Life abroad has many, many benefits for foreigners to reap – great food, cheaper cost of living, easy travel. It also comes with slow internet speed in many places (just too many people online at once), and lots of online threats (the sheer technological ability of the people even in my student body is mind-boggling.) This is why I always work with a VPN (virtual private network), in fact I use one in the US too.
I like the security a VPN offers from those with bad intentions towards my laptop.
A VPN can satisfy the need for speed and security for me- the internet system here at my university is A. slow as heck (yes my VPN makes my laptop faster here for some reason) and B. filled with hackers and viruses waiting for me to seek them out. A VPN can help keep you fast and safe. Sometimes. Depending on which VPN you choose.
I just hate the feeling that I’m that at risk to viruses, and I’d been using a VPN in the States to help combat malware and data theft. I didn’t want to travel abroad and leave myself at risk to scams or bad people sneaking into my computer. I’ve heard good things about VyperVPN which runs at about $80/year for 1 device or $100/year for 2 device. Another one recommended to be was ExpressVPN which runs at about $100/year for 1 device and 1 phone/ipad. However, after some consideration, I decided to run with Astrill, recommended to me for its price and easy usability.
After more than 5 months as an Astrill user, I thought I would offer you a report on how it’s going.
Price: $70/year + $60/year for use on 5 devices (covers my whole family, phones, laptops, iPad, and more).
Review: The price was one of the lower ends of the group, especially if you want a family plan. Honestly, I’m still paying a surprising amount, but it isn’t too terrible. I get StealthVPN (a safer option) free if I tweet an ad for Astrill every month, which is nice. One problem I ran into is that I attempted to pay Astrill in August, only to find out in October that despite having a confirmation number, the bill was unpaid. I tried a second time only to find out the same again. Their payment system kid of sucks. Conversely, they didn’t shut off my program for any of the mess though, so that was a plus.
Installation: Easy (sort of)
Review: Installation is pretty easy. You set up an account with username and password and then download the program. It’s all fairly straightforward. There was a problem with my first installation because it screwed up the Proxy Settings on my computer so that NOTHING worked. I took it to the resident tech expert and he fixed it in about a second. Something about DNS servers not responding. Not ashamed to admit I don’t know what went wrong, just that it was easily fixed.
The program is extremely easy to use as long as it is working. It automatically signs you in, you pick your server from a drop down list, and it connects you right up. If you want to see what server is the fastest, go to Help-> Test Speed and just test all the servers. I recommend using a server from the USA if you want to access all US websites. Remember that if you want to use websites not available in the US like Youku or Tudou you need to use a Chinese server.
Access: Scattered and Bumpy
The technology is easy to use but works sporadically and is highly unreliable. Unfortunately, they failed to tell me until after I paid that Astrill rarely works on Apple Products right now. Something about IOS 7 and IOS 8 not being compatible. Astrill keeps dropping off on my iPad and often fails to work at all. On my laptop, it is often extremely slow, even if I use multiple different servers or if the speed test says it is fast. I have had repeated days when it simply didn’t work at all. I also got a pretty snotty email about a week ago on CHRISTMAS EVE!?! telling me that they “detected suspicious movement” and were freezing my account. Given that this was my only way to contact my family in America (one of the reasons I had Astrill), I was not impressed. Upon responding to them, I was told that I was changing servers too many times. 0_0 well duh! I purchased a product that now rarely works and only then if I test out several different servers. I wasn’t amused. That said, when it works it does pretty good. I don’t really have any trouble accessing Facebook or Youtube videos when it is working. It helps if you have a fast internet connection cause Astrill can slow you down. My mom’s internet connection is pretty week and Astrill OFTEN stops working at all for her regardless of the server chosen.
Customer Service: Meh
Okay, but snotty. They are fast responders (within minutes) to an email, but the tone is pretty annoying. It pretty much equals out against each other to an “Okay.”
Conclusion: This service isn’t great if you have Apple Products. If you do, go with something else. Don’t count on this program always working – you pay a cheaper price and get a cheaper product. That said, I wouldn’t complain too much. It works more than it doesn’t for me, but then I have strong internet. Your internet speed will be impacted by Astrill, and once you download it you cannot use your computer without it (slightly annoying). I’m sure there is a way to avoid that proxy server problem, but it’s not for the computer illiterate. The system is simple and easy to use, so I like that part about it. Altogether, I’d maybe go with it again, but I really am concerned about their Asia problems recently. It isn’t doing them any favors given the number of Asia users they have. Hopefully a new update will come around soon.