NordLayer review

9.7/10
Top-notch business VPN
Last updated: October 19, 2021

Sitting between large enterprise services and micro solutions, NordLayer is the best B2B VPN currently available. Aimed at SMBs, it’s suitable for a much wider audience.

Minimum Price:
$7.00 / month
Apps available:
windows macos android ios
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Formerly known as NordVPN Teams, NordLayer is one of the leaders – and in many ways, the leader – of the business VPN market. Coming from the makers of our #1 personal service in NordVPN, it sure sets its standards high.

NordLayer is oriented towards both small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and enterprise-level clients. Companies can choose from multiple monthly and annual plans or get a tailor-made solution. As you will see in my NordLayer review, this service already offers lots of great features.

Apps and ease of use

NordLayer has apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. While there’s no “admin app” for user management, this is handled comfortably via the web-based Control Panel on the NordLayer website.

Control panel

NordLayer has a control panel for centralized user management. Based on your subscription plan, you can:

  • Add new users (invitations sent by email)
  • Transfer an account to a new user
  • Create custom teams
  • Create dedicated gateways
  • Monitor server load
  • Monitor user activity (whether there are users online and which gateway is being used)

Enterprise plans are totally customizable, and the looks of the control panel will depend on each client’s needs. The screenshots and settings below represent only the most basic features of the NordLayer control panel.

NordLayer Control Panel - My profile

My profile allows you to add a profile name and change the password. On the left sidebar, you will find four main menu options – Organization, Network, Settings, and Download.

NordLayer control panel - Members section

Organization is split into Members and Teams. The Member list shows the name, email, and status of each member. You can edit their names and roles. You can’t sort according to these columns, but you can filter results by the Active, Suspended, Invited, or Inactive parameters.

Finally, you can also use the Search, which automatically bolds the text you’re searching for. This is convenient, but it seemed to work a bit sluggishly for me.

NordLayer control panel – Teams section

The Teams tab lets you create new teams and use the Search to add members. This is convenient if there are, but a few of them and you know their names.

When editing a specific team, you can change its name, add new members, and add a gateway for it to use.

NordLayer control panel - Gateway section

The Network section is split into Gateways and Servers. The former lets you create, suspend, and delete existing gateways. You can also see which teams use which servers and manage them accordingly by adding or subtracting.

There’s no drop-down for selecting teams, so you must remember the name. You can also copy the server-side table info though I’m not sure of what use of that may be.

NordLayer control panel - Server section

Settings lets you install Smart Access and connect endpoint-to-endpoint without being on the same LAN. Your account manager will help with the setup.

Servers has a list of all servers, which you can filter by hostname and delete. The tab doesn’t show the server location below the country level, but it does show the server IP address. You can also add servers to the different gateways.

Finally, the Download section is self-explanatory. Here you will find the links to all apps. You can also select a member and click to send him manual configuration instructions for NordLayer.

Client apps: Windows and macOS

The NordLayer app for Windows is lightweight and easy to use. It moves from NordVPN’s map-based design to a sleek dark theme that shows only the server list. The macOS client app is virtually identical to its Windows counterpart – the differences are purely cosmetic.

Employees can log into NordLayer using Azure AD, GSuite, Okta, Sami, and OneLogin, though the company can change this setting. After launching the app for the first time, you will have to enter the unique ID for your company. The employer can easily distribute these as email invitations.

NordLayer macOS app server list

The NordLayer app design is minimalistic, with a full-height sidebar that has four options:

  1. Choose a gateway from the list
  2. Click Settings to customize
  3. Select the question mark icon to open a browser tab and submit a support request.
  4. Click to Quit the app (the same can be done by right-clicking the NordLayer icon in the system tray)

NordLayer Windows app - Settings - Autoconnect

The Settings menu is divided into a few different tabs. General lets you tinker with the malware blocker, kill switch, and status notifications. In the meantime, Auto-connect allows choosing when the app launched and creating a list of trusted wi-fi networks.

Then comes the VPN protocol selection. The default setting is Automatic, but you can choose from IKEv2 or OpenVPN (UDP and TCP). Perhaps we can expect to see the adoption of NordLynx, NordVPN’s proprietary version of WireGuard that offers the best possible speed without sacrificing security, in the future.

Client apps: Android and iOS

The NordLayer Android and iOS client apps are similar to the desktop version. However, unlike their desktop counterparts, they show the server’s IP address, making it easier to see whether you’re reconnecting to the same server in the selected country.

