VPN99 is an affordable, bare-bones service that can unblock quite a few sites, but unfortunately isn’t very speedy or privacy-friendly.
VPN99 is ultimately more friendly for data surveillance rather than its customers, but if you find that you’re unable to unblock a site you want – say, the US version of Netflix – it might be worth its low cost.
Over the course of this VPN99 review, you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether it’s worth it to pay even the lowest price for features that you can get from better services but at a higher cost.
Security and privacy
VPN99, despite the vulnerability users might be subjected to through its Data Retention Policy, has some solid security protocols. While there’s no kill-switch (and the fact that this might make way for leaks), VPN99 still gets some marks for industry-standard protocols and encryption.
Some of the features are:
- OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP, and IKEv2 security protocols
- AES-256 encryption
- Built-in NAT firewall
- Dedicated IP option
It should be said that there are no custom VPN99 apps (outside of the browser extensions), therefore, in large part security depends on the VPN client you choose to use. Tunnelblick, for example, has decent security features.
Does VPN99 keep logs?
This is where the whole thing gets worrying.
The FAQ speaks of VPN99’s strict no-logging policy, but there’s a Data Retention Policy page on the very website that speaks of keeping personally identifying information.
It also admits it will share your data to third parties that may require “some or all” of your data, even for advertising and marketing. Some people use VPNs to escape this very kind of thing.
Ultimately, the fact that it’s based in the UK should be concern enough, with the United Kingdom being infamous for its anti-privacy stances, being a founding member of the Five Eyes alliance for online surveillance.
Speed and performance
VPN99 runs six servers in just five locations – US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, and Russia.
For many, the latency and connection speeds may be too high with any of these locations, particularly if you’re located in the Asia Pacific region.
Ultimately, we find the speeds mediocre – not enough to be classified as either good or bad, but for the price (a dollar a month), it might be worth it.
Ease of use and multiplatform support
VPN99 has no custom VPN apps, only extensions for:
However, you can still use the service on all the major platforms and device types through OpenVPN apps (or L2TP, PPTP, etc.). These are the platforms you can use it on:
- Ubuntu Linux
- Mikrotik Routers
The design on Chrome and Firefox is simple and intuitive, and easy to understand – for other platforms, it depends on what client you used (OpenVPN, PPTP, et cetera). The benefit of this approach is that OpenVPN apps are generally quite secure if you know how to tweak them.
There are installation guides and instruction manuals available on the website in case you need them. While it might be a bit technical to set up, it guarantees wide-range usability.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
Users often go towards VPNs to be able to circumvent geo-blocking and geo-restriction. Whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, or Roku, the same content isn’t available globally.
On VPN99, however, while there’s a limited number of servers, we were able to access Netflix US content on our first try. The speeds weren’t so slow as to impede the streaming of a film or TV show, so for now, this is a good and cheap option.
Yet, in case this stops working, there aren’t many options for another server to work since there’s only two in the US – and for the BBC iPlayer, for example, there is but the one UK server. In short, it’s not the most reliable investment if bypassing geo-blocking is your goal.
P2P and torrenting
Many users find a VPN important to torrenting to get around bandwidth throttling by their Internet Service Providers – or worse, legal notices and cease-and-desist letters. Users are fined hefty sums and have their connections blocked through their IP being flagged for torrenting.
VPN99 solves this problem – by making sure that P2P connections are blocked, across all of VPN99’s servers. In other words, torrenting isn’t supported through VPN99.
If your needs are torrent-related, it’s best to look for a VPN that specifically supports and helps protect you while you download torrents: VPNs with a SOCKS5 proxy, for example, are ideal.
Recommended read: Best VPN for torrenting
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
Contacting the VPN99 team (a process talked about in the next section), we were informed that VPN99, while touted as bypassing censorship, would not work in China. It’s unclear whether the same applies to some of the other censorious countries – Iran, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc. Even if it doesn’t, VPN99 doesn’t seem like the best tool for the job.
Recommended read: Best VPN for China
VPN99 offers the following support options:
- Telephone line (UK number)
- Email/pop-up form
There’s also a physical address available for the company, in Wales, which inspires confidence in terms of the transparency (but worries us, in terms of the fact that it’s Wales, thus would come under UK regulations.
Some of the responses we got via email were quite curt and evasive, but we did get most of the information we needed.
Pricing is definitely VPN99’s strong point and might ultimately be what attracts most users towards this service.
While the money-back guarantee is a bit restrictive since it’s limited to the first 24 hours, the refund policy is still a “100%,” which is respectable.
There’s no free trial, but the pricing is uniform at 0.99 dollars a month (you might see where the VPN gets its name from), meaning that:
- 1 month: $0.99
- 3 months: $2.97 ($0.99/month)
- 6 months: $5.94 ($0.99/month)
- 24 months: $23.76 ($0.99/month)
And so on, and so forth.
You can pay by VISA, MasterCard, Bitcoin, or Ethereum – the extra crypto options are a nice touch, especially for a VPN considered one of the cheapest on the market.
While its pricing is indeed special, the lack of confidence it evokes on the privacy and security front make us hesitant to want to use VPN99 for more than a certain, low-stakes purpose, if at all. Ultimately, it seems to prove that you get what you pay for; nothing less, nothing more.