Unless you know what you’re doing, it’s tough determining which VPN service is going to offer the greatest value. Sadly enough, not all VPN services were created equal. A fair few are fantastic, many are mediocre and a handful should be avoided at all costs. This is our IPVanish Review, enjoy.
There’s a lot to consider, too; pricing, security, and privacy, where the company is located, speed tests and other critical factors need to be considered before subscribing or signing up for a trial.
After all, the point of a VPN, apart from circumventing irksome geo-restrictions on websites and streaming media, is to secure your data, and because a VPN tunnel is going to secure all your private data, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.
Today, we’re going to dissect a popular forerunner in the VPN market: IPVanish.
Let’s dig in.
To start, let’s take a look at IPVanish VPN’s pricing model, which is the first thing most people notice when comparing providers.
IPVanish VPN is actually rather affordable and is by no means the most expensive or cheapest service on the market. Instead, it seems to hover somewhere in the middle of the market with decent pricing.
The following outlines IPVanish VPN’s pricing model:
- Monthly subscription – $10.00 per month
- Three-month subscription – $8.99 per month
- Annual subscription – $6.49 per month
I found it a little strange that IPVanish VPN lacks a six-month subscription plan, which is so common among other services in the industry. But overall, I think the pricing plan is very reasonable. I typically recommend, however, staying away from the monthly subscription plans since they offer the least value.
I wouldn’t pay $10.00 per month when I could get significant discounts with a longer subscription. Having said that, I must admit that IPVanish VPN has a monthly rate that’s cheaper than most other competitors.
For instance, the monthly cost of ExpressVPN is $12.95. As for the annual subscription, which offers the most savings, I think that IPVanish has a fair monthly rate of $6.49.
That’s only slightly higher than most other services cost per month with an annual subscription. It seems that the going rate tends to be between $5.00 and $6.00 on average. I was disappointed, however, that there is no free version of the service. And I found it very strange that the only free trial is available for iOS users exclusively.
Fortunately, instead of a free version, there is a seven-day money back guarantee which will allow you to test things out before committing to the subscription. As far as payment methods, however, I was disappointed to see fewer than most other providers accept, and there’s no Bitcoin option.
Acceptable means of payment include Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, JCB, Delta, PayPal, GiroPay, and a few other less common payment systems.
IPVanish VPN Key Features
Following the pricing model, we must now discuss IPVanish VPN’s features. IPVanish wasn’t lacking a single feature that I think of as being a necessity.
Overall, I thought IPVanish VPN provided a good blend of functionality and security, especially when considering its moderate pricing. That said, there also weren’t any features that made me say ‘wow.’
First off, I did want to take a moment to talk about a feature listed on the website as “unlimited bandwidth.” I fear this term can be a little confusing or misleading. Unlimited bandwidth doesn’t mean the connection will run faster than any other server or that there isn’t an upper threshold on your Internet connection. All it means is that IPVanish won’t throttle your bandwidth to reserve capacity for other members.
And guess what? Every other quality service offers unlimited bandwidth without data caps, too, so this isn’t really a unique feature or anything special. The same holds true for IPVanish VPN’s claims that it’s the ‘fastest VPN.’
In my experience, IPVanish is not the fastest VPN, which is such a wide and general claim it almost loses any meaning at all.
Understand that connection speeds are going to vary immensely based on an immense amount of factors, including server load, physical distance to the server, your personal Internet connection speed, where the ultimate destination server is hosted, which ISPs your data is routed through and a hundred other similar factors.
Even so, there are other providers, like ExpressVPN, which are widely known for fast and reliable connections, yet we’ll see just how fast and reliable IPVanish is in the speed test section.
But IPVanish VPN does do a good job of making its VPN connections and apps available on all of the major operating system platforms. Some providers make do by writing apps for only Windows and Mac OSX devices, forcing users on mobile devices to use an OpenVPN client.
But IPVanish offers apps for Windows, Mac OSX, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, and some router platforms. I do wish the app was available on Linux, but more often than not, Linux users know what they’re doing, and manually setting up a VPN connection isn’t an especially challenging task.
And as expected, IPVanish does provide AES-256 encryption, which is more of a baseline requirement than an extra bonus feature.
Like the majority of other providers, IPVanish offers three of the most popular consumer-grade VPN connection types: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP. I was pleased to see IPVanish provide five simultaneous connections per account.
Some tech-junkies have at least five devices they would want simultaneous connected to VPN servers, while others may simply wish to share the simultaneous connections with their family.
