StrongVPN VPN Review

StrongVPN review

StrongVPN is a VPN that suffers from a number of problems. It assigns each customer to a default or 'home' server some of which are rubbish and set to PPTP. This means that the VPN is insecure and slow unless you complain. However, if you do complain the service gets a lot better. Though you mustn't use SSTP as it has IP leaks. A somewhat schizophrenic service that made me angry and isn't suited to beginners.

OUR RATING

2.6 / 5

What is StrongVPN?

StrongVPN is a VPN provider based out of South Lake Tahoe, California. Beginning operations in 2005, the VPN company evolved out of a PC store, which expanded into internet services. If you want to go straight to the VPN’s website, simply click on the button below. However, we recommend taking a few minutes to read through our assessment of this service before you do.

The VPN assigns each customer to a default server. Unfortunately, some of those servers don’t work very well. Fortunately, the company made sure that its customer service department was one of the best in the world.

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs policy

  • Five-day money-back guarantee

  • Servers in 24 countries

  • Excellent customer support

  • Up to five simultaneous connections

  • ConsCONS
  • Very slow

  • Complicated rules about server allocation

  • Random VPN protocol allocation

Visit StrongVPN »

StrongVPN: Pricing and Plans

StrongVPN has streamlined its plans. The company used to have many different packages targeting different internet activities. Thankfully, that layer of complication has now gone. The only decision any buyer now needs to take is whether to subscribe for one month, three months, or a year.

The company includes a smart Domain Name System (DNS) application for free with its VPN packages. This service selectively redirects the traffic from your computer depending on the type of site that you want to visit. The strategy relies on the use of a customized IP address lookup table. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and hotspot owners don’t allow users to nominate a DNS server, so this feature might not work for you.

StrongVPN price plans

You get a five-day free trial with each subscription offer, so you have some time to assess the service before you fully commit. You can pay for a subscription with a credit or debit card. The company also accepts Bitcoin and can process payments through PayPal and Alipay.

StrongVPN accepted payment methods

StrongVPN Features

You get unlimited usage of StrongVPN with a subscription. That means that the system is available 24 hours a day and you won’t get hit by data throughput limits or speed throttling. The main features of the service are shown below.

StrongVPN features

The free addition of a smart DNS is implemented through a browser extension for Google Chrome. A smart DNS service doesn’t give you the full privacy and security of a VPN, but it’s useful for getting around regional restrictions. The system is implemented by a lookup table. This diverts calls from your browser that go to sites with regional restrictions. Instead, these requests pass through the StrongVPN server. Meanwhile, all of your other traffic goes direct to the target servers.

For more information check out our Smart DNS guide to see how it differs from a VPN.

StrongVPN free smart DNS

The server network offers plenty of locations in the US. There are also many servers in Europe. Each of the markers on the map below shows a city where StrongVPN has servers. Many of those locations are the sites for multiple servers.

StrongVPN server locations

Visit StrongVPN »

How Secure is StrongVPN?

The set of rules that two computers follow to make a connection is called a “protocol.” There are many different protocols for VPN connections. StrongVPN implements the major systems.

The most widely-used protocol in the industry is OpenVPN. This relies on the same encryption procedures that HTTPS uses. HTTPS protects websites where you enter personal details. Before we get into the technical details, if you would like to learn more about how a VPN protects you online, check out our ultimate encryption guide.

OpenVPN is the main method of privacy employed by the StrongVPN app. It encrypts all of the messages that come out of your computer with an encryption cipher, called Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). OpenVPN implements AES with a 256-bit key. This is very strong encryption and is judged to be uncrackable.

AES is a symmetrical key system, so both sides in a communication need the same key in order to encrypt and decrypt messages. VPNs uses a second channel of communication to get around the problem of coordinating AES keys. This channel uses public key encryption with a 2048-bit key. This is a typical configuration of Transport Layer Security (TLS) implementations – the underlying security method that the OpenVPN library uses.

