The Ergohacks Verdict

There are lots of reasons to want to stay secure and somewhat anonymous online. You might be sitting in a coffee shop and not wanting your browsing to be obvious to your fellow drinkers, you might want a bit of extra security with your online banking or you might just want to keep private from your ISP. There’s a piece of technology for you called a Virtual Private Network or VPN. This lets you run all your connections through an encrypted tube to a specific point on the net you choose. From there it goes to wherever you were trying to access. This means no-one local to you can see your traffic and that by varying the end point you can seem to be wherever in the world you want to be. This is a topic that can get very complicated but your average user isn’t likely to be interested in the details just the results.

So how do you judge a VPN? I can see five important points -simplicity, the speed, the number and availability of endpoints, their privacy and logging policies and any other extra plusses.

TorGuard starts off well with a fairly painless setup. They’ve apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS that have ‘simple’ modes. Install, put in your account details, pick an endpoint and off you go. Switch to the advanced mode and you get a lot more options available should you need them. They also offer quick setup information for a range of hubs so that all your traffic gets encrypted and we’ve got a separate review on the way of a mobile hub that lets you take your encrypted wifi on the go.

Speed of a VPN can be difficult to quantify. By its very nature, it’s adding a couple of encrypted hops to your surfing so it can’t help but slow things down to some degree. I’ve got a 200meg connection in my home in my home office and with no VPN that usually results in download speeds around 50Mbps on wifi. Using the UK endpoints I tended to get figures around 12 to 15Mbps. Upload speeds were similarly affected going from 20Mbps  to around 11Mbps. I’ve used a number of VPNs over the years and this level of slow down matches up reasonably well with the upper end of the offerings and is fast enough on a per machine basis to stream HD video.

TorGuard have a decent number of endpoints and claim over 40 countries. I’ve tried a lot of the available ones and apart from a couple of slowdowns at local early evening have been very happy with them. I have to admit I’m not sure why I’d ever need a local server in Denmark but it’s good to have if I do need it. The software lets you set defaults so unless you need to move your virtual location around you can find one that works for you and stick with it. They let you run 5 simultaneous connections at once and if you need more you can add them to a pay as you go basis.

Their privacy policy is decent hitting all the points you’re looking for – no logs or user session data is stored and a shared configuration that mixes everyone’s traffic making it impossible to pick out a specific user historically using timestamps. They also don’t ban any specific type of traffic which means no packet inspection. Finally, they allow payment via a couple of more anonymous systems such as Bitcoin, litecoin and via gift voucher making tracking you that way difficult.

Other services are a bit more nebulous but one that stands out is what they call StealthVPN. A normal VPN is fairly obvious to an ISP – they can’t see what’s inside it but they can see its there. Some places block VPNs on the basis that if they can’t check what data is there they can’t censor it. TorGuard offer a service called StealthVPN that hides the fact that a VPN is a VPN. I’m not able to test how well it would hold up but the big place that this is aimed at is China and I’ve found a number of customer reviews saying that it worked when other VPN services didn’t.

So does TorGuard stack up? It hits all the privacy boxes and it’s decently fast and easy to get into for someone who just wants a product that works. There’s a good range of extras available if you’re after something specific so it comes down to cost. The service I’ve been testing costs $10 a month (£7.50) but there are regular specials that can cut this down. In the recent Black Friday sales, it went down to $2.50 a month if you subscribe for two years (£1.88 a month or £45 total) with a free router thrown in.

If you’re regularly using open wifi a VPN is a must and at less than a couple of pounds a month, this is hard to argue with. It also holds up well to regular heavy home downloading use and their geo-relocation works well. Recommended.

Ergohacks Essential

Buy it from TorGuard  

Price: ± Between £10 and 1.88 a month depending on offers and terms
Paid extras: Five simultaneous connections included. Extras purchasable at $1 a month each

Specification/Features

Simultaneous Connections: 5
Multiple GCM and CBC Ciphers
Perfect Forward Secrecy (TLS): Yes
Protocols:  OpenVPN, PPTP. L2TP. IPsec. SSTP. iKEV2)
AnyConnect SSL VPN
OpenConnect SSL VPN
Legally incorporated in the US.

Supported OS: Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android and iOS. VPN routers like DDWRT, Tomato and pfsense firewalls are also supported.

Endpoint locations:  Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech, China, Costa Rica, Sweden, Switzerland,  South Africa, South Korea, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Singapore, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Thailand, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Latvia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, UK, Isle of Man, Chile, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Vietnam and USA

educationalBuild quality

 We based our Ergohacks Verdict on 3 weeks of testing, downloading and experimenting. This product is still in regular use today. It was provided by TorGuard in November 2017.  This article was first published on 5 December 2018