StrongVPN is part of US based Reliable Hosting’s product portfolio. The company offers dedicated servers, shared web hosting, virtual private servers, colocation services, domain registration, domain renewal and virtual private networks – which is where StrongVPN comes in. The company claims to have been functioning ever since 1994 which gives it almost 20 years of experience in the IT industry.
Unique Selling Proposition
I write the Unique Selling Proposition section for every VPN service provider after having carried out the full review of all the features that the VPN service provider has to offer and I did the same for StrongVPN. StrongVPN’s prices are pretty reasonable if you consider the average monthly cost incurred for the 12 month pricing plans.
StrongVPN has clearly given a lot of attention to the development of the StrongVPN client. I tried out the StrongVPN client for Windows for a test drive to see what sort of presentation StrongVPN chose to exercise.
I have tested and reviewed countless VPN client applications in 2017 but I have never ever seen a VPN client offering features like the StrongVPN client. I was surprise to see that the client initially comes forth as a simple little little un-complicated dialog box.
Actually, the client starts out by asking your username and password before allowing you to proceed forward and open out the actual client interface. Once you have supplied your user name and password, a small little uncomplicated window opens up. At first it looks like a joke and you will find yourself looking around for the rest of the client interface while your mouse hovers on ‘Connect’.
Then you will see the ‘Advanced’ button and my advice is that you hold your breath before you click on it because I promise you that it will catch you off-guard. A much larger window will open out once you click on ‘Advanced’ with features that you won’t find in any other VPN service provider. Clicking on ‘Advanced’ will give you complete control over your VPN connection, its setup and its progress.
StrongVPN Amazing Package Plans
I will dissect StrongVPN’s pricing plan for your convenience.
The first category we have is the StrongVPN PPTP packages. StrongVPN offers three packages under this category: LITE PPTP, STANDARD PPTP and DELUXE PPTP.
I wouldn’t recommend the LITE and STANDARD packages because they come with access to servers from only the US, but the DELUXE package comes with 18 countries and is definitely attractive.
Next up we have StrongVPN’s OpenVPN package category. StrongVPN provides three packages in this category with prices starting from $10 per month and going up to $20. These packages essentially offer access to OpenVPN protocol with higher encryption capacity. Also note that the server-switching margin varies in a pattern similar to that of the PPTP package.
PREMIUM OPEN AND PPTP PACKAGE
Last up is the Premium Open and PPTP package that is StrongVPN’s all-rounder. This package is StrongVPN’s high-end package and comes with everything but the kitchen sink. At the same time, it is also undoubtedly StrongVPN’s most expensive package with prices starting from $30 per month – which means that you will end forking up $90 in one hit if you want to buy a subscription for this VPN package based on StrongVPN’s 3 month-minimum requirement.
Besides these packages, StrongVPN also offers SPECIAL packages. These are different from the standard packages that StrongVPN offers and you might have to do a bit of searching around on the StrongVPN website to find them. Ask customer support on the StrongVPN website to give you a direct link to the SPECIAL packages webpage if you don’t manage to find them.
This package offers access to 252 PPTP VPN servers in 4 countries. The PPTP servers also support L2TP protocols. The package allows users to execute 15 VPN server switches per month. The package is only available through a 1 year pricing plan for $55.00. This brings the monthly cost to $4.58.
SPECIAL PPTP or OPEN
This package offers access to 377 OPEN and PPTP servers in 4 countries. The PPTP servers also support L2TP protocols. Much like SPECIAL PPTP, the package allows users to execute 15 VPN server switches per month. The package is only available through a 1 year pricing plan for $85.00. The monthly cost averages out to $7.08.
The StrongVPN ‘Packages’ webpage will bombard you with VPN packages. But before I organize them for your convenience, let me get one thing clear here: pricing is the last thing on StrongVPN’s agenda – which is kind of irritating because it is the first thing I tend to think about when searching for a VPN service provider.
