When it comes to surfing the Internet nowadays, protecting personal information is becoming more and more of a priority.
This is why, when I’m using public Wi-Fi, traveling or simply hoping onto the web to access sensitive data, I choose to use a VPN service. A virtual private network (VPN for short) connects users to a private server and encrypts their data so they can, supposedly, access the internet without worrying about their info being tracked or logged.
Now there are a lot of VPN services out there and not all of them are the same when it comes to performance, protection and overall features. Some may fit your needs and others may not….
So I’m here to determine which VPN could be a good fit for you.
In this article, specifically, I’m going to take a look at IPVanish VPN and see how it stacks up against the best services out there. Let’s see if IPVanish is actually “the only true Top Tier VPN service in the world” like they say they are.
Based in Orlando, Florida, IPVanish has over 1,100 servers in more than 60 countries.
IPVanish Pros and Cons
Before I get too deep into IPVanish’s specs, here’s my overall impression of this service:
- Strong encryption: Uses the industry standard.
- Up to 10 simultaneous connections: Go ahead! Connect your laptop, iPhone, tablet, router etc.
- Great download speed. It doesn’t slow your internet down too much.
- Allows torrenting. You can torrent using uTorrent.
- Allows split tunneling. IPVanish allows you to use its serves and others to maximize bandwidth capabilities.
- Great customer service. Live 24/7 chat, phone line and email support are all available to get your questions answered.
- “Zero Log Policy” is questionable. Company was exposed for sharing logs for a criminal investigation.
- Under 5 Eyes surveillance. Since IPVanish is a U.S. based company, they are under 5 Eyes jurisdiction.
- Only some servers work with Netflix. You might not be able to access some of your favorite shows and movies.
So that’s my general impression, but you’re probably wondering about all the fun details that led me to these conclusions, right?
The first thing I’ll touch on is the history behind IPVanish. Good performing service or bad, that’s where I started to question whether or not the company was a good fit for me.
IPVanish was founded in Orlando, Florida by Mudhook Media Inc. (a subsidiary of Highwinds Network Group) in 2012. They claim to be the fastest VPN with “the most secure connections and the most competitive pricing anywhere”, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen similar services with a much more affordable price … I’ll get to that later in this review.
Their network is vast with 1,165 servers and 40,000 plus IP addresses across the globe. This is great because the closer you are to a server, the better your internet speed. Since IPVanish has a wide reach, they a higher chance of being of service to you. The company owns roughly 90% of its points of presence (POPs) or data centers, except in areas where they have to lease hardware like in Albania. They claim to have servers in 61+ countries, but when I counted which servers I could access, I only found 49. When I asked a customer service rep, they said that it was because some of the servers were undergoing maintenance.
Since IPVanish is based in the United States they are subject to 5 Eyes jurisdiction. The 5 Eyes intelligence alliance (which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the U.S.) will investigate, track and share personal data when they decide they need to. For you, that might be to big of a breach in your personal security so it’s important to be aware of this before you give IPVanish a go.
Alright, I think we know enough about the company. Now it’s time to check out the main features this VPN has to offer.
IPVanish is compatible for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Windows Phone, and other routers so it works with many different devices through Wi-Fi, LTE, 4G and 3G connections. You can have up to 10 simultaneous connections, too, which is great because it means I can watch sports on my tablet, stream movies on my computer, use WhatsApp on my phone and much, much more all at once.
Will IPVanish Log My Data?
According to their website: no. IPVanish does not log personal data.
What does this mean for you? IPVanish will not collect, monitor or track your usage of the service. They also will not sell or rent personal information to others. All that’s needed to sign up with them is an email address and a payment method.
The only thing they claim they track is non-personal data of the users that come to their site. That non-personal data includes:
- Page requests
- Browser type
- Operating System
- Bounce rate
- Average time spent on our site
They collect this data by using cookies, pixels, and similar technologies, such as Google Analytics. Depending on what browser you use, you typically can opt-out of cookie usage or at least specify your cookie settings.
