WHAT’S IN THIS REVIEW?
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The name implies that StrongVPN is sturdy and robust, and that’s true for the most part. There are a few shortcomings to be aware of, but it takes you far if you’re looking for extra features such as Netflix support or free cloud storage to go along with a traditional VPN service.
We put this provider through multiple tests and analyzed its website promises in real-time practice to see for ourselves how strong it really is. See for yourself what helped solidify its high ranking in our book.
Note: For the purpose of this review, a one-month subscription to StrongVPN was purchased directly from their website.
StrongVPN has a lot going for it, including a generous number of simultaneous connections, and super fast speeds from multiple locations. However, that’s tempered somewhat by its US jurisdiction as well as the lack of any third-party audits for their logging claims.
The app itself offers a basic user experience, but it manages to get the job done with no serious complaints or UI issues. Overall, it’s an interesting option, packed with extra features such as 250 GB of cloud storage via SugarSync, and streaming functionality thanks to StrongDNS.
Here’s everything you need to know about StrongVPN as we take a deep dive into the service.
A company that started off in 1994 selling personal computers, StrongVPN eventually transitioned from offering dial-up internet services to becoming one of the earliest commercial virtual private network providers.
StrongVPN is now one of many VPNs owned by J2 Global, after an extensive acquisition spree by the media giant in 2019. J2 Global bought SaferVPN, Encrypt.me, IPVanish, StrongVPN, and Buffered VPN, and later acquired certain assets owned by ibVPN, a VPN provider based in Romania.
Their media arm also controls popular websites like Mashable, PC Magazine, RetailMeNot, IGN.com, and Everyday Health, so they’re a massive player in terms of online media and information, as well as the VPN sector. (They even own Ookla, which I use to conduct speed tests for the purposes of these VPN reviews.)
Overall, it’s fairly transparent, with a J2 Global logo found at the bottom of the main StrongVPN page, and a “Meet the Team” section on the About Us page. It’s a small consolation but speaks volumes as to the openness of the company.
With that, we started looking into what pros and cons StrongVPN stood out the most to us while testing.
Pros & Cons
During testing, I uncovered a number of factors that users should take into consideration when deciding on StrongVPN. The good definitely outweighs the bad in my opinion, but here are the key pros and cons we found:
- Ability to connect up to 12 devices simultaneously with a single subscription
- WireGuard functionality, along with L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2 protocols
- Free 250 GB of cloud storage via SugarSync
- Allows the user to access geo-restricted content with ease
- Lightweight native apps for a range of devices
- Blistering connection speeds – with only a few farther servers recording slower speeds
- Very affordable annual subscription
- 30-day money-back guarantee on its annual subscription
- Provides helpful setup guides for Linux, Kodi, Synology NAS, and Amazon Kindle
- Only offers two subscription options: 1 month or 12 months
- No third-party audit of their software available
- Smaller server network compared to some providers
- Owner (J2 Global) based in the US and operating different VPNs under its umbrella
- No anonymous payment methods, while renewals are non-refundable as per their TOS
- No free trial available
As well as the usual range of features you’d expect from a modern provider, StrongVPN also has a couple of extras that help it stand out from the crowd. Most notably are its StrongDNS feature, free cloud storage via SugarSync, kill switch and leak protection, and dark mode.
One for streaming fans, StrongDNS is a SmartDNS partner service for StrongVPN. It’s included when you sign up with the VPN provider, and you can use the same credentials to log in. StrongDNS allows you to change your virtual location through their endpoint servers without encrypting your traffic. This is most commonly used to stream region-restricted content without running into the pitfalls associated while logging in with a traditional VPN connection.
SugarSync Cloud Storage
Another offering under the J2 Global umbrella is SugarSync, a cloud storage service. In partnership with them, StrongVPN gives its users 250 GB of SugarSync cloud storage for free with their subscription. It’s reasonably robust, and encryption is secure. They note on their site:
“As you work, your files are continuously backed up to your secure, personal SugarSync website. Your data is securely transferred via SSL and is stored using 256-bit AES encryption. Every time you make a change, your work is automatically saved to cloud storage. In fact, SugarSync saves 5 versions of a document so it’s easy to revert to an earlier version.”
It’s a nice add-on and provides a way for users to efficiently back up their files in the cloud.
Kill Switch & Leak Protection
Two other features you can activate in StrongVPN’s settings are a kill switch and IPV6 leak protection. A Kill Switch is used to ensure that there are no leaks if the VPN shuts off unexpectedly. However, the StrongVPN Kill Switch is only enabled when either OpenVPN or L2TP is selected.
