[UPDATE 14/07/12] It seems that FBVPN have since shut down, as their servers have been unreachable for some months now. The latest VPN that I have tested out is CactusVPN who have decent fast servers in US, UK and Netherlands. They support P2P on the Netherlands server and do not keep logs. CactusVPN also have a function whereby it will immediately stop your P2P program or any other program you are using should the connection to the VPN server drop out. For this reason I am now recommending CactusVPN over BTGuard. Please read my review here.
As privacy is becoming more and more of an issue these days and geo-location hassles when trying to access certain sites that are restricted to users from different countries, VPN services have started to rocket with the amount of people using them lately. There are also the dangers of using unsecured WiFi hotspots (coffee shops, pubs etc) and having other people snoop on what you are doing or even worse hackers could use packet sniffing to obtain your card details etc.
I have read quite a bit about them over the years, but have never actually used one until recently. I have tested FBVPN and BTGuard for this blog. I paid £6.10 ($9.95) for a month with BTGuard and £3.10 per month ($5.00) with FBVPN
I am located in the UK and my ISP is BE Broadband (£21.97 pm). Incidental, I chose BE Broadband as when they say that their usage is unlimited, they mean unlimited and the speeds are fantastic (Probably helps that I only live about 200 meters from the exchange though) I was previously with BT and even though they say that their Option 3 package is unlimited, it’s actually capped at 100GB per month which isn’t actually stated anywhere on their site or their FUP. Right, on with the tests…
The first one I tested was BTGuard and I will show you the comparisons for both when connected and when not-connected (see 3rd image down for unconnected speed). The image below shows the speeds I was able to get these consistently whilst connected the the BTGuard servers in Germany. Set up was very simple indeed and only took about 30 seconds. They have a simple tutorial that you can follow for users that are unsure as to how to connect to a VPN
When connect to the BTGuard server (Germany) my speeds were 15.89Mb/s Download & 0.89Mb/s Upload. I was pretty impressed with the speeds and that they were consistent.
The next test was with FBVPN. (UPDATE : They also have servers in UK and USA which is great and goes to show why the service is getting better and better. Have now been with them for 6 months with no complaints) Please note that FBVPN do not support P2P, so using utorrent doesn’t work. This is a shame, but I can kind of see why. I have read a lot of great reviews for this service so was looking forward to using them. Set up was also very simple and took about 30 seconds and again they have a simple tutorial you can follow. I know other people who use the service and they don’t have any speed issues, but they are located in the states so that could be one of the reasons why, as will be the time of access (how many people are using the service at any one time). However, it’s still good enough to watch streaming shows on Hulu from a UK location without any buffering issues. If you are trying to access Hulu or other US sites from another country (UAE, China, Iran etc) your speeds may be better than mine.
The image below is the speeds when connected to FBVPN using the access.fbvpn.com server. As you can see there is a big difference in speeds, so is no good if you are gaming and rely on fast consistent speeds when connected to the access.fbvpn.com server from say the UK. The reason for this is ping rate and the distance between the servers. This is normal.
Below are my normal speeds when connecting normally with no VPN:
I will also include the speeds when connected to the individual servers that are incorporated within the access.fbvpn.com server address. Note: There are 4 US servers running within this address and these are
- US is inglewood.fbvpn.com
- US is roseville.fbvpn.com
- US is downey.fbvpn.com
- US is torrance.fbvpn.com
Here is the individual reading for inglewood.fbvpn.com
Here is the individual reading for downey.fbvpn.com
Here is the individual reading for torrence.fbvpn.com
You will note that the speeds are different when accessing the individual servers that are encompassed under the access.fbvpn.com server address. This is due to load balancing where, as people connect to the access.fbvpn.com server they will actually be connecting to one of the 4 US servers listed further above in the post.
There is also the UK server which I know is something that a lot of people were waiting for. This is a great addition for Ex-pats or people from other countries wanting to watch online UK television like the iPlayer. I had my sister test this for me from UAE and it worked fine for her without any buffering. The server address is manchester.fbvpn.com and here are the speed results that I was able to achieve whilst connected to it. As you can see below, they are great and more importantly, consistent.
BTGuard is definitely my first choice for P2P (out of the two there’s no actual choice as FBVPN doesn’t support the P2P protocol) as the speeds are great and you can choose from either a German server or Canadian server. This isn’t the right choice for people trying to access USA restricted sites though as your IP address will seen as German or Canadian depending on which server you choose. I guess that they will probably add more servers around the world as they go; but for basic, no fuss ability to hide your IP address from the outside world for privacy concerns, then BTGuard is a decent choice. They also support P2P as the name indicates and do not keep any records of usage. BTGuard is not the VPN you are looking for if you want to have access to streaming TV shows on American sites like Hulu. BTGuard don not keep logs either.
[Update 01/04/12] One thing to also mention with BTGuard and that is that every now and then the connection to the BTGuard servers does sometimes drop out momentarily. This has happened a few times, and when it does, your IP address will be exposed. Depending on what you are using the VPN for this may not be an issue, but if you were downloading something illigal (say a film/ music etc) via a P2P program, then bear this in mind as for the short time that it’s exposed until you can reconnect, your IP could have been harvested by unscrupulousness companies that collect this type of information. Also, don’t expect anything great from their tech support, as it’s pretty much non existent.
FBVPN is my choice when I want to access previously restricted sites like Hulu or ABC, so if being able to watch streaming TV shows from other countries is your thing, then I can guarentee that FBVPN works and there is no buffering. As far as I can tell their servers are located in Fremont CA (paid service) and New York NY. If you want to access Hulu etc you will need a USA IP address, so use the paid version which is only $5.00 a month which is nothing really especially if you want to catch up on your favourite TV show and don’t want to wait for it to air in UK which can take years if ever at all. They do not support P2P nor do they keep a record of your logs.
There are plenty of other VPN client’s out there both free and paid for, but as I have only tested these two I am unable to comment on them. You can go to this site to have a look at other VPN services out there and read the reviews for them . As for me, I’m sticking with FBVPN for the moment as they allow users to switch servers as many times as they want (a lot of VPN services restrict this) and they do not limit the amount of bandwidth usage. As with all VPN’s, all inbound and outbound traffic is encrypted so it really does make sense to use one.
I hear that StongVPN is very good, but am unable to verify due to them not having a trial service, but they do have a 100% money back guarantee within 7 days of purchase should the service not suit you. I will let you know if they ever have a trial use.
Well I hope this may help some people out when thinking about using a VPN for whatever reasons. For me personally, spending the extra £3.10 or $5.00 a month for a decent VPN service is very worth it especially if you want to be able to access geo-restricted sites like Hulu from the UK or iPlayer from USA. If you are only going to use a VPN for P2P, then go with BTGuard as they also have a Bittorrent proxy that is compatible with utorrent and Vuze (£4.30/ $6.95 per month)
[Edit] I have been using FBVPN exclusively now for over 6 months and the speed hits have no impact on my ability to watch streaming broadcasts on Hulu (zero buffering). I have to clear that up as I may have come across that it couldn’t handle it. It can and does a great job. The added UK servers is also a fantastic new benefit for users, especially given that there are no server switch limitations; which means you can switch between a UK and US without having to worry about restrictions.
If you do start using FBVPN then I have written another tutorial on how to switch between servers here
Any questions, please ask in the comments and I will get back to you as quickly as possible.