ColanderVPN is a relatively new player in the VPN industry and it has made a good start. It’s not perfect – it lacks a kill switch and downloadable app. However, this service shows promise and is highly recommended for the non-English speaking world.
ColanderVPN is a new privacy service based in the Ukraine. The service’s creators are adept at working their way around the internet restrictions of repressive regimes. ColanderVPN can get through the Great Firewall of China to provide internet freedom in the People’s Republic. The service is available in Russian and Ukrainian, as well as English. Find out more by clicking the button below, or scroll down to read our in-depth review.
ColanderVPN has one single feature package, with three subscription periods. You can get the service price down to a very low level by signing up for a year. Despite being based in Eastern Europe, the company prices its services in US dollars. The one-year subscription works out at $2.96 per month, which makes it one of the cheapest Virtual Private Network (VPN) services around.
Signing up for a long period and paying upfront can be daunting. However, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you don’t have to worry about getting yourself into a long commitment for something that you might find you don’t want.
Additionally, you can get a one-day free trial of the full service. That gives you the opportunity to test the VPN before having to commit any money.
Unfortunately, you can’t pay for this service with Bitcoin, and Colander VPN can’t process payments through PayPal. The company accepts Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards, which are processed through a system called Stripe.
Colander’s base in Eastern Europe keeps it well away from the spying eyes of the NSA or Britain’s secret services. You can install the connection software on all of your devices, but you can only have three of them connected simultaneously. However, the VPN client can be set up on a router, which will cover all of the devices in your house with one license allowance.
The list below shows the headline features of the service.
The features page of the company’s website gives incorrect information about the server locations that ColanderVPN offers. That page declares that the company operates servers in four countries. However, the full list is shown on the server page of the website – it operates servers in 13 countries.
One great feature of the ColanderVPN service is that it doesn’t ban torrent downloading, although it does mention on its terms of service page that it doesn’t allow activities that are specifically banned in the country of use. In addition, Colander states that it won’t tolerate hackers using its network to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
VPNs use two basic types of encryption. The main session is usually encrypted by a symmetrical key system, which requires both sides of the connection to possess the same key to encrypt and decrypt the packets that pass back and forth. VPN companies use public key encryption for this phase. Session establishment at ColanderVPN uses 2048-bit Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption systems.
As the company promotes itself to those who want to get around web restrictions in China, it should maybe consider increasing the security of the session establishment phase by going up to a 4096-bit key. The major players in the VPN industry are moving towards stronger public key encryption, because they believe the Chinese authorities are working on cracking 2048-bit TLS encryption (and have already got into RSA encryption that uses 1024-bit keys).
For the main session of the VPN connection, Colander offers security that follows the OpenVPN methodology or the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) protocols. OpenVPN is the most widely-used security system in the VPN industry. ColanderVPN implements Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption with a 256-bit key. PPTP is a less secure VPN protocol and the ColanderVPN implementation uses a 128-bit key for encryption. The L2TP protocol uses 256-bit encryption that follows the Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) standard. This methodology is often preferable for mobile devices because it is quicker and uses less battery power.
There’s an important security feature that is lacking with ColanderVPN: a kill switch (sometimes called a VPN firewall). This system blocks all access to the internet when the VPN isn’t engaged. This would be a useful addition to the service, particularly for those in places such as Iran or China, who need to remain untraceable.
ColanderVPN keeps its account information separate from its VPN service company. Thus the VPN company can only identify each user by a username and an email account. A company called Stripe performs Colander’s payment processing. Stripe never passes personal information to ColanderVPN, so the company would be completely unable to identify the activities of each individual user.
If you worry about giving out your own email address at the sign-up stage, create a temporary webmail account to use as your contact email address. Should security issues arise, you would only have to close down that email account in order to break the chain of identification.
All VPN companies have to keep some tracking records of a session while a user is connected. This is because the VPN stands in between the customer and the target web server. The VPN server needs to be able to keep track of which incoming reply needs to be forwarded on to each customer. However, ColanderVPN doesn’t retain any details of its customers’ activities once each connection session terminates.
The company’s website is attractive and well designed. The ColanderVPN logo has a great look to it and the colors of the site’s theme take a cue from that emblem. The top menu and quick links in the footer of every page make navigation simple.
The site is available in English, Russian, and Ukrainian. English is not the first language of the people who operate this company. This fact shows in the broken English and spelling mistakes on the site.
You can access the support desk through the chat box at the bottom right of the website. This live chat service for support is available from 09:00 to 23:00 Eastern European Time (UTC +2).
Clicking on this tab opens up a message window where you can ask a question.
Replies go to the email address that you enter in this chat window.
You can also access the support system via the top menu. The troubleshooting section of the site is not very extensive. If you click on the “Send Inquiry” button in the support screen, you will arrive at a standard web form where you can enter your question. Again, Colander will send the response to this question to the email address that you enter at the top of the form.
