Why Is VPN Software Beneficial?

Back in my working days, VPN (Virtual Private Network) software was used mostly by companies to allow their workers to connect to their Host computers safely from their homes. Today there are several companies providing virtual VPNs for individuals to securely connect to the Internet. It is becoming especially important for travelers.

Many travelers today depend on Wifi hotspots to connect to the Internet. Many do not realize how dangerous that flexibility really is. It is easy for the bad guys to setup a Wifi connection for travelers and if used they can capture all sorts of passwords and access to bank accounts, credit card accounts, etc.

Enter the VPN. If you use a VPN connection you have a secure connection between your PC and the server of the VPN provider. Even if you connect from a non secure Wifi location, by enabling your VPN software, you are protected.

If you are one of the many laptop users that use wireless connection, you should consider using this software to protect you. If you are a Windows or Mac user, there is a free piece of software called Hotspot Shield. When activated, you will appear to have a US IP address and you will have a secure connection to the US servers.

It will display a piece of advertisement on a page, but you can close it and it will cost you no screen real estate. It is free because of this advertisement. That is a very good deal. It is easy to download on either a Mac or Windows PC. It will not work on Linux. I have used it on both systems and it works well.

If you want a full service VPN, there are a lot on the Internet and a quick search will give a lot of choices. The price will start at about $5 a month and go up. It all depends on what devices you want to protect. Many will also work on smart phones that connect to the Internet.

I narrowed my test systems to two, WiTopia and AceVPN.

Both of these systems, as well as others, can also work with selected routers. The advantage of having a router that supports VPN is that all PCs in a household would be covered. This is a future project I will look into if I decide that I need support on multiple PCs at one time. For now one connection at a time is sufficient.

For my initial test, I chose AceVPN. I had sent emails to both Witopia and AceVPN and Ace responded faster. I placed a Paypal order for one month to evaluate the service. I have had several questions and each email I sent to Ace was responded to in 15 minutes or less. You can’t bet much better support than that.

Should you consider using some of the above software? If you travel and use a laptop in wireless situations, the answer is a resounding YES! If you live in a foreign country and certain of the sites you want to visit are blocked, because of IP addresses, then it would solve that problem as well.

The above software  is pretty simple for Windows or Mac users. If you are a Linux user, you will most likely have better luck if you use the Gnome desktop. If you happen to be using the KDE desktop and have gotten a VPN to work, drop me an email. I would like to pick your brain.

NOTE: I switched to WiTopia.


42 thoughts on “Why Is VPN Software Beneficial?

  1. Good write-up, Don. Thank you. I’m interested in reading more of your VPN test experience if you choose to share it. I haven’t yet hooked up the Witopia I purchased but plan to do it this weekend. The Witopia package came with a 30 day return privilege. I haven’t yet explored all the info available at the Ace site.

  2. Thanks for finding additional providers. I quit looking after I found HotSpotVPN, which I mentioned in a comment to another post. AceVPN looks promising; I look forward to hearing your updates.

  3. Hi Don, good post. I downloaded the hotspot shield to give it a try. It works well. I didn’t know there were free options out there. I don’t need a full vpn yet, but I will give the two you mentioned a try when i do.


  4. We are coming to Panama to check it out in late May. Should we secure before we get there? Also, if two computers use the same wireless network, will one cancel out the access of the other?

  5. Hi John. If you are using the hotspot shield, then it should not make a difference. If you are using a full VPN, then only one PC can access the Internet at a time per account. You can get a separate account if needed.

    If you are planning on using the laptops in airports in the US, then it is a good idea to be secured there as well.

  6. Hi Jose. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Both WiTopia and AceVPN use openVPN connections and neither have ads on their service. I guess as you imply, if you have a friend in the US and can setup your own server, that would be the best of all worlds, but would require know how and server hardware.

  7. I finally got Witopia’s VPN installed on a Windows Vista laptop (once I followed the instructions to the letter). I then setup an ipod for pptp. However, I haven’t yet been able to connect to the vpn server. I added the protocol to the router for the ipod and triple checked the ipod settings….stood on one foot and flapped my arms three times…and still no go. So, I submitted a trouble ticket late last night and received a response about 0400 today. After a few emails and confirmation from tech support that the settings used in the ipod were correct, the trouble ticket was passed upstream (this morning around 0800) to a senior tech support person. I haven’t heard back yet.

    The VPN on the laptop seems to work well, allows connecting to vpn servers around the globe, and is easy for a non-technical person to use (assuming no hiccups). I connected to a server in Hong Kong and when I brought up the Google home page, I had Chinese characters all over the screen 🙂 Digging around in the router allowed me to get intimate with it again…I haven’t “dug in its drawers” for several months. I did notice that AceVPN offers both L2TP VPN and PPTP VPN for an Ipod whereas Witopia offers only PPTP.

  8. Hi Michael. My performance isn’t currently what I would like it to be. However, ACE has been adding servers in Europe and that has moved some European users to the US servers.

    I will say that all communication with ACE support has been very fast. I doubt if I have sent them any email that was not responded to in 15 minutes or less.