IPVanish’s “zero-log” policy sounds legit, but a U.S. District Court investigation in had many users questioning whether or not the company was sticking to their promise. Back then, the Department of Homeland Security issued a “summons of records” from Highwinds Network Group, Inc. to get information on a user who was suspected of criminal activity.
While criminals must be stopped in their tracks, it’s clear here that IPVanish has given someone’s information to a government agency. That’s completely against their supposed “zero-log” promise. IPVanish has since been acquired by StackPath in 2017. The following year, someone claiming to be StackPath CEO, Lance Crosby, under the username lavosby took to reddit to explain how he will uphold the standard.
While this all looks fishy, IPVanish isn’t the only service suspected of breaking their own no-logs policy. But I guess the good news is, I haven’t found any complaints about data leakage since 2016.
Does IPVanish Have a Kill Switch?
Yes it does!
The kill switch function is set in place to protect your IP address from being leaked. If a VPN service does not have this function, your IP address will be temporarily exposed if you lose connection to their network. So an automatic kill switch will close down all of your browsers and cut you from the Internet until your VPN connection is reestablished.
This could be a pain for someone who is downloading large files and does not want to be suddenly interrupted. Thankfully, you can turn off the kill switch whenever you’d like.
What Kind of Tunneling Does IPVanish Offer?
With IPVanish you can either exclusively connect to the internet through their network or you can do what we call, “split tunneling.”
Split tunneling is awesome because it allows you to connect to another network while using the VPN. All VPNs slow down internet speed and compromise your bandwidth a bit. But with split tunneling you can spread the burden, potentially creating a better user experience.
Can I use Netflix with IPVanish?
So here’s some bad news: You can’t … at least not from most of their servers, anyway.
You can only access Netflix through their Ashburn, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York servers. But if you are using IPVanish and want to make sure those servers are still up and running, contact customer service and they’ll tell you.
Even though Netflix may not be easily accessible, you can still use. Crunchyroll, ESPN, HBO, MLB TV, NBC Sports, Sling TV, WWE Network, Facebook, Bing, Gmail, Google, Spotify, Twitter, CBS Sports, CBS All Access, and WhatsApp.
IPVanish will also allow you to torrent through UTorrent.
Based in Orlando, Florida, IPVanish has over 1,100 servers in more than 60 countries.
Alrighty! Now it’s time to look at IPVanish’s encryption methods and protocols.
Encryption is basically the code that masks your data as you are perusing the web. Non-encrypted data can be read by an Average Joe with a computer. Data that is encrypted by high quality code would need a godly hacker to crack.
That being said, IPVanish used AES-256 encryption, which is the highest quality encryption on the VPN market. IPVanish also offers various protocols that fit different needs. Protocols determine how the data is routed from your device to the VPN service.
Let’s check out our options here.
IPSec (Internet Protocol Security)
IPSec encrypts IP packets for transport and tunneling. So this can be compared to a mask people might use to hide their identity. IPSec is available for most computers and mobile devices, which is great. But be aware: IPSec does not define a particular encryption algorithm or an authentication function on its own, which means it’s not the most secure connection if it isn’t paired with other protocols that do so. IPSec just provides the framework for secure transport.
IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange Protocol Version 2)
IKEv2 is a protocol that is created through IPSec and it configures the specific approach to how IP packets are encrypted. What’s cool about IKEv2 is that it automatically re-establishes your VPN connection if you are ever disconnected from the internet. This is great for users who are using mobile devices and who may find themselves switching in between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. With IKEv2 and IPSec working together, your IP is more likely to be protected.
L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)
L2TP actually doesn’t encrypt at all. It just creates the tunnel for the data to travel. For encryption purposes, it combines with IPSec which is responsible for the encryption, channel security, and data integrity checks. L2TP/IPSec connections are very secure and it works well with most mobile devices. However, this protocol may be tricky to set up for a router and it’s not as fast as OpenVPN.
This protocol is an “open source protocol”, which means that it’s kind of like Wikipedia. Users who are a part of the community can tweak the code to increase security. OpenVPN one of the most popular, most trusted protocols out there.
