Here is a brief (one-minute) video to begin with the Private Internet Access Review. Although it sounds a bit of ‘promotional’, it pretty much well sums up most of the functionalities you can have with PIA.
A thorough, in-depth, and critical review of Private Internet Access follows.
Private Internet Access – Background and Introduction
Private Internet Access is a premium VPN service provider with its headquarters in US. Launched in 2010, PIA gained an enormous market in years when online privacy and security were relatively a booming phenomenon.
PIA enjoyed a real competitive edge by having its development from the makers of MT Gox, a renowned name in the BitCoin market until it went bankrupt early this year.
Despite all the twist and turns in the VPN market, PIA emerged as one of the biggest names in online privacy and security, and continues to expand innovatively.
It has one of the largest VPN server bases (977), offers easy-to-use software, customer support and packages. In the VPN review world, PIA seems to bag at least 4 out of 5 ratings. And we will show in our very own Private Internet Access review that it is justified.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of Private Internet Access
PIA’s envious 990+ server base is a point of concern for almost every other name in the VPN industry, and this stands as its Unique Selling Proposition without doubt.
And though I cannot verify that huge count with cent percent surety, the level of speeds you get with PIA in relation to other providers is a testimony of its server coverage claim.
PIA’s Packages and Pricing
PIA holds some of the most economical packages in the VPN industry. The maximum value-for-price comes in the yearly package. Priced at $39.95, PIA’s yearly pricing plan will average for just $3.33 a month.
The next is the 6-month, or half-yearly plan. Currently priced at $35.95, the package has an average monthly cost of $5.99. That’s the option you should go for if you’re looking for a VPN for only a limited time, such as one needed for a vacation or a business tour.
Finally, we have the monthly plan. This plan, priced at $6.95, will be of particular use if you are new to PIA or to the VPN world as a whole. Once you are satisfied with the service, go on with purchasing the higher-order plans.
All of PIA’s packages have value added features of multiple logins, multiple gateways, SOCKS5 proxy and P2P/VoIP support. So you wouldn’t have to find anything missing across any of the PIA’s packages.
PIA’s Refund Policy
To give you an accurate picture of Private Internet Access, it is important to highlight refund issues and policies you might face in case you are not satisfied with the service. Here, we would talk of only Private Internet Access.
PIA seems to have a flexible (but straightforward) refund policy. In case you are not satisfied with the service, you can get refunded if you have lodged a ‘refund request’ within the 7 days of your PIA account purchases.
BitCoin payments are refunded on effective Bitcoin-USD rate, not on the amount on of the billing. In addition, the gift-card based transactions are non-refundable.
Throughout this Private Internet Access Review, we have not found any customer complaints for unsettled refunds, so we think it goes on pretty supportive of PIA’s refund policy.
Private Internet Access Servers and Locations
10 countries, 18 locations and a whooping 977+ servers is what gets PIA the supreme trophy of one of the most dense server base.
Though PIA intends to add more countries into its server coverage, it is simply the strongest where it currently is, because a rough average for countries/servers is 100. A really envious point for other providers, even the big ones!
Private Internet Access represents servers in more than 10 countries: U.S, Canada, U.K, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Germany, Romania and Hong Kong.
When you connect to a particular server, you will be assigned an IP of that respective region. Hence, you can access any geo-restricted content produced for the native eyes only.
And there is more to it. Private Internet Access does not throttle torrents in any way. You can use any of PIA’s Giga-byte servers for P2P/torrent traffic.
For port forwarding, however, you can use one of the servers in Netherlands, Switzerland, CA North York, Romania, Sweden, France and Germany. Needless to say, these countries have relatively more lax laws for Torrent sharing and downloading.
There is one thing about PIA’s VPN locations which seemed to bother me. PIA has effectively restricted itself to 10 countries (a surprising 100 server per country) rather than going for a horizontal expansion.
Although this would not bother an ordinary PIA user as much, one who wants connection to servers in exotic locations like UAE or India may not be seeing a welcome sign from PIA.
One of the best things I noticed about Private Internet Access was its transparency with the speed test.
Most VPN providers and their reviews claim to show unreasonably ‘averaged’ internet speeds which may well be overstated or understated.
As a rule of thumb, the fall of internet speed with a VPN is directly proportional to your existing (without VPN) speed. The VPN-enabled speed is different on different ISPs, different servers, and different locations & times, and so on.
You won’t need to make use of rocket sense metrics to determine the actual fall of speed with and without PIA’s VPN, because it has a dedicated page to show you speeds for different servers, and our reasoning states that they are pretty much honest and accurate.
I tested two of Private Internet Access’ servers, one of an easy location i.e. UK (London), another of a relatively difficult location i.e. Hong Kong.
The first of the screenshots below is my internet speed notwithstanding a VPN. The next two show servers speeds of PIA servers with the VPN on.
As you can note the fall in internet speed due to VPN for the UK server is around 10%, from 0.77 Mbps to 0.70 Mbps. For the Hong Kong server, the speed reduced a little more to 0.68 Mbps from the original 0.77 Mbps.