  9. This morning, I requested a refund from Witopia. For me, their “escalation” team was not sufficiently responsive to help me find a solution to get pptp working on an ipod. It took about 12 hours for the escalation team’s first response back to me…and the person made no attempt at problem solving. The escalation team is their advanced problem solver. So…I’m going to try AceVPN next.

  10. Haven’t tried ace but Witopia has openvpn servers in Dallas Texas and LA that are very fast from central america. Distance matters.

    For iPhones and witopia, PPTP is blocked in some countries (belize, for one) but witopia confirmed they are adding l2tp or ipsec (both compatible with iTouch and iPhone) in a few weeks to compliment their PPTP and openvpn offering. I also like unlimited bandwidth and 30 day moneyback guarantee from witopia versus ace’s 3 day guarantee and 10GB limit.

  11. The jury is still out in my book. However, ACR has a pay by the month option and spending $5 for 30 days seems better than signing a contract and then trying to get the money back. My service response has been fast to this point, but the through put and general performance is not satisfactory at this point.

  12. Well…I’m being a little double-minded. I changed my mind and decided to keep WiTopia. It works great on the laptop, fast connection, multiple servers, and easy to use for a non-technical person. My Type-A personality caused me to be a little hasty (as in “The devil made me do it”…I guess that means I am my own devil). I’m going to test the Ipod at a local hotspot to see if the problem is my Actiontec router. If the Ipod connects, then I have a router issue. I’m also going to try the PPTP on my Windows XP box. WiTopia is also supposed to set up a beta version of L2TP soon.

  13. I got the PPTP VPN working on my XP box. It connects to a server in Washington, DC. Using speedtest.net, my connection was 13.98 Mb/s down and 1.70 Mb/s up (I guess there, I’ll be fortunate to get 1/10th that speed). My usual connection is only about 5% faster up/down. So, I know PPTP works wirelessly, as configured with XP. Over the weekend, I’m going to scout out a hotspot and test the Ipod.

  14. I tried using the hulu service with PPTP VPN but was blocked from doing so. I disconnected PPTP then hooked up hotspot shield. @ speedtest.net, I had a connection of 12.88 Mb/s down and 1.58 Mb/s up. The ping on the hotspot shield connection was 225ms compared to 61 ms with WiTopia. Without VPN, I usually have a ping of 14-16ms. Using hotspot shield, I was able to use the hulu service. I’m going to see if I can connect to hulu on the laptop using the SSL (openVPN) connection.

  15. Michael, Sounds like your are making a lot of progress.

    Since you are in the US, I assume you can get HULU when not up on VPN, What was the reason you were blocked from using HULU?

  16. 1. Message from Hulu using WiTopia PPTP (I haven’t yet done this test with SSL (OpenVPN)

    “Based on your IP address, we noticed you are trying to access Hulu through an anonymous proxy tool. Hulu is not currently available outside the U.S. If you’re in the U.S., you’ll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.”

    2. I did a comparison of feedback information when connecting to a “show my IP address” web site with (1) no VPN, (2) Hotspot Shield and (3) PPTP. Comparing the “Host Name” and “Organization” information between the three connections was interesting. However, I’ll email you the document because it is a couple pages long (and contains my IP address). The feedback information was obtained from:

    I’ll do a 4th comparison with the SSL (OpenVPN) sometime later today.

  17. I’m now testing SSL AceVPN on my Windows XP box. Speedtest shows I’m connected to a server in Secaucus, NJ. I have 7.09Mb/s down and 1.59Mb/s up and a ping of 88ms. I’m also able to connect to hulu.

  18. When I read HULU on here my “ears” perked up. I will be trying to use that when I get to Panama.


  19. i tried hotspot and got tired of the interruptions and the banner ads, including hardcore porn, so i’m going to try acevpn next.

    Jesse D wrote:
    ”Haven’t tried ace but Witopia has openvpn servers in Dallas Texas and LA that are very fast from central america. Distance matters.”

    distance matters? ok, i’m in panamá now but i’m going to s.e. asia soon and not being a techie, i’m assuming this works from there.

    thanks guys,
    norm : ))~

  20. I consider Hotspot a temporary solution and agree with the banner interruptions. I am still using ACEVPN and it should work from all over the world. It seems to work fine for me in the morning, but in the afternoon, video type downloads seem to buffer a lot. I don’t know if it is the ACEVPN servers or Cable Onda. They have been responsive to emails.

  21. I tried both ACEVPN and WiTopia. I decided to go with WiTopia and now have two accounts. As of this morning, WiTopia has 36 servers to connect to in Washington DC, Atlanta GA, Chicago IL, NY City Metro, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Los Angeles CA, San Francisco CA, Seattle WA, London, Manchester, and Hong Kong. Some of their available SSL (openVPN) connections offer 256 bit encryption.

    The SSL (openVPN) works with sites like HULU. In my experience, WiTopia was faster than ACE. PPTP VPN connection was not accepted by HULU. I was not able to get PPTP VPN working on an iPod Touch. But I concluded that I was doing something wrong and didn’t want to take the time to research the connection problem.

    ACEVPN also offers L2PT VPN which I WAS able to get it working on an iPod. WiTopia does not offer L2PT VPN but I understand they might in the future.

    The WiTopia service was easy to install when I followed the directions (smile).

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