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 #118 (currently Torguard).
Written Jun 19, 2016
TorGuard is one service I see cropping up over and over again on affiliate “review” sites and “recommendations” on the subs I help moderate on Reddit. Usually any mention of their service is accompanied by a lot of hype – almost as if someone is trying to sell something…
Many VPN companies unfortunately rely on the native advertising (paid reviewer) model to generate referrals for their business, but it may be worth noting that Torguard has some of the most out of control affiliates in the industry. Do a search for “Torguard review” and you will struggle to find many that are written by someone without a financial stake (re: conflict of interest) in readers purchasing service using the links in such reviews. One such affiliate of Torguard’s, has in the past, stolen my work and put it up on their own website (and yes, I had reached out to them at the time of the incident in question, and no action was ever taken by them against the offending party). I believe this says something about a service when they’re content to let their resellers run amok. You’ll read later in their terms about the lengths they go to attempting to nail down customer responsibility and absolve themselves of as much as possible. This strikes me as hypocritical when those they partner with are given free reign to steal copyrighted and trademarked work of others. Now that we’ve established all of this – on with the review!
Signing up for the service: When signing up for Torguard service, you are offered the choice between 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months of service, which is a good number of options, maybe one or two more than is typical. I selected 1 month and signed up which went smoothly. If I had one complaint about this, it would be that I was slammed with emails documenting everything step throughout the process:
- Welcome email
- Customer invoice
- Order confirmation
- Invoice payment confirmation
- Service activation
- (Paypal) receipt
This is overkill. This could be boiled down to one or two messages with an additional notification in the customer portal of the service in my opinion. A minor annoyance and just something that could use tightening up. The main website also relies on a handful of “as seen in” references, which include a few different paid affiliates. This always bothers me when I see this on VPN site marketing, where the reader is supposed to presume these outlets were writing objectively about the service in question. Of COURSE you’re going to be seen on your advertising partners websites.
Configuring the service: The first thing I did once I had my service selected and paid for (and after I deleted the slew of emails I’d just been hit with), I visited the downloads page in the client portal of the site. The portal was quite robust, with a good number of options and methods to choose from including Windows, MacOSX, and not one, but three flavors of Linux. Directly below these “recommended” installations was the “other downloads” section, which included some setup tools and below that, the “OpenVPN config files and scripts”. This section was easy to find, and broke down configurations by UDP, TCP, and also platform. This is about as good as it could be, short of using a VPN config file generator a la ZorroVPN or AirVPN. Regardless, the files were easy to find, and easy to download and setup.
Speed & Stability tests: All tests performed at non-peak times using beta.speedtest.net (html5) or the speedtest.net app. Connecting using UDP, Default encryption was Blowfish-128.
|Speed Tests – Torguard – Desktop|
|No VPN||Trial 1||9||ms||98.05||mbps||11.84||mbps|
|US West||Trial 1||32||ms||92.74||mbps||11.26||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+23||ms||92.15%||91.94%|
|Comp to Bench||+327||ms||13.77%||25.23%|
|Hong Kong||Trial 1||340||ms||15.82||mbps||2.85||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+330||ms||16.36%||20.54%|
|Comp to Bench||+426||ms||11.77%||17.54%|
|Speed Tests – Torguard – Mobile|
|No VPN||Trial 1||11||ms||74.97||mbps||14.42||mbps|
|US West||Trial 1||33||ms||18.44||mbps||13.46||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+24||ms||24.46%||94.64%|
|Comp to Bench||+354||ms||5.26%||58.44%|
|Hong Kong||Trial 1||374||ms||1.99||mbps||5.15||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+358||ms||3.03%||35.35%|
|Comp to Bench||+432||ms||2.46%||22.18%|
Torguard’s US servers ranked higher than almost any I’ve tested in the past, and their international servers came close to achieving broadband speeds, which if you’ve read my other reviews, is a decently big deal (as most international server bandwidth I’ve seen on other services varies widely and is usually pretty lackluster). However, the default encryption is Blowfish-128, which is known/suspected to have weaknesses and is not the best for security or privacy. AES-256 (strong, but slower) is apparently available after making some manual tweaks to config files, but this is not ideal. US servers approached broadband speeds, but overall, mobile benchmarks were lacking.
Getting support: Torguard has a live chat feature on their site, but it requires cookies to be enabled in your browser. Many privacy centered configurations have cookies turned off, or highly restricted (as does mine), so this wasn’t a valid option. Even after disabling Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin, I was not able to access this function. Torguard also had a phone number on their support page, which I tried calling. I was greeted with a very robotic sounding voice (on the level of Microsoft Sam) which listed a few options. I pressed “1” for support, but got another voice prompt telling me that support was unavailable and that it was sending me to voicemail. Unfortunately, this is what I expected, as I’ve tried calling several VPN phone support numbers and never found one that actually let me speak to a human being – they will redirect me to voicemail or play back a canned message about checking the site for more information. More options become available when you log into the customer portal including a web form which allowed me to submit a support ticket. I’ve only seen it once before, but there was a dropdown that allowed me to select low, medium, or high priority for my ticket. I like this idea, although I have to wonder if A) people abuse it and mark theirs high every time, or B) they actually put priority on tickets that are marked high (this is all just speculation however). I submitted a general information request asking about their encryption and port blocking. I received a succinct answer the following morning with the information I had requested. Support by webform/email seemed to be decent based on this.
