If you have been searching for a VPN (virtual private network) or you’ve heard about it, you may have noticed that there are a lot of VPN providers out there to choose from.
One name that is consistently mentioned is NordVPN, and as I have been a customer since 2016 I figured that it’s about time I put together a review of NordVPN and how it has helped to protect me online.
What is VPN?
I may put together an in-depth overview of VPN, what it does and why you should use it at a later date. But just to give you a brief overview, VPN stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’.
It is a group of a special network of servers across the globe that can give you a temporary IP address. It also hides your IP address from every website you connect with, whether it’s via your computer, laptop, tablet or mobile.
And if a server you connect with is in another country, it will appear as if you are coming from that country.The internet is amazing, but we all know that it has its flaws, which can make you vulnerable online. But having a VPN can help you with the following:
- Allow you to bypass geographic restrictions and access websites, videos and audios
- Prevent people snooping by protecting yourself from untrustworthy WiFi hotspots
- Some provide ad and tracker blocking
- Anonymise your IP address to hide your true location
- Access your home network while travelling
- Access your business network while travelling
Many people will use a VPN to access international platforms like Netflix US if you are based outside of the US. This will allow them to have access to content that is only available if you are in the US if they don’t want to wait until it’s available in their home country.But there are other benefits which (I think) are more important than trying to keep up with the latest episodes of Games of Thrones.
Why I Use VPN & Why You Should Too?
Personally, the main reason I use a VPN is to protect my identity, away from snooping eyes, especially when using public WiFi.Many of us have connected with public WiFi at a local cafe without thinking. The problem is that there are too many horror stories that could occur from connecting with public WiFi, regardless of whether they have secure passwords or not (let’s face it; they will most likely be very insecure).In fact, a hacker does not need long to access your personal details if you are using a public WiFi.[caption id="attachment_4857" align="aligncenter" width="1191"]
It's not that hard for hackers to snoop on your data on public WiFi - Image via Medium[/caption]A hacker could be sitting in that same cafe and waiting for you to log into one of your online accounts, giving them access to your login details.How does that coffee taste now?And because not many people uses a password manager, it means that they use the same password elsewhere. So that hacker can very easily use the details that they have stolen from you and attempt to login to other accounts using the same login details.(You see, that’s why it’s essential to use a password manager and combine that with 2-factor authentication).Another reason why I use a VPN is that I travel a lot and may need to connect to public WiFi whilst abroad and in some of those countries certain websites could be banned e.g. Facebook in China.You may have a legitimate reason to access those sites, but the country you visit which has banned them will not care. A VPN can help you to get around that.There are other benefits to using VPN, which also include protecting your data from 3rd party sites. As a travelling business owner, these are the most important features to me, why I use them and how it can benefit you too.You do have the option of signing up for one of those free VPNs, which is tempting, but that comes with a warning sign.So it’s worth paying for one, and that’s why I wanted to talk about NordVPN, my VPN provider of choice.
NordVPN is one of the bigger names in the VPN world which can support Android, Chrome, Firefox, iOS, Linux, macOS and Windows via their apps. You can also get routers, which are both open-source and branded too, to connect with your WiFi.It boasts a huge server network, which at the time of writing, consists of 5000+ servers in 60+ countries, optimised for your different needs.The interface provides a clean, pleasant and somewhat cartoonish display whether you are on the desktop or mobile version. The first thing you see is a map of the world, where you can then click on the pushpins of the country where you can connect.
On the left-hand side (for desktop), you can also choose the country that way too. By clicking on the pushpins or one of the countries on the left, NordVPN will automatically connect you to the closest and fastest connection.But if you have a very specific server you want to connect to, you can click on the 3 dots beside the country and click on that server. You can see (albeit not very clearly) what its capacity is for speed connection. You can then click on the heart to save it to your favourite servers.
Following that, you can browse the internet as normal with very little implications. I say “very little” because there may be situations where it will slow down your internet connection. When that happens, I tend to either switch the server or disconnect it completely if it’s really causing a problem.But I find that I don’t need to do that often.
