[Update] There is an updated review for CactusVPN here that shows many of the improvements to the service since this one was written.
Over the next week or so I will be testing out a few different VPN services so that it will give some of my readers a better idea of some of the services out there.
In the past I have done reviews on FBVPN, (no longer available) BTGuard and IBVPN as well as including some speed tests. Today I will be taking a quick look at another service called CactusVPN. Please note that for this review I am using their free 24hr trial, and the installation will be different for a paid subscription.
Firstly, for those wanting to know if it supports P2P without reading through the whole article, it does but if they find that you are using their service for P2P on their UK or US servers they will give you a warning. Do it again and they may terminate your contract without warning. However, they do have a server in the Netherlands that you are able to use for P2P services. This is something that I have noticed the majority of VPN providers do. It’s a shame as P2P in itself is perfectly legal, however due to the massive bandwidth that they would be using, it’s no wonder that they only allow it on one.
You can test the service out for yourself by using the free 24hr trial, or simply sign up for either one of the available packages:
- UK Server – from $4.99 per month
- US Server – from $4.99 per month
- NL Server (P2P/BitTorrent VPN) – from $4.99 per month
- All 3 Servers – from $9.99 per month
With every package you will get Open VPN, PPTP, L2TP/IP Sec protocols and Proxy. Once you have chosen which package you would like, simply pay via PayPal or credit card and you will receive a link enabling you to download the client along with a username and password.
There are some useful set up tutorials here for the following operating systems and devices that are supported. Please note that CactusVPN have now released a new client for Mac OS users allowing them to enjoy the same features as Windows users. The set up tutorial for Mac OS users can be found here, and the program can be downloaded here.
- Windows 8
- Windows 7
- Mac OSX
- iPhone and iPod Touch
- DD-WRT Router
Installing the trial version is a piece of cake, however you may see the below warning regarding the TAP-Win32 Adapter and its compatibility with XP. You are perfectly safe to click Continue Anyway.
Once the installation has completed you will see the main window for the CactusVPN client.
Simply input the username and password that they gave to you in the email, and hit Log In.
Now you are logged in its time to select which server to connect to. If you are just wanting to use the service for a secure way of communication, like using a free or open wireless connection in a cafe/ pub/ hotel for example, then any of these will do. The fastest server though will be the one that is geographical closer to where your present location is. If you are using the VPN service to bypass geo-restricted sites like Hulu, ABC, BBC iPlayer etc then select the appropriate server. For example, I am in the UK and would like to watch an episode of The Family Guy on Hulu. Normally I would receive the message stating that the service is unavailable in my area, so to get around this I would simply select the US-based server in CactusVPN and connect to it. This way the site now thinks that I am in the US and will happily play the content for me, like so:
Now lets take a quick look at the setting tab in the main screen
I have left everything at the default settings with the exception of adding 2 programs that I would like to be killed if the connection to the VPN server dies. This really is a good thing and something I wish more VPN clients would do. For example BTGuard, although a good service have a tendency to drop the connection leaving you exposed to people tracking what you are doing. A concern especially among users of P2P. I don’t have CactusVPN to start at boot, as I like to have as little as possible starting with my computer. Adding your P2P client or other application to CactusVPN is very simple and only involves you selecting Add Application and browsing to you Programs Files folder and then to the program folder in question. Highlight the .exe for the program and hit Open. Now it should be added to CactusVPN.
I sent an email to CactusVPN to ask them as to whether they retain logs and if so, for how long. Here is their reply:
please, first of all, let us know where will the giveaway be published.
– we do not track and do not know about what you’re uploading/downloading using our services, and there are no logs including this information;
– we don’t register sites you are visiting;
– we don’t know which applications you are using.
We, of course know your personal information that clients provide when they pay our services, but this data has no connection with VPN activity logs, and even no connection with servers with VPN functions. You maybe observed that the VPN account has no real data, even it does not include your email address. We had completely separate accounting and technical functions.
Logs are one of the main concerns for a lot of people who wish to use VPN’s so it is good to see that they do not retain activity logs of the users. The only information that is kept, are your email details and payment details which you gave when you signed up. These have no reference at all to what you do with your VPN connection.
What are the speeds like when using CactusVPN with P2P?
To test this, I grabbed some well-known and seeded torrent files which would hopefully give me a good idea of the speeds I would be getting when connecting to The Netherlands server. As you can see from the screenshot of uTorrent below, my speeds when downloading torrent files was maxed out at 4.1MB/s, which is the same as I would be getting if I were downloading without a VPN connection.
Now let’s do a few speed tests. First I will post my normal speeds without being connected to the VPN service. I am in the UK and my ISP is BE Broadband, (best ISP in the UK IMO) and I conducting the test via SpeedTest.net using Chrome (latest build)
Not connected to VPN (normal speed)
Connected to US Server
Connected to UK Server
Connected to NL (P2P friendly) Server
So speed wise, the VPN servers were very good. The US server was slower, but geographically it is a lot further away than the other servers, and for watching HD streaming video on US sites it doesn’t cause an issue.
Another thing to make sure of when you are using a VPN, is to make sure that you don’t have any DNS leaks.
Overall I would definitely recommend using this service. The set up is simple as is the ease of use. The support via email is quick (I received a reply within approx 30 mins which is good). The ability to access geo-restricted sites such as Hulu and iPlayer is simple and there is no buffering issues, which is something you might get if you chose a free VPN/Proxy service. Price wise the service is about average and in a few cases cheaper. The ability to also use P2P clients whilst connected to a VPN is also a big plus, as is the function to kill the P2P client should the VPN connection cut out.
Also, if you are in the US and want to watch the London 2012 Olympics, then using this service would be a great solution as connecting to the UK server and then watching the games on the BBC iPlayer is easy. The Olympics are available to watch for free on YouTube for most other countries in the world, except for the US. US viewers are forced to use NBC’s services which is a shame.
Free Giveaway Time! (Note that this giveaway has now ended)
I have kindly been given 10 free CactusVPN accounts (valid for 3 months) to give away to readers of this site. The winners will be able to use the VPN service for the P2P/BitTorrent server (not US or UK)
a) Follow us on Twitter, like on Facebook or add us to circles on Google+.
b) Post this on any of Twitter, Google+ or Facebook: Giveaway: VPN services from www.cactusvpn.com on http://bit.ly/LQ6I6U
A) Drop a comment below and don’t forget to provide us your Email and Name. We will notify you using the Email.
This competition will run for the next 7 days. The winners (10) will be selected at random and will be informed directly after the competition ends via Email. Good luck to everyone!