NordLayer Android and iOS mobile apps

The Auto-connect feature on Android is more convenient because you can choose to connect not only to a specific country but also to the nearest one automatically. This will be welcomed by employees who travel often and may experience slower speeds just because they haven’t changed their settings after landing on a different continent.

The iOS client app has an additional option to Share diagnostics, which creates a .txt file that may be handy when contacting customer support – there’s an option to add a file when submitting a request. Just like in the Android version, you can choose Auto-connect for the nearest gateway. The protocol selection is the same in mobile and desktop apps, with IKEv2 being the default choice.

Mobile apps can be downloaded from the respective stores. Android users can also get a .apk from the NordLayer website. The Android version currently has 50,000+ installs on the Play Store, while the Apple version has so far been rated 4 times only. Clearly, glory is yet to come for NordLayer.

Security features

NordLayer uses military-grade encryption (AES 256-bit), which is a virtually unbreakable cipher. The following tunneling protocols are available:

  • IKEv2 (default for Windows)
  • OpenVPN (UDP)
  • OpenVPN (TCP)

Hopefully, this list will soon include the NordLynx protocol, a proprietary version of WireGuard that became available for B2C users in 2020.

With NordVPN B2C version being the safest VPN overall, we were a bit surprised to see NordLayer starting without a kill switch and two-factor authentication. However, now both are available, so NordLayer is on the right track.

Privacy features

In this section, I’ll look more closely at the NordLayer logging policy and more. I’ll also check if there are any leaks that could give away your IP address or location.

Jurisdiction

NordLayer is registered in Panama, a privacy-friendly country with no data retention laws. That’s great news, given that most enterprise VPNs are registered in the US or some other country belonging to the Fourteen Eyes intelligence alliance. Let’s see what data NordLayer actually collects.

Logging policy

NordLayer collects the following information about you via the website:

  • Access logs that include your IP, OS, browser info, and cookie data
  • The Chat-bot collects your IP address and contact information
  • Social media widgets may collect your IP, pages visited on the NordLayer website, and more
  • Google Analytics, Hotjar, and similar tools that do not directly identify visitors collect usage data

There’s also this sentence in the privacy policy: “We store limited personal information for as long as it is necessary for the provision of Services, execution of our legal rights and obligations and fulfillment of our other duties (for example, record keeping).” I’ve reached out to NordLayer customer support, and they told me that this “limited personal info” is your company’s IP and email.

To sum up, there’s nothing out of the ordinary here – most enterprise VPNs collect this sort of data and are still known as reputable companies. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wise to compare any business VPN privacy policy with the B2C counterpart. I can conclude that NordLayer has a clear and reasonable logging policy.

Leak tests

I made numerous online leak tests to see if NordLayer is leaking your IP or DNS. I connected to a server in the US and checked multiple test sites for any signs of my real IP address or location.

NordLayer has no leaks

It turns out that NordLayer has no IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks and keeps your personal data safe.

Other technical features

The list starts with the most important ones and ends with optional features that have niche audiences.

  • Remote access to your company’s data. This is the core feature of every business VPN.
  • IP Whitelisting. Determine which IPs will get access to your data.
  • Custom gateways. Specify which employees can access certain servers and virtual locations.
  • Dedicated servers. Available to Advanced pricing plan subscribers. Enterprise users can also have it set up on their premises.
  • Third-party authentication. Azure AD, GSuite, Okta, Sami, and OneLogin.

Activity logs and Activity reports are two features that are coming soon for Advanced plan subscribers. Also, there are plenty of customization options for Enterprise-level users, starting with API access, LDAP Active Directory, and moving to site-to-site VPN. Finally, you get the benefits of a B2C VPN, such as access to geo-restricted content and protection when using SaaS solutions.

Speed and performance

NordLayer offers an undisclosed number of servers in 30+ countries. Connection times are fast, probably even faster than those in the B2C version. But what are the actual speeds you may expect from NordLayer?

I ran my speed tests from Europe using the IKEv2 default protocol, checking my baseline speed and connecting to servers in Europe, North America, and Australia.

Baseline speed

NordLayer baseline speed

  • Download: 292 Mbps
  • Upload: 228 Mbs
  • Ping: 2 ms

After getting download and upload speeds in each location, I noted the drop-off percentage based on my baseline numbers.

