Pricing and Features
VPN.S offers a range of plans, all with different features.
Free VPN (free)
Although quite restricted, the offer of a free VPN service is still great. The main limitations of the package are:
- It is slow*
- 600Mb data limit
- Ad supported*
- Access to just one US based server
- Windows only
- Activities logged
Obviously no fancy extras are included but hey, it’s free!
*These are limitation claimed by VPN.S. However as will see, in our tests we did not encounter them.
Smarter DNS ($4.95 p/m)
Designed primarily to allow streaming of web TV services that are geo-locked to their country of origin, this service lets you to access the internet through VPN.S’s own web DNS servers. Because the connection is direct rather than through a VPN server, there is no extra lag involved, making this service ideal for streaming Hulu and NetFlix content when outside the USA, or iPlayer and 4oD content when outside the UK (for example).
A nice feature that helps to set this apart from other similar services is the availability of dedicated applications for Windows and Mac, in addition to apps for iOS and Android. This means that you don’t have to delve into the innards of your internet settings and change the DNS setting manually, which is especially important as not all websites play game with private DNS servers, and it is therefore useful to be able to easily turn the settings on andoff.
All the other packages include unlimited bandwidth, an HHTP proxy, and access to all servers (29 servers in 20 countries). Unusually, VPN.S let you opt for a dedicated fixed IP rather than the more usual dynamically assigned one when you first join one of their paid plans. Other than the free VPN service, there is no free trial or money back guarentee (unless you cannot connect with the help of the VPN.S support team) but there is a $2 for 2 days trial available.
HTTP Proxy ($3.95 p/m)
This plan give you access to an HTTP Proxy. Nearly all web browsers and P2P clients can be configured to connect to one of these, and the outside world will only see the IP address of the proxy server. A nice touch is that VPN.S supplies an optional extension for the Chrome browser which removes the need for manual configuration. As a technology however, using an HTTP proxy is not very secure.
PPTP/L2TP ($7.95 p/m)
This VPN service lets you connect to the VPN.S servers using the less secure PPTP or L2TP protocols. These 128-bit encrypted protocols remain in common use in business, and many mobile devices (such as iPads and iPhones) can only connect using them.
SSH Socks5 ($9.95 p/m)
This is an improved proxy service that uses a much more secure SSL socket layer tunnel to the proxy server to help ensure privacy. However, given that this service costs the same as the OpenVPN, service but offers less security and does not protect your entire internet connection in the way that a true VPN service does, we are at a bit of a loss as to why anyone would choose it.
OpenVPN ($9.95 p/m)
As the name would suggest, this package allows you to connect to the VPN servers using the OpenVPN protocol.
OpenVPN & PPTP ($13.95)
This plan obviously allows use of both PPT and OpenVPN protocols. It could prove useful if, for example you, you wanted to connect both your PC and iPhone to the internet via VPN.
The Website & Customer Support
The website is attractive and easy to navigate, with a nice promotional animation on the Home page. However, although there is a lot of blurb and a fairly lengthy FAQ, hard facts are a little short on the ground. Greater explanation of the encryption technologies used, or the benefits of Socks5 would have been greatly appreciated for example.
Support comes in the form on an email ticket system and live chat. When a live chat operative is available, we found the response was quick, knowledgeable and friendly, although in our time with VPN.S an operative was often not around.
There is also a Support Forum, but this mainly consists of setup guides and a little general troubleshooting advice.
Privacy and security
VPN.S states on its website that “connection logs are erased every 24 hours and no VPN traffic logs are stored”. However, close inspection of the Terms of Service does not seem to bear this out, as the TOC says that VPN.S will not “not monitor, edit, or disclose any personal information… unless vpnsecure.me has reason to believe that such action is necessary to: (1) conform to legal requirements or comply with legal process; (2) protect and defend the rights or property of vpnsecure.me; (3) enforce the Agreement; or (4) to protect the interests of its other Members. This does not sound like complete privacy with no logs kept to us!
Users worried about the technology side of online security should only really be considering the OpenVPN plan, and here VPN.S scores very well, providing super-secure 2048-bit encryption, which is the highest level of OpenVPN encryption available, and is on par with SSTP encryption. What is also very nice is that the free VPN service used the same 2048 encryption.
The Free service
We started by giving the free service a spin, as VPN.S is nice enough to offer one.
Signing up to VPN.S is a breeze, with only a username, password and email address being asked of you.
One signed up you are asked what plan you want to join.
We went for the free service at first.
It was then simply a matter of downloading the Windows OpenVPN client from the Downloads area.
The Windows Client
The Windows client has a simple but functional interface.
The main page has links to popular geo-locked web TV sites, an embedded speedtest.net pop-up and the settings.
Although VPN.S says that with the free service you will see advertisements on every web page, we didn’t see any. We checked this in different browsers and nope, no adverts!
Back in the Members Area you can keep tabs on your usage details. The free service has a 600Mb limit per month.
VPN.S describe the free service as being ‘slow’, so we weren’t expecting very much when we tested it using our 10 megabyte UK broadband connection.
The results were in fact rather good, with the distance to the New York server slowing the connection down far more than the fact that it was connection through a VPN server.
As long as you bear in mind that the free VPN service is monitored, and you cannot therefore use it to get up to anything naughty, we found it to be very good, providing a fast and secure connection. The absence of any advertising was so we cannot say if this normally the case.
As the OpenVPN plan is the one most people are most likely to interested in, we joined and gave it a whirl.
Payment options are a little limited, but cover all the major methods.
We could now connect to any of VPN.S’s extensive list of servers.
One thing that is missing is a list of server loads / speeds to help you decide one to connect to. We did experiment with connecting to The Pirate Bay (a website that is blocked in the UK) through servers in The Netherlands and US and were unable to, which suggests that VPN.S actively blocks access to filesharing sites.
We tested again using our 10 meg UK connection:
The results were very good.
- Free VPN service that performed very well, and without advertising in out tests
- 2048-bit OpenVPN encryption
- Lots of servers in lots of countries
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Good choice of servers
- Dedicated fixed IP’s available
- It’s not free but we can’t really complain about the $2 for 2 days trial
We weren’t so sure about
- Given then number of technologies on offer, more effort to explain their differences would have been appreciated
- Live chat support but not always available
- Access to the full range of services is quite pricey
- Despite statements to the contrary, the small print in the TOC seems to indicate that logs and details of users’ activities are recorded and kept
- Access to The Pirate Bay blocked.