IVPN is a media darling and fan favorite in a field of competition where services range from cut-throat to truly poor. It falls somewhere in between these extremes.
Its premise is the same as all VPNs: it wants to help you protect your data from snooping internet service providers (ISPs), advertisers, and governments. However, it employs some unique features to help it accomplish its mission, including fast, multi-hop servers, IPv6 protocol, and 4096-bit encryption.
The issue with IVPN is that while there are so many pros, there are just as many cons and some of them impact the user experience. Is IVPN worth the hype? Let’s find out in our full IVPN review.
IVPN: Who Is IVPN?
Ratings : 3.75
IVPN is a small service registered in the tiny British protectorate of Gibraltar, which is on the south coast of Spain. It began offering VPN and privacy services in 2009, and today, IVPN has over 24,000 daily users.
The company is a small one. It offers only a handful of server locations compared to giants like NordVPN. However, it’s boutique-style service also has strengths.
You might have noticed the words “British” and “Gibraltar” above, but don’t worry. Gibraltar is subject to a provision in the UK’s Data Protection Act of 2004 that allows Gibraltar citizens to keep their information private and requires businesses to respect user data. Plus, the service doesn’t track or record any—we mean any—of your data, so IVPN couldn’t share your information if it wanted to.
That is one of its strongest points in this highly competitive market.
What does IVPN offer? It covers all the essentials plus one big feature that will attract privacy nerds: a multi-hop feature.
One of the most significant features for privacy nerds is IVPN’s commitment not to log any of your info. The service rejects the tracking or logging of online activity, which means you are completely safe from any interference. No government body will ever see your data because IVPN has no way to provide it to them.
If you’re looking for this type of service, this feature is imperative.
The second most crucial feature IVPN offers is the combination of a high-performance application with multi-hop servers. Multi-hop servers encrypt connections that cross two or more servers before sending you on the internet.
A multi-hop server uses one primary VPN service (usually the one you subscribe to (IVPN)) and two or more servers. In most cases, a multi-hop VPM sends you not only across two servers but two servers in different locations, which privacy experts refer to as a nested chain.
You’ll struggle to find a VPN that offers both because the logistics of using multi-hop in a performance setting is tricky. Other companies may claim they offer it but only use tunnels within tunnels, which doesn’t provide the same protections.
Do you need a multi-hop configuration? It depends. The average VPN user doesn’t need the multi-hop feature, and in most cases, it isn’t worth the slower speeds it comes with.
However, if you are a VPN user who is particularly security conscious, does risky work, and is aware of a pre-existing threat level, then a multi-hop VPN is your friend.
We also like the performance that IVPN offers. VPNs slow you down by nature, but IVPN optimized its servers for load balance and keeps them near its customers.
The service also offers multiple connections. You can use the same account to connect your devices. However, you can only attach five devices to an account. So, if you want a VPN for your whole family, you’ll either need multiple accounts or a different VPN service.
A Better Kill Switch
A kill switch is an essential feature, and you tend to find them exclusively in paid VPNs. A kill switch shuts down your browsing session if you become disconnected from the internet, which keeps you private even on insecure or wonky networks.
IVPN forgoes the traditional kill switch in favor of an integrated firewall. The firewall acts as a kill switch, but it is more secure because it integrates into the operating system and then filters through all the network packets.
Using a firewall also means the kill switch runs independently of the VPN, which means it will still protect you even if the VPN itself crashes.
You can also switch on the firewall manually when you need it or use it automatically whenever you run a VPN connection. We like the automatic option because network reconfiguration isn’t a dramatic event. It occurs when you:
The standard kill switch used needs to react to each of these events with less than a moment’s notice to prevent a single packet from leaking. By sending everything through the VPN tunnel (and firewall), IVPN eliminates the risk.
IVPN offers compatibility with all primary devices and routers including:
You can connect to as many as five devices at a time. Given that you need to run a manual connection, you shouldn’t need to max out your connections, but if you see that statement as a challenge, then you’re covered.
IVPN offers a significant focus on privacy above all, and you get a clear picture of it from its privacy settings.
If you want real and total privacy, IVPN is about as close as you can come because it doesn’t log or record:
Like other privacy aware VPNs, it even allows you to bypass the collection of your email address by paying through an anonymous method like cash or Bitcoin. Otherwise, it holds only your email address and payment ID. The email address is mandatory because you need it to log in. However, we all know it’s easy enough to create and use a throwaway email address for the purpose.
Although IVPN emphasizes its lack of interest in collecting data, it’s clear they do some monitoring. Because the service limits you to five connections, it records at least how you use your account. Fortunately, the company is transparent about its practice. IVPN erases all records as soon as your session ends, so there’s no risk to you.
If your main concern is performance, then it’s likely you found IVPN because it claims to be the fastest VPN in the world. The company applies its focus to cutting milliseconds from speeds to imp
VPN performance varies between products but also as a result of your home connection. Your connection provides the baseline speed with which you connect to the server. Other issues that impact your speed include VPN protocols, encryption strength, and server location.
Choosing a closer server should get you at least a 60 Mbps connection, but once you start to move away, you could see your speed drop to as low as 7Mbps.
Issues with speed could result from the multi-hop server or the firewall. Neither the encryption nor the IPv6 should slow down performance at all.