More interestingly, I was even more pleased to see that P2P traffic is unbounded and not throttled and that BitTorrent traffic is permitted through the servers.
The combination of a wealth of European servers and the P2P/BitTorrent allowance makes IPVanish great for torrent downloads. And because there is a typical no-logging policy, you can download torrents with the peace of mind that third parties aren’t looking over your shoulder.
IPVanish also proudly declares that its service will provide access to censored apps and websites. But once again, this holds true for any other VPN service too, so it’s not really special. The last features I wanted to talk about were security features commonly found in other providers’ apps.
IPVanish VPN’s app doesn’t include WebRTC-leak or DNS-leak protection, which I thought was a little sub-par. I also thought it was odd that the kill-switch feature is currently only supported on the Windows and Mac versions of the app.
I suppose as time marches forward IPVanish will update the other clients. And to be fair, I imagine including the kill switch on Mac and Windows will accommodate most of IPVanish VPN’s customers. Still, I do wish the feature had been added to the mobile apps as well.
In summary, the following outlines IPVanish VPN’s general features:
- Apps available on every major operating system platform (with the exception of Linux)
- Access to the world’s “fastest VPN”
- 40,000 IP addresses distributed over 1,000 servers, which are hosted in over 60 countries
- Unlimited bandwidth
- 256-bit AES encryption
- Five simultaneous connections
- Zero traffic logs (discussed in greater detail in the following section)
- Anonymous torrenting
- Unlimited P2P trafficking
- SOCKS5 web proxy
- Access to censored apps and websites
- OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP/IPsec protocols
- Kill-switch included on only the Windows and Mac OSX apps
- No native WebRTC or DNS-leak protection
Relative Network Size and Country Locations
IPVanish boasts 40,000+ IP addresses and 1,000 servers hosted in over 60 countries. But is that enough? Let’s take a moment to talk about how IPVanish VPN’s network size stacks up against the competition. While 60 countries may sound like a lot, it really isn’t such an expansive network of servers in the face of competing services. For example, two services known for having much larger networks are ExpressVPN and HideMyAss VPN.
ExpressVPN’s number of servers fluctuates as old servers are decommissioned and new servers are brought online, but it typically has servers in 95+ countries.
HideMyAss VPN, on the other hand, has servers in nearly 200 countries and is the leader in the VPN market in terms of global server locations. Still, IPVanish VPN isn’t underperforming, either. In fact, I would say IPVanish VPN has slightly more servers than the average provider, which typically host servers in about 40+ locations.
However, it’s not just a matter of how many server locations a service offers, but also where those servers are located. Despite being based in the United States, IPVanish has chosen to host the majority of its servers in Europe.
Hosting a large number of servers in Europe is not an uncommon trend right now, especially with Europe’s moderately lax data laws and tolerance of BitTorrent downloads for personal use.
Oddly enough, there are two parts of the world where servers are extremely scarce. IPVanish VPN hardly hosts any servers at all in Africa, which isn’t too surprising since most providers don’t concentrate on hosting African servers due to countries with a lack of infrastructure or the lack of being a popular site for hosting Internet services. But I did find it unusual that IPVanish VPN hosts almost no servers in South America.
South America is a fairly popular place to host servers, and it’s common to see servers hosted in Argentina, Ecuador, and other locations in South America.
Brazil is undoubtedly the most popular place to host servers on the continent, and IPVanish does actually have 14 servers in Sao Paulo and 8 servers in Rio De Janeiro.
However, even though IPVanish is present in almost every European country, it is spread fairly thin and only hosts a handful of servers in each country.
Without question, IPVanish concentrates more servers in the United States than any other country. IPVanish VPN hosts hundreds of servers in the US in 17 different states, giving users a wealth of connection options when trying to connect to America.
Perhaps the largest shortcoming of IPVanish VPN is its headquarters, which is located in the United States. Why is that a problem, you ask? Well, generally speaking, folks who care about security and privacy tend to like services based outside of the US (as well as a few other select countries) for fear of domestic wiretapping by the Federal Government.
If you think that sounds like the far-fetched ramblings of a conspiracy loon, I would caution you to remember the jaw-dropping scandal uncovered by Edward Snowden. One of the many domestic wiretapping programs created by the NSA was PRISM.
The PRISM program worked by silently coercing domestic US firms into complying with the Federal Government’s demand for obscene amounts of wiretapped data and personal information.
Businesses like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and others were forced into forfeiting customer records and user data, but things get much worse.
