Initially, I was very hesitant to review IPVanish VPN because I knew they are a US-based service. Personally, that’s like asking the wolf to guard the hens. First released in 2012, IPVanish changed ownership in 2017. Sadly, the change in ownership has done little positive for the company, from my perspective. I have difficulties recommending this VPN for many reasons including middling speed performance, suspect anonymity and terrible customer support. Learn more.
IPVanish Review: 5 Pros and 4 Cons of Using IPVanish VPN
May 20, 2020
Founded in 2012, IPVanish VPN isn’t the oldest kid on the block and in fact, has already changed hands once. What’s unusual about this company is that despite its apparent popularity in such a short time, the company has also managed to get itself embroiled in a Logging controversy. This type of thing usually sounds like a death-toll for VPN service providers, and yet it survives.
Furthermore, it’s a US-based company and that doesn’t spell well for its claims to having a no-Logging policy in the first place. Although the US does not have mandatory data retention laws yet, it does have security agencies who are eager to record the Internet metadata for the entire planet. Quite a conundrum.
Nevertheless, it has proven to be a mixed bag of performance, some good, some terrible, so let’s look at what they can do.
What We Like About IPVanish VPN
1. Good Availability
IPVanish claims to operate more than 1,000 servers in a network that has grown to cover over 60 countries around the world. Of course, it does focus mainly in Europe and North America, with 443 servers in the former and 561 servers in the latter. While this leaves Asia and the rest f the world barely a handful, the coverage is there.
1.1. It Owns Its Own Infrastructure
What is remarkable is that IPVanish claims to own all its own infrastructure. While this may certainly be true of server equipment, I’m not certain how it can be so for the rest of the infrastructure which usually comes from the data centre.
As the only true Top Tier VPN service provider, we at IPVanish own and operate our entire network, including the servers. This allows us to deliver premium service at a competitive price.
We never leave your security in someone else’s control. Because we don’t outsource our infrastructure, we’re able to deliver the safest VPN connections in the world. And without third parties slowing us down, the IPVanish network is lightning-quick.
1.2. Use with Almost Any Device
For those of you reading my VPN reviews by now, I’m sure that you’ve gotten used to me harping on about device support. The fact is that with a product as widely targeted as a VPN, there’s bound to be many of us who use a massive variety of devices.
In fact, I would daresay that many of us might even use multiple devices on varied platforms even within a single household. Also, to put it delicately, despite my amazement that some people are still using Windows Phone – the fact remains that there are, even a close business associate of mine.
So, there you have it – supporting a great variety of devices is a plus for IPVanish.
And since IPVanish also can be deployed on some routers, I would again caution those of you who are thinking of doing so, either for convenience or just for kicks;
Running a VPN service on your router will help you overcome the simultaneous device connection limit that most VPNs will impose. However, there IS a drawback. In almost all cases (especially for general home-use routers), doing so will slow your Internet traffic compared to if you were to run device-specific VPN apps. This is because routers are less capable of handling the data encryption needed in real-time, thus slowing your data transmission speeds.
2. IPVanish is Tough in Security
Honestly speaking, security to me comes secondary to anonymity in a VPN service, but that’s a personal standpoint. When I think about Internet users in countries like China, the US and Singapore, I can fully understand the need for secure connections.
Just FYI, the US is one of the hottest areas in the world for companies to prosecute these involved in illegal file-sharing. China censors its Internet heavily and Singapore is following in the footsteps of the US. However, there are many other countries in which users might like to make use of a VPN – such as those in the European countries.
2.1. Forced 256-bit Encryption
Without exception, all the VPN services I’ve tested to date have offered users a choice when it comes to encryption levels. After all, as I mentioned, higher encryption may decrease your speed. However, IPVanish has apparently taken a tough stance on things and enforced mandatory 256-bit encryption on all users.
Putting that into perspective, 256-bit encryption is one of the highest levels there is today and has become increasingly prevalent in modern algorithms, protocols and technologies (we even use it for SSL).
Simply put, a 256-bit key would take massive computing power to break and even then only with enough time – more years than in anyone’s life, that’s for sure.
An important point to note is that the more highly encrypted a connection is, the more likely that connection is to suffer from speed degradation, so I’ll let you decide on your own what’s the perfect balance you need in your lives.