Generally, tests find that speeds are hit and miss, which makes the fastest VPN in the world claim farcical compared to heavy hitters like ExpressVPN, which truly does offer lightning fast speeds.
We also like that IVPN allows unlimited bandwidth on a paid subscription. You can use it all day every day without worrying about a throttled connection.
IVPN is optimized for US and European users because its server locations dominate those markets. We particularly like IVPN for American users because the close range of servers reduces latency and improves speed. Where other companies stick to coastal server locations, IVPN provides access for those of us residing in the interior of the country.
At the same time, there are so few servers that you can actually list them all. It makes IVPN unique among almost every other VPN. Where most VPNs offer access to hundreds of servers (albeit in a few countries), IVPN holds only 38 servers across 25 countries.
The total list of servers within the United States includes:
You can also connect to the following international servers:
In addition to features like the integrated firewall acting as a kill switch, IVPN offers a high number of features that ensure the product’s security.
IVPN uses IPv6, which intends to replace IPv4 addresses slowly. IPv6 is still getting off the ground in the U.S., but European countries adopted it at a much faster rate. You might have questions about the use of IPv6 given the low rate of adoption and the lower standards used to encourage the switch, but it will improve significantly as more adopt the new protocol.
The benefit of using IPv6 is that you can access all networks registered on that protocol, which is impossible with a VPN that uses IPv4. It’s still uncommon among VPNs because running an IPv6 server is expensive.
IVPN says that the IPv6 protocol works in tandem with the integrated firewall when you are on a network where you have no control over the router or when you forget to disable IPv6 in Windows. The firewall protects you from any traffic leaks that experts warn happen with IPv6 so that you can access any sites without a problem.
Another essential feature that you should never go without is encryption. IVPN offers AES-256 encryption with 4096-bit RSA keys.
If you are security conscious in the least, then you should choose 4096-bit encryption. At present, scientists believe that 4096-bit RSA keys should remain secure right through to 2030. All browsers support this level of encryption at this point.
Keep in mind that you should accept nothing less than a 2048-bit encryption certificate, so if you do continue to shop around, use it as your baseline.
An additional issue to note is that while using state of the art encryption offers more security, it doesn’t cover older protocols, which means using IVPN on old devices and slow networks is almost impossible.
Want to try IVPN on your devices? Start with the service’s free trial. You can try IVPN for three days, and if you aren’t keen or you want to shop around, you can cancel.
Prices vary depending on seasonal offers. We have also seen proposals for a seven-day free trial.
If you choose to sign on, you’ll have the option of paying monthly, quarterly, or annually. As with most subscriptions, the annual plan is cheaper than paying over time. You’ll pay $ per month and a total of $$$ annually.
Not sure you want to commit for a year? A quarterly subscription is $ per month or $$ billed quarterly.
If you are particularly skeptical or you only need the VPN for a specific project, you can pay $15 billed monthly.
IVPN is also available for teams, but you’ll need to get in touch to learn more about pricing for team accounts.
Can You Access Blocked Sites?
There are two types of VPN customers: those who want access to blocked sites and those who want increased privacy and security.
IVPN is for the latter group. The company focuses less on accessing blocked content (hence is U.S. and European-focus) and more on privacy features.
Attempting to use it to access media sites like Netflix, Hulu, or iPlayer from another location could be hit or miss. BBC products are notoriously difficult to obtain outside of the UK, and users find that attempts to do so with IVPN fail.
One of the company’s support document states that it refuses to provide any guarantee that you can access media sites at all on its network.
However, it does use IPv6, which allows you to get on sites like Netflix and Hulu. In cases where VPNs use IPv4, you can’t access IPv6 sites regularly without risk. The result is an IPv6 leak, which happens when your request for a site encounters an IPv6 DNS network outside your VPN’s network.
When a leak occurs, geo-locked sites see your real location and send you packing.
The Bottom Line on IVPN
If you made it to the end of our IVPN review, you learned that IVPN makes some huge promises and offers security protocols that you won’t find in a run-of-the-mill VPN much less a free one.
IVPN has a lot of things working in its favor. It only collects passwords to keep the service running, but it collects absolutely no other data. Data collection is huge as too many VPNs aren’t transparent about their data processes.
We also like that IVPN is an early adopter of technology like IPv6 and hard-hitting encryption. In our opinion, these elements combined with the integrated firewall make it a solid performer that could be worth sacrificing download speeds for on some occasions, particularly if you err on the side of privacy consciousness.
At the same time, IVPN uses only 38 servers, which is a curiously small number. We’re not sure why they made that decision given the company started offering a VPN nearly a decade ago. Perhaps it’s the result of some of its early adoption.
Finally, it’s worth noting that its performance is slow, and it never guarantees access to geo-blocked content, which is strange given its promise to prevent leaks and its adoption of IPv6. Other tests found that you could get kicked out of Netflix or Hulu, which suggests that IVPN isn’t just trying to protect itself from complaints but knows that it can’t guarantee access thanks to a tech issue.
Would we recommend IVPN? Not for the average user hoping to access Hulu on a trip abroad. There are VPNs out there that offer the latest protocols and maintain performance, so if you want to maximize your money, try one of these instead.
Featured Image via Pixabay