Judging by the ‘Packages’ webpage, StrongVPN insists that you start by identifying your needs. Do you need the PPTP VPN, L2TP VPN, or OpenVPN? And which purpose do you need it for? What features do you want with your VPN subscription. As you scroll down the ‘Packages’ webpage, you will find yourself comparing feature listings as you unknowingly look for the right VPN package.
The cheapest StrongVPN plan is LITE PPTP for $7 per month while the most expensive StrongVPN plan is PREMIUM OPEN AND PPTP for $30 per month. Also, make sure you have some money saved up because there is a small line on top of the pricing plans which states that you have to purchase StrongVPN’s subscription for 3 months at a minimum if you wish to procure services.
There is no 1 month subscription plan (only 3, 6 and 12 month subscriptions are available). I am a little uncomfortable with the unavailability of a 1 month subscription feature but I guess it all works out in the end since every plan comes with a 7 day money back guarantee. Probably fits the bill for regular VPN users.
I decided to create a pricing table for StrongVPN packages based on what StrongVPN really offers to its users.
StrongVPN is definitely a VPN service provider with good VPN services and services features to offer but the pricing plan is almost disrespectful to customers. It has not been designed to be customer friendly and does not offer any financial relief whatsoever.
StrongVPN has over 455 servers in 20 countries. However, keep in mind that 140 of these servers are located in the San Francisco region alone. This brings StrongVPN’s global server spread to around 300, which is still quite sufficient.
I always believe that a VPN service provider should have a server spread as wide as possible with servers located in regions where they can be easily maintained. Placing far too many servers in a few selected locations may possibly compromise accessibility, security and anonymity. While some VPN service providers tend to focus on expanding their server spreads in the US because of the presence of their head quarter in that region, StrongVPN seems to be focusing on expanding in the US on purpose.
StrongVPN Speed Test
Before connecting to the StrongVPN server, I visited SpeedTest.net and recorded the following ping, upload speed, and download speed.
After having connected to the StrongVPN San Fransisco server (which is apparently the highlight of StrongVPN’s server portfolio) I visited SpeedTest.net and was quite pleased when I recorded the following ping, upload speed and download speed.
I was quite surprised at how the ping remained almost the same both times and how my upload speed (which I have never been too proud of anyway) did not experience any significant change.
Once you download the installation and setup file from the StrongVPN website, it will ask your permission to run the file. As you can see in the screenshot, Black Oak Computers is clearly registered as the publisher for StrongVPN’s client software.
Do the same with two more other minor dialog boxes that might pop-up.
Select the language of your choice from the drop-down list and hit ‘Ok’.
It is after this point that the actual setup process for the StrongVPN client will begin. However, if you are expected to find any complications or hour long installation processes, then I will have to disappoint you. Because the StrongVPN client setup process is as easy as pie and hardly takes any time at all.
Clicking ‘Next’ a few times is pretty much all you will have to do.
Don’t forget to ‘accept’ the agreement otherwise the installation won’t let you proceed.
Choose the folder of your choice for the installation by clicking on browse. However, I always recommend users to let the installation take place in the ‘Program Files’ because that is what most software is built to work out of.
Select the ‘Start Menu Folder’ of your choice and hit ‘Next’.
Check the check-box if you want a desktop icon and hit ‘Next’.
The installation wizard will give you one last round-up of your selected preferences and carry out the installation once you hit ‘Install’.
Once you click ‘Install’, the installation will take place within seconds.
But we’re not done just yet. There is one last little detail that remains. The installation wizard will ask your permission to install Network adapters that are necessary for the StrongVPN client to function.
You can click ‘Install’ without any worries. StrongVPN is a pretty reliable VPN service provider with some well tested software. Within seconds of having hit ‘Install’, the download will complete and ask you if you would like to ‘Launch StrongVPN Client.
Now begins the interesting part begins. Instead of a complicated dashboard, StrongVPN will give you a two-field login window.
