You may know what a virtual private network (VPN) is, but the chances of you using one are very slim. What is certain is that you should really use a VPN. Because in the end, you might find it just as essential as your own Internet connection. Today, we are looking at the NordVPN case, which offers excellent privacy protection and first-class customer service. In this article, we will take a closer look at this Panama-based VPN provider, which has existed since 2012 and which provides VPN protection for a large number of users thanks to fairly complete compatibility (Windows, mac, Android, etc. ).
If you use the Internet for business, personal finances, hobbies, or shopping, you are putting your personal, family, and business information at risk. Internet users are facing a growing wave of criminals and unreliable government agencies seeking access to everything about you.
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What is NordVPN?
NordVPN provides the usual VPN services, which keep your data and your real IP address safe from prying eyes. The service offers an encrypted connection, making it almost impossible for cybercriminals to see the data your computer is sending and receiving.
In addition to data encryption, NordVPN also offers the ability to access websites and web services that may not be normally available in your area due to government content restrictions or geographic restrictions on content by the broadcaster.
NordVPN is based and operates under the jurisdiction of the country of Panama. There are no mandatory data retention laws in Panama, so the service is not required to store connection logs, which is a great selling point for any VPN provider.
In addition, the supplier claims that no matter how much a court or government agency may cause them to produce logs of a customer’s online activity, they could not provide them, even if they did. wanted. Simply because there are no newspapers to produce. They just don’t exist.
The service offers applications for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. Chrome OS, Windows Phone, Linux and Raspberry Pi users can use the service via custom settings. Users of DD-WRT and Tomato compatible routers, as well as certain network-attached storage devices, can also access the service.
NordVPN offers the OpenVPN protocol on most common devices, as well as Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and L2TP / IPsec.
What does all this mean for you, the VPN user? It just means that the NordVPN service provides excellent protection for you and your data.
NordVPN has 5608 servers stationed in 58 countries at the time of this article (March 2020).
How does NordVPN work?
NordVPN offers users the ability to mask their real IP address while using the Internet. To do this, the service routes a user’s Internet traffic through its own NordVPN servers, giving the impression that the user’s connection comes from one of the NordVPN’s many IP addresses.
By masking their real Internet address, users can then connect to websites and other services on the Web that would not normally be available due to government or content provider restrictions.
In addition to concealing IP addresses, NordVPN also encrypts user data, protecting it from prying eyes or overly enthusiastic government agencies.
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Sharing P2P files (Torrents)
NordVPN allows the use of P2P and BitTorrent connections on its network, but only on servers specifically reserved for this purpose. Connecting to a server that is not marked for P2P use will cause traffic to be redirected to P2P servers located in Canada and the Netherlands.
The service reports that the following criminal activities are the only prohibited activities on the service, resulting in termination of the account:
- Use of stolen credit cards, credit card fraud, PayPal fraud, bank fraud, e-gold fraud, Paysera fraud, WebMoney fraud, Bitcoin fraud and postal fraud
- Extortion, blackmail
- Using the Service to Plan or Execute Kidnapping, Rape or Murder
- Sale of stolen credit cards or stolen goods
- Send email or operate websites for identity theft, hacking, pharming, phishing and spamming in any form on, in or through the service using their resources
NordVPN’s website is average compared to other industry websites. Features, pricing, server information, tools, help, and account information are all available at the top of the home page.
NordVPN often offers codes or promotions to test its service, if it is not directly registered on the site, a little search on Google will allow you to find your happiness.
The website is well presented and most of the information is easy to find. The site’s features section provides a good overview of how the provider’s service works and the benefits of a VPN.
NordVPN subscription options and prices
NordVPN offers a variety of subscription options. Options include a 1 month plan, 1 year, 2 year and 3 year plan.
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The subscription conditions and costs are as follows (March 2020):
- 1 month package – € 10.63 per month
- 1 year plan – € 6.22 per month, billed € 74.65 each year
- 2-year plan – € 4.44 per month, billed 106.58 every 2 years
- 3-year plan – € 3.10 per month, billed € 111.82 every 3 years.
As you can see above, it is only when you are ready to commit to a one-year period that you begin to see a reasonable price point. The fixed price of € 10.63 per month for the service is a bit high compared to its competitors.
