WHAT’S IN THIS REVIEW?
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From cyberattacks, ISP speed throttling, and government censorship, there are constant hurdles users deal with online. Because of this, users are starting to realize the necessity of a reliable virtual private network (VPN).
Among the many VPN providers to choose from, IPVanish packs a lot of value into its cheap plans. Founded in 2012, IPVanish is a strong contender trusted by thousands today. Yet, where does IPVanish fall in line among other top providers like ExpressVPN and Surfshark?
We take a look at everything IPVanish has to offer, from its logging policy to its users’ experience when trying to answer this question.
When it comes to browsing the internet nowadays, it’s increasingly harder to protect personal data. That’s why using a VPN like IPVanish is so crucial. IPVanish claims to go beyond basic VPN features with its zero-log policy, torrent capabilities, and strong encryption. So, naturally, we put IPVanish to the test to see how it holds up to those claims.
Drawing on expert reports and our own testing, we discovered many benefits users will appreciate. Yet, we also uncovered a few red flags not to be overlooked when making your own conclusions about IPVanish.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s first discuss how IPVanish came to be.
IPVanish is a US-based commercial VPN service. Originally founded in 2012 by Mudhook Media Inc., an independent subsidiary of Highwinds Network Group in Orlando, Florida, IPVanish started off with just 32 servers and its own fiber-optic network of tier-1 servers. IPVanish has since been acquired twice and grown it’s servers to more than 85 locations worldwide.
In 2017, StackPath security company acquired Highwinds Network Group, which included IPVanish, and transitioned its business headquarters to Dallas, Texas. Then, in 2019, IPVanish was separated and sold off to J2 Global, headquartered now in Los Angeles, as part of their Net Protect business where J2 Global acquired dozens of other VPN services.
Controversy arose over IPVanish’s privacy and logging policies, when in 2016, court documents related to a Department of Homeland Security case where IPVanish relinquished a customer’s identifiable information for authorities to track down and arrest a suspect in question. The then-CEO, Lance Crosby, spoke against these concerns in 2017, stating that, “at the time of their acquisition…no logs existed, no logging systems existed and no previous/current/further intent to save logs existed.” It’s quite possible that IPVanish cleaned how of these questionable practices when they were first acquired, but many still keep arms length from the premium VPN service due to it.
J2 Global also owns SugarSync, a secure cloud storage service. (Subscribers to IPVanish receive a 250Gb SugarSync cloud subscription.)
In sum, IPVanish has the support of both its parent-company’s large security and VPN networks and years of growth and customer feedback. However, keep reading to see if IPVanish is right for your needs.
Pros & Cons
As we mentioned above, no two VPNs are the same. In addition to their features and pricing, you must also consider things like their company history, location, and network presence. After taking those components of IPVanish into account, we compiled a list of the pros and cons which separate IPVanish from other leading VPN providers.
Packed with an impressive list of added security features, IPVanish does have weight behind many of its claims. Here are the best of the best that we liked:
- Company-owned server network. IPVanish owns the entire server network with no outsourcing to third parties. This guarantees no network interference from outside parties or loss of their network to unwanted acquisitions or shutdowns.
- Blazing fast speeds. IPVanish consistently delivers great internet speeds and reliable connections that drop fewer times than other premium VPNs out there. This is especially important for gamers and heavy internet users that cannot compromise speeds for security.
- Solid privacy features and end-to-end encryption using industry standard protocols.
- DNS leak protection settings. This allows users to customize their settings, and ensures no data is lost should there by a drop in signal or interference.
- 40,000+ dynamic IP addresses. IPVanish is one of the few VPN providers to incorporate a strong network of dynamic IP addresses that goes a step further to hide your real-time location and protect your device from intrusions.
- Unlimited simultaneous connections. IPVanish exceeds the normal standard of 5 connections offered by many of its premium competitors. Those connections can be on a variety of devices without having to purchase additional subscriptions. So, in theory, IPVanish comes out even cheaper than the lowest priced VPNs around.
- Unlocks Netflix, which has recently become more adept at blocking VPNs
- Good geographic diversity in its server locations. IPVanish offers server locations in over 57 countries and 77 cities.
