VPN

NordVPN Review

When ARPANET was cobbled together by researchers in 1969, not much thought was given to privacy or security. So while the internet has changed in unforeseeable ways in the last five decades, it still doesn’t have enough tools to protect your identity. That need – of protecting your identity and your data – was what which led us to review NordVPN.

From its pricing plans – of which there are four – to its privacy policy, to the number of servers it operates around the world and the techniques it uses to make your virtual-self anonymous, our review tells you everything you need to know about NordVPN.

What Is a VPN?

Virtual proxy networks create an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the server which is controlled by the VPN service provider. Every time you surf the internet, all your traffic will be routed through the same tunnel, with the advantage that no one could take a sneak peek at your identity or your data.

Also, VPNs stop malicious network operators from using your browsing history or web search patterns to lure you into visiting phishing pages. And now that Congress has given ISPs the green light to sell user data, using a VPN means you’re protecting your data from ISPs as well.

In addition, you can use VPNs to visit geographically blocked content. Netflix, for instance, has a policy which allows users from a specific location to only view their location-centric content; it calls the policy geo-blocking. So, if you’re a user living in India but want to access Netflix America, you can do that by switching to VPN.

Now that we’ve had a brief look at what VPN entails – and why you may need it – let’s turn our attention to NordVPN. For it is the source from where you can accrue all the abovementioned benefits.

What is NordVPN?

Registered in Panama, NordVPN provides its VPN services and products to more than a million users worldwide. The fact that it operates out of Panama provides NordVPN with a huge advantage; for it doesn’t have to submit any information about its users and employers to any authority.

At the time of writing, NordVPN had servers in over 62 countries and allowed six devices to simultaneously connect with it. However, provided you connect it to your router, unlimited users could use NordVPN if your network’s bandwidth limit permits it.

It provides VPN access for users living in China using XOR obfuscation and you can also purchase a dedicated IP address from NordVPN at a monthly fee of $5.83. While we will discuss its pricing plans in detail later on in this article, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, a 7-day free trial for its mobile apps and a 7-day free trial for desktop users.

You can pay for NordVPN using the traditional payment methods i.e. credit cards and PayPal. Bitcoin, Ethereum, and AliPay are other options you might avail.

NordVPN Pricing Plans

Monthly Pricing

Plan

1-Year

Plan

2-Year

Plan

3-Year

Plan

$11.95/month

($143.4 per year)

$5.75/month

($69 per year)

$3.29/month

($39.50 per year)

$2.75/month

($33 per year)

 

Most VPNs out there provide three-tier pricing plans: monthly, six-monthly and annual. NordVPN, however, does things a bit different. For, while it does provide a monthly plan, the next three plans bind you for a year, 2-years, and 3 years respectively.

Although it might seem a lot of time, we recommend you subscribe to the 3-year plan if you’re in the haul for the long run. The reason, as you might guess, is because the 3-year plan is the most cost-effective.

Starting with the monthly plan, it requires payment of $11.95 every 30 days, with numerous payment methods including Bitcoin, PayPal, Credit Card and even AliPay. Then comes the yearly plan which requires payment of around $5.75 per month; which roughly translates to $69 per year.

Thirdly, we have the 2-year plan which requires you to pay $3.29 every month. It means you’d only have to pay $39.50 per year if you subscribe to this plan. Finally, we have the 3-year plan which requires payments of around $2.75 per month.

You might want to note that CloudVPN – which is the payment processor of NordVPN – stores your payment information. So, if you’re that nerd who doesn’t want to give anything away, you might want to pay for the service using Bitcoin.

NordVPN Refund Plan

NordVPN refund plan

Image from: https://nordvpn.com/terms-of-service/

Regardless of the pricing plan, you decide to subscribe to, all of them come with a 30-day money back guarantee. We tried to avail this guarantee ourselves and got the whole money back in 30 days, with no questions asked.

Still, there are two hidden clauses & fees which you might do well to read before making the payment. First, NordVPN doesn’t grant refunds if you purchase their app directly through iTunes/App Store. That means you need to purchase the app from NordVPN’s site to get a refund. Second, if you have made payment via a pre-paid card or gift-cards, it will not be refunded.

That said, and amid all the talk of refunding, our experience of using NordVPN suggests you won’t have to activate this clause.