Enter in the Email and Password you registered during the sign-up process and hit ‘Log In’. StrongVPN will authenticate your credentials and bring you to the following window.
Simple isn’t it? But be careful when you click on a different server in the server drop-down list! Every time you click on a server, you will consume one server switch credit and there are only a limited number of free server switches you get per month (More on Server Switching in the next section). So click wisely my fellow netizens.
Hover your mouse over the Server drop down list and it will show you number of server switches you have remaining.
Another way to change server is to click on ‘Change Location’ which will open out the StrongVPN Server Switcher.
The StrongVPN server switcher is a great tool to either manually or automatically switch servers. Clicking on ‘By Country (Automatic, Recommended)’ will do the job for you, but it is much more fun to click on ‘By Server (Manual)’. Doing that will open out a list of all the servers available to you and let you ‘Ping’ them to understand what speed you will get from them. I quite love this tool because it lets you gauge server statuses before selecting a server and connecting to it.
From this point forward, you can either simply select the protocol of your choice and hit ‘Connect’, or hit ‘Advanced’ and fumble around with the advanced settings.
As you can see, the Information visibility is very neatly organized, but the crown jewel of the advanced settings is the ‘Options’ tab.
A StrongVPN review cannot possibly be complete without mentioning (under a separate heading) that while there are 440 servers under StrongVPN’s wing, the VPN service provider will NOT let you server jump through them with a drop-down list like most VPN service providers.
There are caps on server jumping; which means that there are limits to the number of times you can switch VPN servers based on the VPN package you have subscribed. Even the most expensive StrongVPN package comes with a limit to the number of server switching you can do.
Every package comes with its own server switching limits (plus a few extra allowed for the first month) and StrongVPN users looking to carry out more server switches can pay more to get more based on their needs (and their budget).
Extra server switches can be bought at the following rates listed on the StrongVPN website.
- 10 switches/month – 5$/month
- 20 switches/month – 10$/month
- 30 switches/month – 15$/month
You will see that almost every StrongVPN package comes with 3 extra switches within first 2 weeks. These are only valid on your first subscription to StrongVPN. This means that new users get +3 (bonus) server switches within the first 2 weeks. But you won’t get the +3 bonus server switches when you renew your running package subscription, unless you switch packages.
StrongVPN’s Customer Support
Besides the FAQ, Forum and Blog that StrongVPN offers for customer support, StrongVPN also offers access to Support Desk, billing support, and general support as part of its 24 hour billing and technical VPN service support infrastructure. Online LiveChat support is bilingual and each LiveChat support member comes with his/her own specific area of specialty.
There is actually a lot of over-organization on StrongVPN’s ‘Contact’ page (ever heard of protesting too much?) as StrongVPN puts forth portfolio’s of individuals working in the company and places their association with the company to as little as two years to as far back as 18 years in some cases. As a VPN service provider, I honestly don’t care who I’m talking to and what their credentials are as long as they are willing to listen to me, understand my problem and resolve it as soon as possible. Anything beyond that is just extra icing on top that doesn’t really make any significant addition to the end-user experience.
StrongVPN offers all the top payment methods that are currently being offered by other VPN service providers in the industry. These are: Credit Card, Paypal, Wire Transfer, Western Union, Checks, Stripe and Bitcoin. Unlike other VPN service providers that I have reviewed in the past, I noticed during this StrongVPN review that the company does not actively seek to expand its list of accepted payment methods and only adds in a new one when it has acquired near-global acceptance.
Compatibility & Tutorials
StrongVPN has unparalleled device and platform compatibility. The Setup page offers a long list of tutorials for a wide variety of supported devices and platforms. StrongVPN only offers a client application for Windows and Mac users. All other platforms and protocols have to be setup manually – for which the StrongVPN setup webpage provides detailed instructions.
Tutorials are available for PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN protocols for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 8, Windows Mobile and Microsoft Surface in the Microsoft Category.
