My Private Network has been providing virtual private network (VPN) technology since 2008. They currently operate servers in fifteen separate countries worldwide, and offer a global service. There are two packages available: either a single country subscription or a global subscription. These can be continuous or for a specific period, the minimum being one month. There is no free trial option.
Once connected to the service, all the user’s internet traffic is encrypted. For your money, you get a completely private and transparent internet service, which is capable of bypassing any country-specific restrictions on internet use. One popular application is to access free-to-air television services from major broadcasters such as the BBC or NBC.
My Private Network software supports all the major software platforms. There is a choice between simple no-frills PPTP technology and more sophisticated SSL approaches that might require additional software to be installed.
Packages and prices
The basic package offered by My Private Network is a single country subscription, and costs £5 (approximately €5.80, $7.60) per month. Alternatively, a global subscription costs £9 (approximately €10.60, $13.60) per month. Currently, pricing is only available in Sterling. The alternative values given here are estimated, and may vary with exchange rate fluctuations. There are three payment options: PayPal, Google Checkout, and manual payment.
As a background service, there is not much to see; the software is either ‘on’ or ‘off’. From that point of view, there are no features as such to write about. There are two types of connection available: point-to-point tunnelling protocol (PPTP), and secure socket layer (SSL). PPTP is simpler, and can be set up without the need for any software download. SSL requires a small client to be installed.
Customer service and support
While creating the account we encountered a problem, which was resolved within three hours. A pricing enquiry was serviced within the hour. Unlike some other sites offering VPN services, My Private Network currently does not offer a live chat option, but these prompt responses suggest that potential customers need not be concerned about this.
Installation and operation
The first step is to choose a pricing option, and complete the transaction. We have a couple of reservations about this step. First, while navigating the payment options, we stepped back a stage, and this caused the user name and password that we chose to be voided. Since the user name can only be a maximum of eight characters, easy alternatives like adding an extra character might not work. Second, we chose a strong password including non-alphanumeric characters. We were unable to log on, and, after contacting support, discovered that the non-alphanumeric characters had not been recognized. This might not concern an expat looking for media access while overseas, but for someone to whom privacy is crucial, it might give pause for thought.
Once payment is confirmed, a welcome e-mail arrives almost instantly. This includes a link back to the website, where you now log in and download the setup software. Installation is simple: open the browser’s download folder (or the alternative location you might choose) and run the installer. You will have chosen the appropriate installer for your needs on the website, so there are no further selections to make at this stage.
There is no restriction on the number of download options you choose. Your subscription entitles you to connect from multiple devices, so that you can use it from your desktop computer, laptop, and phone even if they separately use Windows, Mac OS and Android.
We installed both the PPTP and SSL options under Windows 8. Although the PPTP setup is simpler, in terms of needing additional software, it actually takes longer to accomplish. The steps you need to take are explained in full on the My Private Network download page:
In Windows 8, you create a new vpn service using standard operating system tools.
After creating a network connection, follow the prescribed steps to set up the protocols:
Log in using your user name and password, and then monitor traffic as desired using the network status tool:
This is where you disconnect if you need to.
We then installed the Windows 8 SSL client, and the entire setup was completed in four or five clicks by the standard installer. With that done, an icon appears in the system tray at the bottom right of the screen:
If it is visible, right-clicking on the icon allows you to make and break your connection. If it is not visible, left-click the up arrow and that should reveal the system tray. If the icon is green (as shown), that means the connection is live. If the icon is red, it is not.
When you start a connection, a pop-up window appears showing the task progression:
Once the connection is made, the window closes automatically. If you have a single country subscription, and you try to initiate a connection to another server, the window remains open, and you get an error message:
For a before-and-after screenshot, here is the BBC’s home page seen from Ireland (note the advertisements):
Here is the ‘same’ page seen from Ireland with a live My Private Network connection:
There are no advertisments, and the page layout is different.
We tested My Private Network using Eirecom’s rural broadband service, which has a maximum speed of 7mbps. The first test result, using SpeedTest.net, is for the native service:
The next screenshot shows the result of testing My Private Network’s PPTP service.
There is a deterioration in performance, but the drop is not spectacular. Next is the SSL service:
Although the speed is slightly higher, it is within the margin of error: some account should be taken of network traffic. Over five iterations, both the PPTP and SSL speeds showed a variation of about 0.5 mbps, from a low of 5.40 to a high of 5.90. There was no noticeable difference in performance between Internet Explorer 10, Chrome (Version 25), and Firefox (version 19).
The acid test, though, is in live streaming performance. We were able to watch the internatlional rugby match between England and Italy. Performance was smooth and reliable, with only occasional short drop-outs:
Although a screenshot cannot convey much sense of this, the image captures a moment. Drop-outs are more likely to occur when other network traffic is happening simultaneously, such as a background e-mail send/receive.
For the expat who is looking for a way to stay in touch with media from back home while abroad, My Private Network offers a solid, no-frills, easily installed package. For someone who wants to install a VPN for security reasons, the password issue might be a deal-breaker. For a knowledgeable sports enthusiast with a decent broadband connection, though, the service can connect to an international array of free-to-air sports coverage at an attractive price.
Well designed installation page. Instructions are clear and easy to follow.
Easy to operate once installed.
No significant performance hit.
Pricing options. Ability to buy a single month subscription without having to remember to cancel it.
Pricing options. Not a big concern, but regular users would probably prefer a discount on longer contracts.
Lack of alternative currency options.
The branding (an ugly dog).