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In Depth HideMyAss Review Dissects Service Features

Hidemyass Review
Author: Danish Pervez Category: Reviews

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Introduction

HideMyAss is owned by UK (London) based Privax Ltd. The company has been registered for over three years now and claims (on its LinkedIn page) to have over 10 million unique website visitors every month and over 150,000 active paying subscribers. With a workforce of no more than 50 people, Privax Ltd does not have a separate website and seems to focus entirely on providing privacy and security

HMA 

The physical location of the company is 7 Moor St, London, London W1D5NB, UK. According to UK based CompanyCheck, HideMyAss owner Privax currently has a net worth of £496,023, assets worth £2,068,800 and liabilities worth £1,573,681.

As a pioneer in the provision of commercial VPN services, HMA is a king in the VPN industry! But HMA seems to believe that nobody cares about anything else but service quality; and that it is ok to fall short on other perimeters as long as service quality remains unparalleled. While I can appreciate that there is a method to this madness: a single-focused consistency to HMA’s somewhat bullish attitude to the rest of the VPN using community; this HideMyAss review is going to take a twist and give HMA credit only where it is due – meaning that there will be merciless demerits where there are weaknesses!

Unique Selling Proposition

If you put aside the additional services that HideMyAss offers (more on this later) and judge HideMyAss strictly for VPN services, the only unique selling proposition that HideMyAss has is the server strength. It is perhaps the only characteristic that allows HideMyAss to stand tall and proud in the VPN industry.

Plans and Pricing

HideMyAss offers three pricing plans:

HideMyAss pricing plans

These are undiscounted prices (even though the crossed out original prices indicate otherwise) that remain active on the HideMyAss website around the year. HideMyAss rarely brings out any major discounts for customers – so don’t expect any big changes in the numbers when you visit the website.

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Bulk Customers

HideMyAss does not have any specific prices quoted for corporate customers. Corporate customers can access a specific quote request form by clicking on ‘Business and bulk account customer? Enquire here’ located under the pricing plan display for regular HideMyAss customers.

HideMyAss asks for your name, email address, company name and the number of computers on which you wish to run (in addition to any additional comments you may have).

Bulk/Corporate customers are given discounts based on the number of accounts they wish to buy and the time length for which the VPN accounts are required. However, HideMyAss requires bulk customers to purchase at least 5 accounts (or 10 connections) before the special discounts can be applied.

Servers

HideMyAss has a separate tab on the home page totting ‘Servers’. Not a lot of VPN service providers can do that, but HideMyAss does it with pride. I’m talking 537 VPN servers spread out across in 129 locations in 63 countries. That gives HideMyAss the power to make 65197 IP addresses available for its VPN users.

A very large concentration of HideMyAss’s servers is positioned in the United States. The second largest concentration of HideMyAss’s servers is located in European countries, followed by server counts in the UK region and the North American/Canadian regions. Asian, South American, Central American and African regions have no more than one server in each country.

The server locator on the website is pretty nifty but I somehow feel that it would have been better if HideMyAss had presented a server-load distribution instead of a simple list boasting the server count. I already know that HideMyAss offers OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP on all servers – and I’m very impressed with the IP count listing as well, but all of that information is useless for me if I don’t know how much load which server is currently experience. All that jazz does not really add more than a cursory utility to my user experience.

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Customer Support

Customer support can be accessed through the ‘Contact’ button located at the top of the website. This HideMyAss review chose to put aside the highly generic FAQ section on the website and considered the interactive ends of HideMyAss’s customer support system as those that count. In this perspective, the VPN service provider uses a three pillared customer support system:

·         Email (Support Tickets)

·         Live Chat

·         Community (Forum)

Email (Support Ticket)

I decided to test HMA’s customer support with two tickets – both placed within minutes of each other.

The first support ticket was opened on Saturday, January 11, 2014, at 8:25 AM.

This is what I wrote:

I’ve been using VPN for some time now, but I like what you guys have to offer but I wanna know if you guys offer split tunneling. Because I can’t see it any of your screen shots or the pages on your website.

