VPN4All is a
Netherlands-based service that has been providing virtual private network services (VPN) since 2009. They boast a ‘state-of-the-art Tier 3 secure global server network’ capable of providing virtual access to over 25 national domains. They offer three options: a limited-download (50 gb/month) plan; an unlimited plan; and a mobile (phone) plan. These are priced per month, but discounted rates are available for longer-term contracts. For an additional payment, VPN4ALL offers at-the-server malware protection.
The first two packages are aimed mostly at Windows and Macintosh users, with the connection being made via OpenSSL. The mobile plan can operate with iOS, Windows and Android.
Packages and Prices
The VPN4ALL network offers fifty server locations, and over a thousand IP addresses. You can choose a fixed IP for regular transactions such as credit card payments, but you can also switch freely between server locations on the fly. Encryption strength is certified as AES-256 RSA 2096Bit. These features are common to all three packages offered by VPN4ALL.
Taking the most expensive package first, the VPN4ALL Unlim plan offers unlimited streaming and downloading. The monthly fee is €16.95 per month, but there are longer-term deals available: 3 months for €43.00; 6 Months for €81.00; and 12 Months for €142.00. Extra protection costs €2.49 per month and is not subject to discounts.
VPN4ALL 50 is essentially the same package, except that your monthly downloads are restricted to 50 GB. (That might, in fact, be more generous than your host broadband provider.) This costs €9.95 per month, with discounts at 3 Months (€25.00), 6 Months (€48.00) and 12 Months (€84.00). Extra protection is the same, undiscounted price of €2.49 per month.
Finally, VPN4ALL Mobile is a service for phone and tablet users, which is cheaper but more tightly limited—in this instance, to 5 GB per month. This service costs €5.95 per month (3 months €15.00; 6 months €28.00; 12 months €49.00. A combined 50+Mobile deal is available, for a 3-month payment of €30.
We purchased the VPN4ALL 50 option, and installed it on a PC running Windows 8. Connection is made via an OpenSSL client, authenticated using a license number. This means that there is no username/password log in procedure to follow. The client can be set to start and connect automatically when Windows starts, or else it can be started and stopped on demand from the desktop. Once it is running, there are menu options that can be operated on the fly (see Installation and Operation below). These include forced and timed IP changes, as well as server switching. The software can be installed on any number of devices, but may only be used by one device at a time.
Customer Service and Support
Customer service is provided by e-mail. There is a live chat window, but when we tried to use it on a midweek at noon, there was nobody home:
Installation and Operation
The first step is to set up an account on VPN4ALL’s website:
Other VPN services ask for rather less personal information, which might be a consideration for some customers. There are several payment options, including Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal. Password is case-sensitive and permits non-alphanumeric characters, for extra strength.
Once payment has been confirmed, an e-mail confirmation is sent, which includes a link to the software download page, and a license key that you will need during the installation process.
As the PC and mobile options are separate, the download page is pretty sparse:
The search window is of limited use: we looked for a Linux client, but there were no results.
Once downloaded, the installer runs through its routine with a minimum of fuss. Unlike some installers from small software providers, this one is properly signed, so that it passes the Windows User Interface Control check without difficulty. Once this process is complete, you are then taken to the configuration stage:
This opens the client, where you are asked to provide your license number. It is a simple matter to copy and paste from the welcome e-mail.
Note the free trial offer: you cannot actually reach this point unless you have paid for a license! The software download page is not linked from the website’s menus.
After the connection has been activated, there is a system tray icon, where you can right-click to make adjustments when you need to.
Once installation is complete, connecting is done by selecting a server from the dropdown list. Multiple options are available in some countries. Note the suffix (No P2P). This refers to peer-to-peer use, not point-to-point. VPN4ALL asks users to respect the regulations imposed by individual service providers. When you intend to use P2P software such as BitTorrent, you can find servers that permit P2P.
Clicking on the menu button at the top left of the window allows advanced users to adjust details of the configuration. There are four options windows:
Startup, where the client can be configured to start automatically or on demand;
Email, where you can specify a SMTP address in cases where the standard service does not work;
Servers, where IP rotation can be set up; and
Advanced, where TCP issues can be dealt with, and proxy servers set up.
In most instances, as far as European consumers are concerned, there will be no need to adjust anything apart from startup preferences. The software enables transparent access to the national domain of your choice. The screenshot below is taken from the US broadcaster NBC’s website, and shows a scene from a recent Saturday Night Live episode featuring Justin Timberlake:
Without VPN4ALL running, this is all a European viewer gets:
We tested VPN4ALL using the Irish telecom provider Eirecom’s rural broadband service, which has an advertised speed of 7mbps. The first test result, using SpeedTest.net, is for the native service:
We then tested servers in several cities, Frankfurt, New York, Paris, Singapore, and Talinn. The results were varied. In each case, the test was repeated five times to minimize exceptional spikes:
Frankfurt came in at 4.89 mb/s;
New York put in the top performance of 5.91 mb/s;
Paris managed a respectable 5.58 mb/s;
While Singapore turned in a sluggish 2.76 mb/s; and
Talinn brought up the rear with a modest 2.49 mb/s.
Streaming Saturday Night Live from the New York server was seamlessly smooth. The only times that dropouts occurred were when e-mail send and receive operated in the background.
There are cheaper options in the marketplace for users whose needs are more modest, but VPN4ALL is a solid service for domestic users, and will appeal to customers who need the flexibility of multiple server sites across several nationalities. The software is easy to install and use, but it packs plenty of options for advanced networking when these are necessary.
The ability to create a strong password.
Live chat support (in principle).
Signed installation app – no hassle from Windows UIC.
Website navigation: after going back a step, the choices reverted to default settings. It would be easy to buy a 3 month package instead of the intended 1 month, if you are not careful.
No one at home to provide live chat support. (If the hours are restricted, it would be a good idea to say so.)
No servers in Australia/New Zealand