- Great compatibility. IPVanish works with a wide range of applications and operating systems and garners consistently good speed ratings.
- Windows kill-switch. IPVanish has a reliable Windows kill switch to detect secure server disconnects and shut down devices to stop the flow of personal data. Be aware that certain operating systems, like iOS, have limited features and don’t include this kill-switch feature.
- Split-tunneling feature. Split tunneling allows the user to use both a VPN and non-VPN connection to increase speed and conserve bandwidth for activities that need no special protection.
- Multi-hopping capability. Multi-hopping routes the users through multiple servers for additional protection and routing to secondary servers closer to home for speedier service.
- Free web storage included with subscription. Includes free 250GB web storage with SugarSync worth $9.99 per month.
Even with IPVanish’s impressive advantages, we did notice a few key concerns that are worth noting. Here’s a rundown of IPVanish’s disadvantages:
- Based in the U.S. This means IPVanish is technically under the 5 Eyes surveillance.
- Does not work in China
- Interface is a bit dated and somewhat cluttered.
- No publicly released audits following its 2016 cooperation with FBI investigations
- Connections with Netflix can be inconsistent
- Does not unblock BBC iPlayer or Disney+
- Has no browser extensions
- Certain operating systems do not include all features (i.e. kill switch)
- Does not accept cryptocurrency payments
IPVanish is a feature-rich VPN service that provides users with comprehensive protection online. We go into detail about these features below and their functionality below:
A no-logs policy
One feature that distinguishes premium-grade VPNs from free services is the no-logs policy. Data-mining giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have harvested online usage records for marketing resale and ad targeting systems for years. Free VPN providers want a piece of that action and only remain “free” through exploiting users’ records of online browsing and financial activity.
The IPVanish claims it has a “zero-logs” policy, which assures users that it neither collects nor stores any user information, even though its former owners helped the FBI with criminal investigations in the past. This exchange of ownership is IPVanish’s saving grace when it comes to refuting logging complaints. Through our testing, we did not encounter any irregular targeting or evidence of logs.
Strong security protocols
IPVanish employs state-of-the-art security protocols, including 256-bit AES encryption, SOCKS5 web proxy to hide the actual IP address of the user’s server, OpenVPN, and L2TP/IPsec VPN protocols. This robust suite of protocols is particularly helpful to know because most VPNs only take one or two steps to securing user information and IP addresses. In addition to these protocols, IPVanish also uses its dynamic IP addresses to further protect client info.
Scramble and split tunneling
IPVanish has a Scramble feature that thwarts efforts to detect and block VPN connections. Split Tunneling allows the user to select apps the user prefers to launch outside the VPN, which is good news for those who have apps that won’t work with a VPN.
IPVanish has a generally user-friendly interface. Its platform applications offer a decent suite of easily accessible features, allowing the user to change servers and access advanced privacy settings quickly. The aesthetics of its app could use some work, and at times feels congested, but for the intermediary to expert user this is no problem at all.
The IPVanish apps download quickly from their respective Windows/MacOS/Amazon/Android app stores. Beginners receive detailed set-up guides on the IPVanish website with an optional tutorial upon the first login.
IPVanish offers smartphone apps for both Android and iPhone devices. While smartphones are generally secure from PC and Mac malware attacks, today’s smartphone users are prone to signing on to WiFi servers as a way to cut smartphone data costs.
One major security problem is that mobile users are exposed on unsecured public WiFi networks. This leaves your personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks unknowingly. Loading a VPN on a smartphone is the safest way to protect a smartphone from these sneaky attacks. The premium IP Vanish VPN offers the same protection for a smartphone on a WiFi connection as it does for a tablet or laptop.
The IPVanish Android app is impressive. It has more features than any of its other offerings and includes a feature-rich UI that is easier to navigate. It’s iOS app appears radically different from the Android version, but doesn’t offer much in the realm of advanced features, like a kill switch.
Simultaneous connections on unlimited devices
IPVanish users can have an unlimited number of VPN connections active at once, be it your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. There are no restrictions as to the number of devices the user can install the IPVanish app on. This is an excellent perk to have for a VPN service, as most VPNs – free and premium – limit users to 5-10 simultaneous connections.
