Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Concerned by increased government surveillance, limited Internet access or the potential for your data to be sniffed over an unsecured wireless network? You need a VPN, and NordVPN‘s impressive service is one that you should consider.
NordVPN is generously sponsoring 15 NordVPN accounts valid for one year, and for one special reader: a brand new iPhone 6 with free lifetime NordVPN access. Prizes are valued at close to $4,000!
VPNs in the Post-Snowden World
Virtual Private Networks have become relied upon more and more over the past couple of years following the Snowden revelations concerning surveillance activities by government agencies such as the NSA, and GCHQ in the United Kingdom. VPNs are also a useful tool to those users for which torrenting is a regular activity but have seen their ISPs block once-popular destinations such as The Pirate Bay.
Meanwhile, if you’re in a country where your Internet activity is the subject of heavy regulation, using a VPN can mean the difference between communication with the outside world and being virtually locked away. And if you regularly access online services over an unsecured WiFi connection, a VPN is vital for ensuring your data remains private and secure.
NordVPN is a VPN provider offering military-grade protection from as little as $4 a month (Bitcoin is accepted), and offers support for Windows, iOS, games consoles, with apps for Mac OS X and Android coming soon (NordVPN also provides a handy tutorial page to help you get set up). Using a Double Data Encryption system, NordVPN believe this is the tightest security in the VPN industry, and is something that none of their competitors offer.
To make things even more secure, NordVPN’s servers are located around the world and are under the jurisdiction of Panama, which has no compulsory data retention laws. NordVPN therefore feel they can offer 100% private Internet access to their users.
In recent months, we’ve learned that even VPNs are not bulletproof when it comes to requests from governments and the legal teams of media producers, which is why NordVPN’s approach is particularly interesting.
Getting Started with NordVPN
To use NordVPN, you’ll need to head to their pricing page and select a plan, creating your account as you do so, and await the confirmation email. On the software download page, grab the version for your platform, install and sign in.
Note that the Windows version doesn’t require installation, making it a useful addition to any portable applications collection.
Once signed in, you’ll be presented with a collection of servers to connect your VPN through. Each server will display the speed of the connection in milliseconds and a percentage bar which shows the current load on the server.
For the best results, choose a server that is fast and with a lighter load. You should also check how the servers are grouped. The Double VPN (for P2P connections) ultra-secure option is listed first, which works by encrypting data on one node, and then sending the data to a second node for repeated encryption.
This is followed by servers offering TOR (ideal for keeping secure from surveillance, as well as ad tracking-free browsing), Ultra Fast TV for media streaming and even an anti-DDOS option. NordVPN also offers dedicated servers, as well as the standard VPNs.
Once connected, you’ll see the IP address and location of the server displayed, along with an up-to-date report on the server load. You’ll also see some useful information about your account, such as the date when your subscription to NordVPN expires. (Should you choose to disconnect NordVPN, you’ll find it minimised to the system tray.)
Now up and running, all Internet activity is routed through the chosen NordVPN server, so gaming, web browsing and email, downloading and streaming will all be sent through that secure virtual private network.
As well as switching between TCP and UDP using the buttons on the main console, NordVPN offers a collection of advanced options, found in the Settings window. Here you will find options to launch NordVPN with Windows, minimized if necessary, and tools to protect against DNS leak (which happens when an ISP is monitoring its DNS and can see your activity). You’ll also spot the autoconnect option, and look out too for the Process kill list box, which will kill specified processes (chosen from the Running processes button or Browse) when your VPN connection drops.
With NordVPN activated, your connection cannot be monitored and the data concerning your activity is not retained, thereby applying a degree of anonymity that other VPNs may struggle with. This also makes NordVPN an ideal solution for defeating region blocked services. Should you wish to watch Hulu in the UK, you can (assuming you have a payment method setup) and Netflix, BBC, ITV, Sky, RaiTV and any other video streaming services that are usually restricted by your location can all be accessed from anywhere.
You’ll also find that NordVPN will allow unmetered connections from two devices, so you might have it active on your desktop computer and mobile device at the same time, without having to create a second account or pay more. Or you could just enable NordVPN on your router and secure every device in your network.
We’ve seen how easy it is to start using NordVPN, but what other reasons might you have for choosing it?
Speed and Reliability with NordVPN
Connecting to a fast server is the secret of getting good results from a VPN, and NordVPN offers a host of servers around the world, a fact that should enable you to establish the fastest connections.
But connecting to a Brazilian server while situated in France isn’t going to be the best solution. Instead, you need to keep your choice local, thereby reducing the ping time between you and your VPN server. Anything over 100ms is going to be sluggish, a reminder of the days of dialup Internet; instead, aim for servers with a connection speed under 50ms.
With a speedy connection comes reliability, and you’ll find that using NordVPN is as seamless as connecting to the web without it. Given the enhanced security it delivers, you won’t want to go back to going online without a VPN.
How Do I Win a NordVPN Account and the iPhone 6?
The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.
Have us review your apps and services. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.