As public WiFi hotspots become increasingly available, the possibility of having your information and identity compromised also increases. If you regularly access the internet through open networks, it is almost inevitable that someone will eavesdrop on your online activity and sniff through your information. If you don’t have some kind of way to block them, you’re identity and information is as good as compromised.
This is where Private Internet Access comes in. Aptly-named, Private Internet Access is a VPN-service that passes the information from your computer to wherever you are browsing online through an encrypted tunnel, keeping out malicious individuals who are after your data. It’s a lightweight, no-nonsense service that requires only one click to instantly protect your data while browsing. Sure, there are a number of other popular VPN services, but Private Internet Access has a few features that set it apart from the competition, which you can learn more about in this review.
What is VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is a way for you to anonymously surf the internet and keep your information safe. It passes whatever information you send from your computer to a destination site through an encrypted tunnel so that information eavesdroppers can’t pick up your data while in transit. Take note, that a VPN can only protect your information while it’s going from point-A (your computer) to point-B (the destination website) and vice versa. That’s why it’s still important to be wary of the sites you visit since phishing sites and even legitimate websites that have been compromised will still be able to capture your information.
A VPN service also allows you to mask your location, which happens to be very convenient if the site or online service you are trying to access has location restriction. This is awesome if you have a US Netflix subscription you would like to access while vacationing in Singapore or live in Asia and want to access a YouTube video that’s been restricted for US viewers only. There are many other situations where this would come in handy, but these are the most common.
What Sets Private Internet Access Apart From Competing VPN Services?
Naturally, Private Internet Access gives you all the basic functionality that you expect from a typical VPN service, but it’s the advanced features that really set it apart from the competition. My favorite feature is the VPN Kill Switch, which automatically kills your internet connection if the VPN created via Private Internet Access gets disconnected. This ensures that malicious individuals won’t suddenly have access to your information when the VPN goes down.
You can also turn on something called DNS Leak Protection, which routes all DNS requests through the VPN. This is quite possibly the best way to secure your information and keep your identity anonymous, but it can be buggy when you use it in a non-standard environment. Still, it’s a very nice feature to have when the environment supports it.
Private Internet Access also allows you to setup the VPN service on the network router itself. Just make sure that your router supports OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and other consumer level VPN services. It’s a great way to make the most of your 3 device license limit but is only something that network administrators and networking gurus will really appreciate.
One cool thing that I noticed that isn’t necessarily feature is that using the internet while using the Private Internet Access VPN was that speeds were often considerably faster compared to when I wasn’t using it. And it was consistent, too. No matter what city I was in at the time or which free WiFi hotspot I had decided to mooch off of, speeds never dropped below what they would have been if I wasn’t connected to VPN, and they were often a lot faster.
Despite all the advanced features, Private Internet Access is surprisingly one of the most lightweight VPN services I’ve ever used. There’s no fancy control dashboard or application window; just a small icon in the system tray. You can right-click on it to bring up some options, but that’s about as heavy a UI as you’re going to get.
A Few Cons
If there’s anything I can’t like about Private Internet Access, it’s the fact that there’s no free version or some sort of trialware that I could use to try the service out first. Being a paid VPN service, it would have been nice to know what you’re getting into and find out exactly what it can do for you. A service can be really good, but if customers shun it in favor of another one that allows them to try it first, that’s a lot of potential revenue lost, and there are a lot of free VPN services, as well as those that offer free trial periods.
Another thing I don’t like is that it’s only available for PCs and Macs. An Android app is in development and the iOS version will be close behind, but there’s no definite time frame for when they will come out. With more and more people accessing the internet through their mobile devices, this is definitely a biggie.
Pricing and Recommendation
Private Internet Access offers three different payment plans: monthly, biannual and annual plans. The one with the lowest up-front cost is the monthly plan, which is $6.95 a month. Then there’s the biannual plan that gives you 6 months for $35.95, or the equivalent of $5.99 a month. Finally, there’s the annual plan that allows you to buy 1 year of VPN access for $39.95, or the equivalent of just $3.33 a month.
If you want to try out the service before committing to as long as a year, I’d recommend trying it out for a month for $6.95 so you can decide if it has what you want. Sure, you’re losing out on the dollar equivalent of an extra month’s worth of service on the one year option, but it’s better than wasting $39.95 for a year of service for something you don’t like. Also, if you’re going to choose a longer plan, go with the one year plan as it’s only $4 more from the 6 month plan.
It’s hard not to like Private Internet Access. It’s so successful at being able to satisfy both advanced users and complete beginners to networking. It does so many things while remaining light and streamlined. At the moment, Private Internet Access is the only VPN service I would recommend regardless of the experience level of the user.