Identity theft and fraud are two of the fastest growing crimes in the world right now, thanks to prolific internet activity over public networks.
As you sit on coffee shops checking account balances and bidding on eBay, your information has the potential to be stolen.
Not only that, but in many countries, government instituted surveillance programs actually monitor your activity.
You may face this, and even content blocks that restrict access to censored material, which can range from political blogs to Skype.
If you want to protect your information while guaranteeing unlimited access to any content, no matter where you are, the easiest way is by using a VPN.
Virtual private networks are easy to use, and can be applied to a range of devices to protect your connection and get you access to blocked content.
There are a lot of VPNs out there to choose from, and it’s hard to know which ones are worth your money.
Here I’ve taken a look at one, Mullvad, to see how it compares, and show you how to shop and compare.
The X Factor
This is the final category that usually sums up your overall impression of the VPN. To be honest, Mullvad made me a bit uneasy.
Information on the specifics of their plans were really difficult to find on their site, and some of it just wasn’t there.
This coupled with the fact that they basically have no customer service gave me the impression that this is really just an automated program, with someone stashing money into a bank account.
It’s difficult to put a name to, but the whole things feels like an abandoned site that’s just cashing in, and not actively catering to their customers.
I wasn’t really crazy about Mullvad. While they seem to cover the basics in terms of their security software, the whole company seems pretty sketchy. Let’s recap:
What was good:
- compatible with all operating systems
- allows up to 3 connections
- unlimited bandwidth
- easy software set up
- fast connection
- low monthly rates
- no data logging
What made me nervous:
- almost no customer service
- very few servers
- no money back guarantee
- no referral program
- software design was dated/difficult to use
If I’m being completely honest, I think you can do better for VPN providers.
There are plenty of other options out there that offer more features at about the same price, with the added peace of mind that a refund policy and better customer service brings.
no data logging
affordable monthly rates
no customer service
no money back guarantee
software difficult to use
Great customer service with a VPN provider is absolutely key. As with any online service, you’re going to want someone there to assist you when you (inevitably) run into a glitch.
Remember, there are plenty of VPNs out there – you deserve the best customer service they can give you.
Having 24/7 support is probably the most important part of this section. Business hours don’t do you much good if you start having technical problems at 2 a.m. on a Saturday.
Make sure the VPN you end up with is going to have your back any time, day or night.
Mullvad barely has any customer service, let alone someone that’s there 24/7.
Don’t use this VPN if you think you may wind up needing any assistance at some point (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?).
It’s always nice to be able to e-mail support when you don’t want to wake everyone up by using the phone in the middle of the night, or to be able to get instant help through a live chat feature.
Mullvad only offers their customers e-mail support, and even that’s a bit of a stretch.
The only way to contact this company is through their Bug Report feature on their software, and there’s no telling if the person on the other end of the conversation is going to be able to help you out.
There is an e-mail listed on their site to contact an admin, but it’s unclear as to whether this is for customer service or issues with the website.
For the sake of thoroughness, I used both in the customer support test that follows.
Customer Support Test
I wasn’t optimistic about Mullvad’s customer service, seeing as how they basically don’t have any.
But I thought I would at least try their Bug Report feature to see how fast I could get a response for technical issues, and if the service rep would be any help with account issues.
E-mail Support Test #1 – Friday/11:57 a.m.
I originally filed a bug report late on a Friday morning, to see how fast their support was during peak business hours.
I asked a technical question, as well as one that was more in the realm of customer service. I waited and waited, but never received a response after 36 hours.
Result: No response!
E-mail Support Test #2 – Thursday/10:37 p.m.
I thought I’d give it one more go, and see if maybe I just caught them during their off hours or something. I sent another similar request for information, this time much later in the evening.
However, again there was no response. Maybe they’ll send me a reply some time next week.
Result: No response
After my experience with Mullvad, I think it’s safe to say that this one VPN that just flat out doesn’t offer customer service.
Sure, there are some really roundabout ways you can contact them, but I definitely wouldn’t go so far as to call them customer support.
Bottom line, make sure you’re okay with being completely on your own if you sign up with these guys.
Having great encryption and lots of features is all fine and good, but if the connection’s slow, you’re going to be constantly frustrated with trying to use your VPN for day to day activities.
To see how Mullvad compared to my home internet connection, I ran a couple of speed tests and compared the two.
As you can see, my connection was a little bit faster without the VPN, but not by much. Overall, when you use Mullvad you shouldn’t notice much of a connection speed difference.
With VPNs, the name of the game is security. You want to make sure that your information is well-guarded, otherwise that monthly service fee isn’t doing you much good.
