Cyber threats are on the rise, and the threat of identity theft is mounting. Additionally, more and more companies are interested in your personal data and will go to pretty extreme lengths to get their hands on it. Lookin’ at you, Zuckerberg. With this in mind, many savvy consumers — that would be you — are looking for ways to protect their privacy online.
Way back in the early days of the internet, effectively protecting your data online required some pretty intense computer know-how. Encrypting your data or routing it through offsite servers was beyond the average Joe, and unless you had a computer science Ph.D., you didn’t really have a lot of options to defend yourself.
These days, there are lots of options for regular folks to ensure their data is protected. One of the most rapidly growing methods — and one of the most effective — is the use of virtual private networks, or VPNs. We recently spent some time testing one of the more popular VPNs on the market today — IPVanish. We’ll detail everything we found below, but overall, we really liked what we saw.
FYI: A VPN is a secure, private connection made between computers over the internet. Using a VPN all but ensures no unauthorized third party will be able to get their hands on your data, and even if they do, it’ll be so scrambled that it’ll be unreadable.
Before we start unpacking the service, though, let’s take a quick look at some pros and cons to give you a better idea of what we’re looking at.
So IPVanish VPN is sitting pretty in our opinion. They have solid services and the addition of optional cloud storage is a pretty neat bonus feature.
And right off the bat, we were really pleased with the price. Their protections are extremely affordable. Here’s a quick breakdown of their pricing model:
|IPVanish Plan||Cost Per Month||Cost Per Year|
|VPN||$4.99 for First Month, $9.99 After||$39.99 for First Year, $79.99 After|
|VPN+Storage||$5.49 for First Month, $10.99 After||$49.99 for First Year, $99.99 After|
We’re not wild about the variable price structure — more on that in our guide to IPVanish’s pricing and plans — but even after the first month, we think the cost is pretty reasonable. We went ahead and purchased their VPN+Storage plan to get the full scope of what they were offering.
Did You Know: There are three common types of VPNs: Secure Socket Layer (which is now giving way to TLS — but that’s a different discussion)1, Internet Protocol Security, and Mobile VPNs. The latter are exactly what they sound like — private networks for wireless connections. SSL and TLS are most common in online shopping and data transfers, and IPsec VPNs encrypt and protect across a wide array of applications.2
Purchasing IPVanish was pretty straightforward. After we selected the plan, we were prompted to create an account by entering our email address and creating a password, then we entered our payment information. So far, so good, but there is one thing worth pointing out here. Unlike what we found when we reviewed Cyberghost, you can’t pay for IPVanish with cryptocurrency. Is this a huge red flag? Not for most folks, but for intense privacy hawks it might be a bit of a turnoff.
Once that was done, we were sent an email to verify and activate our account. Again, pretty standard stuff here — nothing out of the ordinary. The email came promptly, and the link worked just fine.
Did You Know: The history of the VPN starts in 1996 when a Microsoft employee — most credit Gurdeep Singh-Pall — developed Peer to Peer Tunneling Protocol, or PPTP.3
After we clicked through the email verification, we were sent to a landing page where we were prompted to download the software. Note that IPVanish VPN works across various operating systems including macOS, Windows, and Linux. The software is also available on several different mobile devices, but more on that later.
We clicked “download software” and got things cranking. Now let’s look under the hood of IPVanish to see how it works.
Once we opened the software, we were prompted to enter the username and password we created in the setup. We were then prompted to begin a tutorial explaining the VPN and its services.
Kudos to IPVanish, here. We love a good tutorial, especially when we’re dealing with something that can get a little technical.
First, we were told to select our region, and that IPVanish would select the fastest server for us. Next, we were shown that our real IP address would change to one that used IPVanish’s servers — hence the name. We were shown where we could toggle the VPN on and off, and then we were ready to hit the ground running.
Did You Know: An IP address is a number used to identify any device connected to a network. Simply put, it’s how devices find each other so they can talk to one another over the internet.4
Like most VPNs, IPVanish runs in the background, and for the most part, average people are not going to need to fiddle with it too much during their typical day-to-day web browsing.
One of the things we really liked about IPVanish VPN is that it just works without much input on our end. It runs in its own little window that you can minimize and literally forget about. After following the instructions from the tutorial, we were connected to the VPN in a matter of moments.