Frankfurt, Germany

NordLayer speed test in Germany

  • Download: 199 Mbps (32% drop-off)
  • Upload: 6 Mbps (97% drop-off)
  • Ping: 38 ms

New York, US

NordLayer speed test in the US

  • Download: 185 Mbps (37% drop-off)
  • Upload: 4 Mbps (98% drop-off)
  • Ping: 129 ms

Sydney, Australia

NordLayer speed test in Australia

  • Download: 90 Mbps (69% drop-off)
  • Upload: 1 Mbps (99% drop-off)
  • Ping: 350 ms

As you can see, the download speeds are nothing short of amazing, while the upload speeds were surprisingly lackluster in all three locations. However, you should keep in mind that speed test results vary due to different factors. Therefore it’s always best to test for yourself.

Customer support

According to the Terms of Service, “NordLayer will provide priority business support to the Customer’s administrators and end-users.” Advanced plan users get dedicated account managers, and Enterprise clients will benefit from key account managers.

While writing this NordLayer review, I reached out to customer support a few times via live chat and got knowledgeable answers. While I had to wait for up to five minutes, this was before purchasing NordLayer and inquiring as a simple visitor. According to their website, all questions will be answered in three hours or less, and clients can contact 24/7 using phone, email, or live chat.

I did miss a more extensive FAQ, though. But again, the service is quite new, and it takes time to build these resources. On the other hand, a live chat plug-in on the NordLayer website has a chatbot named Aurora that can answer simple queries, such as “what is your pricing?” or “what payment methods do you offer?”

Plans and pricing

NordLayer offers the following monthly and annual pricing plans:

  • Basic, monthly – $9.00/month per user
  • Basic, annual – $7.00/month per user (22% discount)

The Basic plan comes with these features: cloud VPN, centralized billing, a kill switch, 2FA, license transferability, 33 server locations, and 24/7 customer support. There’s also SSO with Google, Azure AD, and Okta.

  • Advanced, monthly – $11.00/month per user
  • Advanced, annual – $9.00/month per user (18% discount)

The Advanced plan has all the Basic plan features and adds a dedicated account manager and 24/7 priority support. You can also get a dedicated server in 20+ locations with a fixed IP for $40.00/month.

Enterprise plans are highly customizable and are no longer priced per user. In addition to all the features of the Basic and Advanced plans, enterprise-level clients are entitled to volume discounts, centralized configuration and management, LDAP Active Directory, API access, on-premise dedicated servers, 24/7 phone support, dedicated servers on your premises, custom premium features, and custom logo and app colors.

NordLayer pricing plans

When compared to the competition, these prices seem fair. There’s no minimum account number for the Basic or Advanced plan, and choosing one of them gives you a discount. Discounts for NGOs are available, while centralized billing enables you to pay for all services at once.

Payment options include Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover credit cards. Some time ago there was an option to pay with Bitcoin if the purchase is over $1,000 but that seems no longer the case. It would be nice to see at least PayPal added in the future.

Just like the B2C version of NordVPN, end-users will have six simultaneous connections available per account. Each plan has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

NordLayer Terms of Service state that while the price increase is possible from time to time, they will notify each client and won’t charge extra until the end of the current billing cycle. In the worst case, this can happen with the next payment charge after NordLayer informs you directly.

Bottom line

NordLayer is an up-and-coming B2B service that narrows the gap between enterprise VPNs like Cisco AnyConnect and team-oriented options that offer only per-user pricing.

Coming from the makers of NordVPN, this business solution automatically sets a high bar for itself. And while at the moment it’s still a work-in-progress, it’s clear that NordLayer has already taken the top spot among the best B2B VPN services in 2021.

You should consider this service if you’re an owner of an SMB looking for a way to secure remote workers and all of their devices for the right price. With apps for major platforms, gateways in 30+ countries, and priority support, picking this easy-to-use business VPN is a no-brainer. NordLayer is bound to get better and grow together with your company.

Have you tried NordLayer already? If so, what are your first impressions? Don’t hesitate and leave us a comment below!

FAQ

How do you use NordLayer?

Learning how to use NordLayer is easy. First, you need to register and choose your plan. Then you should download and install the app for your device. Finally, use the Control Panel to add members and tweak settings.

Is NordVPN good for business?

NordVPN is not oriented towards business clients. Instead, we recommend using NordLayer, a business VPN for both small and enterprise-level teams.

Shoud small companies use a VPN?

Yes, they should. Protecting company data is vital and it’s hard to do that without encryption or hiding your IP address. Here are the best VPNs for business in 2021.

Good

  • Military-grade encryption
  • No leaks
  • Great download speeds
  • Fair price
  • 24/7 live chat, phone, and email support
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Apps for major platforms
  • Customizable to meet the client’s needs

Bad

  • Not for large enterprises
 9.7 / 10
Total score
$7.00 / month
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