The entire subscription and payment procedure is done via a secure HTTPS connection. The company accepts MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover, PayPal, AliPay, Union Pay, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as some cryptocurrencies.
IOS and Android users can register on their devices via in-app purchases, which are managed by Apple’s iTunes and Google Play respectively, and will be charged to the user’s payment method in their file .
Note that the service accepts cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. It is a truly anonymous payment option available on the web, and helps protect payment details from prying eyes.
The service offers a 30-day money back guarantee “for accounts in good standing”. However, users who purchased the service through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store cannot get a refund.
Installation of NordVPN
Installing the application on your computer – NordVPN offers applications for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. They also offer tutorials on how to configure the service on other devices, including Chrome OS, Windows Phone, Linux and on Raspberry Pi devices. The service will also work with DD-WRT routers and various storage devices in network.
Game consoles, streaming boxes and Smart TVs will work with the NordVPN service. However, they cannot be connected directly and must instead obtain their connection via a compatible router or a shared Internet connection from a computer connected to NordVPN.
Windows and macOS apps are available directly from the NordVPN site, while iOS and Android apps are available from the Apple App Store and Google Play store, respectively.
NordVPN is available on a very large number of platforms and this allows you to have a 360 ° experience on many devices. The installation of the application is generally done via either the App stores (Android Play, App Store, etc.), or by direct download.
Installing the application on a mobile device
Installing the NordVPN app on the iPhone, for example, follows the usual rigid routine of visiting the iOS App Store to download and install the app. The download only takes about a minute, after which it installs automatically and is ready to start by pressing the icon.
The application is used for the first time to connect to a VPN server, it will ask permission to install a certificate to trust the NordVPN service. You will need to enter your device password or use your fingerprint via Touch ID to authorize the installation of the certificate.
Installing the Android version is also quick and easy, with a visit to the Google Play store to download and install the app.
Characteristics and use
Once the installation is complete on your computer or smartphone, simply launch the NordVPN application and enter the combination of login and password created when you registered for the service.
The app asked for permission to install a helper app, which makes using the VPN service a little easier, as it allows the app to put a quick access icon in the menu bar from the desktop, providing quick and easy control of VPN connections.
The NordVPN application has a clear interface, displaying a rather caricatured map of the locations of the available servers. Users can click on the locations shown to immediately connect to a NordVPN server. Users can also quickly connect to a server by clicking on the “Country List” at the top of the application window, which displays a list of countries with available servers.
Users can set any server as “Favorite” by clicking on a heart next to the server name in the list. This is useful for backing up servers that prove to be particularly reliable, for quick access from the “Favorite Servers” list of the application.
The NordVPN service also offers some additional connection options that are rare with other VPN providers.
The NordVPN service allows users to connect up to 6 devices under a single account. However, if you connect multiple devices to the same server, you must choose different protocols for VPN connections. This means that 4 devices can be connected to a single server. Two other devices can connect to a different server.
The company is proposing to set up a router with their services, which would only count for a single connection, but would allow multiple connections.
NordVPN has a “Double VPN” connection where user data is sent via 2 VPN servers before reaching their destination. The company says Double VPN offers improved encryption, security, and anonymity.
NordVPN provides its customers with 7 “Double VPN” servers. We tried the US / Canada and UK / Netherlands options and found that it significantly slowed our connection – still usable, but significantly slower. But it is variable.
Onion Over VPN
NordVPN says their Onion Over VPN connection option takes privacy and security to the next level. A client connects to a NordVPN server, which then routes all traffic over a Tor network. Traffic is first encrypted in the NordVPN layer and then sent to the Tor network.
This provides access to “.onion” websites, which are only available through the Tor network. The service recommends caution when accessing using Onion Over VPN, due to the various questionable activities for which the Tor network is known.
Any good VPN service will protect you from denial of service attacks. However, NordVPN indicates that its Anti-DDoS servers can be used for a less disturbed connection since they have an “advanced stability control system”.
Dedicated IP servers
Dedicated IP servers provide users with an IP address that only they will use. The company offers dedicated IP addresses in the United States (Buffalo), Germany (Frankfurt), the United Kingdom (Milton Keynes) and the Netherlands (Amsterdam). In either of these countries, a dedicated PI has an additional fee of $ 70 per year.