Alternative Encryption Implementations

StrongVPN also includes implementations of Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP), and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP). Microsoft created PPTP in the early days of VPNs’ development. This integrates very easily, by entering just a few pieces on information into the set up of a computer. PPTP uses a proprietary encryption method. Nowadays, the new kids on the block have surpassed it.

SSTP is a very good alternative to OpenVPN because it uses the same underlying encryption methodology. Microsoft created it to replace PPTP. You can implement it through a manual setup on Windows computers. However, when I connected to the VPN using SSTP, IPLocation.net reported my original IP address. Thus the StrongVPN implementation doesn’t afford any privacy at all.

L2TP uses an alternative encryption system called Internet Protocol Security (IPSec). This is not as secure as OpenVPN. However, users of mobile devices often prefer it because all of the encryption work of OpenVPN quickly drains a phone’s battery.

Logging

Privacy experts are nervous about VPNs based in the US. The laws on data disclosure are no more draconian in the US than in other parts of the world. However, the ability of government agencies and lawyers to put pressure on business makes VPNs in this country vulnerable. Copyright holders in the US entertainment industry are becoming increasingly forceful in imposing their rights.

This makes downloading with torrents in the US perilous. US lawyers are more likely to go after copyright abusers in their own country than in far-flung locations. A VPN protects your identity, so if lawyers note down the IP addresses of downloaders (which are visible in most torrent clients), all they will see is the address of the VPN. However, if a law firm gets a court order and pressures the VPN company to disclose the details of who was using that particular IP address, then it could trace you. StrongVPN swears that it does not retain any logs of users’ activities linked to IP addresses after the termination of each connection. Ultimately, you have to assess whether you can believe that statement.

The Website

The StrongVPN website uses a black, white, and blue color theme.

StrongVPN website

There are two navigation menus. The main menu gives access to the key pages of the site. A secondary menu is shown on a strap at the very top of the site. This smaller menu strip includes a report on the viewer’s current IP address and location.

The two top menus in the header of the site are fixed, so they remain in place when you scroll down. Further quick links are available in the footer of the page.

StrongVPN website footer

StrongVPN Support

You can access the support desk through the chat box at the bottom right of the website.

StrongVPN support with live chat

Clicking on this tab opens up a message window where you can ask a question. StrongVPN staffs its live chat support around the clock. It is a major feature of this VPN. The live chat has a queue, so you might not get through straight away. A message in the chat screen shows your position in the queue.

The main menu in the header of the site has a support option, which takes you to the help center. Although the website is only available in English, the support section is available in Russian, Mandarin, and Spanish as well.

You can read through advice article to find solutions to your problems, or click on the support tab to contact the help team.

StrongVPN support center

You need to enter your email address in the support form screen.

StrongVPN support request

When I paid, StrongVPN inexplicably denied me the OpenVPN service. I tried out a connection with SSTP and discovered that it didn’t hide my IP address. I was furious. When I contacted the live chat support team, I was rude, to say the least.

The support team operator who had the misfortune to deal with me was Svetlana. She dealt with me very well before passing me to the technicians.

I didn’t have to wait from an email response from the IT team – I got a response from top techie Tema Belokursky immediately on the live chat channel. Tema hosed me down. I got great advice and everything worked instantly.

StrongVPN resolved the mistake of assigning me a PPTP server within minutes. I salute the customer service team for their competence and patience. However, they should not have to work so hard – the system should work correctly!

The Process

Make sure you have a clear diary for the week after you sign up for the StrongVPN service. You have five days to try out the VPN and still ask for your money back if you don’t like it. As such, it would be a mistake to start the clock ticking when you don’t have enough spare time to test the service.

