Our SwitchVPN review starts by noting that they have been in the VPN space since 2010. They were originally headquartered in India but due to the probable expansion of unfavorable data retention policies, they moved their headquarters to the United States in 2016. Their current service offers access to 35 locations worldwide through a network of 145+ high-speed (multi-gigabit) servers. They have developed custom software for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android devices. This makes it easy for everyone to connect to their VPN network. SwitchVPN has improved their network security over the years and now utilize some of the best industry protocols. Taking advantage of their network will help you secure all of your Internet traffic from prying eyes, overcome censorship, and enhance your overall online experience.
SwitchVPN has simplified their service pricing over the years too. They currently offer only one VPN package. It includes all of the features that their service provides. The service is marketed in two term plans. These terms are one month and twelve months. The monthly plan can be had for $9.99 per month. However, if you want to get the best deal for your money, you can save 33% off their monthly plan by subscribing to the 12 months plan. This means you can get their complete service from just $6.66 per month.
You can pay for SwitchVPN using a credit card. The cards they except are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. If you are the type of person who likes to keep all of his online payments centralized in one location, they accept PayPal. Finally, if you would like to try to increase your online anonymity, they also accept payments using Bitcoin.
SwitchVPN Service Features
The SwitchVPN service includes the following features:
- Unlimited access – The service has no limits on bandwidth usage.
- Excellent encryption – They provide 256 bit data encryption for most protocols.
- Connect up-to 5 devices – You can use SwitchVPN on any number of devices and connect up-to 5 devices at one time.
- Gigabit Speeds – Servers provide users with gigabit connections.
- No logs stored – SwitchVPN does not keep logs of your VPN service usage.
- Wi-Fi protection – It encrypts all of your Internet traffic to guard it from uninvited third parties.
- Overcome online censorship – Their service can help you access your favorite websites like YouTube, Facebook, and other social media sites.
- Torrents and P2P support – P2P is not banned on any of their servers and optimized on some.
- Enhanced streaming – Stream TV shows and movies from anywhere with less restrictions.
- Guard you online passwords – Encryption prevents hackers from stealing your passwords.
- More open Internet – SwitchVPN gives you a less restrictive Internet experience.
Their service also has custom software to make it easy for you to connect with all of your devices. Therefore, you can access it from almost anywhere through Wi-Fi or cellular networks.
SwitchVPN Free Service and Special Offers
SwitchVPN is currently offering a free 3-day trial. This is a limited time offer and may not be available at a later date. You can check on its availability through their website chat or send an email to their support staff. This free trial only requires that you enter your email address and create a password for your account.
SwitchVPN will then send you a verification email. After you verify your account, you can use it to log into their customer portal to get your username and password. You can also change your information here.
This is also where you control your subscription. You can turn auto renew off from here. This is also where you cancel your subscription if you decide the SwitchVPN service is not for you. Selecting the “Setup Guide” button will open a page of guides that you can use to install the SwitchVPN software to your device.
In addition to this, they offer all new users a 30-day money back guarantee. This is a no questions asked guarantee. To claim it, simply cancel the subscription within 30 days of purchase. Then, contact the SwitchVPN customer support (through website chat or email) and request your refund. You can optionally include your reason for cancellation.
SwitchVPN Network and Server Locations
The SwitchVPN service has grown over the years. They have a medium size network now. It is built on a network of 145+ high-speed (gigabit) servers in 35 locations worldwide. This means that you can access their VPN network from almost anywhere in the world. They have servers in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. Their network includes the following locations:
- Asia: Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore
- Europe: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom (London, Maidenhead, Gosport)
- North America
- Canada – Toronto
- United States of America – Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New Jersey, New York, Phoenix, Washington, D.C
- Oceania: Australia
- South America: Brazil
The SwitchVPN network uses shared IP addressing to help anonymize user traffic. This means that multiple users receive the same IP address. They IPs are rotated periodically to make it harder to block them.