Once a client registers for the NordVPN Dedicated IP option, they become the only client using that particular IP address. This makes a dedicated IP server a great option for customers who need a static, constant IP address to access certain networks, databases, servers, and other online services.
In short, the app offers a quick way to connect to “favorite” VPN servers and access the Tor network. With “Double VPN” protection, special Anti-DDoS servers and even the possibility of using dedicated IP addresses for an additional charge, NordVPN has excellent features. NordVPN apps install quickly and easily. Connection to a VPN server is done in a few clicks, and you are quickly connected. The application has minimal impact on system resources.
Connection quality and speed
When we test a VPN provider, we do the following to test the quality of the connection. We are testing ping times, as well as download and upload speeds via the Speedtest site. We do this so that our normal internet connection becomes a benchmark.
We then perform the same tests using a VPN connection in the United States, then a VPN connection in the United Kingdom. All connections are made by selecting the country name and allowing the VPN provider to select the server.
When it comes to Internet connections, “Faster is always better”. But it’s also an undeniable fact that you will experience a loss of speed when using a VPN connection.
When we look at the results of our speed tests, we find that in general, the further you are from a VPN server, the higher the ping and the lower the download and load speeds measured. But, how does this affect your use of the Internet?
When it comes to ping, the lower they are, the better your Internet experience. You won’t notice that your daily usage is greatly affected by higher pings, but if you play resource-intensive shooting games like Call of Duty, then you will be eliminated before you can turn around and shoot if your pings get too much high.
The number of downloads and uploads on most VPN servers will be less than what you will measure with a direct connection. The figures shown in my tests for US and UK VPN connections via NordVPN do not show an unacceptable drop in the two sets of measures.
The connection quality of a VPN server can be affected by a number of factors. Server loads can significantly affect the quality of the connection. The more users connected to a VPN server, the less responsive it will be.
Think of the promotions for “Black Friday”. Many VPN providers can help you avoid this problem by offering you a “Best Connection” option, which connects you to the most efficient server in the service at that time. If security is all you need, this option is always the one you should, at least, try.
VPN protocols can also slow down a connection. Popular modern protocols, such as the 256-bit encrypted OpenVPN option, are very effective. Generally, however, the better the encryption, the slower the connection. But also keep in mind that the slight performance penalty for better encryption is a small price to pay to protect your personal data.
Last but not least, remember that any internet connection is as fast as the slowest point on the route. Any “suboptimal” connection point anywhere between you and the VPN server will slow operations.
When testing a new VPN provider, we try to include all of the usual online activities that a user can submit their VPN connection to. This includes video streaming, games, regular web browsing, email, and document editing. So we do all of these tasks over the US, UK and French VPN connections.
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YouTube worked well, with no visible problems on connections in the United States and the United Kingdom. we were able to play full screen HD videos, which were streamed over both connections.
We visited the Netflix website while we were connected via an American NordVPN server on our computer and tried to watch a video. Although it passed, the quality was far from excellent.
Buffering the video took longer than usual, and the video itself was affected by pixelation, noise, and a general “blur” appearance, which is common when trying to view videos over a slow connection.
When using a connection to the Netflix website in the UK, the British content was visible. But the quality was not better.
When trying to watch “Designated Survivor”, an ABC show available through Netflix U.K., we were first told that we were using a proxy connection and that we were not allowed to see the selected episode. However, when we tried again later, the episode loaded and we could see it. The experience was similar with other content. The viewing experience with the UK connection was similar to the American connection, where, despite more than acceptable VPN connection speed, we experienced a long wait time for videos (buffer problem).
When the video started streaming, we were exposed to pixelation and noise, as well as the “blur” mentioned earlier. As we watched the video for a few more minutes, the situation improved, providing a much sharper viewing experience, but less than HD. It should be noted that VPN and Netflix services have engaged in a fierce battle in recent years. VPNs continually add new IP addresses, while Netflix searches for new addresses to add them to their block lists. This means that Netflix will generally turn out to be hit or missed.
When Netflix refuses the request via a VPN server, choose another in the same country, this can activate streaming.
Our Hulu experience has been satisfactory with the UK VPN connection, HD video playback has become an issue. However, when we tried to connect to Hulu via the American VPN connection, the site was difficult to load at first, but ultimately we managed to view full screen HD video via the VPN connection.
