Denmark-based BeeVPN have a slick website and market their service as “proven and robust,” proudly stating that they only use “carrier-grade” Cisco equipment and don’t outsource any of their service provision to third-parties. Our tests prove that this is indeed a high quality service, which does certain things in novel and innovative ways. Despite slightly disappointing download speeds and some limitations that you’ll need to be aware of, it still warrants serious consideration.
BeeVPN certainly create the impression of a high-quality VPN service, promising 24/7/365 support and a full-money back guarantee. It’s important to note that the service is more expensive than many competitor offerings, and while it offers support for a wide range of computers and devices, there is a bolt-on charge for use on mobile devices and routers.
We won’t pretend that there aren’t other services in existence that make things slightly easier for complete technophobes, but anyone willing to spend time reading the high-quality setup guides should have no problem getting BeeVPN up and running. The support department is great too.
Packages & Pricing
BeeVPN offer a single service on a monthly subscription basis, with the price lowered when you commit to a longer subscription period up-front, as is standard practice for many services of this nature.
BeeVPN detail their prices in Euros. For the most expensive monthly suscription option, the price was €11.99 per month, which (based on the exchange rate at the time of writing) is US$15.50. In addition, there is an add-on cost for those wishing to use the service on routers or mobile devices of €1.19 per month ($1.50).
With the offered reductions for the maximum commitment period of one year, the total annual cost for those adding on the mobile “AddOn” would be €93.36, or approximately $120. This definitely puts BeeVPN in the “well above average” price bracket.
Out of interest, we connected to an alternative VPN service to obtain a USA-based IP address, but found the quoted prices still appeared in Euros when browsing the website.
Although BeeVPN state clearly on their website that they offer a money-back guarantee, they make no offer of a free trial.
BeeVPN highlight on the front page of their website that they offer 24/7/365 support, but it’s not instantly apparent how to gain access to it. Usually a help / support link is prominent on a VPN provider’s website but we couldn’t find this anywhere.
We eventually found an email address for support within the customer area of the website, after having registered for the service. We later found another email address hidden away on the “company legal info” page. As is quite common with VPN services, we were unable to find any telephone number with which to contact the company.
We sent a general query about the VPN technology to test out the support department’s speed of response. We instantly received an automated acknowledgement email and received a full, detailed and professional response in less than half an hour. This was very impressive indeed.
Security and Privacy
BeeVPN’s service uses Cisco’s high-security DTLS technology and 256-bit AES encryption by default. This shows an impressive commitment to security, and to the most up-to-date technology.
We sent a query to the support department so we could ascertain what kind of logs BeeVPN keep of their client’s service usage and were told that the only activity logs maintained were of total bytes in and out per user session. On this basis, BeeVPN’s clients can count on privacy. It should be mentioned that this support query was also answered in a matter of minutes, impressing us further with BeeVPN’s customer support.
As BeeVPN offer no free trial of their service, we signed up for a one month subscription.
The sign-up was straightforward, and we were pleased by the wide range of signup options, which offered Diner’s Club and Bitcoin as well as the usual credit / debit and PayPal options.
We opted to pay with PayPal, and the process was slick, however we did have two minor complaints – firstly that the site ran us through the Danish PayPal site, which could have been intimidating to those not used to making PayPal payments. Secondly, there was no option to add on the “Mobile AddOn” subscription at this stage. Having to go through the payment process twice if you want this extra service seems unnecessary when it could have easily been achieved with a tick-box.
Regardless, within seconds of completing the easy sign-up procedure, we had received our welcome email, which advised us to proceed to the online setup guides.
Installation and Configuration
We used a MacBook Pro running OS X 10.8 for our testing, so proceeded to the Mac setup guide.
While we rather liked the layout of the setup guides page, we were rather conscious that non-technical people could find the process intimidating, with options for “installation,” “ip country,” “SeeAllTV,” “firewall” and “password.”
Still, we were reassured when clicking the installation button took us to a good step-by-step guide with very clear screenshots.
We followed the instructions, which essentially involved us downloading a Cisco VPN client software installer, running it, and entering our Mac’s system password.
Once the software was installed, the VPN dialler (Cisco AnyConnect) was added to our test Mac’s Applications menu. After opening this program, we had to enter the server details for the BeeVPN service.
We then had to enter our username and password. Pleasingly, these were the details we had signed up with, and not a huge randomly-generated string, as is often the case with VPN services. We connected first time with no problems, and a quick check of our IP address revealed that we now had an IP address from the company’s “GB IP pool.”
BeeVPN differs from most other VPN services in terms of what you do next. For example, if you wish to gain a US IP rather than one in the UK, you are usually required to change some connection settings or consult a setup guide.
