I’ll start the review of CactusVPN with a little company background. CactusVPN operates an online privacy service based in Moldova. They help members protect their privacy and unblock geo restrictions for sites in the United States and United Kingdom. CactusVPN offers members the choice between VPN access and Smart DNS service.
Pricing and Special Offers
CactusVPN pricing is very reasonable. They have a smaller network than most the VPN services we cover. In doing so they are able to keep prices low. With unlimited access to servers in one country for $4.99. Access servers in the US, UK and NL along with Smart DNS for $6.99 a month.
Members can access CactusVPN by using their free VPN client. As you can see CactusVPN offers discounts based on the length of your subscription. You can save 13% off quarterly access, 23% off semi-annual and 35% off annual sign ups. Making the annual plan the best value. Visit the CactusVPN special page to save.
When you sign up for an account CactusVPN offers a number of payment options for you to choose from. I like using PayPal for any online service since you can manage the subscription. CactusVPN offers PayPal along with credit card, Alipay, Webmoney, Yandex, Boleto Bancario, Qiwi and CashU. Giving you a wide range of payment options.
Risk Free Trial Period
While I’ll do my best to offer a thorough review there’s only one way to make sure CactusVPN is the right choice. You’ll want to test the service out for yourself. CactusVPN understands that as well. To help they offer a 30 day money back guarantee. However, as you’ll see in a moment the guarantee includes some conditions. Here’s the language CactusVPN uses in the general section of their FAQ page
What is CactusVPN money back policy?
We offer 30-days money back guarantee. If you can’t use our services: you can’t connect to VPN servers or Smart DNS service. In case of Smart DNS you can also ask a refund if any of the sites from the unblocked websites list is still blocked for you.
Note that we do not refund for VPN speed issues because we have 24 hours Free trial account on our premium servers.
CactusVPN Network and Server Locations
CactusVPN manages a network of VPN servers in key locations. They have one of the smaller networks with server locations in three countries. That will help you access coverage of sporting events and unblock sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world.
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CactusVPN has servers in the United States (Kansas City, Los Angeles, Wilmington), United Kingdom (London, Maidenhead) and the Netherlands (Amsterdam).
Privacy and Security
When we talk about VPN services a lot of people assume they will get a high degree of privacy and security. That isn’t always the case. It really depends on your reason for using a VPN service. If your purpose is privacy and anonymity then you probably want a VPN that doesn’t log.
CactusVPN makes it clear in the FAQ section of their site that they don’t keep traffic logs. They only keep connection logs and parse them every three days. Here are the details from their site:
Do you keep any logs?
For our VPN and Smart DNS users we keep only connection logs* for 3 days for troubleshooting. But we assure you:
- we do not track and do not know about what you’re uploading/downloading while using our services, and there are no logs including this information;
- we don’t know or register sites you are visiting;
- we do not track which applications you use.
All our customers personal data is totally confidential and is not shared, shown, used or given to any other party under no condition and no exceptions.
The first thing I look for when deciding whether or not to review a VPN service is a custom client. Sure you can configure OpenVPN and manually configure connections but there isn’t any need There are so many VPN providers that offer easy to use client software now a days.
I’m happy to share that CactusVPN has an excellent Windows client that I used to test their service. They also have a custom client for Mac. Along with set up guides for iOS, Android and even DD-WRT routers.
Connecting with the Windows VPN Client
Let’s take a look at the CactusVPN Windows client:
The Windows software is easy to install and use. When you run the program it will bring up the connection screen From there you can select a country followed by the server location and finally the protocol you want CactusVPN to use to connect. The client also has some impressive advanced features.
The settings tab of the Windows client gives you several options. I suggest you at least enable the “Reconnect if conn. dropped” option. The most advanced feature of the CactusVPN software is the app killer. You can set specific applications to stop anytime the VPN drops. The feature is especially popular for members who use the VPN service for P2P / torrent purposes. CactusVPN allows torrent use on their servers in the Netherlands.
Connect with the Mac VPN Client
In addition to their custom Windows software, CactusVPN also has a Mac client. The Mac software looks just like the Windows screens shown above. It also has the same advanced features, namely the ability to kill an application if the VPN disconnects. That’s a very hard feature to find for Mac users so I’m excited to see that CactusVPN has you covered.
Connect from iPhone or iPad
While CactusVPN doesn’t offer their own iOS app, they have set up guides for manually connecting with PPTP or L2TP. Here’s a copy of the instructions. You can visit their site for a full version with screenshots.
CactusVPN L2TP set up guide for iOS:
1) Go to “General” -> “Network” -> “VPN”
2) Click in “Add VPN Configuration…”
3) Select L2TP tab
- In the “Server” field type the IP address of a CactusVPN server. You have to check the email you have received when your CactusVPN account activated. You will find there all the available servers.
- Enter your package username and password.
- On “Secret” field introduce: cactusvpn
- For encryption level let “Auto” and select “Send All Traffic”.
- Press “Save”.
4) Now your VPN connection is created, you can now connect.
Connect from an Android Device
CactusVPN doesn’t offer an app for Android devices but they have a set up guides for PPTP and L2TP/IPSEC connections. Here’s a copy of the instructions. You can visit their site for a full version with screenshots.
CactusVPN L2TP set up guide for Android:
1) Go to “Settings”
2) Press “More Settings”
3) Press “VPN”
4) Press “Add VPN network”
5) Press the “Type” drop-down menu
6) Choose “L2TP/IPSec PSK”
- In the “Name” field enter desired name for your connection. We recommend to name it: CactusVPN (L2TP).
- In the “Server address” field enter the IP address of the CactusVPN server you want to connect to. (To find there the available servers, check the email you have received when you have paid for the CactusVPN account or sign in to Client Area on our website.)
- Enter “cactusvpn” (without quotes) in the “IPSec pre-shared key” field.
- Leave empty all other fields.
- Press the “Save” button.
5) Tap on the new connection to connect. Enter your CactusVPN username and password sent to you via email and tap Connect.
CactusVPN Speed Test
I tested CactusVPN using OpenVPN which is the most secure protocol. I used their Windows client and connected to a server in Wilmington, Virginia.
As you can see there was about a 35% difference in speed between the connection directly to my ISP and the connection to the server in Virginia. Encryption adds overhead so you can expect some decrease in performance. It’s a trade off for a higher level of privacy. With a speed of over 27 Mbps I could easily stream services like Netflix and BBC.
I like CactusVPN’s focus on privacy and anonymity. Their app killer client feature is an additional layer of privacy. They don’t have the largest network but it covers the US, UK and NL. Performance is good for those who want to unblock and stream from sites like Netflix and BBC.
What I liked most about the service:
- Easy to use Windows and Mac clients
- Support for OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and SSTP protocols
- App killer feature in both the Windows and Mac client
- Encrypted VPN and Smart DNS services
- Term discounts on 3 month, 6 month and yearly sign ups
Ideas to improve the service:
- Offer mobile apps for iOS and Android
- Add more locations to their network
- Add bitcoin as a payment option
- Consider dedicated IP as an add-on
I like CactusVPN and think it’s a fine choice for those focused on privacy. If your goal is unblocking content around the world then make sure they have servers in those countries. If your goal is strong privacy then I suggest you give CactusVPN a try. You’ll be covered by their 30 day money back guarantee which is plenty of time to test the service. Just make sure you understand the limitations of their refund policy.