Update: VPN Cast is now out of action. Click here to view the 5 Best overall Providers
When reviewing VPN services, we often come across providers who create an outwardly good online impression of their service but lack the substance and service quality to back it up. VPN Cast is firmly within this category. The only demographic who may even want to look into this service are those who are technical enough to manage with no instructions and who want to use a service with Torrent files. All other users will find far superior options elsewhere.
Packages & Pricing
Upon first glance, the VPN Cast service offerings are a little confusing, as their website presents alternative links for “Torrent VPN,” “Bypass Censorship VPN,” “Office VPN” and “Student VPN.” Ultimately, however, these all appeared to link through to the same VPN service offering. We eventually managed to confirm via the “live sales support” feature that our suspicions were correct. There is essentially only one service, they are just listed separately for search engine optimisation purposes. We cannot fault the service providers honesty on why they have done this, but it will certainly result in confused customers.
As with many VPN services, the price reduces if you are willing to sign up to a long commitment period. The basic $7.99 monthly price reduces to $4.99 per month if you commit to a year at a time. This total price of $59.99 places this particular service around the lower end of average.
Although the website states that a “money-back guarantee” is available, this is at odds with information on the “terms of service” link that states “no refunds under any circumstances.” We considered this a rather worrying inconsistency, but the live support clarified the position: no refunds are available after 48-hours, or for anyone who “violates the terms of service.”
It was a little disappointing to find no free trial and such a short money back period – still, at least one exists.
Pleasingly, VPN Cast offer telephone support, which is rather rare for a VPN service provider. However, as the company is based in the USA, the service hours for this only cover daytime hours during weekdays, Eastern Standard Time.
The message above implies that online support it available 24/7/365. When we first visited the provider’s website, an online chat box appeared, but a question posed within in received no response. This online chat option didn’t appear on our next few visits to the site, then subsequently it did, and we received an instant response. This was great when it worked, but can’t reasonably be described as consisten
We also sent a couple of queries via the Web form to test the response of the online ticket support system but didn’t receive any response while we were creating this review. So, it’s fair to say that access to support is patchy, at least outside of the USA “office hours.”
Security and Privacy
VPN Cast supports PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN protocols, and it was refreshing to see that the website described each of these in some detail.
VPN Cast support encryption up to 256-bit when using L2TP or OpenVPN. We were pleased to be able to glean this information without having to contact the support department – many VPN providers don’t volunteer it.
We signed up to the one month service. We used the “Premium VPN link,” but as stated this is in fact the same service as all of the others shown on the provider’s page.
The sign-up screen offered us the unusual option of a static IP address in a small selection of locations (USA, Canada and Romania) for an additional $4.99 per month. We didn’t avail ourselves of this but it may be of use to some.
Payment is handled entirely via PayPal, and the site redirects there after taking name address and phone number details. We paid with a PayPal account, but PayPal can also handle credit / debit card options. All of the information is mandatory, including a phone number, which is quite unusual and may concern those obsessed with privacy.
Almost immediately after completing our PayPal payment we received an impressive total seven emails: PayPal confirmations, invoices and setup instructions.
Installation and Configuration
We used an Apple Mac running OS X Mountain Lion to complete the majority of our testing.
Our welcome email contained a link to “VPN connection tutorials” but this actually took us back to the main VPN Cast web page. This left us slightly in the dark as to exactly what to do next. While we knew we could probably work this out (as techies) it’s fair to say that beginners would have been more than a little confused, at this point, as to what to do next.
We logged into the client area, where we found two “attached files:”
We then managed to find some setup instructions by following the “Knowledge Base” link in the client area. However, we were very disappointed to find the material in this knowledge base very thin on the ground:
In fact, as you can see, there were just four articles in the knowledge base. VPN Cast use a third-party OpenVPN software solution called Viscosity, a free copy of which is included with the subscription. We were quite stunned that, despite selling the solution as Mac compatible, the provider hadn’t managed to provide any OS X instructions, or anything for Android or iOS.
We asked the “live support” about this and had our suspicions confirmed:
It’s fair to say that this is more than a little poor in terms of support. Sending people off to find instructions on third-party websites is not the mark of a professional company, and, at this point, we already knew we couldn’t possibly recommend VPN Cast to anybody non-technical, however well the rest of our testing happened to go.