SwitchVPN Network Security
The SwitchVPN service takes the security of your online traffic seriously. Their custom software provides users access to some of the best protocols in the industry. Specifically, they use the following protocols and algorithms:
- OpenVPN – max cipher AES-256-CBC , authorization SHA512 PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy) supported.
- L2TP/IPSec – AES-256-CBC encryption with PFS support.
- iKev2 – AES 256-bit encryption.
- SSTP – uses 256-bit SSL encryption with AES-256.
- PPTP – uses 128-bit encryption.
Initial handshake between the client and the server uses DH Key + RSA + SHA512 2048-bit. We would like to thank the support staff for sharing this information with us. You can also view some of these details in the connection logs. An example algorithm, taken directly from the log, for an OpenVPN-UDP protocol connection to Sweden for the control and data channels follows:
- Control Channel: TLSv1.2, cipher TLSv1/SSLv3 DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384, 2048 bit RSA
Control Channel Authentication: Using 512 bit message hash ‘SHA512’ for HMAC authentication
- Data Channel Encrypt: Cipher ‘AES-128-CBC’ initialized with 128 bit key
Data Channel Encrypt: Using 512 bit message hash ‘SHA512’ for HMAC authentication
SwitchVPN also uses secure encryption protocols and algorithms for all of their custom software clients and apps. Therefore, regardless of the device that you use to connect to the SwitchVPN network, you can be assured that your online traffic is protected from prying eyes. We will look at the specific protocols used by each OS in the hands-on section of our review.
SwitchVPN and Your Personal Privacy
SwitchVPN does not collect or log any traffic or use of its Virtual Private Network service.
We will only comply with all valid subpoena request that follow the letter of the law. We cannot provide information that we do not have. SwitchVPN will not participate with any request that is unconstitutional.
Additionally, they use shared IP addressing so that all the users to a particular location over a specified period of time will receive the same IP address. This makes its harder to separate out any particular users activity while using the service. These IP addresses are rotated periodically to make it harder to block them. This should provide you with the personal privacy that they desire while surfing the Internet using the SwitchVPN network. They also accept payments by Bitcoin for those that are even more privacy conscious.
SwitchVPN offers 24/7 chat support on their website. This along with their small FAQ database provides the service’s main support. We were impressed with the quick response of their chat service. Most of our questions were answered in just a few minutes. The content provided was straight forward and on topic. We were able to clarify questions we had about the security and privacy provided by the service. If you leave the chat after opening a session, the support staff will answer your question by email if you have provided one. Also, unlike some VPN services, SwitchVPN will answer questions from both subscribers and those just looking at their service.
Hands-On Testing of SwitchVPN
Our hands on testing starts by noting that SwitchVPN has custom software clients for Windows and Mac OS X. They also have apps for iOS and Android users. The protocols supported by the respective software are as follows:
- Windows – OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP, and PPTP.
- Mac OS X – OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP
- Android – OpenVPN UDP
- iOS – IKEv2
When you subscribe to SwitchVPN, it will have you create a username and password for your account as part of the process as we illustrated earlier in our review. You can log in to your customer portal and select the guide to install the SwitchVPN software for your device. Else you can download the proper software for your device by clicking on the link under “Downloads” in the footer of their website.
On the resultant page select the “Download” button. For Windows and Mac OS X, this will download the installation file to your computer. For mobile devices, it will open the appropriate store (iTunes or Google Play). Once there you can install the appropriate SwitchVPN app to your device and open it.
The SwitchVPN Client for Windows
Installing the SwitchVPN Client for Windows.
After downloading the proper file to your computer, you need to “run it as administrator” to complete the installation process. First you will be presented with a welcoming screen.
Clicking on the “Settings” button will open a screen to set up a proxy to use with SwitchVPN. By default no proxy will be used. You can also set it to use the system proxy. Finally, you can manually set up a proxy by inputting the IP address and port that it uses.