Skype and FaceTime
We’ve done regular Skype call testing, both audio and video, over US, UK and French connections. All three types of calls were handled, rang, and presented themselves as if they were made over an unrestricted Internet connection.
For FaceTime on Mac, this can be more complicated, because Apple requires a special connection. But recently, the app available on the App Store uses the IKEv2 protocol as the default connection to VPN servers, which is no longer a problem.
We have already mentioned previously that online gaming via a VPN could be subject to some problems, particularly with regard to ping, which is essential for playing. Finally, the connections with the United States and the United Kingdom were more than up to the task, but we suggest that you test for 1 month for example, to try the connections before taking out a subscription.
General Internet Use
Using the NordVPN connection during our normal working day, we found that the connections in France, the United States and the United Kingdom were more than adequate for our needs. Despite many tasks, access to different sites and services, the connection was more than up to the challenge. We didn’t feel like we were being slowed down in our work day.
The NordVPN app is a great way to protect the internet connection of your mobile device. It quickly establishes a connection and provides access to all types of connections that NordVPN offers to its customers.
While the connections to the United States and the United Kingdom offered much longer ping times and considerably lower download speeds, in both cases the connections were more than what we asked them to.
By testing NordVPN on a mobile device, we were able to perform the usual tasks without problems. Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Messenger, Whatapp, etc. – all without problem. Overall, NordVPN worked well on our smartphone.
Global server coverage
NordVPN offers 5608 servers in 58 countries at the time of writing. Most of their VPN server farms are located in Europe. This could be considered a plus for users located in other parts of the world, while Europeans may wish to look elsewhere for access to other services.
NordVPN offers decent global server coverage, although their coverage is concentrated in the European region of the world.
Confidentiality, security and legal notices
The encryption levels vary depending on the type of connection and the application used. These include IKEv2 / IPsec – 256 bit, OpenVPN – 256 bit, L2TP / IPsec, PPTP and SSTP encryption.
The last 3 levels of encryption above are not recommended by NordVPN for use with their service unless OpenVPN or IKEv2 / IPsec simply does not work in your situation. NordVPN explains that L2TP / IPsec, PPTP and SSTP are older encryption protocols, and that they simply do not offer the best possible protection for your connection.
NordVPN is based in Panama City (Panama), and as such benefits from the absence of mandatory retention laws. NordVPN does not have to store the logs, which is a great working environment for a VPN provider and its customers.
As NordVPN says on its website:
“From the moment a user of NordVPN.com activates the NordVPN software, their Internet data is encrypted. It becomes invisible to governments, ISPs, third-party browsers and even NordVPN.com. In addition, we have a strict no-logs policy when it comes to seeing user activity online: being based in Panama, which does not require the storage of data or reports, we are allowed to refuse any request from third parties. Period.”
NordVPN does not record any online activity from a user. The only information they keep about their users is their email address (used to connect to the VPN, as well as for marketing and troubleshooting purposes) and their billing information (used for refund procedures).
NordVPN applications do not work “normally” from restrictive countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
However, they say that a manual VPN configuration of the L2TP protocol with certain specific parameters will allow connection to services in these countries. The NordVPN support team will help you set up this system if necessary. (It is best to do this BEFORE you go to one of these “restrictive countries”.)
Finally, NordVPN accepts cryptocurrency as a payment method for VPN subscriptions. It is a must for any user who is genuinely interested in protecting their privacy online.
NordVPN is another VPN provider that seems to be walking the proverbial tightrope between customer service excellence and cost control. Thus, the only two means of customer support are online chat and an online form to contact support.
We have dealt with receptive people. We sent a request for information on how to make FaceTime work with the Mac application via the contact form on a Wednesday morning, and in a few minutes we received a response asking me for more information and offering me a list of ‘steps to try to make this system work.
We also used the online chat option to ask a question about a feature that was on the website, but on which we had no other information. The friendly correspondent replied instantly that the specific functionality that had been requested had been included on all of their servers, and was no longer specific to certain servers only.
The supplier also offers an excellent knowledge base for getting started and troubleshooting, which is a great resource for resourceful people.
In short, NordVPN offers excellent customer support with quick responses, online chat and an extensive knowledge base.
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