StrongVPN is one of the oldest running VPN providers there is. Although they are relatively unknown, they have been plugging away at the improvement of their services. This came in 2018 when a raft of upgrades that came along.
Since our last Strong VPN reviews, things are very different. Although there are still some niggles and issues, it does come with some plusses that other VPN’s still can’t do reliably. It works with Netflix, so that is a good start.
However, there is more to a VPN than just bypassing some geo-restrictions. They need to use the best VPN protocols, deliver great speeds, and protect user privacy with a strict zero-logging policy above all else.
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StrongVPN delivers something to cover all the basics, yet doesn’t come with many of the bells and whistles some other providers use as gimmicks and selling points.
If you consider using it, don’t be looking for a free trial because they have opted to offer a 30-day money-back guarantee as an alternative means of testing.
Carry on reading the rest of this VPN review, and you can learn what they have changed under the hood to make their StrongVPN user experience much better than it was previously.
- Bypassing geo-restrictions (with limitations)
- Working behind the Great Firewall of China
- Good levels of security
Plans and Pricing
Since the last time we looked at StrongVPN, the company hasn’t changed its pricing structure. There is still only a one month or yearly option to choose from, and both come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
This may not give you the same money-back guarantee as purchasing directly through the StrongVPN website.
|12 months||$5.83||Billed $69.99 for 12 months|
|1 Month||$10.00||Billed $10.00 each month|
If you decide to pick a plan, then you find the payment methods are still on the thin side. These comprise credit cards, PayPal, and Alipay. It is a shame there are no cryptocurrency options for those users who wish to remain anonymous.
Both pricing plans come with StrongDNS free, and the money-back guarantee. When you compare the rates to other VPN’s the monthly rate pushes right in the middle of premium VPN territory; however, there is a distinct shortage of features from the other side.
One other area StrongVPN makes an offering is they are offering what they say is the best cloud-based VPN for the team. Encrypt.me costs $7.99 per user with a minimum of 2-members. Businesses can scale this up to 249 users and above.
Here, you can secure a complete team, cover everyone from one account. Filter content, and have access to cloud storage by creating private endpoints or having a private IP address.
Before diving into how the company stands against privacy, it is better to know they are located in the United States. The USA was one of the original founders of the 5-eyes coalition with the UK, so any mass surveillance they perform, and information they gather is available for other countries to go through.
The US can issue gag orders to any company. What this means to the end-user is they will be unaware that their information is in the process of being handed over to a governing agency.
In defense of the Strong VPN service, they do have a strong zero-logging policy and do appear to adhere to it.
There is the same choice of protocols as many other leading VPN’s like PPTP, L2TP, IKEv2, and SSTP, and OpenVPN. Out of all of them, the Open VPN protocol is the best choice rather than using weaker encryption with using L2TP, SSTP, or other none preferable protocols.
Using 256-bit encryption, users have the same military-grade encryption most government agencies and banking systems use. They also include perfect forward secrecy as part of their security arsenal of tools.
Strong DNS is a proprietary DNS system they use; and can help prevent attacks and keep search requests private.
A kill-switch is another welcome addition, so if you lose your VPN connection for a second, all other traffic flowing from an internet connection is stopped, and there shouldn’t be any DNS leak.
A Kill switch is one of the main features a VPN ought to include. DNS leaks can expose IP addresses in a second, so having one that works well is a blessing.
Strong VPN doesn’t mention DNS leak protection on the site, yet when carrying out a leak test, every area was secure.
There were many older Strong VPN reviews, which went on about the uncertainty of the logging. Now, with the revamp, all this is clear, and the company now retains a strict zero-logging policy.
This is good to know, considering they are a US company. The company also states, the personal information they retain is needed for account set up and will include email address and payment information.
No information is sold on to any third party, and cookies are used to deliver basic functionality on the website.
This falls in line with many other best VPN’s offerings, and it betters quite a few who do retain logs for one reason or another.
Services: basic information such as email address, payment method. Using a card, they ask for full name, card details, and billing address.
Website: Basic information is collected from users like site visitors and page views.
Cookies: They use these to verify account logging in, statistical information of user activity, and to help prevent fraud.
Third Parties: Although third parties are in use, they have no access to user data. Companies quoted include ReliableHosting, ZenDesk, SendGrid, WPEngine, MaxMind, and UpSellit.
The company runs through all the other security features or areas where security may be an issue, such as the GDPR in the EU.
Ease of Use
Currently, StrongVPN offers 12 simultaneous connections for each account. Aside from the rare unlimited connections, which are available. This is the highest number of connections available from any VPN provider.
There is a wide range of devices that users can install StrongVPN. This comprises Windows, macOS operating systems, FireTV, and iOS, and Android. All these have client apps, and there are other devices where you can use the manual setup guides for installation.
Linux, Ubuntu, and Chrome OS and routers require manual configuration, though this will be using the OpenVPN client rather than any StrongVPN client software. There are plenty of setup guides to accomplish this on the website.