StrongVPN users looking to setup StrongVPN on their Android devices will find PPTP and L2TP tutorials available for Android 4 and Android 2.
Protocols And Encryption
StrongVPN offers PPTP, L2TP/SSTP and OpenVPN (SSL) VPN protocols. However, unlike other VPN service providers, you don’t get access to all of them under one VPN subscription package. There are three packages based on the protocols you want to access:
- PPTP Package: The package provides access to PPTP, L2TP and SSTP protocols.
- OPENVPN Package: The package provides access to PPTP/L2TP/SSTP or OpenVPN (SSL) protocols.
- PREMIUM Open and PPTP: The package provides access to all protocols and service features offered by StrongVPN.
StrongVPN offers some pretty neat encryption combinations:
- PTPP: 128bit MPPE
- L2TP: 56bit 3DES (three 56-bit keys)
- SSTP: 256bit AES-CBC
StrongVPN gives you the flexibility to subscribe to a PPTP package and setup SSTP protocol to get 256 bit encryption.
StrongVPN Free Trial
StrongVPN does not offer any free-trial. However, all StrongVPN subscriptions come with a 7 day money back guarantee. I think that a VPN service provider as strapping as StrongVPN would not hesitate to provide free trial accounts for at least a few hours.
When you run a VPN service, you need to convince new and current VPN users that your service is beyond optimum. In order to do so, you need to put a little bit of time, energy and funding into marketing through free trials. StrongVPN is one stubborn VPN service provider because it offers no free trials whatsoever. I am the customer and I like it when the salesperson values me and my opinions – StrongVPN does not value anything else but its own service. StrongVPN has the service strength to do without the extra sales it would have gotten had it given a free trial, but at one point it just starts becoming annoyingly audacious.
StrongVPN is not your standard VPN service provider. It is a trend setter in the industry and offers the most services around. In reviewing StrongVPN, I noticed that besides the StrongVPN client (which essentially serves as your Heads Up Display for your VPN account), a second control area can be accessed by logging into your account on the StrongVPN website.
Once you log into the Customer Area on the StrongVPN website, you get access to a dashboard. This dashboard is different from that which you will get on your StrongVPN client. This dashboard will let you deal with matters relating to your account.
- Change your billing password
- Audit your activity log to double-check if your account has been used by anyone else other than you. The ‘Security Audit’ function records the date of use and the IP from which the account was used
- Share your StrongVPN account by adding authorized contacts. StrongVPN offers the option to either fully share your account or partially share it with your authorized contacts
- View your Application programming interface key
- Subscribe/unsubscribe from special offers and discounts
- Download StrongVPN client for your desired platform and view tutorials to setup StrongVPN on your desired client
- Refer a friend to StrongVPN and recommend a specific package in doing so
However, most importantly, the website based Dashboard lets you manage your StrongVPN account by ordering extra switches, viewing your account status, changing servers, conducting speed tests and pausing your account. The VPN Accounts Summary page also lists available servers and free accounts on each server.
During my review of StrongVPN’s features (prices, servers, etc.) I noticed that StrongVPN is a somewhat overly managed VPN service provider that has given attention to detail to the point of becoming overly complicated. It is not designed for the common man or the regular student. Instead, it is meant for the die-hard fan whose VPN use is nothing less than sacred to him/her. If ever StrongVPN wants to rename itself or start a new sister company it can go for something like ‘SeriousVPN’ or ‘NoNonsenseVPN’.
In all honesty, it takes a bit of planning to get the most from your StrongVPN subscription. Start by taking your time and selecting the package that you need. Which protocol will you be most comfortable with? Decide on the frequency of server switches you think you will require during the length of your subscription.
Ask yourself if you have any plans to travel abroad in the coming months and pick out an additional package as back up. For only $2, StrongVPN gives you access to a second package. All subscriptions are enabled for Mobile devices and come with a 7 day money back guarantee so there will be no need to worry.
Are you looking for more VPN providers? Check out these VPN reviews as well!