Review

My Expat Network Review


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Summary

While some VPN services market themselves as being suitable for a plethora of different uses, My Expat Network is clear in it’s purpose: it’s a service intended to help expats living abroad watch TV services from their old home countries. Unusually, the service is clearly split into two alternative services, one for UK access and one for the USA.

My Expat Network doesn’t pretend to be “all things to all people,” and support leaves much to be desired. However, it gets the basics right and performance is decent.

While some people use VPN services for anonymity or to bypass censorship, it’s fair to say that probably the most common use is to access streaming media services from other countries. My Expat Network is quite upfront about this and markets its service purely as a means of accessing foreign TV services.

While it’s fair to say that there are other services that do more, and others that do the same in a slightly more refined way, this doesn’t change the fact that My Expat Network does what it sets out to do perfectly well. If it meets your requirements, it deserves a slot on your shortlist.

Packages & Pricing

As stated above, My Expat Network has a slightly unusual approach to selling its VPN package. Essentially, the UK and USA services are marketed and sold separately.

Seperate Marketing

It’s important to point this out, as many competing services sell all-in services with access to VPN servers in multiple countries for one price.

Prices vary slightly depending on the service you choose:

UK service

The UK service, as shown above, costs £5 per month for PC / Mac access OR tablet / mobile access. Alternatively, you can pay £7 per month for access from any device.

The prices for the US service are slightly different:

US Service

The US service is cheaper (when taking into account exchange rates) at $5 per month for PC / Mac access or $6.50 per month for access from any device. There is no “mobile / tablet only” option for the USA service.

The difference is real life cost due to the exchange rate seems a little unfair. At current exchange rates, the total annual cost of the “all-in” US service works out to $78. The UK service works out to the equivalent of $128. This doesn’t seem quite fair.

My Expat Network don’t offer any free trials of their services, however they do state in their FAQs that a one-month money-back guarantee is available if there are problems with the service.

For the purposes of this review, we decided to subscribe to (and concentrate on) the UK-based service.

Customer Service

My Expat Network handle their customer support via an outsourced Zendesk platform. This is a ticket-based helpdesk system. Although 24/7/365 support isn’t advertised, the provider states that they will reply to queries on the “same day.”

Zendesk support

We sent a query to the support department to test their response, but a reply only came about 36-hours later, not quite meeting the “same day” promise.

My Expat Network do offer one rather novel service: the ability to request that one of their staff members install the software for you via a remote connection. The service costs £25 and must be requested via the support ticketing system.

Install

Being techies ourselves, we didn’t avail ourselves of this service, but it could be useful to those timid of technology. The price compares favourably to what it would cost to call in a private IT professional.

My Expat Network do not offer any telephone support.

Security and Privacy

We found it challenging to find detailed technical information on how My Expat Network actually works. We eventually found information on the protocols used when we clicked through to subscribe. The service uses OpenVPN on computers and L2TP/IPSec on mobile devices.

We browsed through the FAQs and “Instruction Guides” sections, but found nothing about encryption levels. We then turned to the “Helpdesk and Support” section:

Helpdesk

Unfortunately, searching for words like “encryption” only revealed discussion of “encrypted tunnels” but didn’t tell us exact details, such as whether these are 128 or 256-bit.

Privacy information was a little more clear. The privacy policy states that the company logs connection details and bandwidth utilisation but that “no other form of monitoring is permitted.” This doesn’t actually reveal whether logs are maintained, so those obsessed with privacy may wish to gain some further clarification.

The process

Registering

So that we could test both desktop and mobile services, we decided to subscribe to the UK VPN Multi-use service at £7 per month. This allows you to use the service on up to three devices at once.

UK Multi use

All of My Expat Network’s payment processing is handled by PayPal:

Payment

Clicking the “Subscribe Multi-Use” button took us directly to PayPal. Rather than paying by card, we set up a recurring monthly subscription using our existing PayPal funds.

As soon as our payment was complete, we were given a username and password (whilst still within PayPal’s system). We had previously been advised to note this down. We also received a confirmation email from PayPal.

Unusually, we weren’t redirected straight back to the providers web page. We instead went back to that browser tab manually, where we were able to enter our new username and password into a login box.

Login

Installation and Configuration

We decided to use a Mac running OS X Mountain Lion for our testing, so chose the Mac OSX option on the login box (shown above).

When we clicked the “Login” button, we expected to be taken to a customer area, but instead a .ZIP installation file began to download. We referred to the Mac instructions to see what to do next.

ZIP INSTALL

Essentially, all we had to do was unzip the file we had downloaded and drag the application (.app) file to our Mac’s “Applications” folder. We then had to enter our system password to “change ownership” of the file.

Having done this, a new connectivity icon appeared in our Mac’s menu bar:

New icon

Getting to this point was relatively straightforward and well-documented. While the process could be made more user friendly for novices, we have seen worse combinations of setup steps and instructions.

