In today’s world, internet access is essential to everyday living. As we’ve become more and more dependent upon internet access, we’ve come to expect freely available wifi wherever we go. At one time, free wifi hotspots were a differentiator for restaurants, hotels and coffee shops, but now it’s an expected perk wherever we go. But while ubiquitous wifi has been a blessing, its unencrypted nature has also opened up yet another avenue for “the bad guys” to get to our data.
What to do? As I’ve been investigating options, there weren’t many that were realistic. I’ve even resorted to staying off hotel wifi altogether, but that cripples my ability to get things done. One option that was very intriguing was called Tiny Hardware Firewall. The idea is to purchase a small, battery-powered router with VPN software that you can take with you to create a private hotspot for several devices. While I think this is a very good idea, I’m not crazy about the $99 per year VPN fees. I don’t mind paying for the up-front hardware costs, but after that, why should I have to pay such a high price for VPN software?
That’s when I found NordVPN. It’s the highest-rated VPN on several review sites, and has a much more reasonable yearly cost (if you take advantage of one of their multi-year specials). So, I decided to give it a try. In short, NordVPN is effective and very easy to use.
Installation is a breeze. There are clients available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Chrome extensions. Setting up an account was quick and easy, and it was a quick download and install for each platform. By default, you can use the auto-connect feature to find a server near you. From there, you get a new IP address and you’re protected! Nord is based in Panama, which is a good thing because Panama is one of the countries that don’t share information on logging. While I’m not using a VPN to anonymize my internet activity, for those who are sensitive about privacy, this is important.
One thing I was initially worried about was the impact of a vpn on my speed. Doing a before/after speed test, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the impact was negligible. After all, a big hit to my throughput speed would mean that I wouldn’t use it. NordVPN only impacted my speed by about 5%, which I think is worth the added protection.
NordVPN also includes some extras, like an automatic kill switch in case you unexpectedly lose your vpn connection. A feature named CyberSec automatically blocks malicious websites, malware and unwanted ads. This is a great bonus.
Setup on iOS devices was just as easy. The only additional step is that you are asked if you want to set up a VPN profile in your settings. Saying yes will allow this to be done automatically, and you’re ready to go. When Nord is protecting you, you’ll see a small “vpn” in the top left corner, next to your connection strength icon.
The one thing that I’d like to see is a better solution for Chromebooks. NordVPN does have a Chrome extension that works just as easily as their other versions, but this only protects your activity within Chrome. Now that Chromebooks support Android apps, those need to be protected as well, and the Chrome extension doesn’t do that. You can get a NordVPN Android app which can protect your Android activities, but this doesn’t protect your web activities. You can manually set up a VPN connection in settings, but newer Chromebooks cannot be set to not use the IPv6 protocol, and NordVPN doesn’t support IPv6, so I couldn’t get this approach to work. ChromeOS is evolving rapidly, so I hope a comprehensive solution for ChromeOS will be forthcoming.
So far, NordVPN seems to be the solution I’ve been looking for. The license allows up to 6 devices simultaneously, which is enough for me to protect devices for me and my wife. I’ll see how it goes in long-term everyday usage, but right now I think NordVPN is the way to go.