In many instances, the Federal Government implanted backdoors and spy software within the companies’ services to obtain even more data, and dumped it all into massive governmental databases, to be sifted and picked through at the NSA’s leisure.
Believe it or not, the incredibly popular service Skype had even been targeted, and the government was able to record vast amounts of voice, video and message data. Given that so many businesses on US soil were pressured into compliance, it stands to reason its possible (or even likely) that such an event would occur again.
That’s why many people seek VPN services based in other countries, such as CyberGhost VPN, which is based in Romania, or ExpressVPN, which is based in the British Virgin Islands.
Furthermore, not only is it undesirable to use a service based in the US, but it is also undesirable to use services based in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. These countries cooperate by coordinating intelligence agencies and sharing information among themselves via the Five Eyes intelligence pact. But when it’s all said and done, is it really unsafe to use a VPN service based in the United States?
That all depends on your stance on privacy and security. Personally, I wouldn’t want to run the risk of all my Internet traffic ending up stuck on some governmental database in the bowels of Ft. Meade. I certainly wouldn’t want any personal pictures, private texts, chats or video calls to be spied on by the government.
However, having said that, I do admittedly think that the chances of IPVanish VPN having already been compromised are extremely unlikely. Because IPVanish doesn’t log user activities, I take some comfort in knowing that they wouldn’t have any detailed information to hand over to the government.
The unfortunate risk, however, is that the NSA coded a backdoor or spying function into the client or has tapped into the servers to monitor connections.
I would be surprised if the government targeted IPVanish VPN because it isn’t nearly as big of a company as the other targets of the PRISM program (Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.). Still, you never know, and it’s better to err on the side of caution.
And things get even worse. A fair few VPN providers have a policy called warrant canary, which is a way to inform subscribers that it hasn’t been targeted with a subpoena through the legal system. As long as a statement saying it hasn’t received a subpoena is in place, you can trust the service.
However, if the service were to receive a subpoena, speech prohibition would be activated, so the service provider simply fails to give the “all clear” message on their website or blog.
Sounds like a pretty clever circumvention of speech prohibition, right? Well, it is, but sadly enough, IPVanish doesn’t have a warrant canary policy in place. I think that’s a crying shame because a lot more people would trust the service with such a policy.
For me, the lack of a warrant canary is a deal-breaker, causing me to look elsewhere to fulfill my security needs. Nevertheless, you may be indifferent or more trusting than I am, and we still need to analyze its connection types.
The connection types offered by IPVanish VPN aren’t extremely flashy or unexpected. In fact, the three connection options available are commonly the main three digital staples of the overwhelming majority of other providers.
Users have the choice between OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec and PPTP connections. Above all, I would recommend sticking with OpenVPN connections because it offers the greatest security. And after all, isn’t security the heart and soul of a VPN tunnel?
Why wouldn’t a user take full advantage of the most secure protocol available? To be fair, there are some uncommon circumstances when OpenVPN is unavailable.
Perhaps the OpenVPN client crashed, or perhaps there’s an operating system issue preventing the successful tunnel negotiation of the OpenVPN protocol. Whatever the case may be, the next best option is L2TP/IPsec.
L2TP/IPsec does offer adequate security, though it’s not as secure as OpenVPN. It does have one advantage over OpenVPN, however: OpenVPN has more overhead. For that reason, it may be worth testing an L2TP/IPsec connection if you’re trying to optimize a connection.
In reality, I doubt the average user would be able to tell significant differences in the speed of OpenVPN connections versus L2TP/IPsec. But if you know your way around a network and the command prompt, you can probably quantify the difference in speed.
PPTP, on the other hand, is complete garbage and should be avoided at all costs. While it’s true that PPTP has less overhead than the other two protocols, PPTP offers little to no security at all.
People often claim that PPTP only offers weak security, because the PPTP algorithm was cracked long ago, and can be broken with readily available software.
Logging Policy and Privacy Considerations
Despite being based in the United States, IPVanish VPN has a no-logs policy that looks nearly identical to so many other competing services. When comparing norms in the industry, it’s pretty common to see providers with similar privacy policies, whereby the service legally states it does not log any VPN activity or user data. That is not to say, however, that some data isn’t logged.
You see, some data must be logged – there’s no way around it. User account information needs to be recorded for billing purposes, and network traffic statistics need to be monitored to plan for server capacity in the future as well as monitoring real-time performance.
When using IPVanish VPN, put your mind at rest knowing the service doesn’t log the bits and bytes sent through the tunnel.
