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Hotspot Shield VPN Review – How Does Hotspot Shield Rate On Privacy And Security Parameters?



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Hotspot Shield is one the most widely used VPN solutions in the world. The service is brought to you by a California based company, AnchorFree Inc., which started out as a Wi-Fi service provider in the year 2005. Unlike other premium VPN providers, Hotspot Shield offers a totally free VPN plan to everyone that never expires. In this detailed Hotspot Shield VPN Review, we will rate the features offered by the service and recommend if it is worth subscribing.

Server Locations & Accessibility Options

(Rating – 4 out of 5)

When compared with other big names in the VPN industry (for instance, HideMyAss VPN), Hotspot Shield offers very few VPN gateways. The company has servers in just 4 countries and on top of that, free subscribers are allowed to access only the US based servers. Here are the accessibility options that become available with the service:

1) Server Locations – Hotspot Shield has VPN gateways in the following countries

United States, Australia, United Kingdom and Japan.

2) The paid subscribers of the service (also known as Elite subscribers) can access VPN servers from all the 4 countries plus they are allowed to switch servers unlimited number of times.

3) The Elite subscribers can unblock On-Demand services such as ABC Player, Netflix, FOX, Hulu, HBO Go, BBC iPlayer, MLB, MTV, Amazon Prime, Pandora, NHL, TNT, USA Network, NBC, CWTV, CBS, Lovefilm, Demand 5, Sky Go, iTV Player, UK TV, STV, 4OD, TV Asahi, TV Tokyo, TV Japan, SBS On Demand, ABC iView, Plus7, FixPlay, Quickflix and Channel Ten from all over the world.

Free subscribers are also allowed to access many local American services but they would not be able to stream videos on Hulu and Netflix unless they upgrade to paid subscription.

Speed and Bandwidth Options

(Rating – 4.5 out of 5)

Hotspot Shield is perfect for speed and bandwidth demanding activities like streaming of HD videos, VOIP, multiplayer gaming and downloading. The service delivers unlimited speeds and bandwidth to Elite customers but free users are restricted to using 750 MB bandwidth per day (256 MB per day limit for Android users). AnchorFree has incorporated an advanced data compression mechanism within Hotspot Shield software that allows you to browse faster, save money on mobile data plans and even bypass the data limits set by your ISP. On the downside, the company does not allow P2P activities within its server network.

Privacy And Security Features

(Rating – 4 out of 5)

Next, let us look at the security and privacy features available with the service:

1) Protocols & Encryption – Hotspot Shield delivers 128 bit encryption via PPTP, L2TP and SSL protocols. Although these protocols are not considered as secure as OpenVPN, they offer adequate level of security for day-to-day online activities.

2) Security at Wi-Fi hotspots – The free-to-use public Wi-Fi networks have changed the way we connect to the internet. But using unsecured wireless networks can also lead to data and identity theft since they make it pretty easy for hackers and snoopers to steal data from others. Hotspot Shield encrypts the data passing through public networks plus it automatically detects unsecured networks allowing you to secure your data and privacy at public places (malls, airports, public parks, hotels and libraries).

3) Get Rid Of Censorship – Hotspot Shield is an excellent anti-censorship tool that allows you to bypass almost all types of firewalls, surveillance, monitoring and censorship. Once you are connected to Hotspot Shield’s network, you would be able to log into Gmail, Twitter and Facebook from China as well as use Skype from UAE and Brazil. In addition, the service makes it possible to access Facebook, Twitter and gaming sites from schools and workplaces even if they are blocked by your network administrator.
4) Logging Policy – AnchorFree collects usage statistics (connection time, bandwidth consumed etc.) through its VPN software. The data is stored in an aggregate format which means personal details like IP address are not collected by the company. The data is used by the company for research and analysis and is never shared with third parties. However, the company shares the IP addresses that get assigned to free users (through its server network) with advertising companies since the free service is supported by ads. But the real IP address and other personal details of free as well as Elite customers remain protected at all times. Since the company is based in US, it may share customer details with law enforcement if the service has been used for an unlawful activity and the company is served with a judicial order.

5) Data and Application Security – The service secures your banking, social networking and PayPal sessions and protects you from becoming a victim of theft. In addition, it can secure all types of applications that connect to the internet (VOIP software, email client, instant messengers and browsers) thereby offering 100% protection to its customers.

Setup & Ease Of Use

(Rating – 3.5 out of 5)

The Hotspot Shield service is available through a customized VPN tool that is compatible with Windows (XP onwards), Mac OS X (10.6+), Android (2.x, 4.x) and iOS (4.3+). The software can be readily installed on computers, iPads, iPod Touch, iPhones and Android based Smartphones and tablets but it is not yet compatible with Amazon Kindle, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, routers and many other platforms. The Hotspot Shield software is a user friendly tool that allows you to connect/disconnect easily, switch servers instantly and reconnect when the service goes down. However, the tool doesn’t allow you to choose specific servers from a location plus it doesn’t protect your real IP when the connection is down.

The free users need to install either a browser plugin or a toolbar that displays advertisements at all times. Plus, you will see a video ad in a new browser window whenever you connect to the service. This surely gets annoying after a while so it is recommended to switch to a paid plan if you can afford it.

Pricing

(Rating – 5 out of 5)

Hotspot Shield’s elite VPN plan is available from $4.99 per month ($29.95 per year ($2.49 a month)). In addition, Pay per usage plans are available from $0.5 per day (minimum $10 investment required) while business plans are available from $29.95 per month. Paid customers can also take advantage of 30 day money back guarantee.

Customer Support

(Rating – 3.5 out of 5)

The company offers 24X7 support only to elite customers. The support staff can be reached via email or phone. However, many customers have complained that the support staff is not reachable through phone and they are always redirected to an automated reply machine.

Free subscribers who face connection problems or technical issues can refer to the troubleshooting instructions available on the company’s forum or the FAQ and knowledgebase section published on the company’s official site.

Overall Rating and Final Verdict

(Final Rating – 4 Out of 5)

Overall, Hotspot Shield delivers a satisfactory service. While the VPN solution is not compatible with many platforms and it displays annoying ads, it provides privacy and security to even those people who cannot afford to subscribe to a paid VPN service. So if you are looking for a cheap and reliable VPN solution that does the job, don’t forget to check out Hotspot Shield VPN.

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