At a time when most VPN provider will create the speed loss of over 30% or even 50%, PIA comparative 10-12% of fall is pretty much acceptable.
One thing is important to note as for the speed tests for VPNs. That is, speed results are based on the type of VPN protocol in place. A light protocol such as PPTP creates a less load on speed, though it is also least secure among all VPN protocols.
Heavy protocols like SSH or L2TP will make a heavier toll on the speed. Most users therefore need to make a speed-security trade-off to keep their lights on for both.
One of the key elements of a dependable VPN service is the quality and level of customer support it offers. VPN customer support, like any tech support, may come in various forms including telephone, email, trouble tickets, contact forms, live chat, tutorials/guides/manuals and remote help.
Almost all of these major forms of customer support are accommodated by Private Internet Access.
For existing users, PIA has a dedicated client control panel which has many options answering commonly placed queries under various sections, or heads. In it, you can for example check your package, servers and billing information etc.
PIA subscribers get a bundle guides and instructional manuals regarding configuration, installation and troubleshooting of their VPN problems.
You get, for instance, setup guides for PPTP VPN for almost all machines and operating systems (Mac OS X 10.4/5, Iphone 3, ipad, Android, Windows etc).
There are also guides for advanced users wanting OpenVPN SSL Usage with Private Internet Access VPN, and as usual help materials you get installation settings and guides for VPN protocols like IPSEC / L2TP.
In addition to this, there is a ‘Contact Form’ option for a new or existing user on the site.
Private Internet Access has multiple means through which the clients can reach them. The customers can use their “Contact Us form that is available on their website and the company also offers a customer support toll free number and email address if you are residing in the New York area.
There is a Fax number for communication and there is also a Facebook page so that the clients can leave the feedback and view any current news of the company through the Facebook feed.
Although a stream of options exists for customer support from PIA, it is their Live Chat that attracted me the most, and guess what, it works even without supply ‘any’ information to the chat client. Can you guess the response time? 5 seconds!
Private Internet Access: Payment Options
Like server count, PIA seems to have one of the biggest payment options basket for its VPN subscribers. You can pay via PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, Amazon Payments, OK PAY, CashU and American Express.
The payment gateway appears to be really secure. We did not find any issues with payment process for PIA.
PIA has also introduced a very ‘anonymous’ payment method i.e. through gift cards. Yes, PIA allows you to settle subscription against gift cards coupons for Starbucks, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart.
Private Internet Access Software and Installation
PIA sports some really easy-to-use VPN software and apps. PIA’s VPN client for Windows is neatly built and has an easy and user friendly interface.
Moreover, PIA’s has made impressive security additions in its VPN software namely, port forwarding, DNS leak protection, Disconnect protection, Best Server Detection and Alternate Configurations for multiple devices.
Encryption and Protocols
Encryption, or the masked form of computer data, is a necessary feature of a VPN service. Different VPN providers have different compatibility options for both encryption of online data and the protocol with which it transports over the World Wide Web.
Private Internet Access offers access to the users via PPTP, L2TP/IP Sec and open VPN.
Open VPN is most recommended and it provides optimal connection and is best while accessing blocked sites as it offers access via alternate connection on pre-existing methods.
L2TP/ IP Sec and PPTP are used to maximize the compatibility with devices like Android, Boxee and iOS.
A noteworthy thing about PIA encryption and protocol is its use of AES 128 bit encryption by default, with options for AES 256 encryption.
Because most VPNs will usually do away with a weaker encryption model (CBC-Blowfish model for example) I have a good reason to grant full marks to PIA for this part..
Private Internet Access practices a zero log policy, enabling users to browse with complete freedom and anonymity. No usernames or passwords are ever logged by the webserver.
Except for the purposes of payment and registration, PIA does not bear any of your personally identifiable information, including all of your traffic logs, browsing history, internet sessions or whatsoever.
In addition to privacy and log policies, I also noted an export policy on PIA’s website. According to PIA export policy, you should refrain from exporting or using the software in countries explicitly banned for export.
The export-ban countries list includes Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.
If there is an old daddy of VPN that costs for as low as $3.33 per month, you ought to have a Private Internet Access VPN in place.
Extensive server count, reliable speeds, impressive customer support and above all a really easy-to-hand VPN setup and interface helps Private Internet Access to stand out from its competitors.
Of course, there is some room for improvement with PIA service, especially when it comes to horizontal expansion of servers and alternate routes for export-ban countries, but overall the value-for-price equation goes in very much in favor of Private Internet Access.
Overall it can be said that Private Internet Access provides its customers a safe and secured internet access and it can be considered as the best choice for high quality VPN services at low costs that consider anonymity seriously.
The setup is simple and reliable and performance is also good. Though the company does not offer a free trial or money back guarantee, it has a great choice of servers with blazing fast speeds, very affordable rates and with no bandwidth limits.
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