What is VPN.ac?
VPN.ac is a Romanian based VPN provider that began operations in 2012. Since then, BestVPN.com has been checking back with the service to monitor its progress. The Virtual Private Network (VPN) keeps improving and now has its own native client app – the system used to use a generic OpenVPN GUI client. Read on to find out more about the important changes at VPN.ac.
This company is based in Romania, which, thanks to the data privacy protection accorded by its High Court, is a great location for a VPN. The service includes an encrypted proxy system, which can help you get around regional restrictions.
- Seven-day money-back guarantee
- Allowance of six simultaneous connections
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) allowed
- Free encrypted proxy
- Accepts Bitcoin
- Network doesn't improve connection speeds
VPN.ac Pricing and Plans
VPN.ac has one subscription package. You can buy it for different periods, with a longer duration bringing you lower prices. The monthly rate on a yearly subscription works out cheaper than if you just pay for one month. However, you have to pay for the whole year’s service up front.
You get a seven-day money-back guarantee with all of these subscription options.
All of these plans give you an allowance of six simultaneous connections. The company also offers a one-week trial for $2. In that plan, you only get three simultaneous connections.
In all cases, your VPN subscription also gets you access to VPN.ac’s SecureProxy service. The VPN works through and app. SecureProxy is implemented as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera – no versions are available for Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer. This review will focus on the capabilities of the company’s VPN service.
As well as accepting credit and debit cards, the company allows customers to pay with a wide range of payment processing systems, including PayPal, UnionPay, iDeal, WebMoney, and Alipay. If you want anonymity you can pay with Bitcoin, or with gift cards. You can also pay via SEPA bank transfer.
All plans have the following features:
- 79 VPN servers in 21 countries
- Proxy servers in 32 countries
- Allowance of six simultaneous connections
- P2P/torrents allowed
- VPN apps for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android
- OpenVPN over Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP), Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)/Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
- Manual setup for Linux, routers, and set-top boxes
- Encrypted proxy browser extensions for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox
- Strong 4096-bit RSA session establishment encryption
- Online server speed test and capacity check
- Kill switch
- Encrypted DNS resolution
- Private DNS server
- IP leak prevention
- Shared IP address service
The company’s server network is not as big as those provided by rival Romanian VPN services CyberGhost and ibVPN. However, the server network is increasing in size year by year. The next time BestVPN.com checks back with the company, there may well be more than the current network of 79 servers in 21 countries.
A bonus of the VPN.ac service is a free SecureProxy service. The company runs proxy servers in more countries for its encrypted proxy service than it does for its VPNs. SecureProxy uses the HTTPS protocol to provide encryption of connection contents and diverts connections through a mediating server. These tricks are performed to fool the regional restrictions on streaming services. The theory behind this system is that you don’t need full privacy just to get around regional restrictions. However, the fact that your traffic is diverted to a proxy server means that all requests to streaming servers will be presented on your behalf by the proxy. Thus, you will appear to be in the required country to get access to video content.
The proxy server forwards on the reply from the streaming server, so that you can watch your selected show in your browser.
I tested the VPN.ac VPN service with Netflix and BBC iPlayer. I also tested the VPN.ac SecureProxy with those two media sites. Both services got me around the regional restrictions of Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
Is VPN.ac Secure?
Romania is a good location for VPN services and is home to three of the best – CyberGhost, ibVPN, and VPN.ac. The country’s High Court threw out the government’s data retention laws. Those laws were enacted under the compulsion of an EU directive. The result is that Romania does not impose the data retention and disclosure requirements that other EU nations impose.
The operational requirements of a VPN necessitate a mapping between a customer’s IP address and the substitute address that the VPN server allocates to that customer for the session. Therefore all VPNs have to keep records of a user’s activities during a session. The key point to look out for when choosing a VPN is whether the company keeps that information on file once the session disconnects. VPN.ac doesn’t keep any activity logs. However, the company does keep connection logs for the purpose of monitoring for malicious activities.
Users of the custom app for Windows, Mac OS X, and Android can select a preferred VPN protocol from within the interface. This gives a choice of OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP with IPSec. Customers who want to use the VPN on an iOS device have to download a standard OpenVPN client that is available free of charge from the website of the organization that runs the OpenVPN protocol. The iOS VPN.ac app has an implementation of the IKEv2 protocol.
Within the app, you have a choice of security levels for the OpenVPN implementation. We recommend that you choose the 256-bit key version. This uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption system. You can choose to use a shorter key. This is less secure, but it will run down your battery less if you are using the system on a smartphone.
The RSA encryption with a 4096-bit key offers very strong encryption, which only the most security-conscious VPNs are offering right now. This is particularly important for those in China, where the authorities are rumored to be working on cracking the session establishment encryption of VPN systems.
The main page of the VPN.ac site features a map of the world showing the company’s VPN server locations. The main menu is on a menu bar on the second line of the homepage. Above this, you will see a strap with a series of shortcuts to services at the site, including access to the client area.
When you scroll down, the main menu jumps up to replace the shortcut strap and stays visible at all times. At the bottom of the page is a quick links section.
The client area contains links to download files, guides, and support ticket information.
You can contact the support team by clicking on “Support” in the client area menu, then selecting “Open Ticket” from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, you can click on the “Open New Ticket” button in the client area main screen.
There is a “Contact support” link in the app. This opens up a page in your default web browser to give access to the support center.
The “Submit a ticket” button in this screen is another route through to the support ticket form.
As soon as you press the Submit button in the support form, you’ll receive an automated response email to confirm receipt of your question. You’ll also receive an email when a member of staff replies to your question. You can see the current status of all of the enquiries you made to the support team by selecting Tickets from the support menu in the client area, or by scrolling down to the support section in the main screen of your account details.
