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 #146 (at the time of the roll, VPN.ht)
Written Oct 14, 2016
Signing up for the service: Signing up for VPN.ht was very easy, the subscribe button was front and center on the website. I received an concise welcome email with useful links to documentation and so forth, which is nice to see. Many times, I get slammed with 5-7 separate welcome emails from companies that don’t know how to summarize and provide only the necessary info. It’s unfortunately typical to be automatically enrolled in a recurring subscription when using credit card or PayPal at checkout, and this is also the case here. Sign up required an email address, which as I say, is about the most I’m comfortable giving up when registering for such services.
Configuring the service: VPN.ht’s client portal was a tad lackluster. It looked simple enough at first, but then I quickly came to realize that they must use a pre-packaged solution based on the layout and lack of apparent options. Many of the sections were dominated with social media widgets (“like us”, “tweet about us”, etc) as well, which always feels like clutter.
Finding configuration files was difficult, as there were no obvious links in the user portal. I sent a message to the VPN.ht support team to ask where this could be found. This is not acceptable in my opinion and really feels like the symptom of Linux support being an afterthought. Not only was only one file provided, but it didn’t tell you where it was located. Typically when you download these packages, you get each ovpn file somewhat descriptively labeled with the two-character country code and a city name. Here, you get “vpnht”. How useful. After some leak tests, I found that the exit node was located in Kansas. (Most packages available on VPN services will include several to choose from.
The next day I heard back from support. They responded with a link to a separate page on the site with a poor file configuration generator tool. Typically, I like these kinds of tools, but this one did not break out certs and key files and also did not let you choose a specific server from a given country. Instead, the tool returned a generic .ovpn file for each country with no more information as to where it was actually connecting other than the country.
Speed & Stability tests: Tests run using UDP, AES-128. For such low encryption being used by default, speeds ranged from pretty ho-hum on the US server, and fairly decent on the international ones.
|Speed Tests – VPN.ht – Desktop|
|No VPN||Trial 1||12||ms||91.04||mbps||11.96||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+157||ms||34.78%||55.94%|
|Comp to Bench||+263||ms||17.15%||33.65%|
|Comp to Bench||+457||ms||11.90%||15.56%|
|Comp to Bench||+449||ms||12.06%||21.26%|
|Speed Tests – VPN.ht – Mobile|
|No VPN||Trial 1||11||ms||72.97||mbps||14.47||mbps|
|Comp to Bench||+155||ms||23.45%||84.78%|
|Comp to Bench||+267||ms||7.02%||70.72%|
|Comp to Bench||+455||ms||2.82%||37.19%|
|Comp to Bench||+452||ms||3.56%||32.79%|
Getting support: I sent an email to the support team for the issue mentioned above (inaccessibility of configuration files in the user portal.) Strangely, as I was going to submit the ticket, I saw the relevant link – buried in a knowledgebase section below the support ticket submission tool. I submitted the ticket anyway to see how responsive their support team was. Support responded with the link to the server config page mentioned above by the next day and was actually fairly responsive.
Getting a refund: After the initial support ticket, I requested a refund, which was promptly granted without further questioning or dispute. Much appreciated.
All plans renew automatically at the completion of the billing term. The renewal term is by default for the same duration as the billing term for the original subscription.
Opt-out auto renewal for online services usually strikes me as taking advantage of someone possibly forgetting that they ever even signed up. Might be a bit nitpicky, but I think it’s lame every time I see it.
When 5 or more accounts are purchased under the volume licensing program, the purchase is not eligible for the Money Back Guarantee.
I’m doubtful this would apply to the majority of you out there, but if it does, this strikes me as unfriendly. If I decide to be a bigger customer, I get less favorable terms??
We are committed to your privacy
Here we go… whenever you see this statement, you can almost hear them start to say, “buuut…”
we may use a third party analytics tool to understand how our Service is being used by customers
No kidding. They use both Google Analytics AND Kiss Metrics. Gotta collect that sweet sweet data.
Our software may send diagnostic data to a third party analytics provider… We use third party cookies, pixels and website analytics tools
To analyze your connection meta data. But we swear we are committed to your privacy!
We will strive to prevent interruptions to the Site and the Service. However, these are provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis, and we do not warrant, either expressly or by implication, the accuracy of any materials or information provided through the Site or Service, or their suitability for any particular purpose. We expressly disclaim all warranties of any kind, whether express or implied, including, but not limited to, warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose, or non-infringement. We do not make any warranty that the Service will meet your requirements, or that it will be uninterrupted, timely, secure, or error free, or that defects, if any, will be corrected. You acknowledge that you access the Site and the Service at your own discretion and risk.
Translation: We know our product is bad and we don’t care if you like it or not.
Final thoughts: Have you gotten the picture yet? VPN.ht seemingly hasn’t put forward much thought to their website, configurations and overall user experience (with the exception of snappy support, post-purchase). Calling the servie “run-of-the-mill” is putting it mildly. Everything about the presentation of the website with an overabundance of promises and marketing jargon, to the obtuse and unfriendly user terms show me that someone decided to pay for a canned service which they would repackage and resell with little thought to the core service.
The kicker is that VPN.ht, like so many other commercial VPNs fall prey to the affiliate marketing business model, in which they pay affiliates to refer potential customers to their site. Typically, those involved in this scheme refuse to disclose this financial relationship, which is highly unethical and totally against the interests of unassuming customers. Bottom line: There are much better services available on the market and you would be better off avoiding this one.
|FROM THE VPN COMPARISON CHART|
|JURISDICTION||Based In (Country)||Hong Kong|
|Enemy of the Internet||No|
|Logs DNS Requests|
|Logs IP Address|
|ACTIVISM||Anonymous Payment Method|
|PGP Key Available||Yes|
|Meets PrivacyTools IO Criteria||Yes|
|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|
|SPEEDS||US Server Average %||34.78|
|Int’l Server Average %||13.7|
|SERVERS||Dedicated or Virtual|
|SECURITY||Default Data Encryption||AES-128|
|Strongest Data Encryption||AES-256|
|Weakest Handshake Encryption|
|Strongest Handshake Encryption|
|AVAILABILITY||# of Connections||3|
|# of Countries||18|
|# of Servers||122|
|Linux Support (Manual)||Yes|
|WEBSITE||# of Persistent Cookies||1|
|# of External Trackers||0|
|# of Proprietary APIs||16|
|Server SSL Rating||A+|
|SSL Cert issued to||Self|
|PRICING||$ / Month (Annual Pricing)||3.33|
|$ / Connection / Month||1.11|
|Refund Period (Days)||30|
|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|
|Give Full Disclosure||No|
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