In the dashboard, we could see our traffic running in real-time, which we think is a pretty neat addition. You’re not going to really be too concerned with this during a typical day of browsing, but it’s nice to know you have access to it, and it’s visual feedback that the VPN is working. Is this the most sleek UI we’ve ever seen? No, we probably found that when we unpacked NordVPN, but it’s still pretty neat – and more importantly, functional.
FYI: On a Mac, the IPVanish dashboard window can be a little wonky to move and resize. It’s by no means a dealbreaker, but it can be a little annoying at times.
To confirm, though, we went to ipleak.net to make sure everything was working properly with IPVanish. Good news — it certainly was. Our IP address was obfuscated, and our traffic location wasn’t local. We have never even been to Wichita!
One quick thought, though. It can be a little difficult to understand exactly what you’re looking at on IPVanish’s dashboard right off the bat. The light and dark green curves moving through the graph represent your upload and download speeds, which you can also see at the top of the graph and at the bottom of the white window labeled “data up” and “data down.” In that window, you’ll also find the time you’ve been connected, the protocol you’re working with, and the server you’re connected to.
One concern with any VPN is what it will do to your connection speeds. Since you’re routing traffic through non-local servers, you might notice significant slowdowns and a decrease in overall performance.
Did You Know: Your internet “speed” is a function of how quickly you download and upload data across a network. They are two discrete measurements.
We’re happy to report that after several days of testing, we really didn’t notice any significant slowdowns. There were moments where load times seemed slightly longer, but we didn’t know how much of that was because it was actually slow, or because we were expecting it to be.
To get objective, we headed over to an online speed testing tool to get some readings.
Without the VPN connected, our baseline download speed was a little over 100 Mbps per second and our upload speeds were around 47 Mbps per second. Not too bad!
While using the VPN, there was no significant decrease in our download speeds, and our upload speeds decreased ever so slightly. Now, take into account we’re in a major city with top-tier internet connectivity so your experience may not be exactly the same. But we will say we shouldn’t expect to notice a significant decrease in performance if you choose to use IPVanish.
So honestly, this is about as far as most folks will need to take their IPVanish experience. Once it’s connected and running (and confirmed), you’re protected. People uninterested in the advanced functions can literally set it and forget it at this point, but we wanted to see what else IPVanish VPN has to offer.
But first, we recommend watching our video review of IPVanish to learn more about the pros and cons, features, and how it can shore up your online security…
There are a few neat features you can control in the preferences section. They mainly have to do with how the program operates upon startup, and what you want the default settings to be.
One thing you can do is automatically set IPVanish to connect to the fastest server in a particular country — this is helpful if you’re traveling internationally and want to avoid geo-restrictions. Additionally, IPVanish is one of the few VPNs on the market that allow you to bypass Netflix’s anti-VPN software, so let’s say you’re in Saudi Arabia and you want to watch some good old fashioned American streaming, you can route your traffic to always connect through the fastest American server with this setting.
You can also tell IPVanish VPN which protocol to use. OpenVPN UDP is the default. If you’re using a mac, like us, you also have OpenVPN TCP, L2TP, IPSec, and IKEv2. If you’re on a Windows machine, you’ll also have basic PPTP functionality. For the sake of context, this level of customizability is pretty impressive. When we reviewed ProtonVPN, we found you only had access to a single protocol. For what it’s worth though — that’s still a great service and very much worth checking out.
If none of that makes sense to you, it’s totally fine. These protocols represent different, nuanced ways your VPN connects to other computers through the internet.5 In very simple terms, some are better for different activities than others. If you want to go down that rabbit hole, IPVanish has a pretty good guide on their website on which protocol does what, but for standard purposes, OpenVPN is the best protocol to use.
With an OpenVPN protocol selected, you’ll also have access to two important functions — a Kill Switch and a Scramble option.
With a Kill Switch engaged, your computer will automatically disconnect from the internet if your VPN connection becomes interrupted. With this functionality enabled, there’s no chance your IP address will accidentally become exposed and your anonymity will never become compromised. This is great functionality for people who really take their privacy seriously.
There’s also a Scramble function, which hides OpenVPN protocol traffic. Some countries are super serious about internet censorship and can identify OpenVPN traffic and terminate your connection. Similar to the geographic-based protections we saw when we reviewed Surfshark, the Scramble option allows you to bypass geo-based restrictions. We don’t recommend Spring Breaking in North Korea, but if you do, the Scramble function will make sure you can still post your pictures on Facebook.