The free trial gives you full access to the VPN service, so you might as well sign up for that first, before you invest any money. Make sure you open up the account on a day when you have little else to do because you only have 24 hours with the free trial to test the VPN properly.
Although you have to give an email address to get the free trial, you don’t have to give any other personal details. If you’re worried about being traced, set up a webmail account for use with this VPN.
The ColanderVPN Windows VPN Client
Colander doesn’t have its own app. Instead, you download the free OpenVPN GUI app from the OpenVPN organization. There is a link to the download file on the ColanderVPN website. You then have to download a configuration file from the ColanderVPN site before you can use the app.
Next, check the account details section of the Colander website to get your VPN password. Your username for the VPN is the one you set up when you opened the account. However, the password you created is only good for the client area of the website; you need a different password for the app. You can find this password in your account details.
Click on the icon at the end of the Password field to discover your VPN password.
The app is very basic and doesn’t show whether you’re connected. However, once the VPN is operating, its icon on the system tray will turn green.
There is more work to do in order to get all of the VPN’s available options.
The installation instructions on the site give you a link to a configuration file. Copy this into the OpenVPN directory in order to connect. However, this file only gives you access to the ColanderVPN server in Canada. Go to the account area and click on the Servers tab to access other configuration files.
You have to download each configuration file to access all 13 server locations that the company operates. Once they’re on your computer, move them over to the config directory of the OpenVPN home location (on the C: drive).
Once the config files are in place, choose your VPN server location by right-clicking on the icon in the system tray.
When the mouse pointer is over one of the country options, a secondary menu will open. Click on Connect to open the app. The first time you access a country, you have to enter your log-in credentials. The system doesn’t remember your log-in details from country to country.
To change the app’s language, right-click on the icon in the system tray and select Settings from the pop-up menu.
Click on the down arrow at the end of the Language field in order to see the full list of language options. Once you press OK, both the right-click menu of the icon in the system tray, and the text in the app will be in your chosen language.
If you’re happy with the performance of ColanderVPN during the free trial, you should consider subscribing to the service.
Go to your account area back at the VPN’s website and click on “Extend Account” in the account details screen. Select the length of the plan that you would like to subscribe to. The pricing screen asks you to select a payment method. However, the graphic that shows payment cards isn’t an active button, so press on the Checkout button instead. This opens up an overlay window where you enter your card details.
After completing the payment, you will receive an email notification of your active subscription.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)
I tested the speeds of ColanderVPN’s servers from a location in the Caribbean. The local internet service in this area is not good and low speeds are common. The main challenge for the VPN service was whether it could secure and re-route the connection without impairing performance.
The speed tests below show that the two closest ColanderVPN servers to my location – in the US and Canada – did slow down an already slow connection. However, these small variations in speed could also be down to an inconsistent performance from the local internet service.
The Canadian server greatly enhanced upload speeds, and the UK VPN also helped improve upload performance.
The graphs show the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.
I tested for Internet Protocol (IP) leaks while connected to ColanderVPN’s UK server. Tests found no IP leaks, Domain Name System (DNS) leaks, or Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) disclosures.
You can install the ColanderVPN system on Windows 10, Windows 7, and Windows Vista. These implementations allow you to use OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP. You can also get all three of these VPN implementations for Android devices and for Mac OS X.
iPhone and iPad users can only have OpenVPN and L2TP, while Windows Mobile users can only have PPTP on their phones with ColanderVPN.
There is an OpenVPN version that uses IPSec encryption available for Linux systems and Ubuntu users can have OpenVPN and L2TP. Owners of Mikrotik routers and Synology network attached storage can load PPTP onto their devices.
ColanderVPN Review: Conclusion
Convincing privacy measures
Russian language support
Very low price
Gets through the Great Firewall of China
I wasn’t so sure about:
No Paypal support
Doesn’t accept Bitcoin
Lack of a kill switch
Manual setup procedures
This VPN service is incredibly cheap. Colander is a very competent privacy service that costs very little. However, compare the features that you get at ColanderVPN with those of a pricier service such as ExpressVPN and you soon see why this service is so cheap. You pretty much have to set up the VPN client yourself, which may be an impossible task for technophobes. The system is not as user-friendly as most VPNs on the market and the difficulty of getting the app set up may put some potential customers off.
The lack of a kill switch is a major oversight for a service that aims to recruit users in China. Also, the session establishment encryption key should be stronger for that market.
Having said that, Russian customers have very few options in the VPN market, because just about all VPNs only cater to English speakers – even those that present their websites in other languages. Russians and Ukrainians will find it much easier to get help from the support desk of ColanderVPN. Despite the fact that the app is very basic, the ability to see it in languages other than English puts it way ahead of the custom apps supplied by other VPN services.