If you’re concerned about viruses, you probably have an antivirus program on your computer protecting you from malware. You also probably have a backup system in place to back up your data in case of hardware malfunctions. But what happens with your data pertaining to your online activity? How do you protect that data from hackers and nosy government agencies? Thankfully, virtual private networks act as a shield to protect your online data from digital eavesdroppers. HotspotShield.com is a VPN provider with a solid customer base and worldwide server locations.
Overview of HotspotShield.com
Hotspot Shield claims to have a customer base of 400 million users from 200 countries. Hotspot Shield was developed by AnchorFree, and it has been heavily featured and publicized in the media as the ultimate VPN that provides anonymous surfing by hiding your IP address, safe browsing by offering encryption of your personal information, access to geo-restricted content, and malware protection. This review will shed light on what makes Hotspot Shield such a popular VPN provider and what are the features that recommend it as a VPN service.
HotspotShield.com Price and Features
Hotspot Shield has a single Elite paid plan and a free download version. Their website is very thin on technical specifications with respect to what is included in either plans; to be more precise, there aren’t any technical specification at all with respect to the type of encryption algorithms they use to protect your data, how many server locations they have or anything of substance on these matters. This may be frustrating for those who want to quickly compare Hotspot Shield to other VPN providers, and all the more frustrating for tech savvy users who may want a clear breakdown of the capabilities of Hotspot Shield. Getting to the bottom of their technical features requires some serious back and forth browsing and digging on their website.
The prices and subscription options for the Elite plan range from a 6-month plan for $19.99 to a 1-year plan for $29.95 and a 2-year plan for $49.95. Businesses have the option of getting a plan based on the number of devices they want to install Hotspot Shield on. Thus, users can choose from the following options: Hotspot Shield installed on 20 devices for $19.95/month, on 60 devices for $54.95/month, or on 100 devices for $84.95/month. These plans come with unlimited bandwidth and high speeds. There are various payment methods available including Bitcoin.
The free version is an ad-supported version (it means that you have to buckle up for some ads to appear here and there) and comes with the basic functionalities of a VPN service – safe browsing (makes all sites accessible via HTTPS), ensures anonymous browsing by hiding your IP, and offers malware protection by detecting and blocking malware sites, however, there is no option to select your server location.
Hotspot Shield Elite, on the other hand, comes with the following features:
- Ad-free browsing;
- OpenVPN protocol;
- Support for up to 5 devices with a single license;
- Unlimited bandwidth;
- A more advanced malware protection that also includes the detection and blocking of phishing and spam sites;
- Virtual locations in US, Canada, UK, Australia, Japan, and Germany;
- Easy configuration, secures the connection automatically when it detects an unsecured network;
- Dedicated Elite support via e-mail and live chat;
- 30-day money-back guarantee;
- PC, Mac, iOS, Android and Kindle clients.
HotspotShield Privacy and Security
In terms of security, Hotspot Shield protects your online data by making use of secure protocols and encryption levels. If you’re interested in the exact type of protocols that are used the website only informs you that Hotspot Shield runs on OpenVPN. Your browsing data is encrypted using HTTPS protocol.
In the Elite plan, connection latency was not as increased as in the free plan, and speed performance did not show any anomalies or problems, however, there was a more significant drop in upload speeds. Hotspot Shield performed well in the DNS and IP leaks test as well.
HotspotShield Customer Support
Arriving to the Support page of Hotspot Shield’s website, you’ll be met with several handy guides on getting started with the service, FAQs, troubleshooting information, account and device information, and information concerning payments and subscription. There is a search tool that can help you get the information you need much quicker. If you can’t find what you need, you have the option to get in touch with customer support by submitting a ticket. Live chat is not readily available for those without a subscription, and only Elite tier customers can make use of the live chat.
Pros and Cons of HotspotShield
Hotspot Shield is a popular service with many users, but there are areas for improvement like being more clear about its encryption and protocols used, as well as providing more details on server locations.
Pros of Hotspot Shield:
- Free version (very popular among users);
- Integrated malware protection;
- Good speeds;
- Simple use;
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
Cons of Hotspot Shield:
- No clear overview of technical aspects;
- No live support;
- No P2P support.
If you can get past the fact that there is no upfront information on the number of servers they have or their concrete geographical distribution, and the fact that there is no information on protocols and encryption, or you just simply want to have a secured connection when connecting to an open WiFi, or want to have access to geo-blocked content, then Hotspot Shield is a good option for you, given that it connects quickly and has a pretty good speed performance. For those who want more transparency and robustness from a VPN service, Hotspot Shield may not be a good fit.