Disclaimer: The below review is my opinion, which I will try to provide as many examples for and as much evidence as possible to support. Readers can learn more about how I conduct my reviews, my methodology, etc – here. More information on review badges here.
This review’s roll was #72 (currently My Expat Network).
Written Jun 19, 2016
Signing up for the service: My Expat Network’s signup process is a little needlessly complex. Instead of selecting only the duration of your service, you also have to select which country to “unblock”, which kind of devices do you want to use, and THEN the duration. This is confusing and silly given that OpenVPN connections should be interchangeable. Why should I pay more to use mobile devices, when the same files should work on mobile on OpenVPN principle? Service periods were 1, 3, 6, and 12 months. I selected 1 month as usual. There were only 2 payment methods (Paypal and Credit Card) – not ideal for privacy at all. I paid and started to look for downloads.
Configuring the service: This is where things got silly. Typically when downloading manual config files, you’ll find some section under the download portion of a VPN site and you can download a zip containing the ovpn files and proper certs. Officially My Expat Network does not support Linux, but they do have a janky “workaround” which literally is the text from the email of a customer who told them how they managed to connect using Linux. This workaround involved downloading the MacOSX installer zip, and manually drilling down into the folder structure and pulling out the ovpn files. Then the “workaround” has you use only the command line interface to finish getting things setup. I decided to deviate from their recommendation, thinking it was far too complicated. In order to set everything up in Network Manager, I had to perform the first steps from the MacOSX extraction, THEN manually create cert and key files from the inline versions in the ovpn files. When setting up the connection initially, I extracted ovpn files from the router downloads, (since this was the only one with apparent ovpn files in the root of the zip), but this didn’t work. I sent an email to support to see what they could do to help me get this mess resolved, which I was eventually able to do (see below for more details).
Speed & Stability tests: All tests performed at non-peak times using speedtest.net, the speedtest.net app, test server was Phoenix NAP AZ Data Center for all trials. Connecting using UDP, Blowfish-128 encryption (the default).
|Speed Tests – My Expat Network – Desktop|
|No VPN||Trial 1||9||ms||97.92||mbps||11.95||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+24||ms||16.86%||105.85%|
|Comp to Bench||+145||ms||36.88%||47.85%|
|Comp to Bench||-9||ms||0.00%||0.00%|
|Comp to Bench||+353||ms||6.14%||21.77%|
|Speed Tests – My Expat Network – Mobile|
|No VPN||Trial 1||11||ms||75.53||mbps||14.48||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+25||ms||20.14%||96.30%|
|Comp to Bench||+141||ms||9.29%||47.39%|
|Comp to Bench||+272||ms||2.92%||27.10%|
|Comp to Bench||+353||ms||2.49%||21.95%|
Overall, for desktop, the speeds above look okay on paper, but I had issues getting a stable connection. During the speed test, I would see abnormal highs and lows and some would take a very long time to even start a proper test. The UK server timed out repeatedly to the point that I couldn’t even perform a test (You’ll see that section above is blank). Given that the default encryption was Blowfish-128 (known/suspected vulnerabilities, but low overhead). Canada was surprisingly faster than the US server on desktop. Mobile speeds were especially disappointing given the low level of encryption used by default – I expected faster but didn’t achieve broadband speeds on any server when on mobile. I was also a little disappointed in the lack of locations from which to connect, and the relatively unstable connections for each.
Getting support: Once I realized that I couldn’t set up a traditional manual configuration over Linux, I contacted support as above. The “workaround” page that described how to perform the unofficial Linux setup was obviously a cobbled together solution which even directly quoted the original email from the user who submitted the method. This felt cheap to me and seemed like kind of a copout given that I was able to devise a better solution in a relatively short amount of time by dissecting and piecing together certain bits of a precompiled MacOSX installation zip. It seemed to me that the admin of the service could probably package what I was able to extract and offer it as a standalone zip with relative ease.
Support, however was very quick to respond to my inquiry using the web form. They quickly responded to my reply, pointing me in the direction of the Linux instructions above (the ones without a user friendly process) . They also informed me that an official Linux installation was on its way soon – BUT – I take a “wait and see” attitude towards that promise and would not get my hopes up. They don’t get credit for this as it’s not a current feature and we have no guarantees it will be.
Getting a refund: After getting back to support once or twice, I asked if I could be granted a refund, and they immediately granted it (less than an hour after asking).
My Expat Network’s terms are not as long as some other services, but are every bit as broad and sweeping as any I’ve seen (which I will not include below as they’re predictably boring, just be advised that they take every step to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing or fault with the service being provided).
“Your Service is not limited by the amount of data that you can transfer each month however we reserve the right to impose such limitations should this become necessary.”
In other words, “we track your bandwidth”.
Final thoughts: My Expat Network has only a few things going for it in my opinion. For the price you pay in a given month (if choosing multiple servers which is a standard feature on almost any other VPN), you could get a more reliable, better documented service elsewhere. The best thing about My Expat Network was their support which was quick and responsive. However, I can deal with mediocre support assuming the service itself is solid and I rarely need to take advantage of it. But I don’t have to, because there are still less expensive services that offer good service AND support. In the end, what stood out most to me was the effort that was made to claim absolutely no responsibility in their terms and policies. This effort would almost certainly be better spent improving network infrastructure and finding a (well documented) solution for Linux customers…
|FROM THE VPN COMPARISON CHART|
|CATEGORY||VPN SERVICE||My Expat Network|
|JURISDICTION||Based In (Country)||UK|
|Logs DNS Requests|
|Logs IP Address|
|ACTIVISM||Anonymous Payment Method||No|
|PGP Key Available||No|
|Meets PrivacyTools IO Criteria||No|
|LEAK PROTECTION||1st Party DNS Servers||No|
|IPv6 Supported / Blocked||No|
|Supports TCP Port 443|
|Supports SSL Tunnel|
|Supports SSH Tunnel|
|Other Proprietary Protocols|
|PORT BLOCKING||Auth SMTP|
|SECURITY||Weakest Data Encryption|
|Strongest Data Encryption|
|Weakest Handshake Encryption|
|Strongest Handshake Encryption|
|AVAILABILITY||# of Connections||3|
|# of Countries||4|
|# of Servers|
|WEBSITE||# of Persistent Cookies||3|
|# of External Trackers||2|
|# of Proprietary APIs||9|
|Server SSL Rating||A|
|SSL Cert issued to||Self|
|PRICING||$ / Month (Annual Pricing)||7|
|$ / Connection / Month||2.33|
|Refund Period (Days)||0|
|ETHICS||Contradictory Logging Policies|
|Falsely Claims 100% Effective|
|Incentivizes Social Media Spam|
|Requires Ethical Copy|
|Requires Full Disclosure|
|AFFILIATES||Practice Ethical Copy|
|Give Full Disclosure|
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