If IVPN was a decent VPN provider in our last review, it’s made the leap to greatness on account of some impressive speeds, hefty encryption, and a client that almost too responsive to be true. While the pricing could be lower, the overall package on offer amounts to nothing less than a superior VPN solution.
- Consistent & speedy
- Multi-hop VPN
- Strong encryption
- Intuitive & functional Windows client
- No LiveChat support
Pricing & Plans
IVPN is dissimilar to most other VPN providers in that you may only choose from one service plan, though discounts come into play depending on how long a subscription is for. The good news is that all plans come fully featured, and there’s a 3-day free trial period that allows you to test the waters before you commit for the long haul. This is great as you’d understandably want to see if IVPN is good value for your money considering the overall high price month-to-month.
Refunds for an IVPN subscription are only available for a week, barring “exceptional circumstances.” Said problems would be a fault of their network as opposed to a power outage or virus on your end. The refund policy is clearly aimed then as a deterrent to folks who enjoy taking advantage of freemium trial-services for exploitative gain or some cheap laughs, while ruining a fine, serviceable model for the rest of us. I was pleased to see both IVPN’s stance on the issue, in addition to the screengrab below, posted to avoid customer confusion.
Payment is a straightforward process with four options to choose from: major credit card (processed by a third party), PayPal, Bitcoin using BitPay, and cash. The lattermost option has been in effect since 2010, but you’ll need to select an annual plan to view the cash payment option. Don’t be alarmed at any discrepancy between ‘3-day free trial and 7-day refund’, in the images above. You essentially have a week to get an unconditional refund (I checked).
You can quickly check on the state of any of the 21 IVPN servers in 12 countries from the Server Status Page shown below. The usual suspects in the US and UK are represented. However, there’s only one server in Hong Kong, and none in South America, Africa, or Australia – slim pickings for much of the globe. That said, this may not be catastrophic, as is discussed in the speedtesting section of this review.
IVPN has moved locations to Gibraltar since our last review, ostensibly in an effort to keep their headquarters in both a stable geopolitical climate, as well as one friendly to digital privacy. We’ll delve further into Gibraltar’s legal situation regarding data-sharing, but it’s suffice to say that it’s much friendlier than those familiar with the island’s colonial British past might first believe.
Shared IP addresses are in place to ensure that your unique IP isn’t as easily identifiable as it would be otherwise. You’re also allowed up to three simultaneously connected devices per any given session.
Security & Privacy
As mentioned in the bit above, Gibraltar is a friendly hosting location. Better still, IVPN is a logless service. The VPN software doesn’t keep usage or connection logs which is just about all we could ever hope for from any provider. That being said, it’s always worth remembering that VPNs never make you completely anonymous, strictly-speaking, in that an element of faith is required that IVPN is true to its claims. My experiences in testing and other user responses have led me to conclude nothing less than honest business practices, but it’s always worth keeping in mind nonetheless.
As you can see above, there’s a sort of fail safe in that IVPN can’t respond to DMCA notices with any particular user’s information, seeing as how none of it is stored.
Moreover, P2P is happily allowed, provided you stick to non-US servers – whether or not you happen to be using a VPN server based in the US as an entry or exit node to a multi-hop connection.
Now for some weighty bits on encryption. The data channel is encrypted using AES 256-bit keys, with SHA-1 used for HMAC authentication. Meanwhile, the control channel is encrypted using 4096-bit certificates generating using SHA-1. This level of security should be more than enough for anyone not looking to use the web for illicit activities beyond circumventing free speech restrictions or access to blocked sites. Port forwarding is enabled, but off by default.
IVPN’s business model is enhanced through an overall modern, stylish, and minimalist website. Navigation wasn’t harder than scanning around for a split second, then clicking on the relevant section. Links were well laid out in that regard.
IVPN’s blog is also a pleasant surprise, with more nuanced privacy fare then provider blogs tend to have. The IVPN team have taken the time to delve deeper than alarmist clickbait or bland media-orientated regurgitation, instead taking a practical magnifying lens to the sometimes confusing world of information security.
Support is somewhat mixed, as LiveChat isn’t currently offered. You’ll have to make due, instead, with a plethora of (quite frankly splendid) setup guides, and a well-populated FAQ section. There are also close to 20 free privacy and technical guides covering everything from how to pay anonymously to creating nested chains of Tor and VPN. The guides shown above have been featured in tech forums across the web, and helped to grow the IVPN brand while also aiding those in search of technical information in an easy-to-understand format.
If you can’t find the answer to your problem in the aforementioned guides and FAQ, you may open a support email ticket or directly email the support team.
The team responded back to my queries with professionalism and properly addressed my points within roughly a single day’s time.
Signing up is a three step process: enter your (working) email address, pay, and open the email for its instructions.
The IVPN Windows VPN client
Once you’ve followed the setup instructions and installed the IVPN Windows client (it should take no more than 10 minutes), it’s readily apparent how smooth the interface is. Best of all, you’ll quickly find the app to be full of the features you’d need, including a killswitch, auto-boot, and the aforementioned multi-hop connection.
What’s interesting about the IVPN firewall (killswitch) is that you may opt to have it on at all times to keep any connections to the internet withing the VPN tunnel, even if you haven’t opened or run the IVPN client. These advanced options are in Settings – IVPN Firewall, as shown below.
You may also opt to modulate your connection settings, according to speed needs at any given moment, or use obfsproxy or another option to evade government censors. This is great news, especially in light of recent developments in China.
What good are bells and whistles if the substance is lacking? Nothing at all, which is why I can honestly rate IVPN’s Windows client as one of, if not the most pleasing I’ve come across. Its interface has a great look and functionality which the majority of users will find easy to use and navigate.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)
Speeds were in the average to excellent range. As expected, multi-hop slowed down the HK-NL double connection against the UK test server, but not by too much. US server speeds were surprisingly excellent related to our test location proximity and overall above-average than those of some competitors, coming in at an identical 9.4 Mbps downstream.
|Graphs show highest, lowest and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.|
Better yet, DNS leak checks came back fine, though it’s always good to give these an occasional look-over, to keep your devices as secure as possible. Head over to ipleak.net for most DNS checks, and test-IPv6.com for the ones in its title. For that extra peace of mind, you may also use a third test amalgamating the two at doileak.com.
IVPN is available on most major platforms besides Windows, including Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and DD-WRT routers. It offers the same high-grade security benefits across devices. The OS X client is identical to its Windows counterpart in both function and form, which is great news for Apple fans, or those who like variety in their tech. The setup guides were well-illustrated and clearly geared at a primer level to help beginners get started, in contrast to the more technical guides in the dedicated ‘Privacy Guides’ section.
IVPN Review Conclusion
- Consistent speed
- Flawless client
- Detailed guides
I wasn’t so sure about
- No user forum or LiveChat
- Lack of server coverage on some continents
IVPN is on a decided upswing, despite some concerns about support and sparse server coverage in some areas. That’s because the existing network is fast to begin with, coupled with excellent reliability. What’s more, the entire IVPN service is built on the same privacy and security model as we are, as shown by its EFF membership, up-front customer relations, and educational privacy guides. Click the blue jump and give the trial a go today – you won’t be disappointed.