27th May 2015
This time around I reviewed HotSpot Shield to see how they compared to some other VPNs on the web.
- compatible with most operating systems
- unlimited bandwidth
- low prices
- no data logging
- nonexistent customer support
- irritating software
- no money back guarantee
Overall Score: 40/100
HotSpot Shield is actually one of the lower scoring VPN’s I’ve reviewed, and for some pretty good reasons.
They don’t hold a candle to Express VPN, who scored a 97/100 in our review.
To get HotSpot Shield, go here: HotSpot Shield
In a world that is quickly seeing fraud and identity theft soar to the tops of the charts as the most common crimes, internet security has never been more important.
Though online banking and shopping has no doubt streamlined and added significant convenience to our hectic lives, they’ve come at considerable risk.
Public Wi-Fi networks have become hotbeds of identity theft and hacking.
At the same time, many countries around the world have placed considerable restrictions on internet access, restricting content ranging from communication services to blogs.
In China for instance, you can’t even use Skype!
If you want to open up your access to restricted content and take back your privacy, VPNs are the way to go.
With this simple technology, you can surf the internet completely anonymously, and access any online services or sites, regardless of where you’re located.
There are a lot of VPNs out there to choose from, and everyone claims to be the best. Here I’ll show you how to sift through the white noise to the good ones while I review HotSpot Shield.
We’ll see what they have to offer their customers, and just how good of a deal they really are. Let’s get into it.
Will HotSpot Shield Work on My Operating System?
If the process of elimination with all of the VPNs out there seems daunting at first, the easiest place to start is with operating system compatibility.
Whichever VPN you choose, make sure it’s compatible with all of your devices’ operating systems.
HotSpot Shield works with every major operating system but Linux. It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android systems, so you can use it on just about any home or mobile device.
Rating: 4/5 – Works with everything but Linux
What Kind of Features Does HotSpot Shield Have?
The features of a VPN are some of their major selling points.
It’s really up to you to decide which ones matter the most to you, but I’ll run through them here and at least tell you the bare minimum that you should expect.
Then we’ll check out HotSpot Shield and see how they stack up to some of the competition.
Feature #1: Multiple Connections
If you use more than one device, it’s nice to be able to connect your VPN to all of them.
Shoot for software that allows at least two simultaneous connections, so your privacy is protected no matter which gadget you’re using.
HotSpot Shield allows up to five connections under one account – more than enough for you, and whoever else in your household that could use the protection.
Rating: 5/5 – Up to 5 devices
Feature #2: Money Back Guarantee
Well, I’m sure I don’t have to explain this one to you. However, I will say that this isn’t one you want to do without.
Signing up for a VPN is a lot like signing up for cell phone service – there’s really just no way to tell if it’s actually any good until you start using it.
A money back guarantee of at least two weeks means you’re not out the money and stuck with terrible service if things don’t work out.
HotSpot Shield doesn’t have any kind of money back guarantee.
According to their terms of service, they can issue refunds for the previously paid subscription fee solely at their discretion.
So you’re by no means entitled to a refund with them, regardless of the quality of your service.
Rating: 0/5 – No money back guarantee
Feature #3: Number of Servers
The number of servers a VPN has really matters, because it can greatly affect the quality of your connection.
Not enough means they’re likely to get bogged down if too many users hop online at once.
If they’re limited to just a couple parts of the world, it can make it difficult to find a local enough server to establish a reliable connection with.
Since I was never able to get in touch with HotSpot Shield’s customer service, and their server list was nowhere on their website, I have no idea exactly how many servers they actually have.
While there was a handful to choose from in their software dashboard, it definitely wasn’t more than 20, and the exact number proved to be pretty elusive.
Rating: 1/5 – Unknown number of servers
Feature #4: Referral Program
A referral program isn’t a terribly common feature, but it’s one that has the nice effect of putting money back in your pocket.
Some VPN companies actually have programs that reward you with free or discounted service for referring new customers to them.
Save yourself a little dough, and try to find a company that offers this nice little perk.
Sad to say though that HotSpot Shield is not one of them that offers this feature. While their prices are low enough to save you plenty, they don’t have any kind of a referral program.
Rating: 0/5 – No referral program
Feature #5: Data Logging
Data logging is the extremely invasive practice of storing browsing activity linked to IP addresses. It’s a no-good, privacy-invading, snooping practice that no VPN provider has any business doing.
While HotSpot Shield does maintain records of your IP address to help with tech support issues, there are no activity files that are ever logged or stored, keeping your browsing truly anonymous.
