A VPN is not just for paranoid people or people with something to hide. VPNs, like ExpressVPN, play an important role in protecting your privacy and web security. There are scammers, government agencies, and others who are interested in monitoring what you do online.
ExpressVPN has an impressive bank of servers distributed around the globe. It offers features you don’t usually see with VPNs, including split tunneling. However, you are going to pay more for this premium service, and you are only going to be able to simultaneously connect three devices per license.
What Does a VPN Do?
You go out to grab your daily cup of coffee and decide that you want to do a little web browsing. Nefarious people could be monitoring your web traffic, including when you visit the bank, send personal information, or search things you wouldn’t want the world to know that you are searching for. It is not uncommon for phony Wi-Fi hotspots to be set up for the purpose of letting people steal your data when you connect to it. And let’s not forget that the government and advertisers are itching at the bit to get your data.
However, when you use a VPN to connect, the VPN creates a secure tunnel between your computer and the server you are connecting to. It simultaneously encrypts your data.
When you use the Internet without a VPN, especially when you are on public networks, your real IP address can easily be identified. This is not so with a VPN. For all intents and purposes, it appears to all who are interested that your traffic is coming from the VPN server. This means that you could be sitting in a coffee shop in El Salvador, but to the world it looks like you are surfing the Internet from Los Angeles.
What Does ExpressVPN Cost? What Features Does It Offer?
You want to protect your privacy, but you also have a budget. ExpressVPN comes with three pricing tiers. The most expensive price point is $12.95 a month. However, if you opt for the six-month service, you are billed $59.95, which comes out to $9.99 a month. If you go for a year, you are billed $99.95, which comes out at around $8.32 a month.
ExpressVPN makes paying for their service easy. You can use PayPal, credit card, Bitcoin, and a host of other payment options. ExpressVPN offers a 30 day money back guarantee. You can basically try the service for free. If you don’t like it or it doesn’t meet your needs, you get your money back.
As we mentioned, ExpressVPN is quite a bit more expensive than the competition. Private Internet Access costs $6.94, TunnelBear is $9.99, and NordVPN can even be found for $3.49 a month when they are having a special.
ExpressVPN does not offer a free service like some of their competition, such as TunnelBear VPN. With their free service, you get 500 MB per month. Other companies, like Hotspot Shield, have free services that offer up to 500 MB per month.
When you look at how much you are paying for ExpressVPN, you would expect them to be a little less stingy when it comes to the number of simultaneous connections. Currently, they only allows three simultaneous connections from different devices. The industry standard is five simultaneous connections.
NordVPN allows six simultaneous connections, and TorGuard VPN lets you choose the number of connections you want, going from five up to 205. Other VPNs, like Avira Phantom VPN, put no limit on the number of devices you can simultaneously connect.
On the flip side, ExpressVPN can be installed on your router, or you can purchase a router that is preloaded with ExpressVPN. Either way, when ExpressVPN is functioning on your router, you can protect every device on your network. This includes devices that on their own have not been designed to run a VPN.
One place where ExpressVPN really shines is when it comes to the tutorials that they have. You can find a simple to follow and in-depth video tutorial for just about every platform out there. If your device can be connected to a VPN, ExpressVPN can walk you through the process.
A Number of Servers Located across the Country
When you purchase a VPN, you are purchasing the ability to access their servers. Your computer connects to their servers. From their server, a connection is made with the website or service you are connecting to.
You want the service that you are using to have a diverse number of servers distributed around the world. This means that you will find one that is close by you no matter where you travel. You also have more options for spoofing your location.
ExpressVPN has 160 server locations in more than 90 countries around the globe. This means that you are able to connect to a VPN server in just about any country on the planet. NordVPN is the only other VPN service that comes anywhere close. They have 62 countries. Cyber Ghost only has 80.
Here’s the kicker with ExpressVPN: they have a geographic diversity for their servers that most other VPN services don’t have. It is very rare to find a VPN that has a presence in Africa. However, ExpressVPN has four locations. The same is true with South America. ExpressVPN also has servers in countries that closely monitor and control the Internet, including Vietnam, Russia, and Turkey.
Some people feel nervous when they hear that ExpressVPN has virtual servers. A virtual server is a software defined server. In essence, this means that one physical server is hosting a number of virtual servers. A virtual server can be configured to give the appearance that they are located in a country other than where the physical server is located. A virtual server isn't a bad thing. However, it is understandable if you feel uncomfortable with the idea of your data going to Italy so that you can connect to a virtual server in France, for example.
ExpressVPN, like many other VPN companies, activates servers, be them physical or virtual, based on the amount of demand they have. If they have a ton of subscribers, they are going to activate more of their servers, meaning that you will have a better chance of connecting to a non-crowded server, which will improve your performance.
Right now, ExpressVPN has access to more than 3,000 servers around the globe. This is one of the largest collections of servers managed by any VPN company. NordVPN is above and beyond the king when it comes to servers though. They currently have more than 5,200 servers at their disposal.
Something you are going to notice when you work with ExpressVPN is that they are transparent about everything they do, including the fact that they use virtual servers. They clearly explain that fewer than three percent of their servers or virtual, or not in the physical location where they appear to be. ExpressVPN also listed the true location of their virtual servers.
There are some countries that have so little concern for the Internet privacy of its citizens that having a physical server in that country is dangerous. The government could easily tamper with the server and potentially reveal your private information. In countries like Russia and Turkey, using a virtual server is a reasonable option.
What to Expect from Privacy with ExpressVPN
Remember, when you use a VPN, you are trusting that VPN company with anything you search online or any activity you engage in over the Internet. If you are dealing with an unscrupulous VPN, they can easily sell your personal information in the same way that many ISPs do.