Signing Up

The “Join Now” button in the main menu bar gives you access to the sign up screen. Click on the subscription period that you want and enter your email address.StrongVPN signup 1Select a payment method and then click on the Continue button in the pricing statement box.After your payment clears, you then have to verify your identity.StrongVPN confirmation emailDespite this requirement, you will immediately receive an email with your account details and links to software downloads.When your account is created, you will be assigned to a default “home” server. This will appear first in the list of available locations. Unfortunately, in my case, StrongVPN allocated me to a PPTP server. I don’t know why – I didn’t ask for that. The support operative told me that the VPN assigns the home server randomly. However, OpenVPN is the best protocol available, so why are some people randomly palmed off with a sub-standard system?The moral of this story is that you should specify OpenVPN when you get on the live chat to confirm your account. Otherwise, you will have a lot of hassle trying to get the system to work.Click on the download button for your operating system in order to install the app.You can set the install wizard to show messages in English or German. After you’ve installed the app, the wizard will install additional software. This includes the network adapters that the app needs in order to run properly.

The StrongVPN Windows VPN Client

You need to enter your account credentials the first time you use the app. However, if you click on the “Save Login” check box, you won’t have to do this again.StrongVPN app sign inThe password is the one that StrongVPN sent to you in the welcome email. These credentials also get you into the customer area on the company website, where you can manage your account.StrongVPN Customer AreaThe app is pretty straightforward. You need to select your preferred VPN protocol, select a server from the drop-down list, and then click Connect.StrongVPN appThere is a settings page. However, given that getting the account to work is so complicated, it is probably better not to mess around with these options too much.You get to the settings by clicking on Advanced in the app’s main screen, and then clicking on the Options tab.StrongVPN settingsThe only things you need to change here are the “Allow direct traffic when reconnecting” check boxes. Unchecking these gives you a kill switch, which prevents others from spotting your real IP address if the VPN protection drops.

SmartVPN Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)

For speed tests, I connected to New York from the Caribbean with a StrongVPN server in Miami, and the again with the StrongVPN server in Toronto, Canada. You will also see in the graph the speeds for a connection to Miami without the VPN engaged. I also tested a connection to London without a VPN and then with the StrongVPN server in Nottingham, UK applied to the line.In each case I tested the connection five times, using testmy.net.StrongVPN download speed testStrongVPN upload testThe graphs show the highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.This VPN couldn’t improve download speeds on a poor local internet service – some can. However, the company was able to give better service for upload speeds. You can see from the graph that the unprotected service was very consistent in its upload speeds. The upload speed on the Miami VPN server was very variable.An “IP leak” is where you try to prevent your real IP address from being visible, but it slips out anyway. StrongVPN is very IP leaky. When it assigned me to a PPTP server, IPLocator.net could see my real address.With the OpenVPN service, I had a better chance of being private on the net. BestVPN.com tests for IP leaks using several websites: ipleak.nettest-ipv6.com, IPv6 leaks, and doileak.net. I accessed all of these servers while I had an OpenVPN UDP connection to the StrongVPN server engaged. It passed all the tests. My ISP doesn’t include IPv6 translation, so those tests weren’t possible.

Other Platforms

The StrongVPN app is available for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. Manual setup instructions are available for all of these platforms. Linux, Ubuntu, and Chromium OS operating systems can also integrate the StrongVPN service via manual installation. You can also access the VPN from routers running DD-WRT, Tomato, and Sabai router operating systems.

StrongVPN Review: Conclusion

StrongVPN works very well if it assigns you an OpenVPN server. No other VPN in the world uses this table allocation. You pay $10 and StrongVPN might give you a good service for the month, or they might not.

When StrongVPN assigned me the rubbish service, I threw all of my toys out of the pram and made the lives of the customer support operatives a living hell. Within minutes, everything worked. Why didn’t I receive the good service straight away?

Thankfully, after this review, you now know how to prevent yourself from being mired in an awful service. With StrongVPN, you can have a useless VPN that doesn’t work or a top quality service that will get you into every streaming site in the world.

