Strong VPN Review
StrongVPN has emerged as one of the most popular VPN providers in the United States in recent years thanks to an effective marketing campaign and the increased interest of individuals in a greater amount of Internet security. This company’s success has been largely about positioning themselves well. Sometimes, the first thing you reach for is the first thing you see, and StrongVPN has managed to makes themselves more visible than many of their competitors. With that being said, a review of the service turns up some significant concerns.
About Strong VPN
One thing that is hard to question about StrongVPN is the company’s experience. The company actually got its start selling personal computers in 1994, the earliest days of the Internet as we know it today. They progressed from this to offering dial-up Internet service in California and then to providing dedicated servers. Today, the company has made VPN service a top priority. One of the biggest feathers in the cap of StrongVPN is that they have been there and done that. They have extensive experience in all facets of Internet technology, and that knowledge does give them an edge in terms of customer service and keeping their VPNs up and running.
In fact, one of the guiding principles of the company which is listed on their website is quality communications with customers. They even go so far as to claim that, in most cases, they will have an answer for customers before they even finishing asking their question. That sounds a little pretentious, but StrongVPN does provide reliable customer service 24/7, 365 days a year. An overwhelming number of customers report that they are able to reach a customer service agent with ease and that their questions are thoroughly answered. Whatever flaws a VPN provider may have, good customer service can erase a multitude of sins.
StrongVPN is based in the United States, and many users will consider that a plus. The U.S. does not have a mandatory logging policy in place that would force the company to keep records of user browsing data. The precise number of servers offered by the company can be hard to pin down at times. In some parts of their website, StrongVPN claims to manage 650 servers around the world. In other places they claim to manage 140 servers in San Francisco and 300 around the world. Regardless of the exact number, the company does offer enough server locations that most geographic restrictions of content can be avoided.
One concern about this company is that they aren’t willing to share too many technical details about how the security of their VPNs are managed. Like with the number of servers available, StrongVPN likes to play it close to the vest. That’s all well and good but shouldn’t paying for something give you a little more access to the details? We think so. VPNaccounts.com embraces an attitude of transparency and is more than happy to discuss any technical or security-related questions our customers might ask.
Unlike some other VPN providers of late, StrongVPN has not landed in the news because someone was caught using their service to do something bad. That’s admirable. Even so, the company’s hesitance to serve up details could be a potential warning sign that a user’s data is not as secure as the company would like its customers to believe.
Strong VPN Speed
Every VPN user has the right to be concerned about speed. If a VPN fares poorly in the speed department it can become virtually useless when a user is trying to unblock Netflix or use a service like Skype in an area where it is restricted. The very best VPNs on the market, like those offered by VPNaccounts.com, vary little from the normal speed of your standard Internet connection. Overall, the speed offered by StrongVPN is good.
In speed tests that were conducted from the UK, the closest UK served fared the best with a download speed of 18 mbps. The normal speed of the connection without a VPN was a little over 20 mbps. So, that difference is negligible and probably something most users won’t even notice. There were some examples, however, like a server in the Netherlands where download speeds dropped by more than 8 mbps. That is a pretty big difference and one that would probably be noticed. In all fairness, all VPNs will vary in speed from server to server depending on a number of variables which include how many users are on the server and how far away the server is from the computer using the VPN.
Upload speeds across all servers were consistently in the 1 mbps range. A few of them dipped below this benchmark, but there were an ample number of servers available which got close to 2 mbps.
While it technically doesn’t apply to speed, it is worth mentioning here that a lengthy observation of the StrongVPN servers reveals that they were subject to very little downtime. This is something to be expected given the company’s experience in the industry. They do a very good job maintaining their equipment and keeping it in good shape.
Strong VPN Features and Price
This is where the negatives start to pile up for StrongVPN. At first glance, the prices look competitive. On further examination, it becomes apparent that the company uses a complex pricing model to entice users into purchasing more expensive packages than they might require.
For starters, there is no option to purchase month-to-month VPN service. Every package requires a minimum three-month commitment. The company will give users their money back if they use the VPN for seven days and discover that they aren’t happy with it, but who wants to go through that hassle? Our opinion is that users should at least be able to pay for a one-month test drive to see if the VPN is going to meet their needs. The least amount of money you can spend to start using StrongVPN today is $60, and that’s too high.
Choosing a term of commitment is just the beginning of the confusion. Next comes the selection of a package. This is where those thinking about using this provider should be very careful. Different packages offer different security protocols and different numbers of servers to choose from. Most VPN providers today will permit you to choose from any of their servers with unlimited switching. Not StrongVPN. If you want unlimited servers and unlimited switching, you’re going to pay a lot of money for the privilege.
The server options are vast enough that anyone wanting to escape geo-restrictions can do so with ease. If we’re being honest, a ton of server locations to choose from shouldn’t be one of the primary reasons for choosing a VPN because you probably aren’t going to use 90% of them anyway. So, we’re willing to give StrongVPN a pass on their refusal to precisely address how many they have.
Users can purchase a special flashed router from StrongVPN that will accommodate all of the devices in your household, but this is sort of a gimmick. The same router that StrongVPN sells for almost $100 can be purchased on Amazon for $27. Of course, the company flashes it and makes it able to protect all of your devices. Still, that’s a lot of money to spend.
The client offered by StrongVPN is simple and elegant, but the client that is already on your device will work just as good. Payment options include credit card, debit card, wire transfer, Western Union, numerous payment processors like PayPal, and Bitcoin. We were pretty excited when we saw that the company accepts Bitcoin until we noticed that users are still required to provide some detailed personal information. Since this is the case, we wouldn’t recommend using Bitcoin as an option.
Connecting to Strong VPN
Just like all other VPNs, there is no software download required to use StrongVPN. All Internet-ready devices today, from phones to tablets to game systems, all have a VPN client that is pre-installed. All you need to do to use this client is simply enter the credentials that the company provides and connect.
Those who prefer can choose the StrongVPN dedicated VPN client. It can be downloaded from the company’s website. In truth, the features of this client do not offer much beyond the client you already have. The software will let you switch servers, and it also tracks your switches and charges you a “server switch” credit which is allocated based on the monthly package you have purchased.
You can also access an options menu with the dedicated client which lets you tweak some settings and access features like an Internet kill switch that will disable the VPN if your regular connection drops. Some of the options in this menu are ones that are for highly advanced users and probably won’t be accessed by the average Web surfer.
Strong VPN Security
Filesharers are not welcome at StrongVPN, and this is true of many VPN providers. A big reason providers no longer wish to accommodate torrent users and file sharers is that the cost has simply become too high. The DMCA is regularly enforced to protect copyright infringement. We can’t hold this against them in our ratings.
What we can question is their reluctance to reveal technical security details. Encryption varies by server and it can range from 128-bit Blowfish to 256-bit AES. There is really no way to tell which one you happen to be using, and no option is given to choose your method of encryption.
Strong VPN Verdict
Here are some of the primary benefits of StrongVPN:
- Loads of industry experience that results in servers being better maintained.
- Outstanding customer service.
- Adequate server locations.
- Based in the U.S.
These are the major issues with StrongVPN:
- No encryption standard across all servers.
- No ability to see or choose which encryption is being used.
- A complex and expensive pricing model.