In a business of trust like Virtual Private Networking (VPN), the top names rise through years of respect for their user base. NordVPN has managed to do it over a period of 10 years. The founding group of four people started the project in 2008 and the first NordVPN server ‘opened shop’ in 2012. Since then, their product has moved from strength to strength, expanding the network, introducing support for various devices, and adding ever new features. Currently, NordVPN has almost 5,000 servers spread out over 62 countries and is known as probably the most versatile VPN – combining security, speed, and function. NordVPN has received favorable reviews from such publications as Wired, PCmag, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Forbes, Cnet, and, of course, us here at VPNpro.
Some of the primary reasons for Nord’s success have been their clarity of vision and a staunchly principled approach. The company’s manifesto pays homage to the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee (TimBL), and his vision of the Internet. TimBL imagined the online realm as a safe and free space, unfettered by the censorship of governments or editorial gatekeepers – a sort of anarchic utopia where a free exchange of ideas was the norm and surveillance mechanisms powerless. Needless to say, the Internet has strayed far away from this vision and, in many ways, the level of surveillance now is much greater than it ever was. Having lived during the wild-west days of the Web, the NordVPN team has not forgotten the ideals set forth by TimBL, and their product aims to bring this vision back to life.
Every aspect of NordVPN – from technical specifications to business practices – has been informed by the goal of Internet freedom. For example, their product is known for being one of the least leaky VPNs on the market, making their powerful encryption that much more meaningful. Not content with this already-significant layer of protection, NordVPN offers several features that raise it to an almost absurd level – Double VPN, Onion Over VPN, Obfuscated Servers, two types of kill switch, et cetera. Anonymity is no less of a goal for NordVPN, therefore, the subscription process doesn’t require anything more than an email address, and the payment can be made in crypto.
As a result of all this and more, NordVPN is particularly loved by people whose lives and livelihoods depend on privacy and anonymity. But it’s just as suited for good old-fashioned fun! Getting to a geo-blocked Netflix show or torrenting an e-book is right up NordVPN’s alley.
Where NordVPN is based and why this is important
There is probably no better way to build trust than “practicing what you preach”. In line with their goal of anonymity on the Internet, NordVPN has taken steps to remain ignorant of their users’ identities and vice versa – to hide their collective identity. This is why the company behind the VPN is registered in Panama under the name of Tefinkom & CO S.A. – a “Sociedad Anónima” run by nominee directors. Clearly, these are not really the creators of NordVPN and the Panama location is a strategic decision.
NordVPN Location: Panamá Province, Panama
Why hide the real location and why Panama in particular? The answer is related to legal jurisdiction. A VPN service provider wants the laws under which it operates to be VPN-friendly. Firstly, Panama does not have any data retention laws, meaning NordVPN is not obliged to log your VPN usage data or online activity. Consequently, the only logs they do keep are not of personally identifiable nature and necessary for the VPN to function. Secondly, Panama is not one of the 5-eyes, 9-eyes, or 14-eyes countries, and is therefore not part of the extensive intelligence-sharing framework of these countries.
Data processed by the VPN
“NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN services, meaning that your activities using NordVPN Services are provided by automated technical process, are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data.”
Types of logs can be roughly divided into activity logs and usage logs. The former involves the user’s online activity – what server he is connected to, what sites he is browsing, etc. Top VPN services rarely log this data (at least openly). Meanwhile, usage logs (time stamps, bandwidth, etc.) are commonplace and frequently pass for “no logs” in the VPN industry. As you can see, NordVPN claims it collects neither usage nor activity data.
Data processed by the company
Outside of the VPN service, NordVPN the provider also collects some data on its users. This includes:
- Email address. It’s needed for signing up and doesn‘t have to be your public email address.
- Payment data. Depending on your payment method, this can be sensitive information or not.
Additionally, NordVPN collects:
- Server load information.
- Customer service information. NordVPN collects communications between users and customer service (through Contact Us and the Community Area). However, you can send a request to opt out.
All things considered, this is good for personal privacy, because NordVPN gives you the chance to minimize your exposure almost to zero. The company also doesn’t use many third-party services to process your personal data, which means you won‘t have to read the Privacy Policies of a dozen other parties to make sure you‘re safe.
Compare NordVPN to other providers
We have had a long hard look at the VPN industry and can state one thing with relative certainty: the Top 2 is set in stone. There might be some aspects where NordVPN is surpassed by some other tool, but, with the exception of ExpressVPN, no other service is as universal. Here at VPNpro we have written articles comparing NordVPN to many others, and the result has almost always been the same – NordVPN is better. Until recently, it was one of the cheaper VPNs as well, but a pricing change has removed that advantage. Consequently, price is one of the few reasons why you might prefer something else over NordVPN.