Netflix is the hardest streaming service in the world to watch cross-border with a VPN. This is because the company has invested plenty of money into detecting VPNs. I got into Netflix and watched videos for both the US and UK services. StrongVPN also got me in to ABC.com and NBC.com successfully. In the UK, I not only got into Netflix, but was also able to watch videos on BBC iPlayer and Channel 4.

StrongVPN needs to sort out its ridiculous server allocation process. New customers shouldn’t have to throw insults at the support team in order to get the service to work.

I liked:

  • Five days to test the service
  • Amazing support team
  • Five simultaneous connections
  • Kill switch
  • Gets into Netflix(!)

I wasn’t so sure about:

  • Server network isn’t that big
  • Lack of Windows 10 instructions

I hated:

  • Server allocation lottery

Throw the dice and see whether you should ask for your money back. I will. This company offers its customer a senseless gamble. You could win, but being on the wrong side of the bet makes you an argumentative victim.

Visit StrongVPN »

Stephen Cooper

Stephen Cooper is a techy geek with a social edge. Downshifting from a successful IT career in Europe, Cooper moved to the Caribbean and now keeps up to speed with Internet technology poolside.

29 responses to “StrongVPN Review

  1. I’m looking for good VPN which is not detected by proxy detection service like IP2Proxy.

    Does StrongVPN provides ‘strong’ anonymity so that I can use it on almost all services?

    1. Hi Micheal,

      Services such as IP2Proxy (and Netflix!) work mainly by compiling a database of all IP addresses known to belong to VPN providers, proxy servers, etc. And then blacklisting them. And there is, to be honest, very little that can be done to counter this except a provider continually refreshing its IP range. This is resource intensive. Your best bet is to find a low-profile service whose IPs have not been blacklisted.

    1. Hi Herik,

      Yes indeed. This review is over three years old, and StrongVPN has made major changes to its service since then. I’ve put a re-review on my list :).

  2. I used Strong VPN last year while in China. During that time, someone began purchasing items online with my debit card and I am now in the process of disputing the purchases. I am suspicious of Strong VPN since I have never had this happen before. I would recommend people avoid its service.

    I changed VPNs but found it awkward to it opt out of StrongVPN . I could not find any help on in their FAQ about how to disconnect from them , and stop payments going to them . Avoid .

    1. I am a current StrongVPN user with a renewal coming up in August and am in the process of evaluating other VPNs. The only way to cancel StrongVPN is to contact them through their support; otherwise, they will auto-renew.

      I would also like to thank Douglas for this informative review. I have previously read the terms for StrongVPN and was not aware of their policy on file sharing.

      1. Hi Arnold,

        Thanks, although I will note that I understand StrongVPN has gone through some major changes since I wrote this review. For example, it now offers an All-In-One package for $10 a month (or $69.99 a year).
        It also now permits filesharing and claims to keep no logs at all. I have not looked at the service since I wrote this review (so I cannot comment on whether it is now any good), but it is clear that much has changed…

    strongvpn dont work in the Netherlands to wats netflix end dutch tv. end when you are on internet everywan nows your on ip adres en where you live no security at al

    I bought a subscription as I was travelling to China.
    Did not work, constant errors, Customer service did not have a solve until after I returned. No way to check until I travel to china again. Even though they had issue with their software would not provide refund. I tried them once before in China did not work that time either.
    Never again, have just uninstalled
    The ratings are irrelevant as the service never worked other than when I did not require, ie outside of China

    1. Hi Mark,

      In fairness, VPN in China is always a cat-and-mouse game, and no provider can 100% guarantee that you won’t run into problems with the GFW, especially once you are already inside the country…

    Do not waste your money with strongvpn they have poor encryption. They use RSA 1024 for encryption when it’s already been exploited back in 2010. They should upgrade to RSA 2048 but will they? Who knows.
    i just joined another vpn provider due to this issue. The admin claims they have security settings on their servers?
    90% of SSL VPNs are ‘hopelessly insecure’, say researchers
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/02/26/ssl_vpns_survey/

    1. Hi MikeTO,

      I have been unable to verify this with a quick web search, but if correct, then you are right, using RSA-1024 is very poor show. Note that the finding in the article you mention do not apply to most commercial VPNs providers, very few of which use SSL for VPN connections.