NordVPN Interface

As of July 2018, NordVPN was providing 3600+ connections in 60+ countries. The interface of NordVPN is both pleasant and cartoonish, with the result that you sense a consistency between its mobile and desktop-client software. Instead of displaying the list of connection points – like ExpressVPN – NordVPN provides a visual map.

On the map are pushpins on each country where NordVPN has its hardware available. From here on, you can go one of the following two ways. First, you can click on any pushpin you want, and your VPN connection will be set up.

The second option is for those of you who want NordVPN to select the connection for them. The incentive of going for this option is that NordVPN knows which connection is the fastest, and it will select the same for you.

Then there’s the second menu bar; that of “Settings”. As one might guess, this menu bar gives you total control over how NordVPN works. You can use it to maximize or minimize the app, ensure it automatically connects to your server, or disable notifications if you don’t like desktop alerts.

Also inside the interface are online tutorials which help to ease setup related anxieties. Then there’s the “automatic startup” option which turns on NordVPN upon system boot. More importantly, since NordVPN poses no limitations on data usage or bandwidth, you won’t find both options inside its interface.

Finally, if you think the map-based interface is impractical, NordVPN gives you the option to turn it off with a click. Afterward, just like the case with ExpressVPN, you’ll be provided with a list of servers from where you can choose your preferred one.

NordVPN Compatibility

NordVPN compatibility

As you might guess, NordVPN is compatible with all major operating systems, including Android, iOS, Chrome, Windows, Firefox, Linux, and macOS. What’s more, regardless of the operating system you use, NordVPN comes with a handy app.

If you’re a mobile user who’ll use NordVPN only on their smartphone, you might be required to purchase a subscription of the same through your respective app store. Conversely, if you want NordVPN to blanket your home or office network, you might want to configure your router to connect via NordVPN.

Provided you do that, all the devices which receive Wi-Fi signals from your router would be automatically connected to NordVPN, even if they don’t have a VPN of their own. That means that you’d have blanketed your entire network with NordVPN.

However, if your router isn’t compatible with NordVPN, there’s a third way; installing NordVPN on your laptop (or any device you may use). In this way, only an individual user would be able to accrue benefits of NordVPN.

NordVPN Privacy

NordVPN Privacy Policy

Fortunately, a mere visit to the NordVPN website will show you that the company operates a “strict no log policy”. It states: “We don’t track when our users go online, to which servers they connect, which websites they visit or what files they download.”

Despite our rigorous efforts, we weren’t able to find out any hidden catch within its privacy policy, which is a good thing as that means you don’t have to worry about it gobbling up your personal info. However, that doesn’t mean that the company won’t collect any data about you.

For instance, when you sign up for their service, it asks for your Email Address. And apart from using cookies to identify customers which are referred to it by affiliates, it uses Google Analytics on its website to do the same.

On the better side, the company has a clearly stated policy on its support queries and customer service, including live chat. Though it keeps chat logs as a reference for six months, NordVPN also gives you the option to delete them earlier provided you ask.

Finally, the aspect of NordVPN privacy policy which impressed us the most was its conciseness. You don’t get any verbose or highly technical language – neither are there any fine prints. Instead, the privacy policy is clear, to the point, and simple.

NordVPN Protocols

NordVPN protocols

The way any device establishes a VPN connection is known as its protocol. While there are many protocols on offer, our favorite is the OpenVPN. That is, because, not only does it provide better speed and reliability, but it also quickly reestablishes a connection after any hiccup. Also, since it’s the latest, OpenVPN is the safest protocol out there.

There are no prizes for guessing, then, that NordVPN supports the OpenVPN protocol. That is, however, not all; as it also supports three other protocol including IKEv2/IPSec, PPTP, and L2TP. You might want to note that most iPhone apps do not use OpenVPN, thanks to Apple’s stringent requirements.

All the abovementioned protocols were for basic NordVPN users. However, if you are using NordVPN’s proxy extensions in Chrome and Firefox, the company would then use TLS 1.2. Still, there is nothing to worry as this protocol is as foolproof as the rest.

