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 difficult 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 its servers to more than 75 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 first arose over IPVanish’s privacy and logging policies in 2016, when court documents relating 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 became public.
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 out 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 can also 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: Uses industry-standard protocols
- DNS leak protection settings: This allows users to customize their settings, and ensures no data is lost should there be 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: Despite the service recently becoming 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 a 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 network
- 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.
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 because most VPNs only take one or two steps to secure 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 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 an intermediate or experienced 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, 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 functionality than any of its other offerings and includes a feature-rich UI that is easier to navigate. The iOS app appears radically different from the Android version, and it doesn’t offer much in the realm of advanced features, such as 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: $10.99/mo.
- 12 Months: $3.75/mo.
- 1 Month Bundle: $12.99/mo.
- 12 Months Bundle: $4.58/mo.
IPVanish structures its pricing in such a way as to get users to subscribe for longer periods of time. Each plan includes a free subscription to SugarSync Cloud Storage that comes with 250 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 subscription. You can choose its standalone VPN plan that’s 65% off for $3.75 per month for your first year or the bundle plan that combines IPVanish VPN service and SugarSync cloud storage of up to 500 GB storage for $4.58 per month during your first year.
IPVanish Special Offer
IPVanish Special Offer
All plans include unlimited device connections and 24/7 customer service if you need assistance. 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 is that refunds do not apply to anyone signing up for IPVanish via the Apple App Store, which is a common practice for many vendors.
Users can pay via credit card (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 summary, IPVanish offers fairly competitive pricing on its plans. We recommend going with its yearly plan if you choose to go with IPVanish as you’ll see the most savings.
Touched on in earlier sections, IPVanish is headquartered in the U.S., a home base other VPNs avoid due to concerns over 5 Eyes surveillance and covert attempts from U.S. government 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. This is because the U.S. is a member of a group of “Eyes” Alliances. The 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 service 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 checkered past of IPVanish, an independent audit would go some way to help restore its shaky reputation.
When testing IPVanish, I experienced varying speeds depending on which server I chose. The further away you get from your server of choice, the slower speeds inevitably get. However, with IPVanish, I was satisfied with my speeds, even if I did experience about a 61% loss from my original speeds.
To start, I ran a speed test without connecting to a VPN server to see my baseline speeds. I averaged around 381 Mbps download speed and 23 Mbps upload speed.
Then, I tested various countries. For the sake of brevity, I’ll show my speed results from just three locations: US, UK, and Japan.
Since I live in Texas, I selected the closest server to me, which was in Dallas. You can see that only my download speeds were significantly affected. My upload speeds stayed relatively the same.
Next, I tapped into a UK server located in London. Again, upload speeds remained about the same while I saw another dip in my download speed. It’s not what you’d want all the time, but 100 Mbps download speed is more than enough bandwidth for a few devices connected at once.
Lastly, here are my speed test results while connected to a Japan server.
I averaged 82 Mbps while on an IPVanish Japan server. Again, not the best, but definitely enough bandwidth for one user. Unless you have a specific reason for wanting to connect to a server in a distant country, I recommend connecting to a server nearby.
As with the best premium VPNs, IPVanish comes with unlimited bandwidth and thousands of servers you can choose from. So, if you experience average speeds on one local server, it’s easy to find an alternative node. 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 thing that affects your overall speed performance.
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 1,900 servers in 75+ locations.
Here are the locations of IPVanish servers:
- The Americas: 1,169 servers
- Europe: 531 servers
- Asia: 79 servers
- Australia/New Zealand: 53 servers
- Africa: 11 servers
- South America: 31 servers
The majority of IPVanish’s server network is located in North America, Europe, and Asia today.
The self-owned and diverse locations of those 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.
During our research, we experienced decent speeds on various server locations we tested – the best on nearby countries of course. It took a few tries to connect to some streaming platforms, but it was successful in unblocking multiple Netflix libraries like Netflix US and Netflix Japan. In addition, we were able to access Disney+ as well as ESPN+ (primarily the US for sports).
What really sets IPVanish apart is its torrenting support. Both IPVanish’s VPN app and SOCKS5 proxy are excellent for P2P file sharing. All of its zero-logs servers allow P2P traffic and users can choose between over 40,000 dynamic and anonymous IP addresses as well as more than 1,900 servers around the world.
The best torrent VPN should be able to legally hide your IP address, log zero data, and offer fast enough speeds to keep up with big download files. IPVanish accomplishes all of this from what we saw during testing.
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. Its 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 will 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.
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.