ExpressVPN does have to collect some information about your activity so that it can run its business. However, they are transparent about the information that they are collecting. For example, they don’t record what you do when using the VPN. They don’t collect DNS queries. They don’t collect IP addresses or the destination of your traffic. Also, ExpressVPN does not have the ability to match your IP address to your activity. This is the type of protection you want a VPN company to give you.
ExpressVPN has its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands. This country does not have a data retention law. A request for information from their servers would only be honored if it was generated by a local court and if the crime that was being investigated could be punished by at least one year in prison in the British Virgin Islands.
ExpressVPN makes its money through the VPN subscriptions they sell. They do not make their money by selling your private data to others.
However, as we mentioned, ExpressVPN is a business, so they will need to collect information pertinent to their business operations. This would include the aggregate amount of data being transferred, when a successful connection to one of their servers was made, which server location was connected to, and information of that sort. What they don’t record is your public facing IP address.
ExpressVPN is clear about the fact that the information they collect is not sufficient to identify you and connect you to your Internet activity. The information they collect about you is going to be almost identical to the information they collect about other people.
There was a situation that happened in Turkey that is a feather in the cap of ExpressVPN when it comes to protecting the privacy of their users. Turkish authorities seized a ExpressVPN server. After thoroughly investigating the server, they were unable to find server logs that would allow the investigators to link any activity on the server to any user. They were unable to determine what user or even if a specific user was connected to the VPN servers at any time.
VPN companies understand that transparency and honesty are important to their clients. This is why many have begun to release results using third-party audits to prove that their VPN service is secure. NordVPN, for example, had a third-party audit of its no logging policy. TunnelBear, which offers its services for $4.17 a month if you purchase the year plan, releases yearly audits of their entire process.
ExpressVPN also does regular audits. However, they are not in the habit of sharing the results of those audits with the public.
Further proof of ExpressVPN’s commitment to the security of its clients and the idea of Internet privacy is in the open source leak testing tool they offer. Additionally, they responded to questions that were in the questionnaire produced by the Center for Democracy and Technologies.
What It’s like to Actually Use ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is easy to download, regardless of the device that you are using. Setting up the VPN is a breeze. ExpressVPN has a minimal interface. On the main menu, you see a large button that allows you to connect or disconnect.
When you are connecting on a tablet, smart phone, or using Apple TV, chrome cast, or another device on your television, you don’t need to log into the ExpressVPN client. All you have to do is put in the activation code the ExpressVPN site gives you. It is that easy and seamless.
When you are using ExpressVPN on Windows, you are able to select and save the servers you prefer. It would be nice if you could get a little bit more information about the services you are using, including overall usage. ExpressVPN does have a nice speed test window, which allows you to do a speed test on all of ExpressVPN’s available servers, letting you pick the one that is going to give you the best results.
All of ExpressVPN’s servers are designed to work at peak proficiency. There is no upsell feature or paying more to get access to premium servers. Everything works as it should right away, including the kill switch that prevents applications from connecting to the Internet if the VPN is disconnected.
Split tunneling is a cool feature because it allows you to determine which apps will connect to the Internet via the VPN and which apps will connect outside of the VPN tunnel or without encryption. If you have certain apps that are not going to work when you use a VPN or applications that are negatively affected by poor network performance when connected to a VPN, then split tunneling will work well for you.
It’s cool to point out in that ExpressVPN has its own DNS service. This is a slick idea because smart hackers can look at DNS requests with the goal of tracking you across the web. P2P file sharing and the use of torrents is allowed on all of their servers.
ExpressVPN needs to be configured correctly to provide you maximum security. If not, the potential does exist to leak your real IP address to your ISP. The same is true with DNS requests. However, you can confirm that your DNS requests are being directed to the right spot without leaking information and that your ISP cannot see your real IP address.
Will ExpressVPN Work with Netflix?
Netflix and other streaming services block customers or limit content when they are outside of a preset geo area. Not all servers allow you to connect to Netflix. ExpressVPN does have special servers that are set aside for streaming. In our testing, we were able to connect to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu using the server. Learn how to change your Netflix region so you can watch Netflix in any country.
Speed and Performance
Understandably, you do not want your VPN to slow your Internet service down to a crawl. All VPN services are going to reduce upload and download speeds. However, ExpressVPN offers some of the fastest VPN speeds on the market.
Some of the factors that will impact the speed of your connection are where you are connecting from and the server that you are connecting to. Thanks to updates and tweaks in their system, ExpressVPN reduces latency by around 25 percent, upload speeds by 76.3 percent, and download speeds by 85 percent. Based on our testing, HideIPVPN is the fastest VPN option because it has relatively small impact upload and download speeds. Recently, ExpressVPN came in 11th when the speeds of the top VPNs were compared.
Using ExpressVPN on Other Platforms
ExpressVPN has apps for Windows, Android, Mac OS, and iOS. Using the apps is easy. There is no manual configuration, and you are given access to a number of additional features.
There are also plug-ins for browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. However, these plug-ins work as proxies, which change the apparent location of your browser traffic. However, there are no encryption protocols. ExpressVPN has apps for Apple TV, Xbox, PlayStation, Fire TV, and other devices.
There is a lot of competition in the VPN market. ExpressVPN has many things in its favor. It has more than 3,000 servers and offers clients a number of options to choose from. They use virtual servers in a smart way and are transparent about how they use them.
ExpressVPN offers the basics, but they go even further by offering split tunneling and other features most VPNs do not have. The downside is that for the price, they offer few simultaneous connections. The bottom line is that ExpressVPN is a comprehensive service. However, when compared with the competition, it offers a lot less at a more expensive price.
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