Because it’s fast and incredibly secure; it can bypass firewalls and it’s highly configurable. OpenVPN works with Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, routers and other devices.
The only pain about OpenVPN, it may require you to download third-party software to make it work, which makes for a tricky setup. But according to IPVanish, they’ve got the software that will have OpenVPN up and running easily and effortlessly.
You can also combine OpenVPN with TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) for added benefits.
OpenVPN and TCP together make the most popular and most reliable VPN connection.
TCP’s error correction prevents data packages from being lost as they travel one one place to the next. TCP reminds me of my mother back in the day, reminding me to check for my phone, keys and wallet before I left any location. Without her, I probably would have been missing my keys more often than I would have liked.
Well without TCP’s error correction, you might frequently experience incomplete downloads and failed websites because some data’s off or went missing.
Thanks Mom! And Thanks TCP!
OpenVPN and UDP operate much faster than an OpenVPN/TCP connection because there’s no error correction with this protocol. UDP just sends the error packets. It doesn’t organize them.
Even so, many online gamers (who often have to quickly interact and respond in real-time) use OpenVPN/UDP because the speed is more appropriate for their needs.
SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol)
So SSTP has all the benefits of OpenVPN in the sense that it is fast, secure and can bypass firewalls.
But what’s unique about SSTP is that it was developed by Microsoft and it’s fully integrated with every Microsoft operating system since Windows Vista Service Pack 1.
PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)
This protocol is so old, I would only use it when all options have run out. It was invented in 1995 and its defenses has since been cracked many times. But I have to say: It is incredibly fast.
Alrighty then! Let’s text IPVanish’s speed and overall leak protection.
To do all of the testing, I’ll be using my MacBook Air and my VivoBook (Windows). As for my internet connection, I’ll be using Optimum. I recognize you may be using different devices and different ISPs, which could both affect download and upload speeds. (Your proximity to a server can also affect these speeds, too.)
What I’m saying is: Your numbers could be slightly different than mine. But I’m testing to give you a general sense of how the VPN performs on different operating systems.
IPVanish on my MacBook Air works very well in terms of speed. While every VPN will slow your connection down, IPVanish does a great job of maintaining as much speed as possible. The ping time only dropped 14% (while the average drop is 32% among VPNs). And the download and uploads speed were decent as well. Although, I have used faster services like CyberGhost, which saw a decrease of less than 10% for both downloads and uploads.
My speed significantly slowed down on my VivoBook. I did not like seeing that -62.37% on my downloads. Knowing that, I’d say IPVanish may not be the best for Windows users.
DNS Leak Test
So the DNS, or Domain Name Server, is the address that you type in when you go to a website, like gmail.com. Basically the DNS takes an IP address and puts into an alphabetic sequence. For us VPN users, private DNS’s are used for our security. But we want to make sure your data remains encrypted as it travels through the VPN tunnel.
After testing, IPVanish showed no DNS leaks on either Mac or Windows. Woohoo!
WebRTC Leak Test
WebRTC is like the translator that allows Firefox, Chrome, Opera — name your browser — to communicate to one another. It’s the things that make data transfers smoother, web conferences less glitchy and streaming The Office without many interruptions. For WebRTC to work though, it requires that devices share their IP address. So it’s important that this information isn’t leak while using a VPN.
Here’s some good news: IPVanish had no WebRTC leaks when I tested it on my MacBook Air and on my VivoBook.
Out of all the VPNs I’ve tried so far, IPVanish is on the pricier side. Where I’ve seen VPNs cost as low as $2.75 a month, IPVanish’s lowest subscription package is $6.49 a month. Also they offer a 7-day money back guarantee, which isn’t that generous. I’ve seen companies up to a 45-day guarantee.
IPVanish offers three different subscription deals: Their 15-month (the cheapest), their three-month plan and their one-month plan. The latter is the most expensive at $10 a month. Which isn’t bad. But you could use that $10 for that Netflix account you’ve been trying to access … and a cheaper VPN that would allow you to do so….