    They gave my information to the police and I was arrested.
    Why I was arrested: Someone suspected that I broke a couple laws (Felony offences) by sending an email with questionable content. It was later found that I did not do any such thing. But.. The fact that strong VPN provided my account billing info (name, address, VPN and originating IP) was quite upsetting. When I contacted them after all was said and done, they keep those logs for a VERY long time. Needless to say, I am no longer using this service and if you value your privacy you’ll stay away from them too.

    1. Hi Jack,

      I agree that StrongVPN is not a service to be trusted when it comes to privacy (it also has a track record of handing over copyright offenders.)

    Basically, for a rookie, I think StrongVPN is OK for what I use it for. I live in Africa and value privacy, but I did get a quick warning from StrongVPN when I downloaded a torrent. That wasn’t a good sign – the fact they could tie it to me. Also, for some time even though I was using a Washington, DC server all my traffic seemed to be generated out of Germany. In fact all my searches were geo-located to Germany!

    When I contacted customer service I was assured there’s a kink sometimes, so they recommended I change servers. I chose another and there’s no problem again. It does make me wonder, though, so I’ll be looking for a new VPN as this one expires.

    Hi all,

    I’ve been a STRONGVPN customer for 3 years now and never had any problems.

    I’m based in the UK and have 152Mbps Broadband with Virgin Media, I’ve tested various servers with Strongvpn & settled on servers based in the US, i use two different server locations, one in New York and one in Los Angeles.

    I alternate between the two locations. I purchased a strongvpn preloaded Router so it allows me to connect multiple devices.

    I get incredibly awesome speeds considering the distance between the UK and US, when connected through a server in New York i get between 45Mbps and 50Mbps down and 11.2Mbps up.

    When connected through a server in Los Angeles that’s slightly slower because of distance & latency but i still get a great consistent speed between 25Mbps and 29Mbps down and 9.2Mbps up.

    I can’t say I’ve ever really needed to contact customer support but when i first subscribed the support was great.

    As for file sharing and torrents, i don’t use torrent download sites but i have read they are very very strict on it and don’t allow it.

    I would always say shop around before you sign up for any VPN service, it all depends on what you want the service for? Read reviews and try get the 7 day free trial if at all possible or go with the money back guarantee.

    I have only tried one other VPN Provider, EXPRESSVPN but there speeds were far too slow for what i wanted.

    There is always the alternative of a Smart DNS to access geographical websites. StrongVPN also offer smart dns services to unlock websites and streaming services.

    Unlockater is a great smart DNS service and pretty cheap & also offer 7 day free trial.

    All in all i definitely recommend STRONGVPN

    Hello everyone,

    I just tried StrongVPN and after 24 hours, I terminated as limited in the number of use of IP addresses and very expensive too . Not convinced by the safety too.
    For a refund , I confirm , serious and honest business that has not been the case with PureVpn and Ironsocket .
    The world of vpn is a jungle and it’s not easy to find a vpn that satisfies you 100 percent.
    goodbye

    I’m sorry but PLEASE DO NOT SIGN UP for this service.

    I bought their lite package as a test, but after doing my research, they seem to be tracking your activity… of which is a BIG NO for me. I want to be able to freely download a torrent without having to watch over my shoulder every now and then to check who’s watching!

    Regards,

    Why isn’t the tapstrong driver signed? I am no longer installing anything on anything anymore without a valid signature.

    This time after rebuiding my LAN for the second time in two months, I chose, “Don’t Install this Driver Software.” I figured that would be it, but the client still installed itself, and a StrongVPN service was created and started and set to “automatic.” Why?

    Right now, it would give zero stars for “Trustworthy” until they at least sign their own stuff!

