NCP is one of Europe’s leading information security companies. Based in the German city of Nuremberg, NCP has become a staple of the global cybersecurity market. It is known for its adaptable solutions, including firewalls, authentication systems, storage encryption and – for the purposes of this review – the NCP VPN.
It’s important to note that NCP focuses mostly on corporate clients, not smaller businesses or individuals. So, if you’re looking a VPN for yourself or your family – it’s best to look elsewhere.
VPN technology is in the DNA of NCP, so we would expect a strong showing here. Is NCP VPN any good?
In short, NCP VPN is a solid service for insuring secure company communications. Having said that, ths VPN has plenty of potential applications, so let’s get to know it in more detail.
As with all Virtual Private Networks, it doesn’t really matter how many applications a VPN has if its basic security features aren’t up to snuff. So let’s see what the NCP VPN client offers for protection. To summarize, here’s what clients can expect:
- A client-based VPN, which uses the IPSec or SSL protocols to create encryption-protected tunnels between remote devices.
- Uses Elliptic Curve Cryptography to secure network connections, ensuring optimal connection speeds with military-level encryption.
- Certificate-based authentication for all remote devices connected to the network.
- VPN PathFinder technology, allowing seamless addition of extra devices and interaction with external networks.
- Special solutions for IoT (Internet of Things) enabled devices, including remote gateway and central coordination tools to govern industrial networks and remote working communities.
The basics seem impressive here. Having the option of choosing IPSec or SSL allows network managers to configure hybrid networks, to suit the variety of devices that they need to manage. And PathFinder is NCP’s proprietary tool to manage third-party devices, ensuring networks remain protected from unknown actors while having the ability to expand safely.
On the encryption side, ECC is an interesting choice. RSA is a more common choice with VPNs, but ECC offers significant speed and general performance advantages while remaining just as secure.
Authentication is as it should be, with OTP authentication, biometrics, PKI, and smart card-based digital certificates all available. The basic building blocks of a solid corporate VPN are here, in an easy to implement and secure format. NCP VPN is certainly a competitor for other major players, like Citrix or Cisco.
Privacy is the close counterpart of security, and it’s absolutely critical for corporate VPNs. Many of NCP’s competitors are extremely “data-hungry”, collecting real-time information about clients and their employees. Sometimes, this is done to enable analytical systems or update threat databases, but it’s also a screen for marketing – so if you can find VPNs that keep data collection to a minimum, try to do so.
Fortunately, with NCP data collection is relatively light. The company does collect data relating to “performance of contract” (i.e. licensing) but not much else, and it looks like third party sharing for other uses is strictly limited. For instance, the company’s Privacy Statement reports that “VPN Haus [NCP] will not rent or sell potentially personally-identifying and personally-identifying information to anyone”, which is refreshing.Having said that, Germany isn’t the most privacy-friendly jurisdiction in the world. It is part of the general 14-eyes intelligence sharing zone, which means that there’s always a risk of data leaking to national security organizations.
Features, installation, and deployment
NCP offers its VPN for a number of platforms, including some that aren’t usually available. Here are the main options for the IPSec NCP Secure Client:
- Windows – available for Windows 7 and above
- Juniper – NCP offers a Juniper VPN Client specifically designed for Juniper’s Windows-based networking solutions (something that very few VPNs offer)
- macOS – available for macOS 10.12 (Sierra) and above
- Android – available for Android 4.4 and later
Eagle-eyed readers will instantly note that there’s no iOS NCP VPN client on the download page, which seems to be a major omission, and could be problematic for companies whose employees rely on iPads for remote work or POS solutions. However, if you head to the actual VPN pages, there is an iOS client. It simply needs to be obtained from the Apple Store.
Aside from that, there’s no Linux client, either – a surprising absence. However, the company does offer a VPN service for Ubuntu, SUSE, Fedora, CentOS, and Debian-based networks – just not as a standalone client. So if you rely on Linux, you can still manage remote working via the NCP console.
