#Astrill VPN 2017

4 May

Astrill VPN

If you pay any attention to my blog, you’ll know that for the last 3 years I have been living abroad. The world has many wonderful aspects to it (the mountains are GORGEOUS!), but stable and safe internet service is not one of those. My friend recently took her computer back to the States after a trip abroad to be repaired and the tech guy said she had more than 200 viruses on her system.  

So if you aren’t looking to break firewalls and get into sites you shouldn’t be getting into, why would you want a VPN?  You can find my list of the pros and cons of a VPN here. In general, I like the security a VPN provides to me, whether at home or abroad. I still use my VPNs in the US, especially if at a public location to avoid the same hacks, viruses, and trojans I worry about while traveling.  A VPN can help keep you fast and safe. Sometimes. Depending on which VPN you choose.  Also, it sometimes helps me bypass technical issues in the system. For example, my university uses Blackboard, but it does have random glitches that drop it a lot.  About 25% of the time, it only works if the teachers use a VPN.   When other teachers are down and out, those with a VPN can still get on.

To be honest, I actually go back and forth between Astrill and VyprVPN 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 (I’ve never tried them so I have nothing to give you for Express).   

After more than 3 years as an Astrill user, I thought I would offer you a report on how it’s going. 

WARNING:

I have yet to find a VPN that didn’t require re-installation about once a month or so.  Both Astrill and Vypr frequently get corrupted or stop working or something and I have to re-install.  Because of that, I just save the “installation” file they give you at the beginning. Once you install the program, just save that download file in case you need it again.  The benefit to Astrill is if you have the program on your computer, you won’t need a VPN to install the program.  VYPR actually requires a VPN to even install it at all.

Also, a lot of websites have started figuring out that there are VPNs in the world and are now blocking them.  For example, Hulu is blocking all VPNs so don’t try accessing them with it.  Another example is KissAsian (a website for anime and Asian tv shows).  Also, if you use a VPN while getting onto your email accounts, they will repeatedly block you out and force you to verify yourself. If you used a US phone for your verification and don’t have access to that, you’ll be locked out of your email account. 

CONTACT THEM 

  • Email: sales@astrill.com
  • Phone: +1 323 522 5635
  • Website: Astrill

PRICE

$69.95/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 right now with the 1-year plan, which is nice.  You can also try buying a 3 month or 6 month plan.  I don’t like the extra cost of having extra devices — I’ve found VPNs with cheaper options there (i.e VyprVypr).

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. A few times now, I’ve had the problem where installing 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.  

Living abroad in countries blocking VPNs — Installation is extremely difficult. There is an address available for use in some countries, but you need to get ahold of Astrill to access the website and that is complex enough.  The website is flat-out blocked in some countries so you cannot order it much less download it. If your home is in the US, I recommend 1) purchasing it and downloading it before you leave the States and 2) keeping the installation file for later in case you need to re-install it. 

Use: Medium

The basic program is pretty simple 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 (i.e. Taobao China only works on a Chinese server and Amazon is country specific.)

If you need more advanced options, Astrill can get a little more complex.  For example, users in countries with difficult accessing Astrill are recommended to use features like StealthVPN (free if you have a 1yr plan).  But that one is automatically set to a “Fast port,” when in my experience it needs to be set at a “Reliable Port.”  While computer-savvy people pick that up pretty quickly, it’s not intuitive to everyone.  A lot of users are not familiar with when they need to use the OpenVPN and when to use the StealthVPN.  I think Astrill needs clearer directions on what does what. 

Access: Scattered and Bumpy

The technology is easy to use but works sporadically and is highly unreliable. To be honest, I think everyone’s experience is a little different. I know people who swear by Astrill and some who swear it’s hell incarnate. 

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.  On my mother’s computer it doesn’t work at all and in fact stops all internet access to her computer. I’ve had the tech expert at my building look at it and he can’t understand what’s wrong (he had a MA in tech support).  I am constantly having to change servers and try different ones. If it drops, it won’t automatically pick back up again.  Then, if you try accessing too often or to quickly in a row, it’ll block you out and stop your service for a while.  

I’m pretty sure China at least has a hack into it, because whenever there is a major event  or when government officials visit it will suddenly stop working altogether for about 1 week ahead of time and 1 week afterwards. A couple years ago a big international meeting was held near my home and my friend said their Astrill stopped for a month before and two weeks after. Then suddenly it started up again. For users interested in using it in China, here’s my two-cents best guess (no proof, just a guess) — I think China knows exactly who is using it and how to stop it. So far, they simply haven’t cared enough to do anything about the small people.  They shut it down when they really want to lock people out and just watch it the rest of the time.  If they ever want to crack down, they’ll know where to go and who to get. 

That said, when it works it does pretty good. I don’t really have any trouble accessing websites pretty quickly when it is working. Everything loads fine and speedily. 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.  For example, at Panera Bread it works fine for me at normal hours and not at all at lunch hours 😛

Customer Service: Meh

Snotty and unfriendly. They are fast responders (within minutes) to an email, but the tone is pretty annoying.  Last year they sent out a lengthy post when you logged into Astrill that went off at users in China.  The tone was really negative and got a hugely bad response. I know a couple pretty serious tech experts who had sworn by Astrill that moved away from it after that because they were really offended.   I don’t like talking to them. Quick but rude. 

Conclusion: 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 but you can be safer and access more.  They have a lot of add-ons and include a router that allows everyone in your home to use Astrill without logging on all the time. That can be really convenient. 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 actually kind of like Vypr better.  🙂 

This is my experience with Astrill, anyone want to throw in their opinion of ExpressVPN or Strong?  

One Response to “#Astrill VPN 2017”

  1. bradhaddin81 May 18, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    Hey nice and creative of you to actually use a poll. i’ve been using ivacy right now and it’s decent. express works fine too. haven’t tried strong or vypr though.

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