Routers, which are compatible, are Tomato, Sabai, and DD-WRT.
It is worth noting; the best VPN client is the one for Windows. On other platforms, the killswitch is lacking, so these are only reliable for streaming or bypassing any blocks on content.
A couple of other notable things are the Android app will only support OpenVPN, and the iOS is slow receiving updates.
Users who wish to sign-up for this VPN, need to head to the website. Here, a button says ‘Join Now’ click on this, and it takes you to the page that has the plans. Because there are only monthly and yearly, you have two options.
StrongVPN defaults to the 12 monthly plan as they say it is the most popular. Click to select and scroll down. Here you enter your email address and then move on to your method of payment.
You will receive an email that has more instructions and details for you to log into the app.
You can make a StrongVPN download from the website at any time.
For all of the remainder, we will be using the Windows client. Because this is the only one that has the full range of features.
Installing is the same as any other software application, so install as you would from your ‘downloads’ folder or the location you saved your installation file.
Unlike some VPN’s, there is no reboot of your PC required before you can use the VPN, and you will have instant protected internet access.
However, you will have to change the default protocol because it may not be on OpenVPN.
Once you open the app, you see a world map. This serves no purpose apart from giving you something to look at.
Underneath the map, you have your current server connection on view. Click here, and you have the full list of servers. If you go with the default, the app selects the best server for your location, and any load, which is on that particular server.
Unfortunately, there are no indicators of what servers meet which service. Therefore, it is potluck if you can stream and gain access or not.
When you select one of the servers, the main interface page displays the assigned IP address, and the length of time you connect to that server.
On the main interface, there isn’t much else. You can click the cog in the right-hand corner, and from here, you have access to more settings.
- Options Tab: Under this tab, you have all the general settings like starting the client when you start windows. Auto-connect in case you lose your connection and enabling the killswitch. Users who face issues can reinstall the TAP drivers, and for whatever reason, this resolves many issues.
- Protocol Tab: This only has a change of protocols. Once you select OpenVPN or WireGuard, you may not be visiting this tab very often.
- Information: In this tab, all you find is your account and app information.
- Diagnostics: In this tab, you have the chance to view a local connection log. This is on your system and merely used for troubleshooting.
- Updates: Users can opt to test the beta version of the app, although this can contain bugs and be unstable. There is also the chance to check for updates, and to set this to auto with the frequency of checks.
Closing the app will only minimize the client window, and the service carries on running in the background.
You can access this from the system tray. It also allows you to connect and disconnect without needing to open the app. However, if you have to access any other VPN services, you do need to access the client to get to the menu.
Mobile apps are similar in appearance. You can get these from the Play Store or the Apple Store because clicking the button on the website takes you to the relevant stores.
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When it comes to advanced features, users quickly see there is a severe lack of any in comparison to the best VPN services. There is the kill-switch, DNS leak prevention, and that is as much as you get.
Aside from this, there is the StrongDNS, which is their proprietary DNS services. The company claims this delivers the fastest speeds on the internet. While it may not affect speeds when downloading, it can prevent DNS hijacking.
However, there is one feature available that may be interesting once it sees maturity. WireGuard has support from StrongVPN, yet this next-generation open-source software is still in the development stages.
It is designed to be lightweight and reliable, with stealth being the focus. At present, there are not many VPN’s, which are at trialing this software.
Any user who wishes to test this needs to head to a certain location on the website once they log in. It is possible to select clients that use this protocol.
Testing on Android just needs you to scan the QR code. Connection times are almost instantaneous, and speeds are much closer to baseline speeds than current protocols, and all with no DNS, IP, or WebRTC leaks.
Any user who decides to test this shouldn’t run it on their main machine and use it as their default protocol. It is in testing, and as of yet, there is no guarantee it isn’t leaking or can break during use.
There is a confusion when it comes to browser extensions. While it appears the company no longer has any browser extensions, there is one in the Chrome Store. This may be the only one, but there hasn’t been an update since earlier in the year.
Users should be wary of using any VPN that hasn’t been an update in such a long time. Things such as this can lead to vulnerabilities. (Get the best Ad-blocker for your browser of choice.)
Nearly everyone knows VPN’s slows an internet connection because of the encryption required to keep data safe. The question is how much it slows, and what distance does to affect the download speed.
It is this reason; it can be hard to come up with one answer that will be the same for every person. Internet access will be faster in your home country because the server locations are much closer.
Another thing that can affect VPN speeds is the network size of the company. In the case of StrongVPN, they have 950+ servers spread over 30 countries. This is what you class as a small network. Other providers can have over 5,000 servers and cover nearly 100 countries.
Testing for different areas saw the speed test come back with different results. On American servers, you can expect a Ping time between 5ms and around 40 ms. Once you head over the waters toward Europe, you can see these rise to 100 to 200 ms depending on the European country. Heading toward Asia can see a further increase.
In many cases, ping times are not crucial, and it is the download speeds. This is true for streaming, downloading, or transferring other files documents or pictures.
