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CryptoCloud tries to create a positive first impression, with mentions of “independently-tested 2048 RSA public key cipher algorithms” and other similarly impressive jargon. Unfortunately, this masquerade starts to unravel quickly for various reasons. To start with, the service is priced far too ambitiously for what it provides, and low-quality documentation means that non-techies will find far better options elsewhere.
Unfortunately, things aren’t much better for enthusiasts. While the service does work, better performance is easy to find elsewhere, and for less financial outlay.
We had misgivings about CryptoCloud when we first began to review it; in fact, we had to delay the start of our review as the sign-up page was inaccessible on our first attempt. During the time we spent with the product, we encountered various things that rang alarm bells, such as a company Twitter feed that hadn’t been updated in several months, and a rather inconsistent website design.
Packages & Pricing
CryptoCloud offer just one VPN package, at a price that’s firmly located at the “expensive” end of the scale:
The monthly package costs $19.95 each month, with longer commitment packages reducing the monthly fee. Still, at $179.95, the annual package still costs $14.99 per month – and there are plenty of VPN services out there that cost half of that (or less).
CryptoCloud don’t offer a free trial of their service. They do, however, offer a 7 day “no questions asked” money-back guarantee. Unfortunately this is hidden in the terms and conditions, so only those exploring the site in detail would be aware of the offer.
CryptoCloud allegedly offer “live support,” but it showed as “offline” every time we tried to access it.
Other than this, CryptoCloud offer a knowledge base and a support ticket system. Sadly, the latter isn’t properly integrated into the customer area. The support area runs on an outsourced helpdesk platform, which gives you the disconcerting feeling that you have completely left the CryptoCloud site when accessing the support section. Attempting to log in to the support area with our account username and password resulted in the system refusing to accept our details.
We were able to send in a support ticket anyway but despite mentions of a “24/7/365″ service, didn’t receive a response while the review was in progress.
All-in-all, the support area of CryptoCloud’s site seems thrown together and is also (irritatingly) configured to show the company’s Twitter feed at the top of the every page. The knowledge base is rather thin on content too, especially in an industry where a large number of providers give access to tutorial videos or, at the very least, screen-shot based “how-to” guides.
The company’s “contact us” page does provide a phone number for the company but states that this is intended for press / media enquires. The page also says that support is available 24/7/365 but, as stated above, fast support wasn’t forthcoming in our experience!
Security and Privacy
CryptoCloud make bold claims about their technology, referring to “independently-tested 2048 RSA public key cipher algorithms” and “clever firewall-transversal tricks in their Java client code.”
This didn’t really tell us the key basics we wanted to know, but a poke around the knowledge base and “terms and conditions” pages taught us a little more.
CryptoCloud offer support for the PPTP and OpenVPN protocols. They only, however, provide their own OpenVPN client software for Windows users. All other platforms must use manual setup instructions and, in some cases, third-party VPN clients, such as Tunnelblick on Mac OS X.
The company state that though they will comply with law-enforcement orders, they do not keep network traffic logs. They also, unusually, state that they will dispute surveillance “sniffer” orders to “the highest judicial authority possible.” This certainly demonstrates a commitment to keeping their customer’s usage private.
With no free trial offer available, we signed up to a standard monthly package at $19.95.
We chose the PayPal payment option, but were pleased to see a few “niche” payment options such as Bitcoin and Payza amongst the usual credit and debit card options.
PayPal integration was slick and effective, with the order automatically setting up a recurring PayPal payment. Receipts and welcome emails arrived almost immediately.
Installation and Configuration
As CryptoCloud only offer their own client software for the Windows platform, we used a Windows 7 laptop to complete the bulk of our testing.
We downloaded a standard Windows installation file, choosing the 64-bit version for our copy of Windows 7. A 32-bit version was also available to download. Running the file took us through a quick and standard Windows installation routine – we basically had to click “next” a few times.
Once installed, we had to login using our CryptoCloud username and password.
We then waited for a minute or so while an “establishing connection” window went through various processes, including downloading a software VPN device to our machine:
Once this was complete, we were automatically connected to the service using the OpenVPN protocol. We were not told where we were connected via, so we performed an IP address lookup, which revealed we had been assigned a UK-based IP address.
Unfortunately, once connected, our Web browsing became somewhat flaky. Although we were able to access a UK-based streaming media service with no buffering, other web pages timed out and, as you will see later in the review, we were unable to complete a speed test.
Installing CryptoCloud on our Windows machine had resulted in a new icon appearing in our System Tray. Right-clicking it revealed some menu options:
Disappointingly, selecting “Choose a Country” triggered our Web browser and prompted us to enter our CryptoCloud username and password. There was no way to change our country setting from within the software. Furthermore, the Web-based menu that then appeared gave us a rather confusing selection of settings, with no guidance as to what to choose and why:
Even as techies, we were unsure of which option we should select. So, needless to say, this list would baffle a beginner. We decided to connect to the first suggested US server. We did this via the Web page, then disconnected the VPN client. After reconnecting, we then had a US-based IP address.
Connection Speeds and reliability
As mentioned above, we noticed our Web browsing performance had deteriorated whilst connected via the default UK server. Furthermore, we were unable to perform a speedtest as the test hung while we were connected in this way. We therefore decided to have another go at testing performance, but this time whilst connected via the US.
As usual, we first performed a test using Speedtest.net while disconnected from the VPN service, in order to gain a benchmark performance figure:
As you can see, this revealed a download speed of just under 14Mbps at our testing location.
We then connected to CryptoCloud (having changed our settings to use a US-based server), and performed the test again:
As the screenshot above reveals, connecting to CryptoCloud resulted in a considerable drop in our download speed, which was almost halved. This is a very disappointing result. Coupled with our browsing problems whilst connected via the UK IP address, we were not left with a particularly positive impression, even though the service did “work” first time in terms of connectivity.
Sadly, these guides aren’t of a particularly high quality – see below for an example:
These dense, text-based instructions would have any technophobe reaching for the phone and calling in an IT expert. For a service that’s priced so far above average, some good screenshots or instructional videos shouldn’t be too much to expect.
In any case, we had a test iPhone to hand, so had a go at configuring the service for iOS.
CryptoCloud on iOS
The iOS instructions were minimalist, to say the least; nothing but a simple list of what to tap on our device:
It’s again worth mentioning that this is clearly not a service for a technical novice – in fact the vast majority of VPN services offer better documentation than this. Regardless, we followed the instructions to set up a PPTP connection on our iPhone.
Our VPN connection worked first time after following the instructions.
We wanted to find out whether the VPN functioned over a cellular 3G connection, so we decided to do some speedtests via 3G. Our first test was with the VPN disconnected:
Next, we connected to CryptoCloud’s PPTP server and ran the test again:
Unfortunately, as the image shows, we again experienced performance degradation while we were connected to the VPN service. So, while this is a service that works over both 3G and WiFi, it isn’t one that provides great speed.
CryptoCloud provide a login-protected customer area, in common with most VPN service providers.
The functionality here is all pretty basic, such as access to invoices, the ability to change your account password, and access to server / country settings.
While there is nothing here to seriously complain about, it is frustrating that the customer area isn’t properly integrated with the support ticketing system. It just leaves a rather fragmented and amateurish impression.
- A good range of payment options
We weren’t so sure about
- No access to quick technical support
- Poor documentation
- “Hidden” money-back guarantee details
- High price
- Poor download speed performance
- Fragmented website
CryptoCloud is one of the most expensive VPN solutions we have reviewed recently, and unfortunately it does nothing at all to justify the high cost.