IPVanish posted the following on its blog:
We do not monitor, record or store logs for any single customer's VPN activity. We have a zero log policy. Our users' privacy is our main concern.
Not only is an email address required for authentication purposes, but IPVanish also honestly states that it is used to periodically send promotional offers, though you can opt out if you prefer.
IPVanish and our computer systems are based in the United States, so your personal information will be processed by us in the United States, where data protection and privacy regulations may be different than in other parts of the world. When you create an online account with us from outside the United States, you agree to the terms of this Policy and our Terms of Service, and give your consent to the transfer to and processing of such information in the United States, which may not offer an equivalent level of data protection as that in the European Union, Canada or other countries.
There isn’t a warrant canary in place, so if something happened behind the scenes with governmental tampering and meddling, we would be none the wiser.
The speed test results were actually rather encouraging and surpassed my expectations. Even though I’m on a 5Mbps Google Fiber connection, there are some providers who test slower than molasses and only test at speeds of a megabit or two. IPVanish, on the other hand, tested at 80% of my raw ISP rate or more, depending on the server in question.
The following outlines the results of IPVanish VPN’s speed test:
- Hong Kong – Download: 4.79Mbps; Upload: 0.96Mbps; Ping: 213ms;
- London – Download: 4.25Mbps; Upload: 0.95Mbps; Ping: 117ms;
Likewise, I didn’t seem to lose any upload rate at all, and the ping times are more or less consistent with the latency incurred when not connected to a VPN service at all.
So all in all, I was pleased with IPVanish VPN’s speeds, though I would like to test its upper limits on a blazing fast gigabit connection.
IPVanish VPN’s customer support seems to be a little archaic. There isn’t a live chat system, which is my favorite means of contact because it isn’t necessary to wait in long phone queues or wait for a support tech to respond to your email.
I must admit it’s great that customer support is 24/7, but that’s also come to be expected since every other major VPN service offers 24/7 support as well.
As far as contacting the support department is concerned, I couldn’t believe there was only one method. To initiate a support queue ticket, your only option is to email IPVanish, which I thought was moderately irritating.
However, I do have to give IPVanish VPN credit for the thoroughly fleshed out knowledgebase which can be found on the website.
If you’re just looking for a troubleshooting guide, setup guide or an answer to a common question, IPVanish has tons of great articles and posts detailing a myriad of different technical procedures.
Many of the guides come with high-quality images that have been highlighted to show you the step-by-step procedure to eliminate confusion, too.
The guides will show you how to do just about every action you can think of and covers the majority of common troubleshooting issues, including several which aren’t all that common.
To put it simply, the support department seems to have thought of almost everything when creating the knowledge base. In fact, you may not even need to contact support at all thanks to the high-quality guides.
I have to commend IPVanish on its online documentation and give it a five-star rating. On the other hand, I thought the email system for opening tickets and contacting support was pretty lame, which makes me feel conflicted about the support department.
There are good and bad qualities to IPVanish’s support, but in the end, I think they average out, making IPVanish’s support department fairly average.
Final Thoughts on the IPVanish VPN
So what does it all boil down to? Is IPVanish VPN worth it or not? And should you commit to a subscription? Naturally, that decision is completely up to you, but let me give you a few thoughts.
Overall, I found the service, its features, the software client and the price to be adequate. Remember that the only real problem I had with the software was a lack of WebRTC and DNS-leak protection.
I didn’t find any features within the software that really made me say, “Wow!” It simply didn’t have any amazing features not offered by competing services.
But I do think the service is justified by a lower price point than some of the more expensive alternatives, like ExpressVPN. Sure, it doesn’t have as many fancy features or a larger network than other alternatives, but it doesn’t cost as much either, especially when considering the annual subscription savings.
Sadly, there is one fly in the ointment, though. Despite this service offering a good value for its features, I have genuine difficulty moving past the fact IPVanish is based in the United States.
I sincerely doubt IPVanish has been corrupted by the NSA or forced to allow the government to spy on its users. But because I can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes, and because there is no warrant canary policy, I am ultimately uncertain.
I don’t feel that the potential risk, no matter how small, of my personal data ending up in the governments is a risk I’m prepared to take. For that reason, I would personally seek a comparable service with a better headquarters location. I hope you liked our IPVanish Review and that it has answered your questions.
Source & References
- WEBRTC Leak Test – ExpressVPN
- How DNS Leaks Can Destroy Anonymity – makeuseof.com
- NSA documents show agency could grab all Skype traffic – arstechnica.com
- What is the Five Eyes intelligence pact? – CNN