Once you have chosen your proxy settings and saved them by clicking on the “OK” button, select the next button to continue the installation process. You will be presented with some setup pages. Accept the defaults and click the “Next” button or set up your own. After the preliminaries are taken care of the install will start.
When the installation process finishes, you will see the finish screen where you can choose to open the client after the wizard completes. Click “Finish” to complete the process.
This will open the login screen where you can enter your SwitchVPN username and password that you obtained from your account portal. You can also choose to save the password so that you do not have to reenter it each time you start the client. Finally, you can choose to launch SwitchVPN when Windows starts to make sure that you are always protected when you are surfing the Internet. Finally, if you have not yet created a SwtchVPN account, you can click on the link to do so.
Logging into the SwitchVPN Client
After you have entered your authorization credentials, click on the “Login” button and the main dashboard screen will open.
It is now in its disconnected state. In this state the screen is gray and your true IP is shown.
Changing the Settings for SwitchVPN
Before we begin using the client, let us first look at its “Settings” menu. This menu can be accessed by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right of the dashboard (shown in the above image). This menu has five tabs. They are as follows:
- General – contains startup and “kill switch” settings.
- Protocol – allows you to change the protocol: OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP.
- Advanced – you can change the proxy here.
- Subscription – shows all of your subscription information, update settings, allows you to log out of the client.
- Diagnostic – displays the log and optionally send anonymous maintenance data to SwitchVPN.
The first of the tabs on the settings menu controls how the client operates. It is divided up into two regions:
- Startup – This contains settings that affect how the client starts up
- Launch on Windows startup – ensures that you will always be connected to the SwitchVPN service using your computer
- Connect to last used location when SwitchVPN is launched – this can be useful if you normally use a particular VPN location for most of your Internet surfing.
- Reestablish VPN connection if accidentally dropped – setting this helps to ensure that you stay connected without having to manually reconnect.
- Network Lock – SwitchVPN’s version of a VPN kill switch. If the connection accidentally drops, this will stop all Internet traffic until the connection is restored. This can help maintain your online security and privacy. You can also optionally allow LAN traffic on local networks.
The second tab of the settings menu allows you to change the connection protocol used for the SwitchVPN network. There are four protocols to choose between:
- OpenVPN (UDP) – this is the default protocol and the one that you will want to use for most of your Internet surfing needs, such a streaming media and VoIP. It provides the best connection speed because it uses 128-bit AES or BF for data encryption.
- OpenVPN (TCP) – use this protocol if data security is your primary goal as it uses 256-bit AES for data encryption. Be aware that this could be considerably slower that the OpenVPN (UDP) protocol because of extra error checking employed and the high level of data encryption. It is also more stable and can help you connect across long distances or weak Internet connections if stability is an issue.
- L2TP/IPsec – This uses double encapsulation and can provide another secure protocol if the others do not work, but it can be easily blocked.
- PPTP – Only use this protocol if others do not work.
It should also be noted that some protocols will only provide access to a subset of servers on the SwitchVPN network.
The third tab of the settings menu will allow you to set up a Socks or HTTP proxy to use with the SwitchVPN service. Simply enter in the IP address and port used by the proxy and set it. You should only change the MTU size if directed to by SwitchVPN support as it can affect the client connection stability.
We will save looking at the Subscription tab for later in our SwitchVPN review when we look at how to properly exit the client. The fifth and final tab on the settings menu can help to troubleshoot connection issues. It allows you to optionally share anonymous data to help improve the SwitchVPN service. You can also turn on auto updates to ensure that you will always have the latest client features. Finally, looking at the logs can help you troubleshoot any connection issues you may be having.
Using the SwitchVPN Windows Client
You will notice that “Automatically select server” has been selected. To connect to the SwitchVPN network, simply click on the power button. The app will connect you to what it thinks is the best (fastest) server location. This sometimes seemed random to us.