If you want to try the $2 one-week trial, you need to go to the FAQ page and click on a link in the explanation about a trial account.
To get to the sign up page for a regular subscription, you should click on one of the “Sign up now” buttons that appear at regular intervals all over the site, or go to the Pricing page. You then click on the “Get it now” button beneath the subscription plan that you would like to buy.
You first need to create a user account with the service before you go through the payment processing step. Below, you can see the sign up page for the one-week trial. The company only requires an email address and a location from you. You’ll have to have a verifiable address to clear the requirements of the payment processing company you select later on. However, if you want to be completely anonymous, you could set up a web mail account to deal with the VPN and pay with Bitcoin or with a store gift card.
After completing the sign up process, you’ll receive three emails from VPN.ac. The email with the subject “VPN activation” contains the log-in credentials that you need to get the VPN client to work. The email address that you entered in the sign up page is your username for the client area. The password you set up during account creation will only work for the client area, not the VPN.
Back at the site, the completion of your payment will result in the display of an order confirmation page. Click on the client area link in this page to get to the dashboard. Download links for the VPN software are available in the quick links section of the client area.
The VPN.ac Windows VPN Client
You need to enter the username and password into the VPN client the first time you use it. Make sure you leave the “Save password” box checked so you don’t have to keep referring back to the welcome email every time you want to use the VPN.
The process of using the VPN is very straightforward. You pick a server location from a drop-down list and select the VPN protocol that you want to use. You then have the option of deciding whether you want to run the connection over UDP or TCP. The difference between these two options is that TCP establishes a session, whereas UDP is a “connectionless” methodology. UDP is preferred for interactive and streaming applications.
Once you have your settings sorted out, click on the Connect button to turn the VPN on.
The Advanced tab of the app includes a series of security settings. The most important of these are the kill switch and the China user flag. The kill switch prevents applications on your computer from connecting to the internet if the VPN isn’t turned on. This is an important feature if you’re in a location where discovery of your internet activities could have legal ramifications.
The “censored country” flag gives you extra protection from detection when you’re in China, or another repressive country.
If you minimize the app, the VPN keeps running and can be accessed through an icon in the system tray of your desktop, down in the bottom right of the screen near to the date.
You don’t have to bring the app back in order to control the VPN. The controls of the system are available as pop-up menus off this icon.
Click on the icon to get the control menu of VPN.ac.
The Connections menu option gets you a full list of available servers.
Your current live connection appears in bold typeface. To change to a different server, just click on the name of that new location.
VPN.ac Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)
These tests were carried out from Nottingham in the UK, using the Virgin Media internet service. The speed tests were carried out with the website testmy.net. Each of the result categories that you see in the download and upload test graphs was compiled from five tests.
The download and upload speeds were tested without any VPN applied to the line. Next, the tests were carried out with the connection running through the VPN.ac server in Coventry, which is the closest server that the company has to the test location. The second location test checked on speeds when connected through the VPN.ac server in Paris. VPN.ac has optimized servers for P2P downloading. There are no P2P servers in the UK. Therefore, this Paris server is the closest P2P-optimized facility to the test location.
You will also see results for a connection to Miami from the UK, both without a VPN applied to the connection and with a connection through the VPN.ac Miami server. In all of the VPN tests, I set the app to run with OpenVPN over UDP, using AES encryption with a 256-bit key.
The graphs show highest, lowest, and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.
The Virgin Media internet service produced a wide range of speeds, from 23 Mbps to 41.8 Mbps during the download test. The VPN.ac European servers’ results were consistently within that range, so applying the VPN to the line didn’t slow down connections. However, the remarkable information that came out of those European download tests is the difference that an optimization for specific tasks can make to a VPN server’s performance. The Paris server consistently delivered speeds that were at the top of the underlying internet service’s capabilities, even though the location of the server caused each packet to travel further on a diverted route that looped overseas and back. In upload tests, both the Coventry and the Paris servers gave a respectable performance.
The performance of VPN.ac on the transatlantic connection was a different story. The average speed over the five tests with the VPN was lower than the slowest speed encountered on a US connection without the VPN. On the upload tests, VPN.ac couldn’t get up to the lowest speeds that the Virgin Media connection had produced without a VPN.
BestVPN.com tests for IP leaks aim to examine the performance of IP address masking for both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. Unfortunately, Virgin Media doesn’t employ IPv6 addresses, so I was unable to test whether VPN.ac’s service could mask that address type. I tested for IPv4 leaks employing the services of ipleak.net and doileak.net. I accessed these servers while I had an OpenVPN connection to London through the VPN.ac Coventry server. The service passed all the tests.
The VPN.ac app is available for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android devices. The VPN.ac website includes instructions to set up the service on routers running DD-WRT, Tomato, pfSense, and AsusWRT. The VPN can also be installed manually on Linux computers and Kodi boxes.
VPN.ac Review: Conclusion
VPN.ac has improved its service since its inception and it keeps getting better. The strong performance of the server network in Europe makes this a great VPN for that continent. Speeds to the US were a little impaired by the VPN. However, if you just want to get around the regional restrictions on US streaming services, the SecureProxy browser extension could get you into your chosen site without slowing down connections.
- Seven-day money-back guarantee
- Free encrypted proxy browser extension
- Extra protection for repressive countries
- Quick access in minimized mode
- Gets into Netflix
- Available for routers and TV boxes
- Allowance of six simultaneous connections
- Kill switch and IP leak protection
I wasn’t so sure about:
- Relatively small server network
- Slow connections in North America
Romania has three great VPNs: CyberGhost, ibVPN, and VPN.ac. Although I would put this VPN in third place right now, the continual improvements in VPN.ac’s service mean that this company is on its way to the number one slot.