Private Tunnel Review

Pros

  • Speed: The speeds on the client are fast and consistent. It is not the fastest VPN service available, but the users can expect satisfactory internet speeds across all the servers on the network
  • Platform Support: The client supports a wide range of platforms. It is highly probable that you will get an app or configuration files for your device.

Cons

  • No Kill-Switch: The client comes without the internet kill switch, which is a standard feature on the client these days. It keeps the user’s data safe incase the VPN connection drops.
  • US Jurisdiction: The company is based in the USA. The USA is one of the 5 Eyes countries, and local laws are not very supportive of individual privacy.

Overview

Home Screen At Different Stage

Private Tunnel comes from the makers of the OpenVPN protocol.

As of now, this is one of the USPs of the product. Everybody knows that OpenVPN protocol is the most preferred protocol of the VPN users and they except similar greatness from Private Tunnel.

It is not easy to reach the podium when it comes to VPN services. The service needs to be the best blend of safety, security, and support.

The company is based in the USA, and it is not a good start. We know that the USA is one of the 14 Eyes countries and there are strong surveillance systems in the country.

This review will not be affected by the fact that the product shares its heritage with OpenVPN protocol. The product will get no special treatment, and we will test it under the same parameters used for the other VPN services.

We will have a close look at the security measures employed by the service provider, and speed will also be one of the major factors which will help us rate the product.

We will also keep an eye out for any added features that the product wants to offer.

Servers

Server Options

A VPN service redirects the user’s traffic through its servers. The traffic reaches the destination through these servers and hence makes it tough to trace the traffic all the way back to the user.

This whole process takes lesser time if the server is in the vicinity of the user. Prominent VPN service providers have a lot of servers located around the globe to ensure that most of the places have a VPN server nearby.

Thus, the importance of the location and the number of servers in a VPN service cannot be undermined.

Private Tunnel has more than 50 servers at 23 locations in 12 countries. If we exclude the servers in Japan and Hong Kong, then all the server locations are in North America and Europe.

They don’t have much for the African and the Middle Eastern users. The users living in Asia should not expect great services as they may have to deal with high traffic density on the servers quite often.

The number of servers, as well as the number of server locations, are not impressive by any standards. A lot of the VPN services provide a superior server network to the users.

Fewer servers can always lead to higher traffic density on the servers, which will then lead to slower speeds and poor service.

The service provider has not provided any dedicated servers for streaming or P2P file sharing. The user may have to rely on luck to find the best server suited to his/her needs in the first try.

There is no automatic server selection option present on the client as well. Having a smart connect options automates the process of finding the optimal server for a specific location.

But on Private Tunnel, users don’t get this privilege, and they need to search and then manually connect to the fastest server for their location.

The service seems to be primarily focused on the American and the European regions. It may also be a case that if you are in one of these regions, you may not come across any issues because of the servers.

However, they need to come up with a lot more server locations if the service wants to cater to global citizens.

Addition of dedicated servers should also be one of the future upgrades in the service.

Privacy Policy

Let us first address the elephant in the room. OpenVPN Inc. is based in California, USA.

The United States of America is one of the 5-Eyes countries. We all know 5-countries share all intelligence data between them and have robust surveillance systems in place to monitor the activities of the citizens.

NSA, which is a government intelligence agency of the United States, has been known to collect the personal data of the people of America, and the agency was spying on its own citizens.

The local laws don’t facilitate the privacy of the users, and the organizations and companies can never be sure if they are being monitored or not.

Even if the users trust the intent of OpenVPN Inc., the possibility of government interference or monitoring can never be ruled out.

The provider claims that they a follow a no-logs policy. But how often have we seen companies making such claims, and yet there was data logging of some sort.

The truth is that 100% no-logging is impossible, but the companies can always a minimal data logging policy, which can help them to safekeep the user’s privacy.

Let us have a look at the data which OpenVPN Inc. collects and contemplate if any of the data logging could have been eliminated.

The service provider does not log any of the user’s activity while he/she is using the VPN tunnel. This information includes data such as websites visited and browsing activity.

But there is a lot of other data which they collect. The collected data includes the user’s personal IP address, IP addresses of the VPN servers used, connection start and stop time, and the volume of data used.

