, this can be a great way to bypass tedious processes of picking and connecting manually.
Also offered is an optional “Kill Switch” which lets you add programs and applications on your device that will automatically be “killed” upon disconnecting from a secure VPN. Most general users wouldn’t necessarily make use of this function but there are quite a few specific uses that this would be greatly desired for. If you were doing anything that requires absolute confidentiality, this would be very important. Also, if you’re streaming content, either legally or illegally, disconnecting from a secure VPN can immediately put you at risk from the ever-present witch-hunt that is looking for “rule breakers”. The Kill Switch function works differently on PC’s than on Mac operating systems; on PC’s, the apps will be closed down immediately whereas on Mac systems the Internet will be disconnected from that specific application so as to prevent a leak of information. This can also be very helpful if you are working on a sensitive document from a remote location.
Fast servers are also a major deciding point when choosing a VPN service as speed can make or break your experience online. The closer the server is to you physically the faster the connection speed. The more servers there are, the lower the server load and, subsequently, the faster your connection speed will be. You can also choose which type of server you want to use based on what you are doing. If you’re doing video streaming, you can choose an Ultra Fast TV server. If you’re doing peer to peer sharing, you can choose a P2P network. If you look on the previously noted servers list you can find which network is going to be best for your purpose and choose accordingly. (Note: Nord has since increased their number of servers.)
For ease of use, NordVPN has adapted their service and made programs for PC, Mac, iOS and Android platforms. This is especially helpful because you can take your VPN security on the road with you on your smartphone. Now, sitting in a coffee shop and browsing on your phone is much safer. With your subscription service, you can use the application on your computer at work, your laptop, your home desktop, tablet and smartphone with complete fluidity.
Also worthy of note, their customer service is top notch. On the very bottom of the web page is a blue “Support” button that lets you directly connect with an agent who is polite and helpful. I had login issues at the beginning (completely my fault) and they patiently helped me sort out the problem until I was successfully logged in. Whenever I had a question about a function or feature they were right there to explain it to me. I have never experienced better customer service on a website before.
As noted earlier, connection speed is super important. So, I decided to test different areas of the world to see how they performed. My pre-VPN speed at home was:
When I connected to a VPN in Chicago, USA the speed went down but only very minimally:
Further away, in Canada, the ping slowed as did the download:
For fun, I tested Costa Rica. The ping, again, slowed:
When I tested a server listed as an “Ultra-Fast TV” network, I was surprised to find that it was very similar to my non-protected speeds; only 2 ms slower ping, 8 Mbps slower download, and actually a faster upload speed. And, that was at an 86% server load:
After running a handful of different DNS Leak Test web services on a variety of VPN location choices I am happy to say that I didn’t find a leak anywhere. This is not surprising, though, because NordVPN has a DNS Leak protection program running 24/7 to automatically detect and repair any leaks.
When installing the NordVPN app on my phone, I was impressed with how seamless and easy it was to do. It doesn’t have every feature that the desktop application has, such as the server list of which networks are best designed for a specific type of use, but that can be accessed by connecting to their website. It gives you a full list of all the servers you can choose from but does not list their current capacity or distance. Again, I’m sure connecting to the website would solve this problem.
The Smart Reconnect function was a new feature on the app. When activated, it automatically switched you to an available network if the specific network you’ve chosen was unavailable or became disconnected.
I found it rather helpful that the VPN connection transitioned seamlessly when changing from a Wi-Fi network to a 3G network. It didn't have to disconnect and reconnect - it just flowed seamlessly into the new connection.
I tested for IP leaks on my cell phone and none were found. I also tested to see what the connection speed was over Wi-Fi and the 3G network in 3 ways: With VPN in the United Kingdom, without the VPN on, and with a “Superfast TV” server in the United States. I labeled each test in the photo below.
Not surprisingly, the fastest speeds were found without the VPN active. The connection speed with the United Kingdom was about half as fast and, honestly, I was shocked to see that the “Superfast TV” connection that was closer to home was even slower.
