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Hola is one of the most famous VPN variants around, but it’s also one of the oldest, having been introduced back in 2012, and one of the most controversial. Is it still a viable option for privacy fans and, if not, which Hola alternative should you go for?
Whether you are a long term Hola VPN user or you’re thinking of signing up, this blog will explain what the VPN has to offer and suggest a few excellent alternatives which may well deliver better protection and performance.
Introducing Hola: one of the VPN world’s most innovative providers
When Hola debuted in 2012, it offered something almost revolutionary. Building on the expansion of peer-to-peer downloading, the developers Ofer Vilenski and Derry Shribman realized that P2P could also be used to create privacy tools for web users.
By leveraging large communities of P2P users, Hola could route traffic through multiple nodes, theoretically delivering both improved privacy and better speeds than conventional web connections.
When users sign up for Hola, the network can then use parts of their bandwidth that are currently underused, making more efficient use of web capacity overall – a neat concept that other VPNs haven’t really tried to imitate.
Instead, conventional VPNs route traffic through remote servers, which assign anonymous IP addresses and send data onwards to destination websites. With Hola, you can still achieve anonymous browsing, but there are no routing servers. It’s a very different style of VPN.
Importantly, it’s also a free VPN (at least for desktops). If you just want a barebones VPN, the basic client is free of charge, but freemium rates apply for the Hola PLUS package, which allows you to minimize the amount of your bandwidth used by other Hola members.
Have there been any problems associated with Hola VPN?
However, while Hola has been very innovative in the way it uses bandwidth, the service hasn’t been able to dodge controversy. Here are a few issues that VPN experts have flagged for Hola users to think about:
- Hola is also pretty invasive when it comes to linking to social media accounts, seeking to harvest information about your name and address and even your friend list.
- Hola is based in Israel, a state that routinely cooperates with the extended 14-eyes alliance, making surveillance a concern.
- Hola doesn’t use 256-bit AES encryption, relying on burying your data in their network of users. That’s hardly as effective as military-grade protection.
- Testing regularly shows that Hola leaks user IP addresses, and it almost never bypasses the geo-blocking measures of various online platforms, so Netflix fans will be disappointed.
- The client lacks basic security features like a kill switch, so if your protection drops, you’ll be totally exposed.
- In 2017, Hola was exposed as using its network to run a botnet, potentially using innocent users’ bandwidth for criminal activities. So there’s a small chance that signing up for this P2P privacy network puts you at risk of prosecution for the sins of its developers.
So, there are plenty of potential downsides associated with using Hola. These issues regularly place the service in the lower ranks of VPNs, and we wouldn’t argue with that too much. While Hola was once a creative force, there are probably too many security and performance issues to recommend it to users today. So where else should you look for a Hola alternative?
Find the best Hola VPN alternative from our rankings
Thankfully, there’s absolutely no need to rely on a poor-quality VPN for your digital security. In today’s market, VPN users are spoiled for choice, and many of the best Hola VPN alternative providers are hardly more expensive than the service’s PLUS package. Here are some of our suggestions:
Before we discuss free VPNs, it’s worthwhile to offer a couple of elite Hola VPN alternatives. In almost all global rankings, ExpressVPN sits near the top of the list, and with good reason. Fast, with a huge server network, 256-bit encryption, solid customer support, and clients for all major devices, this provider outscores Hola across the board. But it’s not free. Read ExpressVPN review.
The main competitor to ExpressVPN, NordVPN, has a larger network of servers (5,700+ compared to 3,000+) and also offers various additional security features, such as Double VPN. But in general, there’s not much of a difference between these two, except for the cheaper NordVPN long-term plans. For the record, ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, while NordVPN is located in Panama – and both should be outside the surveillance net of major powers. Read NordVPN review
Now, let’s move onto budget alternatives. After all, the key selling point with Hola for most people is its free package. For much stronger free protection, give Tunnelbear a try. The free Tunnelbear package limits users to 500MB of data per month, but it has truly global reach and is very easy to use. Moreover, with 256-bit encryption, it’s light years ahead of Hola when it comes to security. Read TunnelBear VPN review.
4. Windscribe VPN
Another leading contender for the free VPN crown, Canadian provider Windscribe matches Tunnelbear’s encryption and IP protection and may be just a bit faster as well. But in this case, users can benefit from a whopping 10GB of monthly data. As usual, the free client suffers a little in comparison with the paid version, with limited servers for unpaid members. But as free VPNs go, it’s very competitive. Read Windscribe review.
ProtonVPN is one of the most secure VPN services in its own right, but the reason we’re putting it on this list is the free version. This is a VPN tool with hands down the best free version on the market. You get plenty of features as well as unlimited data transfer/bandwidth. Who says that privacy has to be expensive? Read ProtonVPN review.
Why you should think twice about using free VPNs
ProtonVPN, Windscribe, and Tunnelbear are respected free VPNs, and they are much more reliable than Hola. However, it’s important to know the difference between free and paid-for VPN services.
Generally speaking, a free Hola VPN alternative will come with noticeable restrictions on its performance, with fewer servers, no P2P coverage, data limits, and slower speeds. This can cripple the experience for streaming fans.
They very rarely manage to work around the geo-blocking used by companies like Netflix and regularly resort to displaying ads to make up their revenue. Using free VPNs to beat censorship in countries like China is almost never possible, and the risk of IP leakage is just much higher.
For all of these reasons, we would advise Hola users to upgrade to a high-quality paid VPN like ExpressVPN or NordVPN. In many ways, there isn’t that much difference between the pseudo-VPN service offered by Hola and free genuine VPNs. So take some time to make a decision. Your privacy matters, and with some great VPNs available, there’s no need to take unnecessary risks.
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Julie is a firm believer in equal rights for everyone. She is a traveler and blogger, focusing her efforts on exposing censorship and discrimination around the world. She wants to hold corrupt governments and shady companies accountable by writing investigative articles and helpful guides.