An IPv6 leak can be dangerous, and StrongVPN currently supports IPv4 only. They note on their site that “there can be cases where there are a few websites that are accessible via IPv6. Since our service does not support it, the request will be diverted through the IP number assigned by your ISP. This is called an IPv6 leak.”
Lastly, the choice between Light Mode/Dark Mode is a nice option for users who prefer to save battery life or limit power consumption, although it wasn’t available on the macOS client app I used for testing. Granted, this functionality is most common on mobile devices.
- 1 Month: $10.99/mo.
- 12 Months: $3.33/mo.
You only have two options to choose from when purchasing StrongVPN. There’s a one-month subscription priced at $10.99 per month, while 12 months comes in at $3.33 per month. (However, you’ll have to pay for the entire 12-month duration upfront, so the total comes to $39.99. It’s a common aspect of VPN plans.)
You’ll also be able to connect up to 12 devices simultaneously with a single StrongVPN subscription, which short of unlimited devices is the highest device count I’ve seen yet. It’s generous when compared to industry leaders such as NordVPN, which only allows for six simultaneous connections on different devices.
Overall, it’s decent value for money when you factor in the addition of SugarSync, which is normally priced at $9.99 per month for 250 GB of cloud storage.
A few drawbacks from a privacy standpoint are that you need to sign up with a valid email address and have no anonymous payment options available. Credit cards, PayPal, and Alipay are the only payment methods currently accepted.
StrongVPN also offers a 30-day unconditional refund policy. However, it’s only available for annual subs, and renewal payments are non-refundable. You’ll need to ensure that you’ve canceled the service with time to spare if you’re not planning to use it anymore. You also have to agree to their automatic renewal terms before you’re allowed to sign up with the service, so be sure to stay on top of the timing of your subscription.
“StrongVPN does not collect or log any traffic from its Services, making us a zero-logging VPN.”
However, they do keep a record of your name and email during the sign-up process, while they go on to say:
“We will retain copies of your Personal Data in a form that permits identification only for as long as is necessary in connection with the purposes set out in this policy, unless applicable law requires a longer retention period. In particular, we may retain your personal data for the duration of any period necessary to establish, exercise, or defend any legal rights.”
Meanwhile, payment methods like credit cards or PayPal also link to personally identifiable information such as your name and address, so there’s no way to use StrongVPN without them being able to find out who you are if required by law.
Another thing to note is that StrongVPN hasn’t commissioned any third-party audits of their software to verify their logging claims. For example, cybersec company Cure53 has audited the likes of ExpressVPN, Surfshark, Mullvad, and Mozilla VPN over the past 12 months, testing their infrastructure and other aspects of their security.
So, you’ll have to take their word that StrongVPN service is as sturdy as they claim in terms of protecting user privacy and keeping zero logs. Granted, there are no public leaks that have made it to light and StrongVPN hasn’t been involved in any controversies involving user data or logging. Those facts play well in its favor.
I was hoping that the WireGuard protocol would be enough to ensure that speeds would be blistering, and I was impressed with the results.
*It’s worth noting that I used another J2 Global-owned app to conduct the tests. Ookla may have developed speedtest.net, but a link on their About Us page will take you to a subsidiary of the parent company. (Other than that, there’s no real mention of the link between the two.)
As always, I began by recording my base speeds without any VPN connected. Results can be seen below.
The StrongVPN app decided that the “Recommended Server” was in South Africa, so I’d be wary of trusting that feature. Instead, I connected to their Rugby server found in the UK. Results can be seen below:
It was pretty fast, with a recorded download speed of 230 Mbps and a slightly improved ping.
Then, I connected to a trio of US servers next, starting with Atlanta. Speeds were far slower than I expected, so I switched over to Washington D.C. which can be seen in the screenshot below.
Once again, they were devastatingly slow, trickling in at just over 14 Mbps. Considering the performance of the UK server, I tried one more just in case, this time in LA.
Thankfully, speeds were boosted up to 258 Mbps, which is a decent result considering how far away the server is from me physically. It’ll be more than adequate enough for tasks like streaming 4K content or multiple Zoom meetings.
They advertise that it’s a VPN built for gamers, and speeds were consistent enough to get the job done. However, as with any VPN, it’s to be expected that speed results will vary depending on which server you’re connecting to.
Server Locations & Network
From its website, StrongVPN claims to have a network spanning 950+ VPN servers in over 30 countries, ensuring secure coverage anywhere across the globe. After counting their list, I discovered they operate servers in 43 countries to be exact. That’s a decent location spread compared to other premium VPNs, but I would like to see more servers added to their network in the future.