Once you are connected, the power button will be expanded and circumscribed by a green circle with the session duration displayed in the center of it. Your new virtual IP and location will also be shown. Finally, your VPN status will show “Connected” in green. To disconnect from the SwitchVPN network, you must click on the red power icon on the connected screen. This will return the dashboard to its disconnected state.
If you want to choose a location to connect to take advantage of a particular virtual location for streaming or commerce, you must first toggle “Automatically select server” off. This will then allow you to choose a new location to connect to by clicking on the “select server” link. The list of all servers available for you to connect to will then be displayed. The colored circle beside the location name indicates its usage load. It ranges from light green (low load) to red (full).
In addition to the list of all servers, the SwitchVPN client also has tabs for recommended and favorite servers. The recommended list removes overcrowded and high ping servers from the list of connectable locations. The favorites list is created by you. Clicking on a star beside a location will turn it green and add that location to your favorites list.
Creating a favorites list of servers makes it easy for you to find servers that you connect to regularly without having to scroll through the entire list each time. Connecting to a new server is accomplished by choosing a new location. Then, clicking on the power button to complete the connection to your new server.
When you are ready to close the client, first close the current connection. Then open the setting menu and select the subscription tab. This tab contains all your current subscription information and allows you to renew your subscription. Click on the “Logout” link to return to the login screen. Once there, you can close the client window.
As you can see the SwitchVPN Client for Windows is easy to install and use. No technical expertise is needed to connect to their network and secure your online security and privacy. It has a kill switch to help guard you Internet privacy if the connection accidentally drops. There are settings to help ensure that you are always protected when you are using the Internet. You can set it to use a proxy if you need to. Just a few clicks will have you using their service on your PC or laptop.
The SwitchVPN Client for Mac OS X
The SwitchVPN client for Mac OS X is just as easy to install and use as its Windows counterpart. It has most of the same features as the Windows client. This includes a kill switch to stop Internet traffic if the VPN connection accidentally drops. The Mac client supports the OpenVPN (UDP), OpenVPN (TCP), and L2TP/IPsec protocols. Using the Mac client will let Mac users connect to the SwitchVPN network with just a few clicks.
The SwitchVPN Android App
Installing the SwitchVPN Android App
To install the SwitchVPN Android app, first open its download on their website. This will open the app installation on the Google Play store. Tap on the “Install” button to install it on your Android device. Once it is installed, open it. This will display its login screen where you can enter your SwitchVPN username and password that you obtained from your customer portal after you created your account. If you have not subscribed to the service yet or you mistype your authorization credentials you will receive an error prompt.
Using the SwitchVPN Android App
To connect to the SwitchVPN service you must first select a location to connect to. Tap on the “Select server” link on the main dashboard screen. This will open the list of all of the locations that you can connect to using their service. There are two additional selection tabs: recommended and favorites.
The recommended list is currently being implemented. The favorites tab is initially empty but entries are added to it when you select new favorite locations. You can add new favorites by tapping on the star beside the location which will turn it yellow and add it to your favorites list. Tapping on the star again will remove it from your favorites. Selecting a location like Netherlands #1 will return you to the main dashboard screen.
After trying to connect to the Netherlands #1 location for a while, we decided to change the connection location to Italy. Accessing the Windows software showed that the server at the Netherlands location was full but we couldn’t tell that in the Android app. To start the connection to the Italy server, tap on the power button.
When you first connect using the SwitchVPN Android app, you will need to allow it a few permissions. The first of which is to access the device location. Allow this so that the app will properly update your current IP address. You must also allow it to establish the VPN service on your Android device for SwitchVPN to work.
Once you have allowed these permissions, the connection to the Italian server will complete. The connection will then show your current country as Italy. A green circle now indicates that you are connected to the SwitchVPN network and the session time will be shown. To disconnect from the service, tap on the small red power switch. This will return the dashboard to its disconnected state.