With BeeVPN, you essentially always connect in the same way, as described above. To change the “nuts and bolts” of your connection, you must visit the Customer Area, where you are presented with an initially rather intimidating flowchart-style interface:
Thankfully, the setup guides do a great job of explaining how all this works.
The first thing area we visited was the “IP/Country” section, which talks you through changing your gateway connection between options in Paris, London, Stockholm and Copenhagen.
Now, at this point we started to wonder why we couldn’t change to a USA-based server, but this is where BeeVPN’s innovative “SeeAllTV” function comes in. This was enabled by default, so we decided to put it to the test.
First we viewed some streaming content from a well-known UK-restricted media site. This played instantly with no buffering whatsoever. Then, without changing any settings, we visited a US TV station and were able to view content from there as well. This was impressive, not to mention convenient. We’re not sure exactly how BeeVPN achieve this, but it must be something to do with the “multi-country gateways” as shown in the control panel flowchart.
The “SeeAllTV” section of the setup guides details the correct combination of settings to access a range of different TV and streaming media services. It’s worth saying that this list doesn’t include anything (for example, we could see no way of accessing Australian or Canadian broadcasts), but there is a considerable list which probably meets the requirements of most people, and includes big names such as Hulu, Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
BeeVPN also offers advanced integrated Firewall functionality, also activated via the customer area. It’s necessary to disconnect and reconnect the VPN connection to change this setting. We didn’t test this functionality in detail, but it is rare to see it and will be reassuring for users with specific security requirements.
All in all, we were very impressed with what we saw, much of which just felt so much more “enterprise-grade” than many competing services. Admittedly, the flow-chart style user interface could baffle a technophobe, but the high-quality setup guides go a long way to compensate.
Connection Speeds and reliability
After being impressed with the general functionality of the BeeVPN solution, we were curious to find out if the connection speeds matched up.
As usual, we used Speedtest.net to carry out our testing. To begin with, we disconnected the VPN and ran a speed test to gain a benchmark:
This result, with a download speed of just under 7Mbps, was just what we have come to expect from this testing location.
We then connected to the default UK gateway using the Cisco VPN client, and ran the test again:
This result was rather disappointing, with a download speed drop of just over 2Mbps. (Although the upload speed appeared to improve, this is a common anomaly when running a speedtest over a VPN connection).
Finally, we decided to connect to the Copenhagen gateway to see if this made any difference to our download speed:
Although this was a slight improvement, it still represented a considerable download speed drop on our original benchmark connection. While these speed drops wouldn’t prevent the service being used as intended, they were, nonetheless, a little disappointing against a backdrop of such a slick service. However, given the high level of encryption in play, some speed overhead was to be expected.
BeeVPN is compatible with all standard computer operating systems (PC, Mac and Linux), as well as Apple TV, PlayStation 3, iOS devices and routers. However, Android devices were notable by their absence.
Although, for the purposes of this review, we restricted our testing to the Apple Mac, we took the time to browse the setup guides for other devices.
In the case of Windows machines, the Windows version of the Cisco VPN client is used for basic connectivity, so Windows users can expect an almost identical experience to those using Macs. Linux users are instructed to use the Tarball VPN client.
As the majority of settings are controlled by the online control panel, there is minimal software configuration required, which makes the initially-daunting client area seem like a really innovative idea in the end.
Configuration for Apple TV, PS3 and iOS requires a little more manual work – a DNS change for Apple TV and PS3, and the manual setup of a VPN connection on an iOS device. Pleasingly, however, the setup guides for this include clear instructions and good screenshots:
As described earlier in the review, the BeeVPN customer area is more involved than that of most VPN services, as many of the technical VPN settings are controlled in this area.
In common with most VPN services, however, you can also access various options related to your user account within this area:
One thing we didn’t like was that we were unable to find a cancellation link anywhere in the customer area. We may have missed it, but it appears that you must contact the support department to cancel your account. At least, based on our earlier experiences, we felt reassured that they would respond to our queries!
- Slick website and professional feel
- Innovative and up-to-date technology
- Top-level encryption
- Super-fast response to support queries
- Quality documentation
We weren’t so sure about
- No free trial
- Higher than average pricing
- The service doesn’t work for every purpose – i.e. no access to services in Australia, Canada or other unsupported countries, and no ability to gain an actual USA IP address
- Disappointing speeds
- No Android setup guides
BeeVPN is undoubtedly a high-quality VPN service, and plenty of thought has gone into how it works. We encountered no problems at all whilst using the service and the documentation is top class. Unfortunately some of the innovative ways the solution works mean that it won’t meet the requirements of every user; while the SeeAllTV feature is great, those who want their own USA-based IP address are out of luck.
Regardless, Bee VPN still stands apart from many run-of-the-mill VPN services and is well worth a detailed look.