Privacy is paramount in the VPN world and that is why NordVPN is one of the best companies out there. They keep no logs of any information on who their users are or what they are doing. They don’t have to because they’re not founded in one of the 5 eyes or 14 eyes countries, so the government cannot snoop or even subpoena information. They even let you pay anonymously using Bitcoin if you want. They have a program that peruses their servers all the time that is engineered to notice DNS Server leaks and repair them immediately.
Previously, TOR was used as a tool to provide anonymity by filtering your online inquiries, streaming and downloading through various computers and servers on the network, thus making it harder for that information to be tracked. But don’t be fooled into thinking that anonymity is the same as security. Using TOR actually makes you of more interest to organizations like the NSA and police because they see that you’re obviously trying to avoid being tracked and they don’t have the same legal protection that VPN’s do. With enough effort, they can figure out who you are, especially if they inject malware onto the network. That is why NordVPN has set up servers specifically to utilize the combined function of TOR with encrypted international VPN servers, thus exponentially increasing your security.
I’ve also noticed that it is of the utmost importance to NordVPN that you are given absolute anonymity. They have originated their services in Panama for that exact purpose - to avoid being a part of the 14 eyes coalition and therefore not having to share your information if the government were to some in and request it. They don’t keep any logs of activity or users and they provide double-encrypted server options to raise security to the next level.
One of the biggest bragging points for NordVPN is its Double Data Encryption. This means that your traffic is filtered through two VPN servers, which ensures that your information is kept private and you remain anonymous. This second level of encryption is, essentially, a failsafe and gives an added layer of protection. If you want, you can even choose which double VPN combination you want by looking at the servers list.
Of course, it is integral that they have ensured an SSL certificate and have a secured tunnel with the VPN servers they own. With 256-bit encryption, they’ve brought protection to the next level. The time it would take to decrypt the 256-bit version of your data would take an eternity with modern technology. If you’re still concerned, though, they offer special servers that are DDoS protected that route the information through multiple avenues before it gets where it is going, encrypting it each time it touches a new server. Even still, with no logs being kept, it is virtually impossible for your data to become compromised.
Significant amounts of people utilize VPNs as a way to connect to data or websites that might be unavailable to them specifically due to their location. For example, the BBC iPlayer, which is limited to only residents of the UK. I, personally, am one of those people who would love to be able to watch British shows and news but cannot because I am in the United States. My ability to connect with the BBC iPlayer was hit and miss until I asked for help. Sometimes I was able to connect without being blocked by the site, other times I couldn’t find a connection no matter which browser I was using or which server I was connected to. When I sought support from the customer service and they were able to provide me a specific set of servers that would be compatible with the BBC. As soon as I connected to the server they suggested I had no problems.
I also tried to see what other content I could get on Netflix, as I know that different countries offer various content that might not be available in the United States. I was 100% successful for each country I attempted. My favorite, though, had to be Italy. Please note, however, that Netflix is limited to only certain countries that are supported. Currently, that list includes Australia, Italy, India, France, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, South Africa, UK, and US (as noted previously).
Ultimately, I was very happy with the services offered by NordVPN. I needed their services but I was not very well versed in technology so I was a bit intimidated at first but their applications and programs are designed to be very simple and user-friendly and it made me feel very comfortable. When I ran into problems, their customer support team was literally that - a team - and I felt as though they were all there to help me, despite some technical knowledge I lacked.
I’m not a gamer, so I cannot speak on their behalf, but I would assume that they might have some issues with ping speed if they were playing live-action games with other users around the world. As long as they test out the servers and find one that works well for them before they begin they should be just fine, though. All in all, I was very happy with the service and will absolutely be telling my friends and family about this incredible resource. I felt very safe and knew without a shadow of a doubt that the information I was sending online was secured and encrypted.
While it does not have the best available performance or the most robust set of features, Zoog is easy to install, easy to use, and supported on a variety of platforms and devices. It also has some great video tutorials to assist in setup and unblocking content, as well as wallet-friendly subscription plans.