2.2. No Logs Policy
This is the holy grail for VPN service providers. We all need to know that the VPN service we’re entrusting our data to isn’t going to just turn around and hand it to someone else. I won’t say more on this now, but suffice to say, officially, IPVanish has a no-Logging policy.
2.3. Choice of Protocols
If security and anonymity is the bastion of VPN services, then their protocols are the flex in their muscles. IPVanish supports a wide range of protocols so that you can adopt them as necessary to your situation.
IPVanish claims to support OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec and SSTP, but I notice that the option for SSTP is missing from their Windows VPN app. Perhaps it was removed.
2.4. The Kill Switch Works!
Most VPNs have something included called a Kill Switch, which is designed to terminate your connection to the Internet if connection to the VPN server is ever lost for any reason. Some work, some don’t but I’m happy to report that the IPVanish Kill Switch does work. It might be a little sluggish, but once it kicks in, everything stubbornly refuses to connect.
In fact, once you load your IPVanish client, you won’t be able to surf the net until you are connected to a server of theirs. Browsing without a connection is only possible once you’ve exited the IPVanish client software. This is by far the best implementation of a Kill Switch I’ve seen so far.
3. Enough Speed To Stream 8k Video
This is the second time I’ve evaluated IPVanish and to be honest, their speeds have improved a bit – but not that much. I’ve tried a combination of approaches but simply do not seem to be able to coax out anything faster using their service.
I recently swapped my broadband provider and although my line speed has tested to be able to deliver close to the advertised 500Mpbs, this largely depends on what servers I am connecting to.
As a baseline, I’m able to get almost max speeds when directly on a local server here.
The situation changes once I’m connecting to overseas servers though, but this is understandable. Distance plays a factor in both speed and latency, plus there is the quality of the servers to consider.
IPVanish speed test – US server
IPVanish speed test – EU server (Germany)
IPVanish speed test – Africa server (South Africa)
IPVanish speed test – Asia server (Singapore)
IPVanish speed test – Australia server
As you can see from the results, our five major global test locations showed varying results with IPVanish. These speeds aren’t too bad actually, but they still fall far off from the speeds which we can get from our top service providers.
Still, they are enough to let me stream 8k videos off YouTube. Realistically speaking, around 15Mbps will let you do this for UHD video.
4. Good Price Without Long Lock-in Periods
IPVanish seems to have fallen in the middle of pricing in the VPN wars. At RM41 per month ad-hoc and RM26.60 per month on a one-year plan, it’s sort neither here nor there. On one side if you go monthly it’s not oppressively expensive, while on the other, you don’t save as much as other for an extended period.
Take for example Nord VPN, which has some truly fantastic long-term pricing.
What We Didn’t Like About IPVanish VPN
1. Lack of Optimized Servers
This is the first thing I noticed once I had installed the VPN client on my system. I was looking at various settings and noticed that IPVanish places an unusually high priority on server Ping and ranks them according to that. Other than that, you must take your chances with whatever the app chooses for you.
Don’t get me wrong – server Ping IS important. It’s basically how much delay the server shows in communicating with your device, but it isn’t that important in context.
As VPN users, surely it should be anticipated that we might be using the line for a variety of things, such as Torrenting, Video Streaming or anything else, so why the focus on just Ping? Make life simple, please.
2. Privacy Issues
Despite their very publicly stated no-Log policy, IPVanish has come under some serious fire for its lack of backbone in standing up to authorities in the past. What’s even more disconcerting is that they have been accused of handing over information that wasn’t supposed to exist.
2.1. US-based Company
As a US-based company, IPVanish has the fiduciary obligation to assist authorities in their investigations. Judging by how quickly they allegedly threw their user under the bus when asked to by Homeland Security, again, are you willing to bet on them to protect you?
The US is currently fighting a battle to get data retention laws passed. Although it currently does not have mandatory data retention laws like the European Data Retention Directive, how long before that becomes a reality?
2.2. Logging Controversy
Earlier this year (2018), an article in TorrentFreak accused IPVanish of handing over user logs to authorities (US Department of Homeland Security). Well, _a_ user log anyway, but that’s bad enough.