For everyday use, we saw our internet access was delivering speeds that were sufficient for the majority of tasks.
No matter where we were streaming from, the 1080p video ran without any issues. Online gaming was also a success, although the odd occasion did hit a small hurdle because of the ping time.
The client recommended the server did, in many cases, deliver the best experience; however, it isn’t always possible to use this when streaming.
On average, for servers that were not too remote, we saw a surprising 10% drop-off. Some large VPN companies deliver thirty-forty percent reductions in speed. With unlimited bandwidth, users can find these speeds more than ideal if they are located in the built-up areas.
Test results for some areas are as follows:
- USA: 55Mbps download and 47Mbps upload speeds
- Germany: 83Mbps download and 76Mbps upload speeds
- Australia: 30Mbps download and 10Mbps upload
One other thing users need to know is the countries that have multiple servers in different cities. The USA has 12, with the UK on 6, Canada 3, Australia, Germany, and Brazil all with 2. Asia has servers in Malaysia, Japan and Hong Kong.
Overall, speeds from StrongVPN are sufficient for users who don’t require too much and are more concerned with their privacy along with some casual streaming.
Customer service is one area where StrongVPN excels in comparison to other areas of their service.
They are one of the few who offer Live Chat. While many users are not keen on using the phone, there is a phone option, yet this is only available between 9 am and 5 pm CT (UTC-6) and only Monday to Friday.
Once you head to the help area of the website, you have a search bar where you can type your question. Under this, there is the ‘Email Support’ button.
Customer support for online references has ‘Setup Guides.’ These cover all the devices you can use the VPN on and give clear and concise setup instructions where required. You can see diagrams as well as plain text instructions.
Billing support is the next section, and while handy, it doesn’t contain too much information.
Technical support offers more in-depth questions that cover a wide range of issues. Both devices and connections are covered here. The last section is the FAQ section.
The company covers getting started with the VPN and 12 articles of general information.
This is lacking in quantity; however, the articles are in-depth and can provide a good walkthrough of solutions to most users.
One thing some users may not be able to see are instructions for the Amazon Kindle. There appears to be no link in the help section, yet a quick Google search does take you to a Kindle setup page. Here, you find full instructions on how to use this device with the VPN.
Netflix is seen as the main one of all the streaming services. It can test any premium VPN service, and there are plenty, which give up trying to gain access. With such a small server network, we were expecting StrongVPN Netflix access to be a hit and miss affair.
The company has spent some considerable resources to make sure, and this is one area, they don’t falter. So for now, StrongVPN unblocks Netflix and does so quite easily. This may make it one of its great features.
Aside from Netflix, there are other streaming platforms, and the company claims to enable access to it.
Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, ABC, and Sky Go all come with support. It can be easy to say they have access, yet there are many user reviews, that lay testament to these claims.
In testing, BBC iPlayer caused problems on most of the UK servers. These were not always the same, and with six to choose from, it may be possible to find one, which grants access. Luckily, the BBC isn’t a paid-for BBC iPlayer service.
We did see many review sites where they had no issue here, but Amazon was not allowing access. It is borderline between reliable connections, and it will depend on which streaming platforms users use.
File downloading is frowned upon, and one of the primary reasons users use VPN’s in the first place. Keeping your IP address private is vital when there are so many copyright trolls on the internet.
Additionally, ISP’s are on the lookout, depending on the country, and the users can find themselves in hot water. Copyright infringement notices are not what users want to find in the post.
StrongVPN doesn’t actively say they allow torrenting or P2P file sharing. However, there are no comebacks, no matter which servers are used.
Users do need to take some caution if using this VPN for downloading. It is an American VPN company, and right in the middle of 5-eyes jurisdiction, and where the DMCA has plenty of focus.
Strong VPN download speeds are sufficient for file sharing, yet they are not the quickest. It was worth noting the connection speed did increase using this VPN over the base speed while torrenting.
It shows the effects of your ISP throttling your connection when carrying out some online activities. While the service does appear to be rock solid, it is hard to recommend the use of this for downloading torrents.
StrongVPN is another one of those providers who are easy to recommend with their stance on online privacy. However, when you look at everything in depth, things change, and the service becomes less of a recommendation.
A lot of this will depend on the user and why they need a VPN. For casual use, then this is an affordable option. It covers all the basics without deviating too far with gimmicks.
It does, though, lose its appeal if you need to connect over long distances and use it for regular streaming, downloading or accessing other content.
There are lots to benefit a user with lots of device compatibility and 12 connections. Yet, with most features only being available on Windows, it can leave mobile and Mac users lacking features and security.
Things such as this don’t make any VPN the best choice. There are many alternatives, which deliver that bit more in every area.
It is nice to see StrongVPN finally update their services, and maybe next time they have a revamp, they will be a good alternative rather than being a possible consideration.
StrongVPN Review Bottom Line
Now, a solid VPN that delivers enough to cover the basics for online privacy and casual streaming use. Get StrongVPN here