Free web storage
IPVanish includes a free 256GB web storage subscription to SugarSync for cloud storage backup. Note that SugarSync requires a separate username, password, and separate download. Once installed, however, SugarSync is a handy backup storage app that can sync across all of your devices.
Unfortunately, IPVanish does not offer a few advanced features like an ad blocker or browser extension. However, you can always download an independent service you think is missing while on an IPVanish connection just fine (similar to the SugarSync application above). We considered this a small inconvenience when stacking up the rest of IPVanish’s deep stack of security and privacy features.
- 1 Month: $9.99/mo. ($3.49 the first month)
- 1 Year: $79.99 ($27.99 the first year)
- 1 Year Bundle: $99.99 (34.99 the first year)
IPVanish structures their pricing in such a way as to get users to subscribe for longer periods of time. Their services are extremely discounted for the first month or year (depending on which plan you select), and then shoot up $40 to $60 a year after the promotional period.
Each plan includes a free subscription to SugarSync Cloud Storage that comes with 256 GB of web storage. This service runs on a different app altogether, but can be used across all devices while on an IPVanish connection.
Arguably, the plan with the best bang for your buck is IPVanish’s 1-year bundle that combines IPVanish VPN service and SugarSync cloud storage of up to 500GB storage for just $34.99 your first year.
All plans include unlimited device connections and 24/7 customer service if you need assistance. And, IPVanish’s standalone 1-year plan comes with a 30-Day Money Back guarantee where users can request a full refund if asked within the first 30 days of a term – no questions asked. The one caveat to this is that refunds do not apply to anyone signing up for IPVanish via the Apple App Store, which is an unfortunate common practice for other vendors
Users can pay with popular credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, JCB, Visa Electron, and Delta) or through PayPal. However, there are no anonymous payment methods like cryptocurrency. This means that subscribers cannot use IPVanish from a position of absolute anonymity.
In sum, IPVanish’s pricing is one aspect of their service we do not like. It’s very restrictive, and with no free trial available, is hard to justify the forced long-term commitment.
Touched on in earlier sections, IPVanish is headquartered in the U.S., a home base other VPNs try to avoid due to concerns over 5 Eyes surveillance and covert attempts from U.S. governmental agencies to subpoena individual user data.
However, IPVanish comes stacked with robust end-to-end encryption and a wide variety of server locations that help to dispute concerns.
IPVanish claims that it has a “zero-log” policy that does not track, keep, or disperse any identifiable personal data of users. Even so, its headquarters in the U.S. do raise concerns still. This is because the U.S. is a member of a group of “Eyes” Alliances. Those alliances (5-, 9-, and 14 Eyes Countries) have agreed to share defense and criminal investigation information. Over time that sharing has been extended to surveillance of online activity.
So, the bottom line is that if the VPN provider is located in a country that’s a part of this alliance, that provider can be forced to hand over any information it collects on its users. The only safeguards against that intrusion are the following:
- Avoid choosing a VPN provider headquartered in any of the 14-eyes countries. By treaty, that country could share any information collected.
- Make sure that the VPN provider has an air-tight and strict “no-logs” policy. “No-logs” means nothing is collected, and the VPN provider could not be forced to disclose records it does not have.
Essentially, the policy claims that “IPVanish does not collect, monitor, or log any traffic or use of its Virtual Private Network service on any platform.” The only non-personal data collected, according to IPVanish is system information to improve the operation of their site—page requests, browser types, the user’s operating system, bounce rate, average time spent on the site.
IPVanish insists, however, that all the data it collects is strictly anonymous. Likewise, IPVanish has no published incidents of anyone being tracked or arrested as a result of using its service.
The VPN industry is peppered with boastful statements that they are anonymous, secure and private. IPVanish talks the talk, but has yet to enhance its value in the market and undergo an independent third-party audit. One auditing organization is Cure 53. Given the IPVanish checkered past, an independent audit would go far in restoring its shaky reputation.
When testing IPVanish, we discovered that IPVanish has excellent speed. Findings were that connections were only about 18% slower than our original base speeds. One tester found that in North America, IPVanish download speeds blazed away at 84 Mbps, slowing down in Europe to 33 Mbps and speeding up in Asia at 57 Mbps.