According to the privacy policy, this data is logged for a period of 14 to 30 days. It also means that if someone is regularly using this VPN service, then some of the user’s personal data will always be present in the data logs.

The IP address is enough to expose the location of the user. We believe that this sort of data collection can be avoided. The service provider needs to realize that if this data gets breached, it will jeopardize the privacy of the user.

Along with all this unnecessary data collection, there is some usual and necessary data collection as well. The service will store your email address along with some of the transaction details.

The user should also know that there are cookies involved when one visits the official website of the service.

Connection Time Analysis

Connection time analysis gives information about the swiftness of the client.

The Private Tunnel client is not studded with a lot of features, so the client is expected to be a bit faster with the remaining options.

Trial No.Time to establish a connection (seconds)
Avg. Time In Seconds4.44
14.46
24.28
34.58
44.97
54.24
64.38
74.65
84.25
94.27
104.4

We were not disappointed at all when we did the connection time analysis for the client. The client took an average of a mere 4.44 seconds to establish a connection with the network.

Not only the connection times were very low, the client performed consistently throughout the test. This is the most precise performance in the connection time analysis that we have ever seen.

Speed Test

Speed Test Analysis For Different Servers – During Our Review

OpenVPN protocol is the best combination of speed and security that any protocol can offer. The protocol is not the fastest one, and there are faster protocols available if speed is the only concern.

Private Tunnel also seems to be going on the same path as OpenVPN protocol. The VPN service is not the fastest one, and there are faster VPNs available.

The fastest speed we obtained on the client was 73% of the original speed.

Keeping in mind that the service has gone with 128-bit encryption instead of 256-bit to provide higher speeds, the service provider seems to have missed the trick.

The speed obtained on the fastest server is satisfactory but not the best. The speeds on the far away located servers was also not very exciting.

We recorded 50%, 60%, and 32% of the original speeds on the Swedish, UK, and US servers respectively.

The service provider needs to come up with ways to offer higher speeds to the users or else there are quite a few service providers which provide greater speeds with stronger encryptions for the same protocol.

The service provider does not cap the bandwidth or internet speeds for the user, but this might not be of much use to the customers if the speed output of the client remains the same.

Security

There is no denying of the fact that Private Tunnel gets a lot of the benefit from the reputation of the OpenVPN Inc.

People think that the VPN service will also be safe and fast just like the OpenVPN protocol provided by the company.

But this myth needs to be laid at rest, and people need to realize that the protocol and the VPN service are different entities. It does not matter if both are the products of a single organization.

It should not be a surprise to the users that the client supports only OpenVPN protocol. We also never expected the makers of OpenVPN protocol to provide any other protocol in their VPN service. Not after the protocol has such an excellent reputation.

Protocol Options in the UI

The protocol can be used with both TCP and UDP ports. If the user feels difficulty in making a choice, he/she can go for the ‘adaptive’ option and let the client choose the protocol.

Along with the OpenVPN protocol, the service offers some proxies as well. These are HTTPS, OBFS, and OBFS-Hybrid proxy.

The users can make use of these proxies when their only intention is to circumvent the geo restrictions, and data encryption is not a concern at all.

However, addition of a few more protocols will make the product even better. OpenVPN is among the safest and fastest protocols available, but more options always make the product a lot more desirable.

Private Tunnel encrypts the user’s data with 128-bit encryption. We were a bit surprised to find out this fact.

This is not the highest-grade encryption available, and most of the VPN services come with 256-bit encryption these days.

But it does not mean that 128-bit encryption isn’t safe enough. It is still very tough to decrypt it without any key.

The service provider claimed that most the breaching efforts are focused on the loop holes and other shortcomings instead of trying to break the algorithm. It makes the service faster without compromising with the security.

It is tough to counter the claims of the service provider, but they need to include 256-bit encryption as an option an let the users choose between the speed and security. Many VPN services allow users to change the encryption level, and the users seem happy with the controls in their hand.

The product lacks heavily if we talk about additional security features. The client does not support IPv6. With all the mainstream VPN services providing IPv6 support, Private Tunnel also needs to step up.