Available plans and pricing
NordVPN offers 3 main pricing plans and special affiliate deals. It has long been known for its focus on low prices and long subscriptions. The pricing change has shifted their subscription profile towards shorter durations of up to 1 year, increasing the overall cost in the process.
In addition to the 3 main pricing plans, users can easily find a special affiliate deal – a 3-year subscription at $2.75 a month (billed all at once). Those who are unconvinced can get a 3-day free trial (a simple Google search will help you find it). Unlike most other free trials, NordVPN‘s offer has absolutely no strings attached and no limits; all you need to subscribe is an email address. Finally, if you have paid and are dealing with buyer’s remorse – there‘s a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Platforms NordVPN supports
NordVPN has custom apps for many platforms and devices but supports even more. The apps are for Android, Windows, macOS, iOS (iPhone & iPad), Android TV, and extensions for Chrome and Firefox. The list of supported devices with no custom app is huge, most importantly including routers and Linux.
NordVPN can be used for fun!
While it may seem like NordVPN is all business, in truth, it is perfectly suited for pleasure as well. That’s the mark of a truly universal VPN because reconciling “serious” and “non-serious” objectives is not always straightforward. NordVPN understands, that catering to casual users brings a great deal of revenue and helps to invest in the overall quality of their product. Currently, NordVPN is one of the best VPN services for bypassing geo-blocking restrictions (including of entertainment platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime), using shady Kodi add-ons, or torrenting.
In the contemporary vernacular, “streaming” almost always refers to Netflix. The video content platform has taken the world by storm, partly by turning a blind eye to VPNs. Over the past few years, Netflix has had a change of heart and currently, a majority of VPN services will not let you access Netflix US and many other libraries. NordVPN isn’t bothered by this. Its meteoric rise has allowed the company to introduce new servers more quickly than Netflix is able to ban them. As a result, NordVPN has always been able to give their users access to Netflix US, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, and probably most other locations. If you are still worried, NordVPN offers the option to order a dedicated IP, which only you can use – this would make your Netflix access unassailable.
Although NordVPN isn’t the best of the best at speed and performance, with a decent enough connection you should still be able to stream Netflix US from Europe in HD or even Ultra HD. Equally, NordVPN should get you access to most other streaming platforms, like BBC iPlayer or Hulu.
Torrenting and P2P
Torrents are a very important reason for choosing to get a VPN. Many countries, especially those in the Western Hemisphere, have begun actively prosecuting copyright infringers. While torrenting itself is legal, it so happens that most use it to pirate copyrighted material. As a result, hiding your IP address when torrenting has become crucial.
NordVPN is unparalleled in terms of security, giving it a head start in the competition for best torrenting VPN. No other service provider has implemented this many security layers – not even otherwise-stellar VPNs like ExpressVPN or TorGuard. The NordVPN network does not discriminate against P2P traffic. It is neither blocked, not throttled. Instead, there is a good strategic approach in place at NordVPN to keep torrenting on the network reliable and efficient. To be more precise, they have directed torrent users to specific servers, optimized for P2P and placed in torrent-friendly locations, such as the Netherlands.
Finally, unlike many other tools on the market, NordVPN doesn’t have any data transfer or bandwidth limits, meaning users can download to their heart’s content and no one is going to stop them.
China? Yes! NordVPN works in China
Its suite of features makes NordVPN a favorite among users engaged in sensitive activities: journalists, political activists, or simply people living under repressive regimes. As a matter of fact, NordVPN is ideally positioned for use in places where free speech is an illusion at best – China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, UAE, etc. Of all these places, China is by far the most problematic, because its Great Firewall includes extensive VPN blocking measures. China doesn’t only block VPN server IPs – they also issue DNS blocks and use Deep Packet Inspection to sniff out VPN (particularly OpenVPN) traffic. There are many rumors and half-truths about the ways China’s ISPs block access to VPNs.
With all that said, it is clear that only a few VPN services at the top end have been able to remain active in this enormous market of approximately 100 million VPN users. NordVPN has been one of them, probably as a result of two main factors: an ever-increasing server count, and the Obfuscated Servers feature. This special feature combines optimized servers and an altered OpenVPN version, capable of fooling DPI.
VPN in China is never a sure thing, but with NordVPN it has proven to be reasonably reliable.