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Friday, 21 October 2016

On 21:39 by Abhijit Pinjan     1 comment
It seems to me that a week can’t go by without there being some revelation or other connected with privacy, and not only in North America, but in Europe and other parts of the world. The digital age has brought it tremendous benefits, but it has also added some unique and new problems.
You have probably seen them. IPv4 addresses are made up of four numbers less than 256 with a dot between them, say 10.2.18.67 or 34.16.23.198. The IP address is used to route the data to your computer. The problem with IP addresses is that 1) they are visible to every piece of equipment that deals with your network traffic, 2) they are assigned in blocks. The result is that the servers you connect to know you IP address, as does your Internet provider. To test this, visit a site like whatismyipaddress.com or ipfingerprints.com and you will see what I mean. Also your Internet provider probably knows which websites you are visiting and if the website isn’t using HTTPS then there is the potential that your Internet provider can also see what you are posting.
There are lots of VPN providers, however finding a reliable and trustworthy service can be a challenge. To make it easier for you, I have been testing out Express VPN. Before we look at the key features, I just want to point out that this is a neutral review, we aren’t being paid or sponsored by Express VPN in anyway. However if you do buy the service using the links we provide that will help us out a bit! So here are the main features:
  • You can choose VPN servers from 136 cities in 87 countries.
  • Express VPN has a hassle-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • You get access to a full suite of easy-to-use software for all your devices (including Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, Routers, and iOS).
  • Unlimited bandwidth.
  • Zero logging of your network traffic.
  • Simultaneous connections on up to 3 devices.

Look at software

Many VPN services don’t provide any custom software, which isn’t bad per se, however it means to get the VPN up and running you need to dive deep into the network settings of your device and add the VPN server details manually. For Android you tap on More… under the Wireless & Networks section of the Settings, then tap VPN and then add a new VPN. Then you enter the server details along with your username and password. This must be repeated for every server you wish to use. Since the big services will have over 100 VPN locations then that is a lot of tapping!

The speeds

One of the key features of any VPN service is the speed that it is able to provide to its customers. If a VPN service has a thousand endpoints in 50+ countries and the best encryption technology available but when you connect you access the web at a snail’s pace then the service is worth nothing. Express VPN has lots of endpoints plus strong encryption, but it also has the speed.
I tested Express VPN on my Android smartphone (a Samsung Galaxy Note 5), on a Kindle Fire 7 inch and on a Windows 10 PC. I used the broadband testing service speedtest.net via the web browser or using the Android app (depending on which device I was testing).
First of all let’s establish a very simple baseline for the speed of my Internet connection. According to speedtest.net I can download data from a local server in my neighborhood at around 34 Mbps. And I can upload at around 24 Mbps. A VPN connection will be lower than this for two reasons. First the data is being encrypted and decrypted by the client device (e.g. my Android smartphone) and by the VPN server. Second, many times your VPN connection will be to a server in another country. That means that the data has to physically travel further, sometimes even to the other side of the world.
Using my Note 5 I connected to VPN endpoints in New York and in the UK and ran the speed test. Here are the results:
  • UK VPN endpoint: 20.02Mbps download and 18.77 Mbps upload.
  • NY VPN endpoint: 20.73Mbps download and 17.94 Mbps upload.
To put that into some context, running the same tests downloading and uploading data from a server in NY and UK without the VPN gives me:
  • UK server, no VPN: 27.30Mbps download and 25.70 Mbps upload.
  • NY server, no VPN: 32.08Mbps download and 21.26 Mbps upload.
I think you will agree that the VPN numbers are fairly impressive. In real terms the download speeds are about 80% of what is possible without a VPN running. It also shows how dependent the overall VPN speeds are on the speed of the underlying connection via my local Internet provider and the backbone routes across the world.



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