According to the FCC’s definition of broadband speeds, about 10-12 Mbps (megabits per second) is acceptable for normal web surfing and video streaming. Gamers, however, want more data in real-time and need an uptick of 20 or 30 Mbps.
In general, we found that IPVanish was especially fast on local connections. With an average download speed of 84 Mbps from the U.S., one tester found IPVanish fast enough for acceptable torrenting and HD streaming, even on international channels.
Another advantage of IPVanish is its fast, reliable and stable connections. As with the best premium VPNs, the service comes with unlimited bandwidth for fast and reliable browsing on the internet, sending emails, and streaming video content with no interruption. Local ISPs accessed without a VPN typically throttle bandwidth for its customers during peak hours. Likewise, free VPN providers place their clients at the end of the bandwidth queue.
We recommend running a few speed tests on different devices while using IPVanish to see how it performs for you. Try various server locations and times of day as well, since VPNs aren’t the only things that affect your overall speed performance.
And, if you come to find out that IPVanish – or any VPN service for that matter – isn’t the source of your internet problems, consider an upgrade for your internet plan that includes higher bandwidth or a better connection type to meet your needs.
Server Locations & Network
Despite IPVanish’s multiple acquisitions, they did not let the change stop them from continually growing. Starting out with just 32 servers and a small fiber-optic network of its own, IPVanish has since grown its server network to include over 40,000 dynamic IP addresses on more than 1,500 servers in 75+ locations. Servers
Here are the locations of IPVanish servers:
- The Americas: 879 servers
- Europe: 486 severs
- Asia: 45 servers
- Australia/New Zealand: 83 servers
- Africa: 11 servers
The majority of IPVanish’s server network is located in North America, Europe, and Australia today.
The self-owned and diverse locations of those VPN servers place this service in the mid-to-high range of VPNs. As previously noted, the current operators of the service have never experienced a security or infrastructure breach. This makes the service an internationally trusted provider from a security perspective.
Streaming & Torrenting
A main reason users have a VPN service is for the ability to access websites and media without restrictions. Streaming videos torrenting peer-to-peer (P2P) content are some of the most popular uses for the internet today, yet due to geo-restrictions, government censorship, and hackers, this is largely impossible – without a VPN of course.
Unfortunately, IPVanish has an inconsistent record of bypassing geo-restrictions and VPN blocks. We found that IPVanish doesn’t work well with Netflix on a consistent basis. Some IPVanish servers tested in the U.S. and Australia were blocked by Netflix, and IPVanish technicians openly acknowledged the continuing difficulty in that regard.
There were others, however, that were successful in bypassing Netflix geo-restrictions in the U.S. on the Las Vegas, Dallas, and Chicago IPVanish servers. Still, other popular streaming platforms like BBC iPlayer and Disney+ weren’t accessible.
In short, IPVanish apps do not work in China, so don’t try to use IPVanish apps with privacy guarantees in China. IPVanish service reps freely admit that their VPN won’t work in China because of Chinese government policies and regulations. That explanation, however, is a weak excuse, since many VPN services like ExpressVPN can defeat government censorship.
IPVanish is also blocked in Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. It’s domain ipvanish.com is also blacklisted in Kazakhstan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
For users that travel to these countries or regions often, we do not recommend IPVanish as your VPN solution. Instead, consider VPNs that specialize in circumventing these governmental restrictions like NordVPN or Hotspot Shield.
In regard to other bypassing capabilities, IPVanish does provide features to help defeat geo-targeting. Geo-blocking is frequently used by online vendors to either display higher prices based on the user’s sign in or block out the completion of sales from outside users. With IPVanish’s Scramble and tunneling capability, the user can sign on to a local VPN server and bypass unfair pricing practices.