Now, IPVanish was taken over relatively recently, so when asked about it, they obviously denied everything by saying that they had no knowledge of anything which happened before they took over the company. Even though, I find it appalling that such a serious breach of one of the primary pillars of VPN conduct was so casually brushed under the carpet by its new owners.
IPVanish does not, has not, and will not log or store logs of our users as a StackPath company. I can’t speak to what happened on someone else’s watch, and that management team is long gone. But know this – in addition to not logging, StackPath will defend the privacy of our users, regardless of who demands otherwise.” – Jeremy Palmer, Vice President, Product & Marketing.
The question is, are you willing to take their word for it, since they’ve obviously hedged?
2.3. Unusual Server Location Information Found
I’ve been using speedtest.net for a very long time and it has usually been accurate not only in terms of speed test, but also showing the correct location of the test servers involved. In fact, this is the very first time I’ve ever had this issue in my history of using their service.
When connected to IPVanish servers, I notice that Speedtest often tried to pair me with servers which were very far away from the location I was being shown as on. Normally, it pairs you with the closest server to your location.
So why is it trying to pair me with servers thousands of kilometres away? I brought the issue up in an email to their customer support support, but they basically ignored my question. Any ideas on what’s going on here?
Unfortunately, this strange phenomenon sometimes spills over to geo-location services. Take the example the iBBC player incident shown below;
3. Terrible Customer Support
My biggest gripe about IPVanish – Customer support. Rather, the lack of it. I certainly can understand some companies not providing 365/24/7 customer support, especially via live chat services as the cost can escalate.
What I cannot understand is why a technical services company such as IPVanish thinks they can afford not to do so.
I further cannot understand why they feel it is alright to claim they offer 24/7 customer support, if they take 3 days to respond half-heartedly to a detailed email asking for assistance.
TECHNICALLY, they are correct, they respond immediately – with an automated email saying they will respond shortly. Yet this is so far in violation of the spirit of customer support that I was simply flabbergasted.
Not only was their response three days late, it also failed to address in any meaningful way the issues I was having. They basically told me:
disconnect from the current server and switch to a different protocol. Try connecting to the nearest server.
I had provided them with detailed information on the issues face, along with the configuration of my client and all they had to say was that. If I had not tried the solution they suggested already, I would have been ashamed of myself instead. I am uncertain if the issue is company policy or a customer service assistant who really doesn’t want the job, but the end result is the same.
IPVanish, SHAME ON YOU.
4. Poor Client Application
From the antiquated design to a very glaring lack of options, one would say that the IPVanish app is streamlined and minimalistic – if one were being kind. Unfortunately, the lack of many very necessary functions make it seem ill-conceived instead of streamlined.
From a lock-in to one encryption standard to a lack of server organization (except by Ping, it’s always Ping with them), the austerity in design has been taken a little too far.
And personally, if I had a service which offered such poor speeds, I wouldn’t include a traffic monitor in the client itself. It’s like rubbing salt into an open wound.
The Bottomline: Is IPVanish VPN worth the price?
As I sit and recover my breath after that long rant on customer service, I had to calm down for a couple of minutes to regain my focus. One of my pet peeves is poor customer service and I had gotten that in spades this time round.
Still, with a balance of things for and against this company, I feel as though it is still a little unusual. Take for example their tough stance on security by enforcing 256-bit encryption levels. Yet at the same time they’ve gone through the mill of logging allegations which they’ve merely tried to brush aside.
At the end of the day, I feel its not so much as major technical problems that face IPVanish, but rather the attitude of the company. From a marketing VP who can try to brush allegations aside by saying “we know nothing” to customer service staff which basically don’t care – I feel as though IPVanish is facing some serious problems.
Yet with the right positioning and just a little bit of gloss, there are still hundreds if not thousands who will not bother to do the right thing and read up on a product before they buy in to it.
Personally, I wouldn’t touch IPVanish with a ten foot pole, but to be honest, it does have its bright points as I have mentioned in my review.
- ✓ 256-bit encryption
- ✓ Balanced pricing options
- ✓ Support up to 10 devices simultaneously
- ✓ 7-day money-back guarantee
- ✓ Supports P2P File Sharing
- ✓ No-logging policy
- • Video streaming (sometimes)
- • Security-conscious users
- • P2P fans
- • US and EU-based users