A long way away from being the “Total” VPN, TotalVPN is a deceptive, mediocre provider which gets a few things right, but makes plenty of errors along the way. One for security conscious users to avoid.
TotalVPN is an American Virtual Private Network which offers secure encryption, IP anonymization, fast servers, multi-platform clients, no logging, and much more – at least according to the company website. Our TotalVPN will assess those claims, and establish whether the company’s marketing materials can be relied upon.
As readers will see, there’s more to this provider than meets the eye. But before digging deeper, it’s worth pointing out that TotalVPN is currently not accepting new subscribers. It should do so again soon, but don’t expect to head directly to the TotalVPN website to start an account. Instead, weigh it up against the competition. You may find that there’s no need to think twice about creating a TotalVPN account at all.
Security and privacy
Here are the security features on offer from TotalVPN:
- A wide range of secure protocols
- “Secure” encryption
- Public wifi protection
TotalVPN offers OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, and the older but super-fast PPTP, so the full suite of tunneling options is available to choose from.
On its home page, TotalVPN promises “secure encryption”, but doesn’t offer much more than that. There’s no mention of the type and strength of encryption, or how the network manages encryption keys. That’s not very encouraging from a security perspective.
Using public wifi networks is a major vulnerability for all smartphone or laptop owners, so it’s good to see that TotalVPN has taken their needs into consideration. When users log onto public networks, the VPN recognizes this, providing extra protection while the connection is established.
As veteran VPN users will notice straight away, that’s not a very long list of security features, and several omissions are immediately obvious. Firstly, there’s no mention of DNS leak or IP leak protection. TotalVPN makes vague promises about “hiding your IP and location” without actually informing users how it manages to achieve this.
Secondly, there’s no kill switch. Kill switches are an essential add-on to good VPNs, as they cut your internet connection if VPN coverage is lost. This minimizes the risk of IP leakage and makes it much harder to track streamers or torrenters, so we’d love to see it in the TotalVPN package.
Fundamentally, TotalVPN leaves users in the dark about key features, and lacks other elements that we would prefer to see. This definitely places it in the lower ranks of paid VPNs, and users can easily find more transparent, feature-rich providers for the same price.
Does TotalVPN keep logs?
Short answer: yes.
Unfortunately not. TotalVPN collects a vast amount of data about users of its website, from IP addresses and location, to specific page views. It stores information about interactions with customer support, payment details, email addresses, and much, much more. Moreover, there are question marks about how securely this data is held. As the policy explains, “We store the data we collect in a variety of places within our infrastructure, including system log files, back end databases and analytics systems.” That’s a hell of a lot of places for hackers to target.
TotalVPN’s parent company Endurance also states how the data will be used, promising to “provide you with useful content” and to “advertise and market third party products and services.” So expect plenty of ads. Then there’s information sharing. Endurance/TotalVPN will share data far and wide, with its own staff, third party service providers, and law enforcement.
Location and jurisdiction may also be an issue. TotalVPN is owned by The Endurance International Group, which is headquartered in Burlington, Mass. Generally speaking, US-based VPNs aren’t classed among the most secure, and are vulnerable to requests or invasive practices from law enforcement and intelligence agencies. With more secure options based in jurisdictions like Panama, there’s no real reason to take the risk on TotalVPN.
Speed and performance
TotalVPN promises what it calls “Simple, fast and unrestricted browsing” which makes a good first impression. However, VPNs are notoriously prone to overstating their speed performance. Is TotalVPN an exception?
Actually, it may well be. We tested connections on American servers, and found consistently strong speeds across pretty much all of them. In a neat touch, users can instantly see “load levels” for the various servers before logging on, so you’ll have a good feel for which servers deliver the fastest performance.
Speeds dropped from a baseline of around 80Mbps to 50-70Mbps for general downloads, which made streaming a viable option.
However, when we tested overseas servers, TotalVPN started to struggle a little more. Asian servers couldn’t get above 25Mbps in most cases, and European servers showed a similar story.
This is an area where TotalVPN performs relatively poorly. The VPN has been around for a few years now, but hasn’t expanded its server numbers appreciably. Instead, it remains around the 30 locations total – tiny by global standards.
This server list works out as follows:
- North America – 17
- Europe – 20
- Asia – 6
- Africa – 1
- South America – 0
- Oceania – 1
As you can tell, that’s not a great geographical spread. Most TotalVPN servers are concentrated in wealthy North American and European countries, so those looking for privacy protection in China or South Africa will be disappointed.
Ease of use and multiplatform support
The company caters for the following platforms:
So the core systems are accounted for (with a service for Mac, Android, iOS and a service for PC). But this is leaves out plenty of possible options that other VPNs provide. There’s no Linux client, nothing specifically made for browsers like Chrome or Firefox, and you can’t download apps for routers or streaming sticks.