We clicked on our new menu item and selected “Connect MyExpatNetwork.” Connection was almost instantaneous. After connecting, we checked our IP address, which was now located in the south of England. We browsed to a popular UK-based streaming media site and were instantly able to access region-locked content.

We had a quick look in the “VPN Details” menu. This primarily allowed us to make cosmetic changes to the VPN software and access log files – we were not able to access any significant encryption or protocol settings.

Connection speeds and reliability

As usual, we carried out some speed tests in order to assess the performance of the My Expat Network Service. First we used Speedtest.net to perform a test whilst disconnected to get a benchmark download speed figure:

ST discon

This download speed of just under 5Mbps was fairly typical for this particular test location. Next, we connected using the VPN client software and ran the test again:

spcon

This was very pleasing result, with the download speed only dropping by under 0.5Mbps as a result of being connected to the VPN.

As we were only testing the UK-based My Expat Network service, this was the only desktop test we could complete.

Compatibility

My Expat Network only provide client software for Windows PCs and Apple Macs, but the service’s compatibility list is significantly more broad:

Compat list

As well as also supporting Linux, My Expat Network provide manual setup devices for all a wide range of mobile devices including Windows Mobile, which most providers ignore. They also provide router-level support for those using Sabai branded VPN routers.

We decided to use the manual setup instructions to put My Expat Network to the test on an iPhone 4S.

My Expat Network on the iPhone

Setting up My Expat Network on an iOS device essentially involves manually configuring a new VPN connection via the device’s setup screens.

Setup iPhone

The process is reasonably well documented, with screenshot instructions. Once again, we’ve seen simpler setup procedures with better instructions, but seen far worse too.

We followed the process as described, at one point having to refer back to the username and password we were given during PayPal signup. After doing this, we had a new L2TP VPN connection to My Expat Network, which connected first time, albeit somewhat slowly.

We decided to run a couple of speedtests whilst connected via 3G – both to look at the performance overhead and to confirm that the service works over a cellular connection.

First we ran a test with the VPN disconnected:

mob stest1

Then we ran a second test whilst connected to My Expat Network’s UK-based L2TP server:

mob stest2

This test result wasn’t quite as impressive as what we’d seen on the Mac; the L2TP connection reduced our mobile download speed by about 1.5Mbps. This was an average but acceptable result.

Customer Area

Most VPN service providers offer a login-protected customer area. My Expat Network doesn’t do so and, in fact, even supplies password details via PayPal’s payment system.

The only logon-protected part of the site is used to trigger the download of the VPN client software, which is pre-configured for each customer and pre-populated with passwords and configuration settings.

While we would quite like to see an area that centralizes billing details, support requests and account information, the slightly unusual way that My Expat Network does things works well enough – and the pre-configured client software is a big plus point for novice users.

Conclusion

We liked

  • Simple, focussed product
  • Good download performance on our Mac
  • Pre-configured client software

We weren’t so sure about

  • Split UK and US services
  • Cluttered website
  • Support query not answered within promised timescale

We hated

  • Pricing disparity between UK and US versions

My Expat Network isn’t the slickest VPN service we’ve come across, but it does its job pretty well. Everything works, technically-speaking, and performance is either very good (desktop) or the acceptable end of average (mobile).

It is a shame about the pricing disparity between the UK and USA versions of the solution, especially when many VPN products offer access to servers in both (and sometimes more) countries for one price. It was also disappointing to hear nothing but “radio silence” from the support department. Even so, this solution did nothing else to significantly annoy us while we reviewed it, so we walked away with a reasonably positive impression.

 

 


Pete runs Best VPN and wants to get detailed information to the readers. He is dedicated to being the best and providing the highest quality at anything he does. You can also find him on Twitter or Google+

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11 responses to “My Expat Network Review

    It’s working fine for me. Will see how it goes – instructions aren’t great.

    to run it on PC you need to find the icon in the toolbar at the bottom right of the screen and right click to connect to VPN. You can then get into iPlayer etc. (Going to the program through the list of programs – where you naturally think you have to launch it won’t get you anywhere.) Happily catching up with programs from home. Frankly working better over here than connecting to them through certain broadband services in the UK.

    Do not use. I tried to use it (I am a UK resident wanting US TV). Only after I subscribed did they explain that you have to have an Apple US account (clearly I have a UK account) and then they said it would work on a computer. So I came home from my travels to find out that they apps on google and apple only pick up my sony phone and ipad respectively. I cancelled immediately after that. scam. I cancelled through paypal.

    Do not subscribe. A complete scam. No help or contact.
    Does not work

    I live in Spain and have an ASDL internet router and connection provided by Telefonica S.L. for my Google Chrome laptop and tablet on which I am currently enjoying UK TV using Expat Network’s services. The problem in that the screen is rather small and it doesn’t really allow the family to watch any of the programs together.
    Can anybody tell me, in layman’s terms for I am not very good at technological terminology, if there is a smart TV with internet connection on the market that not too expensive and which allows us to connect this service directly from the router to the TV without having to use the laptop to connect the two?
    Please let us know, your advice is highly appreciated.

