ibVPN is one of the cheapest of the big name VPN providers, so we were curious to know whether such a low cost service could deliver a high quality experience. We were initially somewhat surprised at how good the service was, both in terms of the features available (pretty much everything plus the kitchen sink on the better packages), and on its speed performance results. Unfortunately, after trying the service out over a longer period of time we had to uninstall it and ask for a refund, thanks to the frequency with which it slowed our whole internet connection down to unusable speeds.
Packages and Pricing
ibVPN divides its services into two basic VPN packages; Premium and Multi VPN, and also offers a DNS Package. All packages allow users’ to choose between PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN or SSTP depending on their needs, and offer unlimited bandwidth (although all filesharing traffic must go through the dedicated Torrent VPN servers).
Premium VPN packages
Standard VPN comes in a number of different flavors, with different packages granting access to a varying number of servers in a number of different countries. A brief summary is as follows:
- Ultimate VPN ($10.95 per month) – access to 70+ servers in 31 countries. Includes access to P2P filesharing /torrent servers, use of the ibDNS service, use of static IPs, and permits two devices to connect at once
- TotalVPN ($7.95 per month) – access to 61 servers in 31 countries, including P2P filesharing / torrent servers, use of static IPs and of ibDNS
- Regional VPN ($4.95) – there are separate services available for the United States and Canada, the UK and Ireland, and the EU. Each of them offers access to a number of servers within that region, but do not allow access to ibVPN’s dedicated file sharing/torrent servers
- Torrent VPN ($4.95) – basically identical to the Regional packages, except that it provides access to 8 servers in 5 countries where P2P downloading is permitted (2 Canada, 3 Netherlands, 1 Luxembourg, 1 Hong Kong, 1 Russia)
Multi VPN packages
These packages allow more than one simultaneous connection, so that multiple members of a family or small business can use the ibVPN servers at once. Prices start at $19.95 per month for a family of up to three, and go up to $99.95 for businesses with up to 20 employees. Do note however that the Ultimate (Premium) package also allows the use of two devices simultaneously. If you are interested in business packages then also check out our 5 Best for Businesses review.
Access to the filesharing /torrent servers is not included.
DNS Package (ibDNS)
ibVPN offers a DNS package so you can use its servers to resolve DNS requests. This is useful for un-blocking geo-restricted content such as media streaming services (e.g. for accessing Hulu when outside the US, or BBC iPlayer when outside the UK), and has the advantage over using VPN for this purpose that as the connection is direct (i.e. it not encrypted then routed via a VPN server), it is much faster (and therefore lag is much less of an issue).
As a stand-alone service ibDNS costs $4.95 per month, or it is included in the Ultimate and Total packages.
ibVPN offers a 6 hour free trial, with access to all of its servers. Although not a huge amount of time, it should be long enough to get a feel for the service, try out different servers, and see whether it works for you. We should warn you however that we had a great experience of the service during the trial period, but found it almost unusable in longer term use, so it’s just as well that ibVPN also offers a no quibble 15 day money back guarantee.
The ibVPN website & Customer Support
ibVPN has recently given its website a complete redesign, and it looks much the better for it. Although still a little cluttered looking, all relevant information is easy to find, and lots of resources are available, including a useful FAQ, and a server list showing the number of users online together with bandwidth usage on each server, which we particularity like.
In addition to the FAQ and a searchable knowledgebase, support is available via email using a ticket system, or by 27/7 live chat. When we asked a question on Live Chat, the response was quick and helpful. It is also possible to make an appointment with a support team member who can provide remote assistance, which is a very nice touch.
ibVPN lets you connect via PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN and SSTP protocols from any of their packages. Changing protocol is performed very easily from within the desktop client, although for most purposes there is little reason change from the secure 256-bit blowfish encrypted OpenVPN default option.
ibVPN’s promises that it keeps no logs of users’ activity, something it can do because it is based in Romania where the EU Data Retention Directive is not in force. We should note however that some connection logs are kept for 10 days, namely,
- Time, date and location VPN connection was made.
- Duration of the VPN connection.
- Bandwidth used during the connection
We would prefer fewer such logs, but this is quite standard practice, even among ‘no logs’ companies. More worryingly, ten days is quite long to keep them, far more than is needed for simple troubleshooting, purposes.
As noted below, only the minimal personal information is required during registration, and anonymous payment is accepted through Bitcoin.