However, as we mentioned in the intro, there’s a really important qualifier that needs to be stressed.
TotalVPN is not currently accepting new subscribers, and it has removed the download link from its website.
This definitely doesn’t mean that the service is gone for good. It just seems to indicate that it is renovating its software and systems, and putting its house in order. So we’re confident that readers will have the option of firing up the TotalVPN app in the future.
When we created our TotalVPN account, the process was simple, and the app has proved to be very easy to use. We just downloaded the app via the TotalVPN website, chose to use the free client (with all of its ads) and upgraded smoothly to TotalVPN Premium (see below for pricing details).
Logging on is simple, and users can select various protocols. Servers are clearly listed by location and load, giving an indication of their likely speeds, and in our experience uptime was very good. When the client is engaged, the VPN just works away in the background, and there’s not much more to say about it. It’s just a simple, standard VPN interface.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
TotalVPN states that it can “unblock your favourite website…wherever you are” which suggests that seamless Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Fire streaming is on the cards. We’ve used the VPN extensively over the recent past, and the verdict of our TotalVPN review is that – well – there are better streaming options.
We struggled to access Netflix in France and the UK, which would have opened up quite a few usually blocked TV shows and movies. And the speeds aren’t really stream-friendly in any case. Some US Netflix servers worked fine, but results for accessing overseas services weren’t encouraging. However, if you just want to access the BBC’s iPlayer, you should do fine.
Let us show you our list of the best VPN for Netflix to make your decision easier.
P2P and torrenting
TotalVPN advertises itself as “totally unrestricted”, if you upgrade to Premium. The free version is a non-starter for torrenters, with its strict download limits. But torrenting is definitely possible for Premium customers, and we had some luck connecting with uTorrent.
On the other hand, not all TotalVPN servers are P2P friendly, and the few that are offer very slow speeds. When you add in the absence of a kill switch or SOCKS5 protocol, and less than watertight leak protection, there’s absolutely no reason to use TotalVPN with torrent clients.
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
With its promises of “total anonymity” and “secure encryption”, TotalVPN appears to offer the kind of identity protection that users in repressive nations require. We couldn’t test out the VPN in Beijing, so we can’t say for certain whether it breaches the Great Firewall. However, given the poor quality of TotalVPN’s IP leak protection, this seems doubtful.
Numerous reviewers around the web agree that the VPN doesn’t work in China at all, and it’s unlikely to be viable for those in Russia, the Middle East, or African nations that are hostile to VPNs, such as Uganda. Again, this is an area where TotalVPN lets itself down.
In our experience, the following TotalVPN customer service options are available:
- Customer Knowledge Base
- Social media support via Facebook, Google+, and Twitter
- Direct email support
There’s no Live Chat function, and no telephone number, so the promise of 24/7 support rings a little hollow. While the email team is available whenever customers require, this isn’t the same – or anywhere near as helpful – as being able to chat about how to use a VPN with an actual staff member.
TotalVPN offers a free service, as well as a much-improved Premium service. The prices for the Premium tier are as follows:
- 1 month for $5.99
- 1 year for $4.79/month
Additionally, TotalVPN offers 2 year subscriptions which vary in price depending on current deals, while discounts can also sometimes slash the annual rate to around $2/month. At those prices, it’s a very affordable package, and the $5.99 monthly charge is also competitive.
What about the free VPN option? Well, you get what you pay for. The free VPN comes with ads and very slow speeds, as well as a tiny server selection, and all of the information sharing practices we detailed earlier. It’s a poor taster for the Premium version, and definitely one to avoid.
The company also offers a 30-day money back guarantee for all subscribers, which is on the face of things, a good alternative to the free trial. However, many users report difficulties in canceling monthly packages and securing refunds. TotalVPN is often accused of acting slowly to process requests, and regularly spam customers with “special offers” to entice them to stay, instead of just accepting their request. That’s pretty poor practice.
Moreover, TotalVPN doesn’t offer a very wide range of ways to pay. Customers can only use standard credit or debit cards, or PayPal. So there’s no option for anonymous crypto payments, or gift cards.
So, overall, while there are some attractive discounts to be found, TotalVPN can be deceptive about its refunds, and doesn’t safeguard payment details. In the opinion of this TotalVPN review, that puts it way down the list of reliable VPNs.
The bottom line
We wanted to love TotalVPN, but the flaws are simply too numerous.
On the plus side, the client is great, encryption seems solid, and various protocols are available to choose. On the other hand, there’s no kill switch, leak protection is poor, Netflix access is unreliable, speeds are average, support is basic, prices can be deceptive, and the logging policy is very misleading – in our opinion.
To cap it all off, TotalVPN has suspended sign-ups, hopefully while it refines its products. Until then, the verdict of this TotalVPN review is simple: stay clear.