SwitchVPN Android Settings Menu
As you can see the Android app has been simplified by automating its features. Its is easy to install and use. The only protocol that it uses is OpenVPN (UDP). It will automatically try to reconnect if the your connection drops. Selecting SwitchVPN servers takes just a few taps. One tap is all that is necessary to connect or disconnect from the SwitchVPN service.
The SwitchVPN iOS App
SwitchVPN also has an iOS app that can be installed from the iTunes store. It looks similar and has similar features as its Android counterpart. It requires iOS 8.0 or later. The iOS app uses the IKEv2 protocol which allows it to maintain the VPN connection when changing networks. By using it, iPhone and iPad users can easily connect to the SwitchVPN network with just a few taps.
SwitchVPN Speed Test
We used the SwitchVPN Windows client to test the speed of their network. Connections to the network were made with the default OpenVPN (UDP) protocol. We were happy with the overall performance of their network. We did encounter some locations that had trouble connecting due to overcrowding. Overall their network speed was good. As expected, there was some speed loss while connected to VPN servers. This is due to the overhead that encrypting all of your online traffic incurs. However, this loss was well within the acceptable range.
As you can see from the images above, the encrypted connection lowered our base ISP download speed from 30.51 Mb/s to 27.76 Mb/s. This is a drop of just over 9% to a server in Atlanta. Other speed tests showed performance losses that ranged between 8% and 15%. The added protection offered by using their service is worth this small loss in connection speed.
SwitchVPN has been in the VPN space since 2010. They were originally headquartered in India but moved to the United States in 2016. SwitchVPN hosts a medium size network with about 145+ servers spread among 35 locations across the world. They have multiple locations in popular countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and The Netherlands. Their service uses only physical servers with gigabit speeds. They do not log any user activity. SwitchVPN is torrent and P2P friendly. Some of their servers have been optimized for P2P traffic but all accept it.
SwitchVPN has designed custom software apps for Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS. These apps are easy to install and allow users to connect to their network with just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the screen.
All of the SwitchVPN apps provide secure encryption. Their Windows, Mac OS X, and Android software defaults to OpenVPN (TCP/UDP) with 128-bit AES data encryption. They chose to use 128-bit instead of 256-bit for network speed reasons.
Their Windows and Mac OS X clients support OpenVPN (TCP) with 256-bit data encryption for those who want greater security but the performance loss will be greater. They also include kill switches to help protect your online privacy. They also support other protocol choices and connection through a proxy.
Their iOS app defaults to IKEv2 which is secure, fast, and reliable. Also, its support of MOBIKE makes it an ideal choice for multi-homed devices like the iPhone and iPad. This makes reconnection to the VPN easier when changing Wi-Fi hotspots or from one network to another. Their Android app also tries to automatically reconnect if the connection accidentally drops.
Support for the SwitchVPN service is primarily by online chat. This chat is available 24/7. Our experience with it showed that response were both quick and helpful. They also have a small FAQ database which has setup guides for their software and some general and troubleshooting issues. You can also contact them through email.
What we liked most about the service:
- SwitchVPN has clients for Windows and Mac OS X.
- They have mobile apps for iOS and Android.
- They protect you from incoming attacks by providing NAT firewall protection.
- Their service allows five simultaneous logins.
- Their Windows and Mac OS X software have built-in kill switches.
- SwitchVPN has a 30-day money back guarantee.
- The network speed is good for a medium sized VPN service.
Ideas to improve the service:
- Add network servers to some locations like The Netherlands to alleviate overcrowding issues.
- Add a way to determine server load in the mobile apps.
Although small, the SwitchVPN network covers most continents. Their network has good performance overall. They offer a 30-day money back guarantee so you will have plenty of time to test their service and see if it suits your needs. Give SwichVPN a test for yourself. You can sign up for their unlimited VPN service from just $6.66 a month.