    I would appreciate it if you would test whether or not websites that have strong IP detection such as Maxmind’s or Cloudflare’s system could detect the IPs, next time when you review a VPN service.

    Actually they got into the VPN service around 2005, when ABC stared the full streaming episode service.
    Before then, like HMA, they are just a network hosting service provider, not privacy service provider.
    So, like ISPs, they are required by law to keep customer information and log their online activities for 1-3(?) months.
    They were one of the few trustworthy VPN providers back then as they had many good customer reviews, which they gave a discount to them for writing, gave you a static dedicated IP, which was said to be better than a shared IP before 2010, as it gives better speed, work better for IP restriction sites, and is more reliable and harder to track down a real IP.

    Hi Jack Kerouac,

    The StrongVPN review is indeed rather old (I believe it was one of the very first we published). I know that (as the review says) we thought that ‘StrongVPN keeps a record of all personal details, logs users online actives, and are able to match external IP addresses to their customers. Also, according to torrentfreak.net they are the “most outwardly aggressive provider in our survey when it came to dealing with infringement.”‘

    Looking at the privacy policy now, it does seem to be much better than this suggests (we assume it has changed). The metadata collected is not nothing, but the fact that web usage is not tracked it a good thing. We apologise for the images. As you say, it is perhaps time to re-review StrongVPN.

    I was surprised to not see StrongVPN not listed in the TOP 10 given how popular they are. They’ve also been around since 1995 which must be one of the longest-running VPNs. Here’s what they responded to me when asked about the user logs:

    “Name Withheld (Sales & Accounting):

    During our normal course of duties, we do not monitor, record or store logs for any single customers VPN activity. We do not store web traffic data, including websites visited, files downloaded, etc.

    We will however record the following data:

    1. time, date and location vpn connection was made
    2. duration of the vpn connection
    3. bandwidth used during the connection

    For more informaiton, please check our log page: http://strongvpn.cc/logkeeping.shtml

    Does this review need an update? It would seem so. The images are broken for one thing. I really trust the reviews here, but this looks outdated.

    I have used it for 3 years (from China). Good speed and quality, but slow down happen, from time to time, so I had to switch servers and find a faster one. StrongVPN has different protocols available (PPT, L2TP, SSTP), but prices are not the same depending on what you choose. Servers located in Asia, especially in Singapore, were responding fast. Customer support was fine when I contacted them.
    What I don’t like:
    1) No serious privacy protection (they keep activity log, and they are located in USA, so since US law applies, they may share your activity & log on demand).
    2) Found this on the web (not updated since 2007, so be cautious):
    http://cryptome.org/0001/nsa-ip-update14.htm
    It’s a list of NSA-affiliated IP range and it contains “Black Oak Computers” (= StrongVPN). Some company may not be aware of it, since NSA as bought large IP range, but that’s not a good sign anyway.

    Not big issues but there are some bad things:
    3) their VPN client application has minor bugs from time to time (but you can use Windows setting)
    4) a bit pricey if you want OpenVPN protocol (need a “deluxe/premium” account).
    5) you cannot switch servers too many times, it’s limited, unless you pay for a deluxe/premium account.
    6) their website in often blocked by China. Although they have alternative URL, but it may be hard to find (since you do not have access to their blog or website, how can you guess there is an alternative URL, unless you receive it by mail?).

    PS: remark for BestVPN website: you should add a ‘privacy’ ranking (with Price, features, reliability, etc.)

    I was a user of Strong VPN for three years. It was ok, good tech support, easy to use etc. Unfortunately they blocked my account for downloading one torrent. That is what they do – block your account in the event of a DRM complaint. No refund for unused service (had 9 months left on my account) – no questions, no inquiry – just blocked. For a VPN that is supposed to protect me from snooping, they just follow the DRM complaint and block you. A good way to make money and make enemies of their customers.

    Good customer service, and it worked after a signed up. Can’t complain. Thanks!

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