​PrivatePackets.io VPN Review

PrivatePackets.io advertises “painless VPN servers” for just $3 that would “easily” unblock streaming sites, hide your IP and location, bypass censorship, and install “easily” on any device. The company also advertises zero logs and a unlimited number of simultaneous connections.


Now, remove all instances of painless and easy from the copy, and add technical and mind-numbing, and you’re closer to the truth.

What PrivatePackets.io offers is not a Virtual Private Network, but a Virtual Private Server run by an entirely different entity – Digital Ocean. By renting some space on Digital Ocean’s server, you can set up your private VPN with PrivatePackets’ help. After that, you’re on your own with Digital Ocean, which isn’t even a VPN provider.

Digital Ocean is a New York-based cloud infrastructure provider offering data centers in seven countries. “Cloud computing, designed for developers” is their slogan, so expect plenty of tech jargon on their website and in your dashboard. Your service, for instance, is dubbed Droplet.


Pricing and Plans

PrivatePackets charges a one-time $3 fee for setting up your VPS and sending you the instructions and user/password combo via email. After that, you can revoke their access to your server.

Digital Ocean charges you $5 per month for the server space. It is your subscription to Digital Ocean that’s recurring. None of the $3 or $5 that you pay during the initial setup are refundable. Digital Ocean provides no refunds as such.

PrivatePackets.io only accepts payments via credit cards – and requires your phone number. Digital Ocean accepts credit cards and PayPal. Not private or anonymous, and the signup process is frustratingly complicated.

So, what do you get for your money? You get some resources on just one physical server run by Digital Ocean. You can choose between seven locations – New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, and Toronto. You can’t have two locations per Droplet. So, $5 - initially $8 – get you a VPS in one location.

PrivatePackets.io only accepts payments via credit cards – and requires your phone number. Digital Ocean accepts credit cards and PayPal. Not private or anonymous, and the signup process is frustratingly complicated.

So, what do you get for your money? You get some resources on just one physical server run by Digital Ocean. You can choose between seven locations – New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, and Toronto. You can’t have two locations per Droplet. So, $5 - initially $8 – get you a VPS in one location.

The good news is you’ll be the only person – or the only household – using that Droplet since the number of simultaneous connections is not restricted.

The bad news is it’s highly technical, no good for P2P, and you only unblock streaming services in one country. There is no free trial or refund.


Features

You can set up your VPN on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. PrivatePackets has setup guides on their website, and even though they are detailed, they are not broken down by OS version or protocol. For instance, the Windows setup guide for L2TP is for Win 8 or 10, but not for Win 7, and there is no guide for OpenVPN.

There’s also a standalone guide for SoftEther client setup. That’s pretty much all of PrivatePackets’ knowledge base – five guides and a handful of FAQs. The company just assumes their target audience is tech-savvy, and it shows.

The setup is anything but painless. There is no software – all the tweaks are done in your computer’s control panel and deeper. The only good news here is PrivatePackets also sends you config files for OpenVPN, which is the fastest way you can get started.

Digital Ocean also sends you a welcome email chock full of cyber gibberish that requires above average technical skills to understand. These are instructions on how to access your server, change password, and such – you’ll have to do it through a console.

I used the config files for OpenVPN, so the customization is restricted to the open-source client. There is no instruction for OpenVPN here, and having used it many times, I still felt confused as to which file I had to use. So I just poked at things and finally discovered it was the “Remote Access L3” file that provided the connection.

A word on support – it sucks. PrivatePackets never replied to my request for help. Digital Ocean’s support agent was explicitly condescending in pointing out I contacted them via the wrong “contact support” form, and they’d prefer that I stopped bothering them about VPN issues. Instead of forwarding my request to the “right” department, he just waved me off.

One PrivatePackets purchase grants you one VPN server on a dedicated Ubuntu 14.04x64 server hosted by Digital Ocean. You get root access to it and a rebuild link you can use whenever your server doesn’t work right.

PrivatePackets supports OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, SSL and SSTP.

You have a customer’s dashboard with Digital Ocean, but it’s mostly for stats and access to your server. You are allowed to do with that server whatever you like, provided you know how.

One noteworthy feature is you can connect as many devices as you need.

Understandably, there is no kill switch, VPN management dashboard, or server switching as with other providers. You’re locked into one server in one location. Don’t even think about torrenting through a US-based provider.


Tests

The speed drop in my tests was not significant, although my default speed tonight was unfortunate:

And here is the speed test result for PrivatePackets VPN US server:

The privacy tests showed my connection wasn’t leaking my DNS, WebRTC, or IPv6, although the connection relies on Google DNS:

Unblocked US repositories of Netflix and HBO were the only silver lining to the otherwise lackluster service:


Privacy and Security

Even though your traffic goes through 128-bit AES encrypted tunnel, and you can choose to use OpenVPN, there are still some privacy concerns that make PrivatePackets’ offer an unlikely recommendation.

PrivatePackets doesn’t log your activities, and you can revoke their access to your server after setup, but DigitalOcean is not in the privacy business. They may not log your usage data since it’s encrypted, but they log session data.

Since your VPS gives you a static IP address, it can be easily traced back to you. Again, being a US-based company, Digital Ocean will hand over all the information about you to law enforcement if they are compelled. So you won’t be file-sharing or engaging in any political or investigative activity when connected to your VPS.

Moreover, if copyright holders send Digital Ocean a DMCA notice, your account might get suspended, or worse, your details might end up in the hands of the copyright holder.

DNS resolution either relies on Google DNS, OpenNIC, or your ISP, which isn’t the industry’s best standard for a VPN. The bottom line is PrivatePackets.io VPN is anything but anonymous or private.


Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to host a private VPN on a rented server and have enough skills to be self-reliant most of the time, give it a try – it’s cheap. If you’re looking for a regular, accessible VPN – look elsewhere.

2.8

Pros:

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    Unlimited number of simultaneous connections
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    OpenVPN, encryption
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    $5 per month
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    Unblocks Netflix US

Cons:

  • Speeds are unimpressive
  • Limited, slow, unfriendly support
  • No P2P
  • You can have one location only, so combining Netflix with BBC iPlayer
  • Session logs
  • Accepts PayPal and credit cards only
  • Your connection can be easily traced
  • Highly technical, steep learning curve, geared toward advanced users