Regardless, we still had to test the solution, so we downloaded the Viscosity software and the OpenVPN configs, and went about attempting to get the solution working on our own.
The installation was actually very straightforward. First we downloaded the installation file, which came in a ZIP archive (sadly, this is another thing that could trip up a novice). We then ran the installer, and dragged the program file to our Mac’s “Applications” folder:
We then opened the program from our “Applications” folder and went to the “Preferences” option to import the configuration files that we’d found in the client area. Again, these were in a ZIP file. Having installed them, we then had four connections shown in our Viscosity “Preferences” screen.
As you can see, the labelling of “server,” “server 1,” and so on was far from helpful. At this point, we were starting to become quite irritated with the clear lack of effort that had gone into making this solution user-friendly.
We dug around in the settings to ascertain which server was which. As these were set up using IP addresses instead of hostnames, we had no easy way to tell which server was in which country.
Frustrated, we simply decided to try to connect to one of them. We were prompted for our username and password, but our connection hung at the “connecting” stage for a prolonged period.
We tried again with the next server on the list, and this time we managed to get connected. We were still none the wiser as to where we were connected TO, so we performed an IP “whois” lookup, which revealed we now had an IP address based in the USA.
We repeated the process with the final two servers on our list. Both did connect, but both were also in the USA, albeit in different locations. We were able to view media-locked US content from our testing location while connected, but the server locations all being within in the US precluded us from accessing content in any other country. In fairness to VPN Cast, they do only advertise that their service can help customers to watch US TV broadcasts.
Connection Speeds and reliability
As stated above, we were really quite frustrated with VPN Cast during the time we spent configuring it. The lack of documentation was truly inexcusable, leaving us feeling as if we were using an unpolished or even unfinished service. We hoped to see some good results from our speedtests to redress the balance.
First, we performed a speed test whilst disconnected, to get a benchmark speed from our location:
The above was normal for this location. We then connected to one of the VPN Cast servers (server 1) and obtained the following result:
As you can see, this represented a disappointing drop in download speed as a result of being connected to the VPN service.
Finally, we connected to another one of VPN Cast’s servers (server 2) and ran the test again:
As the screenshot shows, this was an even worse result, with a download speed that was less than half of our original benchmark.
The disappointing speeds meant that VPN Cast had truly missed the opportunity to redeem itself for its earlier shortcomings.
On the face of it, VPN Cast’s list of compatible operating systems and devices is reasonably impressive:
It’s a shame, therefore, that no effort whatsoever has been made to provide any setup instructions for most of them.
The “Knowledge Base” explains how to set up a PPTP connection – but only on Windows 7. It shows how to set up Viscosity – but only on Windows. Requests for iOS and OS-X setup instructions were met with links to Apple’s own technical documentation.
This really is unacceptable, and the first time that this reviewer has ever encountered a provider that doesn’t at least provide some kind of step-by-step guide or settings list.
We did double-check with the provider as to exactly what tutorials and setup guides are available and were simply directed back to the aforementioned lightweight knowledge-base.
The customer area for VPN Cast all looks professional – in fact, we suspect the provider is using an “off the shelf” solution for this as we have seen similar before. There is also an unusual option to renew, register or transfer domains to the provider that we’ve encountered when reviewing a different product.
Essentially though, the area just includes all the standard options: access to invoices, the ability to create support tickets and a link through the the measly “knowledge-base”, which we’ve already described in some detail.
- Good descriptions of the different protocols and encryption methods
We weren’t so sure about
- Inconsistent support – fast replies to sales queries, but no response to emailed queries
- No servers that will help users access streaming media from outside the USA
- Pitifully inadequate documentation and setup instructions
- Slow connection speeds
- One server failed to work at all
Several of the VPN services we have tested have left us disappointed, but few have provided us with such a level of irritation. Advertising a service as compatible with a host of platforms and then failing to provide any instructions for them is lazy and unprofessional. It feels as if the developer has set out to create a good VPN service and then lost interest half-way through. As such, this is a service we simply can’t recommend.