There is DNS leak protection on the service, but they use Google Public DNS servers. They don’t have their own DNS servers, and involvement of a third party is never desirable in such services.

The client has no internet kill switch as well.

Now, we don’t remember the last time we came across a VPN service without the internet kill switch. Kill switch has become a norm in VPN services. It automatically stops the internet traffic if the VPN server connection drops.

This prevents the user’s personal data from getting on the internet without the safety of a VPN.

The service needs to strengthen the security features on the product. The current system in place is not enough, and they need to make it as safe as the OpenVPN protocol.

User Interface and Experience

Private Tunnel is not one of those VPN services which are studded with features. In fact, there seems to be a dearth of features on this service.

The user interface is nothing but the translation of the product. You cannot expect much from the user interface as there is nothing much in the product to showcase.

No added security features, no multiple protocols, no multi VPN, no kill switch, and absence of a lot of other things is not the recipe for an exciting user interface.

Connection Options

Once you are connected to the VPN network, the client displays the username, the server location, and the IP address of the connected server.

The three options that the user has read ‘About,’ ‘Settings,’ and ‘Logout.’ The names are self-explanatory but let us discuss them a bit more.

The settings window provides the user with three options. The user can opt for ‘Auto Start,’ choose ‘Protocol,’ and set the ‘Connection Timeout.’

Default Settings

Apart from these three things, the user has nothing except the servers to change.

The server list is neither lengthy nor interesting. There is no auto-connect option for the starters. The user needs to find the optimal server for his/her location.

Server sorting and dedicated servers are also missing. Dedicated servers help the users to find the best servers for their choice of work, but Private Tunnel provides no such feature.

The user interface can see improvements only when the product improves. The service provider will have to throw in some additional features in the product to enhance the user experience.

Platforms and Devices

The client provides support for all the major platforms such as Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and routers.

The website displays the download icons for the first four platforms only. You can directly download the app for one of these platforms.

For the other platforms, the user needs to find and download the configuration files from the official website.

The platform support covers a lot of the devices, and it is highly probable that the user may find the client support on his/her device as well.

The service provider can, however, make it easier for the users to get the app or configuration files for their device. They should dedicate a section of the website from where the users can download the necessary files and apps.

Currently, it is difficult for the users to find configuration files for their devices which run on the lesser known platforms.

The service allows three devices to be simultaneously connected from one account. Most of the VPN service providers allow five simultaneous connections from one account and Private Tunnel also needs to do the same or better to stay relevant for a more extended period.

Customer Support

The customer support acts as a channel between the service and the customers. It helps the customer to know more about the service and vice versa.

Satisfactory customer service can make the customer stick with the service for longer periods whereas a poor customer service will repel the customers away.

Private Tunnel promises a 24/7 live chat support for the client.

We had a few queries, and we contacted the live chat support.  The response was quick but not helpful at all. The live support assistant was not able to answers simple questions such as one about IPv6 support.

We were told that they couldn’t answer our questions and we need to e-mail the questions to the service.

Since we had no other option, we mailed them our questions. This time the response was relevant, but not quick enough.

We had to wait for a whole day to know a trivial detail about the product. We think the live chat support should be competent enough to answer such questions.

The support page on the website has a lot of content, but then it misses the discussion about relevant topics. We can again take the example of IPv6 support for this case.

If there were a discussion about this on the support page, then we would have been spared from the lengthy process of mailing and then waiting for a reply.

The service provider needs to provide more information to the live support agents and make the support page a lot more informative.

Conclusion

Reviewing this product was like getting back in time.

The specifications of the product are from five years ago. One protocol, few servers, and 128-bit encryption are not the attributes of a modern-day product.

We had high expectations from the product as it comes from the makers of OpenVPN protocol. Sadly, the product was not even close to fulfilling our expectations.

The service needs improvement on every front. Only satisfactory section was the speed. The service is not lightening fast, but it provides high-speed internet to the users.

The service had nothing much to do to promote themselves as the majority of the people who know VPNs also know about OpenVPN protocol. The service provider needs to take advantage of this userbase, but that will happen only of the product is competent enough.

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