I received no response for my support ticket and I was more surprised than disappointed at the apparent negligence. I thought my ticket would remain unattended and eventually go down the list so far that no sane person would scroll down to search for unresolved tickets that old. Boy was I wrong.

Little did I know that HMA would reply to both my support tickets in one response.

My second support ticket was opened on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 8:27 AM.

This is what I wrote:

Your support forum only shows instructions on setting up HMA VPN on XBOX via ICS on Mac. I have a PC with Windows XP, not a Mac.

The response came on the same day (which is great), at 06:03 PM (which is not so great). So zero points for timing!

The response was quite detailed, and the cherry on top was that HMA support chose to respond to BOTH my questions in ONE reply.

HideMyAss’s Response (I decided to copy-paste a screen-shot for authenticity):

HMA Support

The response quality was not so bad, but could have been better. And don’t even remind me that HMA responded to both my queries in one email – if there was a law on support ticket response ethic, I would have made sure HMA got penalized. Not happy!!

Ok maybe the response was ok if you consider the question, but I can’t seem to get my head around the fact that they left me to figure out that both my support tickets had been responded to in one email.

The LEAST they could have done was to indicate a combination of both support tickets in the subject line! Honestly is it that difficult!?

Live Chat

For all my readers who will not be fortunate enough to be up during the 12 hours when HideMyAss live chat support is available, I took the liberty of taking a screen shot of how the HideMyAss live chat icon will look. When the live chat staff decides to grace the live website visitors with its blessings, you will be able to see the following graphic in the lower right corner of your screen.

HMA Live Support

Community (Forum)

The HideMyAss Forum is very active with customers and customer support technicians exchanging knowledge every day. The highly active Forum has taken on the form of a knowledge base for new customers. This HideMyAss review gives full marks for excellent Forum management.

 hidemyass community

Sign-Up Process

The sign-up process begins with creating your account at HideMyAss. You will land at the ‘Account creation’ page no matter which subscription plan you click on.

HMA Signup Process

Once you have created your account with your desired user name and password, the next stage is to select a payment plan and a payment method.

HMA Payment Selection

Payment Methods

HideMyAss offers four payment methods:

·         Credit Card

·         Paypal

·         Bitcoin

·         Bank & Wire Transfer

HideMyAss will provide you the option to Auto-Renew your subscription if you select either ‘Credit Card’ or ‘Paypal’ as a payment method.

Also, it merits highlighting that HideMyAss is not a big one for expansion where payment methods are associated. The three traditional methods of ‘Bank & Wire Transfer’ and ‘Credit Card’ have only –increased with the popular ‘Paypal’ option and the more recent ‘Bitcoin’ adding on in the recent past.

Depending on which one of the four payment methods you choose to select, the HideMyAss website will forward you to the gateway for that payment method.

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Selecting ‘Credit Card’ or ‘Paypal’ will forward you to forms where you will be required to enter in your credentials so that the transfer can be made.

HMA Payment Option

HMA Payment Option Final

Selecting ‘Bitcoin’ will forward you to a different screen where the website will convert the price of the selected subscription plan into Bitcoin. You will be provided a QR code that you will be required to scan with your smart-phone to open with a Bitcoin URI-compatible wallet. This screen will remain active (valid) for only 15 minutes though so don’t waste too much time. If you delay it beyond 15 minutes, the QR code will disappear from your screen and be replaced by a message stating: ‘This invoice has expired’.

HMA Bitcoin

Selecting ‘Wire Transfer’ will bring you to a form where you will be required to fill in your credentials, after which point your information will be forwarded to HideMyAss for processing. If your information is verified in processing, HideMyAss then process the order and notifies you via email.

Compatibility

This HideMyAss review boldly declares HideMyAss’s apps as extremely user friendly. In the classic yellow/green theme, the HideMyAss apps offer a wide variety of features and are really easy to navigate.

HideMyAss offers VPN clients for Windows and Mac, platforms as well as Apple & Android devices. There is not client available for the Linux platform. Users wishing to configure HideMyAss on a Linux OS can download the interface-based HideMyAss client for Linux on request.