NordVPN Servers and Server Locations

NordVPN Servers and Server Locations

As of the last count, we were able to select a server from a list of 60+ countries which encompass over 3,400+ servers. That puts it above both ExpressVPN – which offers 1,500+ servers – and Private Internet Access, which provides 3,275 servers across 28 countries in 44 locations.  The fact that it provides more servers than the competition provides NordVPN with two advantages.

First, since the number of servers is huge, there is a less chance that many users will be connecting to the same server; a scenario which results in the loss of speed. Second, if you can find a nearby server, it would provide a better overall performance.

As veteran VPN users might guess, the bulk of NordVPN servers lie across the US and UK, as that is where most VPN servers of other service providers are also located. That doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t have servers the world over.

For, apart from providing a good mix of servers across Eastern Europe, Central and South America and the Middle East, NordVPN’s servers are also located in Asia, Central Europe, and India. One of its servers is located in South Africa and you can also find a handful in Hong Kong, Turkey, and Russia.

Impressively, NordVPN is one of the few service providers whose servers you can access from within China. We called it impressive because China has what global watchdogs call the “Great Firewall’’ to restrict access to certain sites.

Still, as of the time of writing, the servers for Chinese mainland users were only available for Windows devices, which means users of other platforms would have to wait.

NordVPN Security

nordVPN kill switch

There are six features of NordVPN which should allay any concerns you might have about its ability to keep you anonymous.

First, it employs double encryption to safeguard your online identity. That means that instead of going through one server, your online data goes through two so that you could send/receive data in the most secure manner possible.

Second, the company offers a dual-functional kill-switch, which stops all web traffic if/when your device’s connection with the VPN drops. However, if you don’t want to end the entire connection – but do want to shut down certain apps in such a scenario – the kill-switch offers that feature as well.

Third, the company provides an ad-blocking functionality to prevent any website you visit from sending you ads based on your browsing history. Next, the company automatically blacklists those web pages which either pose a phishing threat or have questionable security practices.

Fifthly, the company provides a foolproof DNS leak-protection system. Also known as Domain Name System, DNS is a system with which internet names those devices connected to it. Therefore, if a VPN is unable to prevent DNS leaks, your online identity might be revealed. Fortunately, NordVPN has watertight measures to protect you and prevent any such leaks.

Lastly, if you’re going to use NordVPN to access the dark web or TOR network, it provides you with its special Onion Over VPN feature. This feature makes sure that any traffic directed towards the dark web first goes through NordVPN before heading towards the Onion Router.

NordVPN and Streaming Services

nordVPN and Netflix

Does NordVPN work with Netflix? If you have this question coming into this article, rest assured as it does. Not only that – but if you glance over its mobile app – located above the server in the top end of NordVPN’s screen is a list of streaming services that are accessible.

Though not limited to only these services, the list mentions, apart from Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Pandora and ABC iView. Also, if you are into torrenting, the list also mentions some servers which NordVPN deems the best for the same.

NordVPN features

Here’s the list of the best features NordVPN has to offer:

  • Kill Switch and DoubleVPN Servers: While the former kills your internet connection if/when the internet connectivity is interrupted, the latter passes your data through two encrypted servers instead of one.

 

  • DNS Leak Protection: If you have manually set up your VPN connection, chances are that you might be prone to DNS leaks. NordVPN has implemented measures first to protect you from, and then to prevent, any such leaks.

 

  • Onion Over VPN: Want to access the dark web for legitimate purposes? Then this feature has got you covered. It does that by passing your data through the encrypted VPN before directing it to the Onion Router, hence giving it an extra layer of security.

 

  • SmartPlay: Living in Asia but want to access Netflix USA’s content? You can do that – and much more – using NordVPN’s Smart Play feature. It lets you access more than 400 streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Pandora, BBC, and others which are geo-restricted.

 

  • P2P Servers: Beneath the main screen of NordVPN is a list of “specialty” servers which are there only for safe and private torrenting.

 

  • Static IP addresses: If you are concerned that your government might block your VPN someday, NordVPN has got you covered. Its static IP addresses – which cost a one-time fee of $70 – give you a dedicated IP address on its server in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands.

 

  • CyberSec: This feature, which NordVPN added to its list only in July 2017, blocks ads and filters out malicious websites from your search results. It does that by accessing publicly available URL blacklists without requiring you to do anything.