Platforms & Devices
IPVanish not only provides unlimited simultaneous connections to subscribers, but it also allows users to connect to a variety of devices, operating systems and Smart TVs on its VPN. Here is a list of those platforms:
Desktop & laptop computers
- Windows 10
Phones & tablets
- iOS (although IPVanish limits the features available on iOS devices)
Other platforms and devices
- Amazon Fire TV Stick Media
- Kodi Entertainment TV
Router and gaming consoles
As previously mentioned, installing a VPN on a router protects an entire network with VPN encryption. IPVanish can either be installed on a VPN compatible router that has been pre-set for VPN or manually installed on another compatible router. IPVanish is compatible with a variety of routers and can provide fast speeds without native VPN applications for game consoles—PlayStation, Xbox, and more.
The most popular IPVanish VPN routers users employ include:
Warning: Installing a VPN on a router is neither cheap nor easy. It requires the right hardware and careful following of the IPVanish router installation instructions.
Run your own speed tests
Users looking for the best IPVanish VPN speed need to perform their own speed tests while sampling different servers IPVanish employs. The farther away you are from a server, the more likely it is that you experience greater speed loss.
Encryption & Security
When it comes to security, IPVanish ranks quite high for its end-to-end encryption practices and use of dynamic IP addresses. The measures IPVanish takes to hide its users identity is more than most free and paid VPN services do.
Below we outline the different security features IPVanish has in its toolkit to give you an idea of just how secure this VPN is.
IPVanish uses the industry-leading AES-256 encryption standard. AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is the highest cloud encryption standard. It employs a single, varying length key with an algorithm working on a single block of data that encrypts and re-encrypts the data 10 to 14 times. AES meets all federal government requirements for the protection of health and financial data security.
IPVanish security protocols
IPVanish employs the following VPN protocols for its supporting clients:
- PC: Open VPN, IKEv2, L2TP, SSTP, PPTP
- MacOS: OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2Tp
- Android: Open VPN
- iOS: IKEv2, IPSec
- Smart TV: Open VPN
With the exception of PPTP, which provides the weakest security, each of those protocols employs 256-bit encryption and high security, as well as very stable connections.
DNS data-leak prevention with a “kill switch”
IPVanish tested positively for both IPv4 and IPv6 and DNS leaks. IPVanish DNS leak protection prevents the operating system from defaulting to the Internet Service Provider’s DNS (Dynamic Name System) when the user connects to a web address. Without the DNS leak protection, the user’s original IP address is shown, defeating the original purpose of a VPN.
IPVanish, a top-tier VPN, has the requisite kill switch (on most devices), and is especially important for those who always need a reliable private connection such as journalists and business owners. The kill switch feature ensures that no data goes through the user’s connection unless it is through the VPN. Users need only to connect once to this feature for automatic connection each time they connect.
Our overall rating reads as a good to great VPN service.
IPVanish pros include its ownership of a widely dispersed global network, not dependent on third-party support. It has solid privacy features, offers an unlimited number of connections across the spectrum of computer, tablet, and mobile devices. It does unlock Netflix and other services, though with some inconsistency, and has very reliable speeds with stable connections. The service has a decent number of servers worldwide. Subscribers also receive 250GB of web storage space from SugarSync as a free bonus.
This VPN pricing scheme begins at $3.49 for the first month or $27.99 for the first year, and then increases to it’s normal pricing after the promotional period. IPVanish’s 1-year plan comes with a 30-Day Money Back guarantee.
IPVanish is rated as having good speed with reliable connections and providing unlimited bandwidth to its users. Its customer support is excellent, and the service is rated highly among over 6,000 customer reviews on Trustpilot.
For bypassing geo-blocking, IPVanish is not the best choice. It did test well on local servers for accessing Netflix, but it didn’t work at all on the BBC iPlayer site.
With over 1,500 servers in 75 city locations in 57 countries, IPVanish is in the top 25% of VPNs with wide coverage throughout the world. However, the service is blocked in China and other authoritarian countries, and its web domain is blacklisted elsewhere.
IPVanish has the requisite state-of-the-art encryption that meets federal government requirements for protection of health and financial security data. Likewise, IPVanish employs security protocols that provide seamless and secure network connections.
Our final evaluation of IPVanish is very positive. IPVanish is a solid VPN service that, for the most part, has garnered significant trust from users. Since being acquired in 2017, IPVanish has not had any controversial instances of customer data breaches of any sort, and its overall functionality is competitive with most premium providers.