The standalone NCP VPN clients vary significantly in appearance, and the Windows version is slightly more complex than the rest. It can accommodate 3G and 4G cards, incorporate personal firewall technology around remote devices, and take advantage of biometrics to govern access. The client provides instant readouts regarding signal strength and speeds, and connectivity is provided via a single-click interface. Everything else is determined centrally.
iOS-based clients can use Touch ID as authentication, while both iOS and Android clients come with auto-connect options, to ensure always-on protection when accessing corporate networks.
All clients are fully localized for English regions, despite the company’s German roots, and plenty of additional languages can be selected from the client panel.
Device numbers are essentially unlimited, but subject to price variations, depending on the products supplied and how many clients are required. And new devices can be added with ease, via USB sticks or CDs. Existing configurations can be shipped across via the “ncpphone.cfg” file, which shouldn’t pose many problems for employees.
Everything is simple to configure, from the Secure Entry console to individual VPN clients, although scaling isn’t as smooth as with some alternatives. But overall, NCP has created an IPSec VPN which delivers plenty of functionality and a level of user-friendliness that compares well with major competitors.
Plans and pricing
Customers need to choose which license they intend to buy, and licenses are purchased via perpetual or time-limited subscriptions. For instance, sample packages could go something like this:
- The NCP Secure Entry Windows Client, perpetual license $172
- The NCP Secure Entry Juniper Client, for 1 year, $42
- The NCP Secure Entry Juniper Client, for 3 years $70.80
Customers purchase the Secure Entry Client as a standalone package, but not all platforms offer perpetual licenses – complicating billing considerably. The lack of a perpetual license for the Juniper VPN Client is slightly offputting, especially as it is available for the Windows Client. And there are no short-term offers for the Windows, macOS, or Android clients. It’s a perpetual-or-nothing deal, which seems slightly inflexible.
Some of the company’s partners offer better rates for multiple devices, so they are the place to shop for the best deals. However, before you do so, be sure to give the 30-day trial version a spin. It has all of the features you’ll receive with the main version, so you will get a great sense of what to expect.
As far as pricing goes, NCP is a bit of a mixed bag. The free trial is appealing, and prices can be very low. However, if you purchase from the company’s online store, the offers don’t make sense for larger device communities. So shop around to find a good deal. And while Juniper users will appreciate the dedicated client, the lack of perpetual licenses is a major drawback.
When we tested the VPN on Windows, we found that it managed around 90% of our original speed in most cases, which is more than acceptable for a corporate VPN. So, if you are looking for a lightweight security option to facilitate efficient remote working, or to construct IoT solutions, it should work well.
Support can make or break a VPN, and nobody wants to be left without assistance at critical moments. NCP doesn’t do too badly in this area, but it’s not a strong point. It currently offers the following support options:
- Direct email support from the NCP help desk
- An email support form to raise dockets and access help
- Free use of the NCP Library, with configuration guides, datasheets, white papers, and much more.
- The option of enrolling staff on technical training courses that are specifically tailored to NCP users.
- Working hours phone support from the company’s Clearwater, FL US offices, or the option to write to the company’s US HQ at: East Coast Office, 601 Cleveland Street, Suite 501-25, Clearwater, FL 33755.
Not too much has been missed here, and we found that staff were very prompt in responding to email queries, both via the company email address, and the online support form. That’s extremely reassuring. However, it’s important to note that staff aren’t there to field complex technical queries. Instead, customers are likely to be diverted to the reseller who provided their VPN, and the quality of support they provide can vary.
There’s also no Live Chat feature, which is a little disappointing.
However, overall, the company seems pretty well set up for US customers seeking a VPN solution.
- Wide range of secure IPSec/SSL VPN clients
- Excellent authentication options for remote working
- Very easy to install and add to other devices
- Excellent support library
- Fast, reliable VPN connections
- Not the cheapest VPN when scaled up to 1,000+ device networks
- Strange licensing options for Juniper networks and standalone clients
- No user forum or live chat
- In-depth support is dependent upon the partner chosen by buyers
The NCP VPN Client provides an elegantly simple encryption and anonymization solution for remote working. Companies can certainly rely on its range of clients to keep data safe and facilitate remote working, but they may struggle with the licensing system, and support isn’t quite as slick as it could be. Nevertheless, it’s a solid offering.