On top of that, none of your personal information is required to set up an account, so your IP address is just as faceless as you need it to be.
Rating: 5/5 – No data logging
Feature #6: Bandwidth
Bandwidth refers to the data capacity of the server connection, and can really impact the quality of things like streaming and downloading.
If you want to do plenty of that without ever having to worry about hitting a cap, make sure to get a VPN that gives you completely unlimited bandwidth.
This is one feature that HotSpot Shield rocks – all of their service plans come with completely unlimited bandwidth, so there are never any caps to worry about.
Rating: 5/5 – Unlimited bandwidth for all
How Secure Is It?
With a VPN, security is definitely one of the most important parts of the service you’re getting.
The connection needs to be airtight to protect your personal information and privacy, so look for the strongest encryption there is: 256 bit.
It’s also nice if there are a few options to customize the security of your connection.
Since stronger encryption can sometimes bog down your connection, it’s nice to be able to downgrade it for things like streaming and downloading.
Once again, HotSpot Shield’s customer service really dropped the ball, so I was never able to get any specifics on exactly how strong their encryption is.
When I used the software, there was nowhere to really go into the security settings and check things out. Once again, I have to give them zilch.
Rating: 0/5 – Security remains to be seen
What’s the Set-Up Process Like?
While VPNs are steadily gaining popularity, there’s still a massive pocket of internet users out there that have never heard of them.
It’s important the software be accessible to everyone, with an easy set up that doesn’t take a tech savant to figure out.
It should be no more difficult than downloading and installing – if you’re having to manually configure connections and insert server codes, you’re working too hard my friend.
HotSpot Shield has it made in the shade with this one – their software is a simple download/install/done process that anyone can figure out.
Rating: 5/5 – Very straightforward setup
Is it Easy to Use?
Unfortunately, even the best VPNs can sometimes be a total pain to use. The thing to look for here is simplicity with a user-friendly interface.
You should be able to connect and disconnect with ease, and the software should be intuitive and basic, while still being sophisticated enough to allow you to customize your connection.
Okay, so this is where HotSpot Shield drove me a little nuts. While their software can be easy to use, it can also be a giant PITA. For whatever reason, the VPN is constantly connecting itself.
Suddenly I would have connection issues while using Skype or Spotify, and I’d check this software. Sure enough, even after disconnecting it, it had reconnected on its own.
Maddeningly annoying, and something there didn’t appear to be a way to fix.
In addition, every time you do attempt to disconnect or sign out, the software opens up a browser window as a sort of confirmation of that command.
It was incredibly annoying, especially considering I was never able to truly disconnect from this stupid thing until I just went and uninstalled it.
This software has a parasitic quality to it that I found annoying at the least, and it’s lack of a simple connect/disconnect button only compounded the problems I was having.
Rating: 1/5 – Software has a mind of its own
One nice thing about HotSpot Shield’s software was that you didn’t need login credentials to run it – or at least their free trial version.
Again, however, signing out opened up a browser window every time, and since you didn’t have an actual account to sign out of, it seemed to have little effect on the actual operation of the software.
The ability to change your server location with ease is kind of nice, because it allows you to hop on one for a better connection without having to jump through too many hoops.
With HotSpot Shield, it wasn’t crazy difficult, but again, the issue of never truly being able to reliably disconnect made everything a little problematic.
However, once you go into the sub menu to ‘turn off protection’, you can select a new country from another sub menu, and the VPN will automatically begin connecting to it.
What If I Need Help?
Features and security aside, customer support is one of the most crucial components to anything you buy, especially a completely digital service like a VPN.
This is a category that a lot of VPNs suffer in, so pay close attention to this one, and make sure to check all of them out to make sure they’re not going to leave you high and dry when you need support.
If you’re curious about how fast your service requests are going to be handled, this can be a good indicator of when you can expect a response.
No doubt one of the most crucial parts of great service, 24/7 support is a nice way to guarantee that your request will at least be looked into in a timely manner, if not handled the same day.
Since I was never able to actually get in touch with anyone from HotSpot Shield, I honestly can’t say for sure whether their support is 24/7 or not.
However, based on that alone, I think it’s safe to say that no, it’s probably not.
Rating: 0/5 – Support is spotty on a good day
The more ways you can get in touch with a VPN provider, the more opportunities you’ll have to get fast and effective service.
While most VPNs offer at least e-mail support, it’s best to look for ones that offer a live support feature of some kind as well. Live chat or phone support are much better for fast service.