So far, so (fairly) good, but unfortunately ibVPN uses dynamic IPs rather than shared IPs (static IPs are also available on some packages if you need them). This is not good, because with shared IP’s many users share the same IP address, making it very difficult to determine which individual is responsible for which actions performed online. Dynamic IPs are directly linked to your real IP, so you can be easily traced by the VPN company. In our view every VPN provider worth its salt should use shared IP’s.
Registering and purchasing packages is a very simple process, and we liked that fact that only a minimal amount of information was requested; specifically name, email and location (but not address). For the purposes of this review we made use of the free trial, and were not asked for any payment details. However, we have used the paid service in the past, and encountered no issues.
A wide range of payment options are available, including Bitcoin, which allows you to pay for the service anonymously (if suitable precautions are taken).
Installing the software and connecting
Once we had registered for our trial account, we immediately received an email informing us of our account details and providing us with a download link for ibVPN’s unified Windows VPN client.
Downloading and installing this was a simple task, and we were soon presented with client window, which we found to be laid out in a simple an intuitive fashion that offered easy access to most of ibVPN’s features.
From here we could select which server to connect to, and which protocol to use, with links provided to our account information and to the website’s server load page. Changing between servers and protocols was as simple as selecting them and waiting a few seconds for the connection to be established.
Clicking on the client’s Settings tab allows you to configure how you want it to behave and they also have Advances Settings where you set a kill switch and auto reconnect.
ibVPN provides dedicated desktop clients for Windows and OSX, as well as apps for Android and OSX. It should be noted that while the Android app is a full VPN client with support for OpenVPN, the iOS app simply auto-configures iOS’s native VPN settings (i.e. no OpenVPN). A good guide is however available for setting up OpenVPN on iOS using the OpenVPN Connect app.
Excellent tutorials are also available for the various VPN protocols in Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, iOS, and DD-WRT routers.
Connection Speeds and Reliability
We put various connection configurations through their paces using speedtest.net, using our 10 megabyte UK broadband connection.
As you can see, the OpenVPN connection was blindingly fast, while the L2TP connection was, while not quite as fast, still pretty good.
As mentioned above, we have used this service in the past, and we found then that connecting though the dedicated VPN servers in the Netherlands and Luxemburg could be very slow, which is why we stopped using it. However, our tests for this review indicated that the service had been dramatically improved:
Unfortunately we carried on using ibVPN’s Torrent VPN after the review period was over, and regularly found that, as with previously, our internet connect became so slow that web pages often timed out. Almost completely unusable much of the time, we had little choice but to ask for our money back. As we have experienced similar problems before, this is obviously a serious, liong-term, and deal-breaking issue with the service.
The main purpose of this ibDNS is to give you access to web services (particularly internet TV and media streaming service) that are supposedly locked down to one country but provide faster speeds at the cost of no encryption. ibVPN has now made the process of settings this up easier by integrating it into their software.
It took only a couple of minutes before we could access Hulu from the UK, and the fact that we were accessing the site directly rather than through a potentially laggy US server meant that we experienced no buffering issues when streaming.
The main problem with the service (a problem with all such DNS services, not just ibDNS) is that if you want to access local content then you have to go through the whole process again to change settings back to how they were, something that is a real pain to do regularly.
- Free 6 hour trial and 15 day money back guarantee
- Allows P2P downloading
- Low prices
- Accepts Bitcoins
- Good OpenVPN encryption
- No usage logs (but some connection logs are kept)
- Based in Romania
- Android app
- Great setup guides
We weren’t so sure about
- Connection logs kept for too long (10 days)
- In practice we found the service so slow it killed our internet
- Uses dynamic IPs, not shared ones
At the end of the day, we have twice had to stop using ibVPN because in day-to-day use it slowed our internet down to unusable speeds. Admittedly both times we were using the Torrent VPN package, so the problem may not be so pronounced on other servers, but then using BitTorrent is a primary reason for us wanting to use a VPN service in the first place! In terms of features and the speed results we achieved during the trial period, ibVPN is largely excellent (dynamic IPs and connection log issues aside), but if you have keep turning it off just to browse the web (and find torrent ETA times being listed in years!), then we have to conclude that the service is badly broken (although see note below).
Note: We initially wrote this review in February 2013, and have now (February 2014) updated it with the latest service information and reassessed the service in light of our negative longer-term experiences. This is not however a complete re-review, so please be aware that some things may have changed over the last year…