In the smart phone category, HideMyAss smart phone apps are also available (for the iPhone and iPad) on iTunes and you can expect a HideMyAss app for android to come out soon.

In the mean time, Android users can make use of free VPN apps (such as OpenVPN app or FeatVPN app) that are available in the market. These can be configured to run the HideMyAss VPN.

Setting up HideMyAss on a router can get slightly complicated. The HideMyAss website has a webpage with a list of recommended routers.

HMA Router

For more details and updates on HideMyAss’s compatibility and support, visit the HideMyAss support page.

Tutorials Provided

HideMyAss has loads of information available to help users setup and trouble shoot their HideMyAss VPN accounts. However, dare I say it, it’s a mess! Information is spread out across the website and the support page.

Tutorials are available for Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, Android and iOS. In addition, there setup tutorials are also available for HideMyAss VPN on Routers, Open DNS and a variety of access options.

There is a tutorial available for just about everything, and if you don’t manage to find a tutorial through the HideMyAss support page, there is sure to be a discussion on the subject in the HideMyAss forum.

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Protocols and Encryption

HideMyAss provides users PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN protocols. Encryption levels for each protocol differ. I took the liberty of making sure that this HideMyAss review provides specifics on the encryption levels that each protocol provides.

PPTP: For encryption PPTP uses MPPE 128bit cipher with compression and MS-CHAPv2 authentication.

L2TP: L2TP is using IPSec for encryption with 256 bit key for encryption, 3DES/AES algorithm

OpenVPN-TCP: For encryption the cipher in use is CBC mode of Blowfish with encryption strength of 128bit, hash algorithm is 160bit SHA1, and the control channel is same TLSv1/SSLv3 DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA, 1024 bit RSA.

OpenVPN-UDP: Same encryption and security as OpenVPN-TCP, but working via UDP protocol. This allows better speeds and bypasses more restrictions.

Free Trial

HideMyAss does not offer any free or paid trial. You will have to derive consolation from the fact that HideMyAss offers a 30 day money back guarantee on all purchases. While nothing can possibly make up for the absence of a free trial, the 30 day money back guarantee comes pretty close when considered in addition to the constant availability of HideMyAss’s Free Web Proxy.

Additional Services

HMA Additional Services

Besides ProVPN, HideMyAss provides the following services:

WebProxy:

This is the free feature that got HideMyAss off the ground. HideMyAss still uses it as a platform to market VPN services to netizens new to the concept of IP juggling.

IP – Port Proxies:

HideMyAss offers an array of proxy servers available for public access and use. Using these proxies is a quick way to bypass access blocks at the bypass level. This is a not a new feature but HideMyAss uses it to its advantage by providing a list of the Free proxies (IP addresses) on the website, followed by the region of location, speed, connection time, proxy type and anonymity level that each proxy is capable of providing.

In order to strengthen and expand the free proxy feature, HideMyAss works with the Planetlab CoDeen project. The Planetlab CoDeen project is the Princeton University’s project and is essentially a ‘network of educational internet nodes’.

Anonymous Email:

If you are comfortable with an email address that ends with ‘@hmamail.com’, then HideMyAss’s anonymous email is sure to appeal to you. The feature allows you to send emails while staying anonymous. The email account will be self-deleting and you can set the auto-delete timer according to your preference (from 24 hours to 12 months). I find the anonymous email feature to be something of an exaggeration based on a manipulation of standard internet procedures. In fact, I don’t believe in HideMyAss’s statement that the account will self-destruct. A cursory knowledge of data storage methodologies is sufficient to assert that it is virtually impossible to delete data in today’s internet-intensive times.

Privacy Software:

There are three privacy software that HideMyAss offers. These software essentially function as browser plug-ins and can be installed for free.

·  The ever famous ‘HMA! Web Proxy Browser Extension’ is HideMyAss’s one-click solution for individuals looking to direct their internet browser traffic through one of HideMyAss’s free proxies with one click.

·   The ‘HMA! PanicButton’ is nothing but a clever browser window tab concealer.

·   The ‘HMA! IP Checker’ will tell you your IP – that’s it. There is no unique software that you won’t find on any other website.