On certain operating systems, IPVanish allows you to control exactly what traffic goes through your VPN, and which traffic does not. We saw really similar functionality when we analyzed HMA, and want to point out that this can be really helpful with certain streaming sites, as well as reducing the backlog of traffic going through offsite servers – this is especially helpful if you’re traveling abroad and want to connect to a local server but don’t necessarily need all your traffic routed through the VPN. This can keep speeds reasonable while keeping you protected.
IPVanish also plays well with popular torrenting clients like BitTorrent and uTorrent. Their zero-log policy and lightning fast speeds make them a great choice if you’re using these services and want some privacy.
So that’s about it for the advanced features. There are few other options you can tinker around with, but that covers IPVanish’s core and advanced functionality for you. All great stuff if you’re on a desktop or a laptop, but if you’re like us you’re using your smartphone quite a bit — and maybe on unsecured networks.
So … what’s IPVanish VPN like on your smartphone?
The easiest way to get IPVanish on your phone is to head over to your app store. The software works on both iOS platforms as well as Android, so no matter your preference, you’re covered.
Once it had downloaded, we were prompted to enter our login credentials and allow the software access to our connectivity settings. It literally took less than 30 seconds to get the app up and running, and just like that we were protected.
One particular feature we’d like to call out is IPVanish’s connect on-demand feature. When enabled, the VPN will automatically turn on if the device connects to an untrusted network. That certainly takes the guesswork out of things, and the next time you’re working away at your favorite café, you don’t have to worry about who might be lurking around on their public WiFi.
That said, the app was pretty much a boiled-down version of the desktop experience. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there weren’t as many settings to tweak, and we felt like we didn’t have as much control over things.
Overall we were really pleased with the IPVanish VPN mobile experience. We certainly felt more protected connecting to networks beyond our home’s wireless. But we had one last thing to check out before we could make a definitive call on this service — where’s that storage that was included with our subscription?
We were a bit frustrated that IPVanish made us go hunting for access to the cloud storage we purchased, but in all honesty, it wasn’t that hard to find. We had to go to their site and sign in to our account. Once we did, SugarSync was available in the navigation bar. We snapped a shot of it below.
SugarSync is a third-party partner of IPVanish, and it’s a little beyond the scope of this review to get into their service. However, if you purchase a VPN+Storage plan through IPVanish, you’ll have access to secure file storage, sharing, syncing, and backup that supports most document and media file types. All files are secured using AES 256 encryption and data transfers are protected using Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols. In layman’s terms — that means it’s all super duper secure.
IPVanish is a great VPN and has more than enough power to protect the average internet denizen. It’s got all the functionality the everyday person would need, as well as some advanced functionality that would be helpful for folks who travel internationally, or who are real sticklers for online privacy. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles some higher-end products offer, it’s still a solid choice for almost everyone.
It’s not going to break the bank, either. The most you’re going to pay is about $11 per month, which places IPVanish VPN squarely in the “reasonable” category for us. Based on our experience with the product, we’d recommend IPVanish for anyone looking for solid, all-around VPN protections.
For VPN access alone, IPVanish costs $4.99 for the first month and $9.99 for each month after. If you include third party storage with your subscription, it’s $5.95 for the first month, then $10.99 each month after.
IPVanish offers access to more than 1,300 servers across the globe.
Yes, IPVanish VPN has kill switch functionality.
IPVanish works on a number of platforms including Windows, macOS, and select Linux distributions. It’s also available on several mobile platforms including Android, iOS, and Fire TV.
In our testing, we didn’t notice any significant decreases in performance while using IPVanish.
Thakkar, J. (2020, March 23). SSL vs TLS: Decoding the Difference Between SSL and TLS. InfoSec Insights.
Kerrigan, S. (2018, April 27). Virtual Private Networks: How They Work and Why You Might Need One. Interesting Engineering.
Mocan, T. (2018, September 3). VPN History & The Future of VPN Technology. CactusVPN.
Fruhlinger, J. (2020, November 3). What is an IP Address? And What is Your IP Address? NetworkWorld.
Pankaj, P. (2019, April 10). Types of Virtual Private Network (VPN) and its Protocols. Geeks For Geeks.
Derek Prall is a VPN and cybersecurity expert with more than seven years of experience in the industry. He has spent thousands of hours researching identity theft protection, VPNs, and other ways to keep safe online. To date, Derek has written nearly 100 comprehensive resources for SafeHome.org. As a professional journalist, he has contributed to reputable publications such as TD Magazine, New Jersey Herald, and many others. Learn more about Derek here