I recently began testing a VPN utility named VyprVPN from Giganews (a Usenet newsgroup provider) and their development team at Golden Frog. Giganews released this utility to help ensure their clients privacy while using Usenet, but it’s application goes far beyond just encrypting connections to a newsgroup server. VyprVPN works with Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad and Android devices. On all devices you simply connect to their servers, and from that point on you appear to be connected to the internet from whichever city (or country) you have chosen.
Giganews has large Usenet server farms in the US, Europe and Asia, and they have taken advantage of their presence in all these locations to use as connection points for VyprVPN. At the time of this writing you could choose to use servers in:
- Washington, DC
- Los Angeles, CA
- Austin, TX
- Amsterdam, NL
- London, UK
- Paris, FR
- Frankfurt, GER
- Hong Kong, Asia
VyprVPN encrypts all communications from your device, not just web traffic or email or Usenet. This has advantages and disadvantages. Advantages include: nobody can tell what you are doing from your PC, your IP address is hidden from everyone including the destination servers; if you can connect to servers in a country without restrictions you can bypass your countries censorship. Disadvantages include: additional monthly fees and slower internet connections.
A standalone VyprVPN account is a little more pricey than some of their competitors. However, I have a Giganews Diamond Account so I am able to use the VyprVPN pro for free. If you are not into Usenet, you can buy a standalone version of VyprVPN from Golden Frog in two flavors:
- basic version uses PPTP and 128-bit encryption and costs $14.99/month
- pro version adds L2TP/IPsec and 256-bit encryption for $19.99/month
What this means is really beyond the scope of this review, but basically PPTP is an older standard (based on PPP) used for VPN connections, L2TP/IPSec is the newer protocol expected to eventually replace PPTP.
VPN Installation and Setup
Installation and setup is extremely easy. You download the client from either Giganews or Golden Frog (depending on who you are contracted with) and run the installation. After it is done it asks for your username and password. You reboot your computer (for windows) and when it comes back up you have a new icon on your task bar. You can click on the icon and connect to immediately secure your entire internet connection.
During my testing I was quite pleased with the performance of the VPN. Although there is some initial startup latency, once a connection is established to a server for download there is NO significant decrease in performance. During testing I was able to tell that it was a little slower for operations such as starting a Netflix movie, but streaming seemed to to unaffected. The startup latency is caused by my packets first being sent to a VyprVPN server, then sent to the Netflix servers, data sent from Netflix then returns to the VyprVPN server and finally back to my PC. This same issue with the path happens even when I connect to my own web servers in my office, unless I use RFC 1918 addressing so that it knows to use the local network for delivery.
In the past people have used VPN software to access Netflix from countries where access is limited or restricted by connecting to a VPN server in the US. Unfortunately, Netflix has recently added blocks to their servers for many VPN providers to prevent people from doing this.
VyprVPN was initially designed by Giganews to protect Usenet traffic, and since the servers are in the same facilities for the VPN and Usenet, you don’t get the inherent multiple-hop issues you
have with going to other servers on the internet.
The main focus of VyprVPN is to provide security for Usenet access, but as part of my testing I chose to leave the VPN connected all of the time, which was … interesting. During my setup I had just clicked okay until it said to reboot. When I connected VyprVPN it chose the servers in Amsterdam by default. Websites which used Geo-location technology all thought I was in Netherlands and displayed all my web pages in Dutch, then Chrome offered to translate them all back to English for me. I now use the “Fastest server” setting, which usually picks a US city, and my pages are usually in English.
Just a quick word of warning; latency which is not important for streaming content or web-browsing will render your online first or third person shooters unusable. While testing (OK, I was playing Diablo III in Hell level), I was repeatedly killed by the lag beast until I figured out that I had left VyprVPN connected. Once I disconnected VyprVPN my game play returned to normal, and we successfully dispatched Belial, just in case you were worried.
VyprVPN is a very nice VPN utility. It is extremely easy to configure, and also very easy to enable and disable depending on whether you feel you need it at the time or not. Performance is excellent, and because it protects your entire internet connection the security it provides is unbeatable.