File Upload:

The File Upload feature is kinda nifty. It lets you upload files and then protect them with a password that only you can share with anybody who you want to allow access to the file. To further tighten the clamp, the HideMyAss File Upload feature lets you set regions and IP address (or IP address ranges) for which file download will be allowed. You can also set the file on timed self-destruct or set a download count after which the file will auto-delete. This is perhaps the only additional feature on the HideMyAss website that has any outstanding characteristics.

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The Client Application

I decided to take the HideMyAss client for Windows for a test run.

The ‘Dashboard’ is your basic login area, protocol selection menu and quick server-selection drop-down list.

HMA pro VPN

Every time I tried to connect to a server, I ended up with a pop-up window notifying me that the server was loaded:

‘The server you are trying to connect to is loaded more than 30% of all other servers from the city’

The pop-up window would recommend another city to me and give me 30 seconds to decide if I wanted to connect to the recommended server. I would agree to the recommendation, only to be faced with the same message and again and this time faced with another server recommendation. Not cool!

The ‘Country Selection’ tool lets you be as picky as you please about server selection. You can sort countries based on protocol type, or you can explore the built-in map if you want.

HMA pro VPN 2

The IP Address Settings tab will let you make changes to the time period after which the HideMyAss client will change your IP. The tab also has an IP address identifying option that lets you confirm if your IP has changed yet or not. Nothing special here really.

HMA Ip Address

If you ask me, I think ‘Secure IP Bind’ is HideMyAss’s way of making up for the absence of Split Tunneling feature. It is essentially a fail-safe that allows HideMyAss to keep a check on application you use to connect to the internet. The feature triggers (for applications you identify) when you forget to switch on HideMyAss before you begin using them. It also works if your VPN connection with the HideMyAss server disconnects for any reason during your surfing session. In both cases, the Secure IP bind feature disables your application from connecting to the internet – until you reactivate your VPN by reconnecting to a VPN server. Pretty neat, but not an adequate substitute for Split Tunneling.

HMA Ip Bind

Now we come to my favorite feature: the speed guide! I immediately fell in love with the speed test tool! The speed test tool gives you a list of the available HideMyAss servers and the physical distance between you and each server. In addition, there are three speed tests available.

·         Ping Test

·         Express Test

·         Full Test

HMA Speed Guide

The ‘Proxy Settings’ tab is redundant. They could have placed the settings in the ‘IP Address settings’ tab. The ‘Proxy settings’ tab does little more than let you choose which of the three proxy settings you wish to use: direct connection, HTTP proxy or SOCKS proxy.

HMA Proxy Settings

I won’t even go into the last tab. It lets you buy more of HideMyAss, period.

Speed Test

It takes a mountain load of confidence to put an active speed-test tool in your VPN client. And I salute the courage that HideMyAss has for putting in three types of speed tests.

I decided to use the built-in speed testing tool and see what results I get. Sitting from my UK IP, I managed to get the following pings, upload speeds and download speeds when I ran the Express Test. Do remember that I ran these tests on the PPTP protocol.

HMA Guide test

I figured that these figures were ok if you consider that the fact that I’m using HideMyAss from a UK IP, so I decided trying out some alternative servers that were geographically dispersed. The scores I got were pretty impressive.

HMA Speed Guide Test

Conclusion

It has the largest number of VPN servers in the industry and is known to consistently deliver quality service. It rarely comes up with discount offers (only two actually: Summer holidays and New Year) and has a live chat support system that is online only 12 hours out of every 24. And it can do that because it is one of the best VPN services in the world right now. I’ve been reviewing VPN service providers to know that HMA is one of the few VPN service providers that have chosen to minimize changes on the website.

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When the world sleeps, Danish Pervez is online researching consumer preferences and identifying next-gen trend waves. Experience in IT, combined with his diverse expertise in marketing and research - both traditional and digital - gives him an insight well worth reading and sharing. When he isn't busy challenging prevalent norms through his personal blog, he blogs here to spread awareness and stimulate discussions on how innovation in IT is changing everybody’s lives every day.



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