Looking for a decent VPN service can be a bit of a daunting exercise these days due to the simple fact that there are so many companies out there offering similar services. That said, you can make choosing which service is right for you a bit simpler by checking to see that it does what you require of it, as well as some other important questions.
In this article I will be reviewing iVPN, who describe themselves as a privacy focused VPN service. I will also be running speed tests for their Single-hop and Multi-hop servers via my desktop and mobile connection. So firstly, lets take a look at some of the questions that I normally ask myself when choosing a VPN:
- Do they retain logs, and if so for how long?
- What are their speeds like and how much of a speed hit will I get?
- Do they support P2P?
- Do they allow for unlimited server switching?
- How often do you add servers for other countries?
- What protocols do they support?
- Can I access geo-restricted site like Hulu or the iPlayer from my country?
- How much does it cost?
- What platforms are supported?
- How is the customer support?
Where iVPN have replied to some of the questions I asked them via email, I will quote below.
Do iVPN retain logs?
Yes they do, but only for initial connectivity testing for approximately 10 minutes as if there are any issues then they will be able to see where the issue lies. These are very typical logs that all VPN providers will keep. However, there are a lot of VPN services that will retain logs (sites you connect to, P2P usage etc) for as long as a year. iVPN do not which is great to hear.
We retain logs on the gateway VPN servers for around 10 minutes in a buffer in memory which is never written to disk. This allows us troubleshoot client connection issues whilst ensuring that no logs are ever stored on the server. In terms of the information we hold on each customer, we store the email address indefinitely unless the customer requests to have their account deleted when their subscription terminates. The email address is not associated with any VPN account after the subscription terminates as the VPN account is deleted. Also if a customer chooses to configure a Paypal subscription to automatically pay their invoices, then we store the Paypal subscription ID (We have to in order to correlate the payment to the correct invoice).
Do they support P2P?
Yes they do, but if you wish to use P2P then it is advised to use the Netherlands (NL) server to do so. However, there isn’t currently a built-in setting whereby is your iVPN connection drops out the P2P client will also be killed. This means that when the VPN connection drops out you will then be automatically connected to your standard connection via your ISP at which point you can easily be monitored. The Vuze P2P client have this feature built-in which is great. CactusVPN, who I reviewed a while back also have a function that will kill a user-selected program should its connection die. Hopefully iVPN will address this issue in their new Windows client that is expected in a few months which will have quite a bit packed into it. Another thing to check for when using any VPN service, is to see whether or not you may have a DNS leak on your end as this can still expose you. Most of the time you may be fine, but it’s worth checking just to be sure.
Due to the encryption that most Bittorrent clients default to it’s almost impossible to stop P2P traffic unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in expensive dedicated hardware. We have no issues with our customers using P2P on our network however with servers based in the USA, we are faced with hundreds of DMCA notices every week. Eventually our upstream service providers will disconnect us if they continue to receive DMCA notices for us as it reflects badly on them. For this reason we are forced to request that our customers use non-USA gateways for P2P downloading. Our official policy is – http://www.ivpn.net/
Below is a screenshot I took where I was downloading the Steal This Film II documentary (perfectly legal) and the speeds were only a fraction less compared to my standard connection. I was connecting using the NL server and the OpenVPN protocol.
What are their prices like?
With any service out there, you get what you pay for. iVPN’s prices are marginally higher that most other VPN providers, but I would be more than happy to pay knowing that they take a very serious stance on security and protecting the privacy of their users.
- Once off – $20
- Monthly – $15
- Quarterly – $40 (most popular)
- Biannual – $70
- Annual – $100
Do they allow unlimited server switching?
Yes, you can switch between US, UK, FR, NL servers as many times as you like and it is very simple to do. Simply disconnect from the server you are currently connected to and select another one.
How often do they add new servers?
Not often, but for my needs having a couple of US servers, Netherlands server, UK and French servers is all I require. If your needs are different, like you need a server in Asia or elsewhere, then you may want to look to another VPN service. In their response to me they advised using the HideMyAss VPN which I would not recommend due to the fact that they do retain logs, even though they state they do not, plus they do not have a very good reputation. Instead I would use Private Internet Access (PIA) which is a brilliant VPN and very well regarded. I have written a review for them here.