HotSpot Shield only has e-mail support though, so service is anything but instantaneous.
Keep this in mind if getting fast support is something that’s important to you, as you’re likely to wait at least several hours for a response.
Rating: 1/5 – No live support options
Customer Support Test
In my experience, actually giving customer support a run for my money is the only way to truly know how effective they’re going to be. I put HotSpot Shield’s customer service to the test.
I contacted them once during typical business hours, and again way outside the norm, to see how quickly they responded, and how professional and effective their service was.
E-mail Support Test #1 – Saturday/4:43 p.m.
I contacted HotSpot Shield via their e-mail support at a pretty typical business hour on a weekend.
I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but by early Monday morning, I still had yet to receive a response.
Result: No response
Rating: 0/5 – Crickets
E-mail Support Test #2 – Sunday/3:20 a.m.
I woke up around 3 a.m. feeling pretty on the ball, so I jumped onto HotSpot Shield’s website to try their support in the wee hours of the morning. Again, I never heard back from them.
Result: No response
Rating: 0/5 – What customer support??
I was really disappointed with HotSpot Shield’s customer support. It’s really disconcerting that no one ever replied to my inquiries.
I’m wondering what kind of assistance paying customers will receive if they actually run into some technical problems. This raises a serious red flag.
Overall Support Rating: 0/10 – Completely unresponsive
How Fast is HotSpot Shield?
With every VPN under the sun claiming to be the fastest, most secure connection in the world, it’s difficult to know who’s just full of hot air.
Once again, I put HotSpot Shield to the test, this time running a speed test on their VPN connection to see how it compared to my home internet connection.
Without HotSpot Shield
With HotSpot Shield
The results of these tests seriously blew my mind. Completely frustrating though their software may be, HotSpot Shield’s connection is undeniably fast.
Even with encryption, the download and upload speeds with the VPN were actually faster than with my standard connection, even on an American server.
Rating: 5/5 – Very fast connection
How Much Does HotSpot Shield Cost?
For the most part, VPNs are pretty affordable.
Since the market has pretty much exploded with providers, pricing has become wildly competitive, and customers have never been happier with the results.
Even for a top of the line, feature-loaded VPN, you should never have to pay more than $15 a month
So as you can see, HotSpot Shield is way below that even. Their service starts at just over $3 per month when you buy six months at a time, so it’s super cheap.
The only thing I don’t really care for here is that there is no option to buy less than six months of service.
A lot of travelling businessmen like to purchase short term VPN packages to give them security and accessibility on business trips, and long term packages like this really limit their options.
Rating: 3/5 – No plan options for month to month service
The X Factor
The X factor is that unmistakable quality of professional awesomeness that some companies have.
A well organized and informative website is a big plus, as is slick and sophisticated software, and honest and creative marketing.
The X factor is the dividing line between businesses that come across as sketchy and unprofessional, versus those that are clearly on the cutting edge of their industry.
With HotSpot Shield, well, they were like that little kiosk in the center of the mall. They were full of gimmicky sales pitches, and the entire operation just had a very temporary feel to it.
I got the impression that these guys haven’t been around long, and seriously questioned the legitimacy of their business.
This feeling was really reinforced by the lack of information on their products.
There were so few specifics on their website regarding their VPN services, as a typical customer I imagine it would be hard to even know exactly what you’re paying for.
Overall, I just wasn’t impressed, and would be leery of giving these guys my payment credentials.
Rating: 5/20 – Little information on products
Okay, let’s wrap things up. I know that seems like a lot of ground to cover just to purchase a VPN, but looking into all of these factors will help you avoid throwing your money at the wrong people.
Let’s see how HotSpot Shield did.
- compatible with most operating systems
- up to five simultaneous connections
- unlimited bandwidth
- no data logging
- very easy to set up
- super-fast connection
- low monthly rates
- not compatible with Linux
- no referral program
- no money back guarantee
- unknown number of servers
- encryption strength is unclear
- invasive and irritating software
- no live support
- unresponsive customer service
- sketchy and unprofessional
Overall Score: 40/100
Overall, these guys just made me nervous. Their customer service was completely nonexistent, and their software behaved more like adware than anything.
I was unable to get the most basic information on their products, and their service seems to offer just a very basic selection of features.
You’re much better off with a more honest and upfront VPN like Express VPN – HotSpot Shield just doesn’t cut it.
To get HotSpot Shield, sign up here: HotSpot Shield
To see the highest rated VPN that scored a 97/100, click here: Express VPN.