IPVanish works with Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Linux (Ubuntu PPTP, Ubuntu Open), Chromebook, and wireless routers such as DD-WRT and Tomato.
Unfortunately, IPVanish has no browser extensions.
IPVanish Customer Support
So a great as technology can be sometimes, it fails and so we need to know who to talk to when things break down. Even when things aren’t going wrong, understanding the VPN world can be confusing. You need help.
In each of these cases, it’s important that the VPN service that you use has great customer service. But how much does IPVanish support its customers? Let’s find out.
Okay, IPVanish has extremely good customer service when it comes to access. They’ve got a phone line, email support, a 24/7 live chat room and a robust FAQ library. There are so many ways for you to find the answers that you’re looking for.
The reps on the chat are highly responsive. If they don’t answer you right away, they will tell you where you are in their query queue. I never had to wait more than five minutes, which I think is a little long. But it was still better than waiting a day for them to email me.
Customer Support Ratings
So I even though I thought IPVanish was great, I wanted to know what other people thought about their customer service.
When I checked the reviews on Amazon, I discovered that in 2017 users were really unhappy because there was no customer service at all. At some point IPVanish only had email support and took days to respond … Then in 2018, I saw the first positive review about their customer service: “Better than expected.” Apparently, IPVanish has been working a lot on this area of their business and it’s paying off.
On Trustpilot, IPVanish has a 5 star rating from over 2,000 reviews— amazing! While I wasn’t able to do a search specifically for customer support, I could see that the majority of people were pleased with it in the more recent reviews. With 84% of the reviews at a perfect five-stars, IPVanish is doing something right.
The IPVanish App
Apparently, Apple users are much happier with the IPVanish App than Android users. In the Apple store, the app received 4.5 stars and that’s the rating I would give it. When I opened it up on my iPhone X, I discovered that it was really easy to navigate and connect with the VPN. I didn’t have any issues.
On the contrary the app received a 3.5 star rating in the Google Play store. Most customers complained about having connections issues.
IPVanish vs. Perfect Privacy
Before we wrap up, let’s compare IPVanish with one of its competitors: Perfect Privacy.
Looking at some of the essential features, IPVanish and Perfect Privacy are pretty comparable:
What I don’t like about Perfect Privacy is that they don’t have many servers. They currently have over 55 servers in 23 countries. Perfect Privacy is expensive. Their cheapest plan (which is their 24 month subscription package) is 8.95 euros a month, which is just over $10.
I was disappointed when I found out that Perfect Privacy significantly slows down my internet speed and it only has apps for Windows and Linux devices … They only have email customer service … and it also sucks that the Swiss-based company is located with in a 5-Eyes Alliance cooperating country.
However, Perfect Privacy does have some nifty features that IPVanish is lacking:
- Unlimited simultaneous connections. IPVanish brags 10.
- Multi-hop encryption. This feature encrypts your data across two or more servers, adding higher security and protection.
- Cascading. This allows you to choose your entry VPN location, your exit VPN location and potentially two intermediary servers (or hops). This will make it difficult for your ISP to track your VPN server location.
- Port forwarding. This is useful for users who want to torrent and don’t want to let firewalls get in the way. Port forwarding allows incoming internet connections to reach your device when using the VPN.
Even with all of these additional options, IPVanish seems like the better choice to me. Maybe it’s because I don’t torrent that often and don’t want to get locked into an expensive 2-year subscription plan.
Your needs might be different than mine, of course.
Recap of IPVanish
So to review everything, I think IPVanish would be a great fit for you if want:
- High quality encryption.
- Decent internet speed.
- Split tunneling.
- The ability to torrent.
- The ability to control the kill switch.
- Great customer service.
IPVanish not a good tool for you if:
- You want a less expensive service.
- You’re uncomfortable with the 5 Eyes Alliance jurisdiction.
- You want easy access to Netflix.
After reading all of this you should be pretty clear on whether or not IPVanish is a good fit for you. If anything, hopefully I helped to make all of your questions disappear. Cheesy pun intended.
To explore more great options, check out the best VPNs of 2019.