NordVPN Pros

  • Kill-Switch and DoubleVPN Servers

Want to subscribe to such a service which never lets your data out in the open? Then these features would serve you well. The kill-switch feature automatically kills your connection on the interruption of your VPN connection; following which it blocks either your whole device or certain programs from accessing the internet.

As for the DoubleVPN server, its name implies what it does; for it passes your data through two encrypted servers instead of one before it finally reaches the application or website you’re trying to access. What’s more, while the first server will be aware of your original IP address, the second won’t, as it relies on UDP and TCP protocols. That, in turn, gives you a one extra step security feature.

 

  • Extra Security Features

Starting with the DNS leak protection, NordVPN provides you with several extra security features. This feature prevents the leakage of DNS leaks to protect you and shield your online identity.

Then comes the Onion Over VPN feature which is useful if you want to access the dark web. While the data of general dark web users goes straight to the Onion Router, NordVPN first passes it through its VPN, hence giving an extra layer of security.

Finally on offer is the IP hiding feature which claims what its name suggests; it hides your IP. While this feature is pretty basic at first, it gets pretty serious when fortified by the backing of other security features of NordVPN.

 

  • Registered in Panama

While most VPN users don’t look at this aspect in the same way, the fact that NordVPN is registered in the tax-free haven of Panama provides it with a huge advantage. For, since all their operations run under the jurisdiction of Panama, other privacy laws – like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – doesn’t apply to it.

That, in turn, means NordVPN cannot be forced by anybody to cough up the information of its users, which means your online identity is in safe hands with this service.

 

  • Numerous Connections’ Options

At the time of writing, NordVPN had 3350+ servers operating out of 64 countries. These servers, in addition to being located in predictable areas like the US and UK, are also located in South Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

This constellation of servers allows the NordVPN to be useful to internet users as repressed by their government as the Chinese. What’s more, NordVPN allows 6 simultaneous connections, whereas ExpressVPN stops short at 3.

What’s more, not only does NordVPN provides apps for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows, it provides detailed protocols for connecting with 40 other mobile OS, routers, and Raspberry Pi’s.

 

  • Strict No Logging Policy

Despite the fact it gives you the live chat option – a rarity among VPN providers – NordVPN follows a quick No Logging policy. Doubt this claim? Here’s what’s written on their own website.

“NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN services, meaning that your activities using NordVPN Services are provided by automated technical process, are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party.”

Its privacy policy then goes on to mention that NordVPN doesn’t store any “time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses”, which is pretty much everything you might want any VPN to secure.

 

  • Brilliant with Torrent and Netflix

In contrast to other VPN providers – which deliberately throttle down your bandwidth and slow down the internet speed to discourage you from visiting P2P sites – NordVPN has hundreds of servers optimized only for P2P activities. That means you can access torrent using NordVPN from any location in the word.

As for Netflix, NordVPN’s SmartPlay feature makes sure you can access geo-restricted content. Also, even if one of its servers is blocked down by Netflix, there will always be another one to provide cover.

 

  • Live Chat & Email Support

No different to the best VPN providers out there, NordVPN provides a 24/7 live chat support. And if the live chat agent is unable to help you out, you can direct your question to Email.

Also, if you’re stable unable to have your query answered, NordVPN’s website has over 500 guides and tutorials to help you out. Their sheer number alone should convince that these guides would have what you need.

 

  • Secure Payment Options

Since NordVPN uses CloudVPN as its payment provider, you might have some worries about whether the latter would protect your data in the same way or not as the former. However, once you look at NordVPN’s payment options, your doubts should go away.

For, apart from relying on traditional methods – which include Credit Card, PayPal, AliPay, and UnionPay – NordVPN also gives you the option to make payments via Bitcoin and Ethereum, two services that don’t require any information about you.

Therefore, if you want your online identity to be absolutely secure, you can use either Bitcoin or PayPal to process your payments.

 

NordVPN Cons

  • Refund Can Take Up To 30 Days

As stated above, NordVPN gives you a 30-day money-back guarantee when you sign up for their services. What it doesn’t say, however, is the length of time it might take to process your refund.

For, while most VPN providers provide an instant refund, though some have a waiting period of 7 days, NordVPN takes up to 30 days to process your refund. That is a pretty hefty time period.

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