They advertise a total of 59,500 VPN IPs, split across the following locations:
South America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru,
North America: Canada, Mexico, United States
Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom
Asia: India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan
Middle East: Israel, Turkey, United Arab Emirates
Africa: South Africa
It’s a decent selection of countries, with regions like the US and Europe represented strongly. In fact, most continents have at least a few servers to choose from, with Africa being the sole exception. 950 servers is a decent amount if just a little less than the likes of ExpressVPN, which boast 3,000+.
Streaming & Torrenting
Whether it’s via StrongVPN or StrongDNS, they advertise the ability to unblock a variety of popular streaming services. Results will vary, but it’s a decent choice if you’re interested in US content.
They offer helpful guides for accessing the following streaming services:
- ABC Anywhere
- Channel 4
- Fire TV
In keeping with the list seen above, I was able to access Channel 4 and ITV after signing in with an account, and I could choose between live programming or catch-up.
However, StrongVPN failed to unblock either BBC iPlayer or Disney+ for me with their UK servers.
US Netflix is the real gamechanger, and I’m happy to report that I was able to sign in and watch shows from the region with no issues using one of its high-speed servers. Everything loaded instantly, although experiences may vary given how much effort Netflix puts into blocking VPN connections.
One potential issue is the slower speeds seen with some servers, as it will have an impact if you’re stuck connecting to somewhere like Atlanta or D.C.
Overall, it’s a good result, with lots of content to choose from encompassing some of the largest streaming services. They advertise the ability to bypass blocks on popular torrenting websites as well, and their zero-log policy ensures that they won’t be sure of what you’re up to. StrongVPN scores highly if you’re looking for a VPN that will handle your entertainment and torrenting needs.
StrongVPN advertises the ability to bypass local censorship, but that’s expected of any premium service. They also offer a guide for connecting to China which notes:
“Our VPN servers in the US are more likely to be blocked. According to the recent tests, San Francisco is the best possible location to connect to from China. Not only does it provide the optimal speed for customers connecting to the USA, but it is also reported to successfully bypass the Firewall.”
If you’re someone who travels abroad frequently or wishes to bypass the Great Firewall, StrongVPN may be worth a shot. Its fast speeds and various protocols should help with the location and censorship of certain countries like China or Russia.
Platforms & Devices
StrongVPN has client apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Fire TV, with the macOS version primarily used for the purposes of this review. As well as the native apps above, StrongVPN also has setup guides for Linux, Synology NAS, Kodi, Amazon Kindle, and Chrome OS.
StrongVPN isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing VPN on the market, but the app is simple and clean.
The mobile versions are similar to the desktop clients, with no additional information apart from a small map noting the server location you’ve chosen to connect to, along with the IP address you’ve been assigned.
It gets the job done, even if it’s not packed with lots of features or additional information about the connection status.
Encryption & Security
Security is provided in the form of AES-256 bit encryption which is an industry standard.
For encryption, a variety of protocols can be found in the Advanced tab within the client app, along with a brief description of what to expect from each one.
Protocols include; L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2, as well as support for WireGuard. The latter is available for macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android, and was used extensively for this review.
It was also consistent, chugging away in the background silently for hours with no lag or freezing. Premium VPNs today are starting to incorporate the protocol into their service as WireGuard, much faster and lighter than its seasoned predecessor OpenVPN. This makes it ideal for streaming, gaming, and torrenting.
Security-wise, it passed every leak test, which is another great result for the provider.
There weren’t any security issues of note as long as their no-logs policy is to be believed.
StrongVPN does lack a few finishing touches, namely surrounding the US jurisdiction and the lack of a third-party audit to make sure their logging claims can be verified. However, overall it performs very well as a VPN solution.
Features like SugarSync help it to stand out and will likely be of use to anyone tempted by their service. It’s a solid USP.
Speeds are much improved, although there will be a large margin of error depending on where you plan to connect. They could also do with a few more high-speed servers or work on improving their current network for more consistency across the board.
The price is also a factor, as it’s somewhat expensive if you only want a VPN for a month or so. A valid explanation for the asking price is the extensive streaming capabilities, including US Netflix. StrongVPN’s annual subscription is priced competitively, though, and the 30-day money-back guarantee is a nice cushion.
Overall, StrongVPN is one of the more impressive providers on the market, even if it’s not perfect. It’s quick and reliable, and it has enough going for it to make the service a viable option in a packed cybersecurity landscape.