Founded in 2013, Greece-based Zoog has carved out a niche for itself as an intuitive and simple VPN that caters specifically to users of online streaming services, such as Netflix. While Netflix and similar services typically block access from proxy servers and VPNs, Zoog is one of the products that does not get stymied by these types of protections, while still maintaining user privacy and security.
ZoogVPN is one of the few premier services that offers a free plan. It is limited to only 2GB of data transfer per month, which goes pretty quickly even with average internet usage, but is better than nothing. Since some users of other VPNs report difficulty in utilizing free trials or money back guarantees, a totally free subscription is a great way to try the service out with no obligation or hassle of cancellation.
After that, there is only one basic plan that is sold in three different subscription lengths - one-month, six-month, and one year (at the time of this post, pricing was $5.99/$3.99/$2.49 per month, respectively). They run frequent specials and discounts, so if you are considering getting a VPN soon, it pays to check out their very polished website from time to time. Compared to VPNs of similar quality, these pricing models are on the good side of average.
ZoogVPN markets itself, and builds it features accordingly, as a VPN for content streamers who either want to bypass geographic restrictions on websites or at the very least access content usually unavailable through proxy servers. This is made clear by the content of their website and the types of help available in their tutorials and FAQ section. Zoog’s goal is to give customers a way to privately and securely access sites such as Hulu, Netflix, or Xfinity.
Since these sites are often changing their own security measures, we went ahead and tested ZoogVPN on Netflix - and it worked like a charm. Should a user experience problems with one of these sites, Zoog’s website contains information on how to change servers or security protocols in order to regain access.
The interface and option menus are set up differently than many other VPNs. Some users might find it to be refreshingly simple and minimalist, while others would wish that it had a little more charm. Either way, the application is unobtrusive and as easy to navigate as something with as much technical voodoo as a VPN could be. The same could be said for its sign up and installation procedures - while fast and relatively easy, it manages to feel tedious and mundane in a way that few modern VPNs have been.
Note: At the time of posting this review there was no Mac option, however, now there is. It uses IKEv2 VPN protocol for lightning-fast connections. OpenVPN TCP/UDP is also available. Other features include VPN-on-demand for auto-reconnect and a Kill Switch.
Setting up a VPN is the easy part, and while an attractive UI and easy installation process is nice and all, most of the time your VPN will just be running in the background. Since all VPNs will have an impact on performance, latency, and speed, we started first with a few speed tests of ZoogVPN.
Our baseline results before and after connecting to the nearest ZoogVPN server from www.speedtest.com.
Unfortunately, this was the largest drop in performance we have seen. When we tried doing some streaming on Netflix, however, performance seemed to be fine. With these numbers, it would be hard to recommend ZoogVPN for online gaming or torrenting purposes, but for regular web browsing and videos, it was serviceable. Also note that your mileage may vary, as there are many factors involved in speed over a VPN, so it could still be worth trying out Zoog and seeing what results you get.
Next, I went to see if our IP was successfully changed, which it was, and followed that up with a peek on ipv6leak.com which showed us that it was not leaking.
These basic tests left us satisfied that the VPN tunnel was working as intended for at least a basic level of security.
While the use of a VPN will keep your IP anonymous when browsing, we took a look to see what types of logs ZoogVPN keeps. Being based in the UK, they are subject to both national and EU data retention logs. According to their website, they do keep minimal connection logs regarding time and duration of sessions, as well as the amount of data transfer. While they do not state how long they keep these logs for, they do go on to say that they keep no logs whatsoever of online activity within a session. Still, for a user looking for the most privacy possible, it might be prudent to try some other VPNs - while their policy sounds reasonable, being based in the UK and not having as long as a track record of anonymity as other providers causes a small amount of skepticism.
Overall, Zoog is not set to make huge waves in the world of VPNs. Its main appeal is the ability to access a variety of streaming sites, even across regions - they are very committed to delivering this, including guides and tutorials on how to stay one step ahead should the proxy-vetting of Netflix, et al. change. If this is a big priority, and you aren’t looking for blazing fast speeds for online gaming or torrenting, then ZoogVPN may give you all you need in a simple, affordable package.