With data breaches and identity theft running rampant, everyone should have access to a VPN. A VPN protects your online privacy and data. While we’ve put together a very in-depth guide to what a VPN is and what they do, a more basic definition is:
A VPN routes all your device’s incoming and outgoing data through a secure server, which it encrypts while obfuscating the sender and receiver.
There are hundreds of various VPNs available on the market. Not all of them are equal. Some may not even do the primary job of protecting your privacy. When choosing a VPN, you want to make sure they meet the following requirements:
- Use of modern encryption and protocols
- Online activity is not logged or leaked
- Your identity is obfuscated or hidden
- Here is how IPVanish measures up!
IPVanish declares that they are “Proudly Recommended” by Mashable, TechRadar, CNET, CNN, Lifehacker, PCMag.com, and Expert Reviews. However, they do not provide links to any of these articles. I was initially concerned because the content on Mashable seems to have been written by IPVanish themselves, but the other sites all have what appears to be real and positive reviews of the service.
IPVanish Plans and Pricing
IPVanish does not have a free trial, but they promise a 7-day money-back guarantee. This guarantee can be taken advantage of directly from the control panel, which I greatly appreciate. Also, they are currently running a great deal where you can get a full year for just $3.25 per month!
Click on any of the “Start Now” buttons to be taken to the purchase page.
Pricing options are:
- $10.00 per month
- $8.99 per month for three months paid in advance
- $6.49 per month for a year paid in advance
Pro Tip: If you dally for a bit on the purchase page, you’ll get a popup with an offer for an extra 20% off your first billing on any plan. However, the plans are already listed with discounted prices.
Double-Pro Tip: When I ultimately canceled the service, I was offered two months for free.
You don’t have to enter a name or address, but they only accept payment through PayPal and major credit cards. Enter your email address and a strong password to create an account and add your payment information.
After entering all of the required information and hitting the “pay” button, you are greeted with a “thank you” informing you of your newly created account. However, you need to click the activation link sent to your email to continue the setup process. Clicking on the activation link takes you to a page that detects your current device and provides a link to download the correct app.
How to use IPVanish
After the download completes, open the installer, agree to the terms of service, and click install. The app installs quickly. Sign in, and you’re good to go.
Fans of dark mode will appreciate the interface of this app. The initial display shares a good bit of information, including your IP address, visible location, the current protocol, and whether or not the kill switch is turned on. (The “kill switch” is a useful feature that cuts off the internet if the VPN connection drops). Most of the panel appears grayed out when disconnected. While, the IPVanish client defaults to automatically pick the best available country, city, and server, it’s not as clear as it could be.
The left side of the app has several tabs for Server List, Account Details, Settings, and Information. The default is Quick Connect.
Clicking the Connect button creates a connection, presumably to the best server, and updates your IP address and visible location. It also starts a live graph of your internet traffic and a panel showing your time connected, protocol (again), the connected server, and the amount of data transferred.
A quick check confirms the connection and VPN IP information. Initial speed tests were disappointing. Repeated tests with Google showed speeds of ⅓ to 1/10 of speeds with the VPN off. However, I was able to remedy this by switching to another server. (Explained below)
I started my exploration of the rest of the app with the Information tab, which has even more tabs inside, showing a selection of keyboard shortcuts to move between the many tabs, the complete Terms of Services, and several Software Licenses.
The Settings tab lets you set up whether or not you want the software to start up when Windows starts. It also lets you select if you would like it to connect automatically to the last server, best server, or best in a specific country. It contains options to change the active protocol, turn on auto-reconnect, and the kill switch. Lastly, there’s a Diagnostics panel with a very detailed log of activity. This records connection information to and from the VPN server, but it does not appear to log sites visited.
The Account Details tab displays your email, account and payment status, and renewal date. It also has a link to the account dashboard on the web.
The Server List tab allows you to search for and select servers from a filterable list, or a map view. In the list view, you can sort by country, ping, and load. It also allows you to star servers as favorites, which you can then sort by. The list also has the ping for each server..
I tried changing servers in the hopes that it might resolve the speed drop I was seeing. Initially, I lost all connectivity. However, when I disconnected and reconnected, speeds were the same with and without the VPN active. I suppose that “best server” is a relative term. I recommend trying a few different servers to find the best for your area.
- Encryption: AES-256
- Supported Protocols: OpenVPN (recommended), L2TP/IPsec
- Number of Devices: Up to 10 devices connected at one time
- Number of Servers: 1300+ Servers in 75+ locations
- Client Support: Nearly every OS, Mobile Device, Fire TV, Many Routers
- Privacy: No name is required to sign up, but you can only pay with PayPal or a major credit card. They do not accept crypto-currency. The company is headquartered in the United States. Servers do not keep logs*, and IPVanish completely owns all infrastructure.
* In 2018, TorrentFreak reported on 2016 court documents in which a subsidiary of IPVanish provided extensive access logs, IP addresses, and the name of a customer to the Department of Homeland Security. The company was purchased in 2017. New management responded to the author of the article by saying that during their due-diligence in making the purchase found no evidence of logs or logging systems. They claimed that they have no insight into the decisions of the previous management group and said it must have been a response to an order from law enforcement.
IPVanish uses modern encryption methods and allows for twice the standard number of devices connected. There are more than a thousand servers in over 75 locations. There are versions of the app for most devices. It has a dark mode theme and a great deal of detail and information on what it is doing. I particularly like that it displayed my visible location and IP address. They also do a great job of circumventing content blackouts.
The app is a bit cluttered. It took a little bit of fiddling to connect to a server that didn’t cause a reduction in download speed. Privacy-conscious folks will be worried by the requirement to pay with a personally identifiable method of payment and should take the above incident into consideration when making a choice on this product.
IPVanish Review Rating
IPVanish is a tough VPN to rate. They are one of the best VPNs around for unblocking content, however, the lack of a way to pay with an anonymous method like bitcoin will raise concerns for privacy folks. Taking everything into consideration we rate IPVanish 3.5 out of 5 Stars.
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