    1. Hi, buy an Apple TV. It’s a small square box, with hdmi out that plugs into your tv, then mirrors or receives the programs from your device. I use mine with a laptop, iPhone and iPad.

    Avoid like the plague! They took the liberty of signing me up for 2 subscriptions due to a glitch in their payment system. Neither subscription logins worked. It isn’t at all clear on the website that you have actually signed up to a monthly service (I only wanted a one off service) and so one month later I was charged again for 2 unusable subscriptions. I emailed to complain about the service and asked for a refund but they haven’t even had the courtesy to reply.

    I have used this software for quite a while on my PC and latterly on my Mac. It worked pretty well on my PC but now I am a dedicated Mac user I have had trouble with the software and it won’t function properly with the latest Maverick OS. Their support is distinctly lacking in technical ability. They kept sending me the same message as to how to get around the problems of loading the software which seemed to work. The software loaded all right or at least appeared to, but as soon as you clicked on the icon in the corner of your screen it kept disappearing….. Instead of giving me a technician they just gave up and offered me my money back. Someone please tell me another source of VPN that doesn’t have all the shit advertising to go with it and with good technical support !!

    Really dissapointing!! They are really good at getting your cash via PayPal but the User Name and Password I got did not work. Still waiting for Customer Service.

    As an American Diplomat that moves from one overseas Embassy/Consulate Post to another every few years, I am using the US subscription to MyExpat – $6.50 monthly directly via PayPal that covers all of my Windows, IPad, and Samsung Droid products. I have used MyExpat on my Windows 7 and Vista laptops for over four years now and have loved it! I run the Expat desktop icon once, it implements all of the necessary scripting in the background, provides a US IP (the icon in the tray changes from yellow to green) and maintains its VPN connectivity throughout the day–for as long as I want–with no interruptions! This is by far much better than some of the other VPNs I’ve tried (i.e., HMA and PureVPN) that consistently dropped or logged me off from their VPNs–even when in the middle of watching an streaming TV episode on a US channel. In addition to being posted overseas, I travel a lot and MyExpat maintains the integrity of its connection no matter where I go and THAT’S worth A LOT to me! So, for a Windows computer, I highly recommend the U.S. subscription. I only recently changed my old subscription to a new one (there was a requirement to do so because they’d upgraded their systems at one point) that also included my IPAD/other devices. So, I just recently installed and started using the ExPat VPN on my IPAD and the connectivity drops off quite often on the Apple side. While the OPENVPN (fyi: this is the latest/greatest on security for VPNS) holds up super for the Windows systems, the L2TP VPN for IPads and Samsung Droids doesn’t work as well–and there isn’t ane OPENVPN implementation option, yet, on these Apple or Droid devices that I know of, yet. On the plus side, MyExPat still holds up better on the L2TP VPN than did HMA (with ten different server points set up and trying all of them back and forth) or the PureVPN subscriptions I paid a separate higher price for (before MyExPat started including IPad and Droid devices)… The only real thing I’d like to see is for ExPat to include configuration of DD-WRT into their options… While I still need each device to establish its own VPN because of all of my traveling, I’d still like to configure my old LinkSys WRT54 router with DD-WRT so all of my devices VPN through the router when I’m at home–no individual connections needed. But, I don’t think MyExPat offers that type of configuration availability, yet. Other than that… I am a loyal customer of MyExPat and hope they include the DD-WRT feature in the future.

    BAD ! BAD ! BAD ! Be warned. I signed up for this before moving to the UAE. They took my money, provided no service to me then I never heard from them again ! They also continued taking a direct debit – AND more than the monthly intended I might add – despite being repeatedly asked to stop. In the end I had to cancel my whole Paypal account to get rid of them. There is no phone number to call them on just an email address. And never once did I receive a reply to any of the mails sent to their “Help Desk”

    So in short, they provided me with NO telly. Took money on approximately 5 occasions out of my account. And refused to have any contact with me. A total rip off. I’d give them 0 stars across the board if I could but this site makes me give 1.

    was with them for a couple of years, for a while didn’t notice but they were double charging me due to their mistake, They repaid, but nevertheless if I hadn’t noticed the mistake they wouldn’t have done anything. So, not the best administration, or customer support.
    Also if you want to install on all your devices you have to buy seperate accounts for each one! BAD service.
    Have just changed to UKVPN, for 99p more per month I also have access to USA television AND can install on all my devices: iPhone, MacBook, Desktop and iPad. They have live online 1-2-1 help, you get an actual REAL person helping you and talking you through the installation: Brilliant.
    Would not recommend MyExPat.

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