There are different levels and protocols for encryption, so make sure you’re getting the best to protect your information.
I couldn’t find any exact information on Mullvad’s encryption, or exactly what protocols they’re running.
After looking at the software, there’s nowhere to change from one type to the other, so there’s just no telling.
However, they did have a setting that killed internet access when the VPN fails, which was nice.
Their website really talks up their security, and I get the impression from the language used in their marketing that they do use L2TP protocols, which is a good start.
One thing I really liked that made them stand out from the rest was that they don’t record personal information down, and accept secure and anonymous forms of payment like BitCoin – very cool.
Once you get your VPN set up, you need to be able to connect and disconnect whenever necessary, and adjust settings without having to contact customer support.
The easier it is to use, the less time you’ll spend waiting for service e-mail replies.
Mullvad can be a little difficult to use. I was really frustrated by the lack of features in the software, and how it was all laid out.
It was tricky figuring out how to adjust the settings, and there were a lot of dead end settings that I couldn’t even understand the purpose of.
Logging in was simple enough, and with the free version, credentials weren’t even required.
Changing servers was pretty straightforward, but you had to go to a separate settings page to do it.
From there, you have to go back to the connections tab to connect to the VPN. Not crazy complicated, but a little more roundabout than I think it should have been.
What’s the Set Up Process Like?
Though VPNs are definitely gaining in popularity, many people still aren’t familiar with how they work. Software that’s complicated to set up is going to deter and frustrate a lot of potential customers.
Mullvad is really easy to set up – it’s as simple as downloading and installing the software that’s compatible with your operating system.
From there, it’s as simple as hitting connect, and you’re routed through a server nearest to you.
Will Mullvad Work on My Operating System?
Any time you’re looking at any security software, the first thing you need to ask yourself is if it’s compatible with your operating system.
Keep in mind that you can use a VPN on anything from a smartphone to a laptop, so look at all of your devices’ operating systems before you make a purchase.
Mullvad is actually compatible with all major operating systems, so it’s great for people that use a variety of devices. Their software will work with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and even Linux gadgets.
Looking at the features that a VPN has to offer is an easy to way to weed out the duds, and make sure you’re getting the most you can for your money. Here I’ll go through what Mullvad has to offer.
Feature #1: Multiple Connections
A VPN that allows multiple connections is great, especially for users with a few people that have WiFi-enabled devices in their household that they’d like to protect.
Mullvad allows up to three simultaneous connections – that’s just about the most you can expect to get from a VPN provider.
Feature #2: Money Back Guarantee
A money back guarantee tells you that this is a company that isn’t afraid to put their profits on the line to make sure you’re happy.
Whether it’s seven or thirty days, make sure they’re willing to give you a refund if their service isn’t up to par.
I couldn’t find any information on a money back guarantee on Mullvad’s website, which leads me to believe that they don’t offer one.
Typically, this feature is a real selling point, so if they did offer it, they would want to make it obvious to their customers.
Feature #3: Number of Servers
The more servers a VPN offers, the easier it is to connect to a fast server, no matter where in the world you are.
Having a variety of locations to choose from will give you more options if there’s an unusually high amount of traffic on the connection.
Here’s where Mullvad tanks it – they only have servers in four countries. Their service should work fine for you if you’re in the US or Europe, but other than that, it won’t be doing you much good.
Feature #4: Referral Program
Not many VPNs offer this feature, so if you find one that does, take note. Some VPN providers offer free service to their customers for referring their friends to their service.
Mullvad doesn’t have a referral program though, so you won’t be getting any free service with them for referring them to your friends.
Feature #5: Data Logging
The whole point of using a VPN is to protect your privacy, right? So whatever you do, make sure that the one you choose isn’t logging your internet activity.
Mullvad doesn’t track or record any of their users’ activity. Even if they’re given a court order, they don’t keep any records of their customers’ internet usage, so your privacy is protected.
Feature #6: Bandwidth
If you use streaming services a lot, or do a lot of downloading, make sure you select a VPN with plenty of bandwidth to meet your needs.
The best service plans offer unlimited bandwidth to their customers, so make sure to look at how much you’re getting for that monthly fee.
Mullvad offers their customers completely unlimited bandwidth with their service plans, so you can count on them to never limit your browsing just because of your Netflix addiction.
Ultimately, whether or not a VPN is affordable determines whether or not a customer is going to bite.
The thing is, there are plenty of VPNs out there to choose from, so you as the consumer need to demand the best price possible.
Mullvad isn’t very straightforward about their pricing – the information is pretty hard to find on their site for some reason.
However, they are very affordable, with plans at €5 a month, or about $5.30.