Not very often over the past few years. This year however we will be expanding to Canada, Germany and a few other locations within the USA. We are a privacy focused VPN service, if you need hundreds of IP’s to switch between you’re better off using a proxy service or a VPN like HideMyAss.
What protocols do they support?
OpenVPN andL2TP/IPSec both of which use AES 256 bit encryption. PPTP is not offered due to it’s security weakness and stability. If you want to know the differences between each of the protocols offered then see their chart here.
We currently use the standard open-source OpenVPN client as we believe in using open-source where possible especially in a security context. However we realize that OpenVPN’s goals are not privacy focused and so we are currently in development of a client that will offer this functionality and more.
What platforms are supported?
- Mac OSX
- Apple iOS
Can I access geo-restricted site like Hulu or the iPlayer from my country?
Short answer is yes. I am easily able to access Hulu (which is normally blocked to me) from here in the UK and catch up with some TV shows. If you are wishing to access the iPlayer from outside the UK then you should also be able to do so without issue. One thing to bear in mind though, is that some sites may block VPN servers from accessing their site like TVCatchup in the UK does, although this means that they will have to constantly update their IP Address list. When I connected to Hulu using the Texas server I had no buffering issues at all and the episode (Nikita) was great. The same was for when I connected to the server in Paris so that I could catch up with Canal+
Hulu in the US playing fine from UK
Canal+ in France playing fine from UK
How is the customer support?
This is a big one for me as I hate having to wait for a reply to a question, especially if the issue requires a fast response. The good news is that from the emails that I sent to support, the replies were very quick and detailed.
What speeds can I expect when connected to their service?
I left this one for last as I have run quite a few speed tests for their various servers. In the tests I used the OpenVPN protocol for the desktop tests and the L2TP/IPSec protocol for the mobile tests. I didn’t use the OpenVPN protocol on my mobile as it is simpler for me to use L2TP/IPSec on my device which is an un-rooted Nexus 4 running the latest OS (Jelly Bean 4.2.2). You should also note that you should expect a speed difference between the multi-hop and single-hop connections due to the physical fact that the connection is being routed via multiple connections when using multi-hop. However, multi-hop is a lot more secure. Also, your speeds may be better or worse than my results depending on not only your normal ISP’s network speeds but also the time of day in which you are accessing the particular servers, as many other people may be using them at the same time.
I used Speedtest.net for my speed tests on both the desktop and mobile.
Desktop Speed tests
The below speeds were all taken today. My ISP is BE Broadband (UK) and my connection is hard-lined, not wireless. I used the OpenVPN protocol for connecting to the VPN servers as this allows the you to use the multi-hop connection.
Not connected to iVPN (Normal speeds)
Single-hop connection using iVPN’s UK server
Single-hop connection using iVPN’s US (Dallas, Texas) server
Single-hop connection using iVPN’s US (Los Angeles, CA) server
Single-hop connection using iVPN’s NL (Netherlands) server
Single-hop connection using iVPN’s FR (France) server
Multi-hop connection using iVPN’s NL to UK servers
Multi-hop connection using iVPN’s NL to US servers
Multi-hop connection using iVPN’s UK to NL servers
Multi-hop connection using iVPN’s UK to US servers
Multi-hop connection using iVPN’s US to NL servers
Multi-hop connection using iVPN’s US to UK servers
Mobile Speed tests
As I said before, I used the L2TP/IPSec protocol for the mobile tests as I find it easier to configure for my device, although you can use the OpenVPN one if you wish. My mobile network provider in the UK is Three. My speeds tend to vary on my mobile depending on what time it is, although around 12-15Mbps Download is normal with Upload rarely changing. These tests were taken on the same day as the desktop ones above.
If you are unsure as to how to use a VPN on your mobile device then please check out my article here. In that article I am using Nexus 4 running Jelly Bean 4.2.2, but the principles can be applied for other devices.
Well, I hope this iVPN review has been of use to you when deciding on whether iVPN may be right for you. From my using the service over the past week or so, it seems very reliable (didn’t have any server drops) and the speeds are also good. If you have any questions about the review then please ask below.