Useful NordVPN Features
There are several very useful features on NordVPN for extra privacy and security.One of them is its “Double VPN”, which means that it will connect you to two different VPN servers before it connects you to the internet, ensuring that your data is encrypted twice. However, your connection will most likely slow down as it’s double encryption.
There is also the "CyberSec", a new feature which blocks ads and filters out known malicious websites. You might find that you know what to watch out for when it comes to malicious websites, but it’s good to know that NordVPN can also provide further assurance.Another useful feature are the two different “kill switches”:
- Internet Kill Switch - If switched on, you will only be able to access the internet when connected to VPN. So essentially, it will force you to use a VPN if you want to browse the web, which is again useful if you are adamant that you want to use it all the time, but forget to connect to a server.
- App Kill Switch - this feature will close applications if the VPN connection unexpectedly drops (but it will not block any traffic).
You can also use NordVPN on up to 6 multiple platforms and devices like Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS (and even your home router too) at no extra cost - you don’t have to worry about buying multiple licences.
There are currently 4 different pricing tiers to choose from (correct at the time of writing):
- 1-month plan - $11.95 per month
- 1-year plan - $6.99 per month (billed $83.88 every year) with a saving of 41% from the monthly plan
- 2-year plan - $3.99 per month (billed $95.75 every 2 years) with a saving of 66% from the monthly plan
- 3-year plan - $2.99 per month (billed $107.55 every 3 years) with a saving of 75% from the monthly plan
It’s quite clear which of the packages give you the most value for money, even though they provide you with exactly the same quality of services and features.For example, provided that you are connecting to the right server, you can use up to six devices to simultaneously connect on NordVPN, which is pretty impressive if you have multiple devices.
As I have mentioned earlier, even though there are plenty of free VPN services out there, there are still risks and limitations that come with it. But paying a few pounds or bucks per month is a small price to pay to protect your identity online.
Because you are hiding your actual IP address, some websites may blacklist certain IP addresses.
The way to get around that is to purchase a static, but still private, IP address for $70 which are based in Germany, the Netherlands, UK and US.In my years of using NordVPN, I’ve never had to do that and I have yet to have problems with certain websites. So, if you are a general internet user, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Customer Service & Support
It’s very rare for me to have to use their customer service, but for the few times that I have (either by email or chat), it was a quick and smooth process.NordVPN also provides a very useful Knowledge Base on their website and has lots of useful articles to help you make the most out of your virtual connections.
There are a few minor downsides though.One complaint from people I've heard is that it’s a bit more of an effort to close your account. It will happen eventually, but it sounds like they make it difficult for you to do that. If I ever do that, I will update accordingly.
They did have a chat widget, but it does not seem to be there anymore. So it’s difficult to know whether it will come back or not as I have seen screenshots of it elsewhere, and I remember seeing it, but it’s not there at the time of writing.
I have also been quite critical of them with how they have changed their affiliate platform without me knowing. Sure, it’s a small thing, but as someone who does not hide the fact that I am involved in affiliate marketing, it’s quite frustrating that it was up to me to contact them.Even though the downsides above does not affect the quality of their VPN service, they are still inconveniences which personally have irked me a little.
There is no doubt that you can make your internet experience safer and more secure with the help of a VPN.What I find surprising is that many people are reluctant to pay for one. They will either use a free VPN or not bother using one because it costs money.
If you had your identity and personal details exposed and they fell into the wrong hands, what would that mean for your business and online accounts?
If someone has managed to hack into your online accounts simply because they’ve been snooping on you whilst you were on a public WiFi, what will that mean to you?
It may be just peace of mind for many people, but I know I would rather have that than run the risk (big or small) of having my online identity exposed to the wrong people... or anyone for that matter.
I would love to know in the comments below whether you are aware of the risks of using a public WiFi and whether you are doing anything about it.