Getting a refund: I asked for a refund and received one within minutes, possibly the fastest I’ve ever seen and with absolutely no hassle. Extremely responsive!
Torguard’s terms took the crown for longest, most obnoxious labyrinth of red tape and absolution of responsibility I’ve ever seen. They are so broad in fact, that a rogue term (which I will show below), essentially binds everyone who will may ever or has ever used Torguard to its terms.
“You may not reproduce, copy, or download any content from TorGuard.net without the express written authorization to first do so.”
So, config files? Installers? What constitutes express, written authorization? I doubt they would really enforce this with parts of the site that contain download and such, but it’s a little silly that this term even exists in my opinion.
“The Client fully understands that the current Terms of Services put forth are subject to changes made by TorGuard.net at anytime and you agree to be bound by any and all changes, modifications or revisions.”
I get that a lot of them do this, but it always bugs me when companies write themselves a blank check this way.
“These Terms and Conditions extend and apply to all users of TorGuard.net including both potential and current ‘visitors'”
No. Go back and read that again. All of Torguard’s terms and conditions apply to potential visitors of the website. Potential visitors. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have found the most ill-conceived clause to be written into a VPN service’s terms and policies. Are you reading this carefully? Because according to Torguard, YOU, dear reader, who may have never visited the website or used the service, are subject to each and every one of these terms! (Not really). Of course this could never be enforceable, I only include it to show you the extreme lengths Torguard goes to in their terms to wash their hands of all liability and accountability whatsoever.
“Refunds can be denied within the 7 day period in cases of excessive usage.”
What constitutes excessive usage? It doesn’t say. Buyer beware.
“TorGuard.net reserves the right to close your account at any given time without any prior notice. While TorGuard.net will, in the best interest of our clients, attempt to provide full and complete service, this right is reserved for reasons which may emerge at a later date.
The Client also understands that TorGuard.net for reasons beyond its control may shut down and terminate services. If TorGuard.net ceases operations, clients will be notified within at least thirty (30) days advance notice. No subscribers will be eligible for a pro-rated, partial, or complete refund in the event of a shut down.”
Not sure if a scenario exists that this would actually occur, but apparently they think so enough to include it in their terms.
Final thoughts: Torguard is one of the most marketed and visible services I’ve seen in this industry. As I describe in my Guide to choosing the best VPN (for you), for me personally, trust and transparency are the biggest things I look for in a VPN service, even before convenience and the features mentioned above. Being able to trust a VPN company, especially when purchased for privacy reasons is of the utmost importance. Torguard is certainly not the only company that uses native advertising to market their product, but they may just be in the running for a VPN company that relies on it the most heavily, allowing their reselling partners to generate referrals by hook and by crook in such volumes as few others can claim. Their terms are also far too complex and broad.
Like some other services, I find Torguard difficult to recommend for any one specific use case. People interested in privacy or security will probably more favorable terms, and a business model that shows a little more ethical intent and trustworthiness. The one use case that comes to mind is maybe Streamers (who are only concerned with streaming while away on vacations, business, etc) may find them useful, as their US servers were quite possibly the fastest I’ve ever tested. Is wanting a super fast refund a use case? If so, that too.
|FROM THE VPN COMPARISON CHART|
|JURISDICTION||Based In (Country)||USA|
|Logs DNS Requests|
|Logs IP Address|
|ACTIVISM||Anonymous Payment Method|
|PGP Key Available||No|
|Meets PrivacyTools IO Criteria||No|
|LEAK PROTECTION||1st Party DNS Servers||Yes|
|IPv6 Supported / Blocked||Yes|
|Supports TCP Port 443|
|Supports SSL Tunnel||Yes|
|Supports SSH Tunnel||Yes|
|Other Proprietary Protocols|
|PORT BLOCKING||Auth SMTP|
|SECURITY||Weakest Data Encryption|
|Strongest Data Encryption|
|Weakest Handshake Encryption|
|Strongest Handshake Encryption|
|AVAILABILITY||# of Connections||5|
|# of Countries||43|
|# of Servers||1600|
|WEBSITE||# of Persistent Cookies||7|
|# of External Trackers||3|
|# of Proprietary APIs||14|
|Server SSL Rating||A|
|SSL Cert issued to||Self|
|PRICING||$ / Month (Annual Pricing)||5|
|$ / Connection / Month||1|
|Refund Period (Days)||7|
|ETHICS||Contradictory Logging Policies|
|Falsely Claims 100% Effective||Yes|
|Incentivizes Social Media Spam|
|Requires Ethical Copy||No|
|Requires Full Disclosure||No|
|AFFILIATES||Practice Ethical Copy||No|
|Give Full Disclosure||No|
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