In the world of consumer-friendly VPNs, it’s hard to come up with any names in the game that are more streamlined and seamless for the average user than SaferVPN.
With an almost insultingly-simple setup process and task management tools that even a toddler could figure out, SaferVPN has taken all the edges off the VPN experience and honed things down to a brushed, smooth exterior with a powerful engine under the hood.
But will all that sanding down of the essential VPN experience scare off the more hardcore users and enthusiasts who want total control over their VPN service?
Read on in our review of SaferVPN to find out!
Checkout and Install Process
To start our review off, first we had to sign up for the SaferVPN service via the company’s website. Once at checkout we were given the option to pay through a number of different services, including:
- Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners Club and JCB
- Other: Alipay, Mint
SaferVPN gives users the option of multiple different platforms to install the VPN app on, including:
- Windows 10
- Mac OSX
- iOS, Android
- CPre-installed VPN routers (more on that later).
SaferVPN offers a manual option to integrate with older versions of Windows, Linux (Ubuntu) and Windows Phone 8.1, but you won’t have the same mobile experience you get with the full-fledged app.
From going to the website to getting the VPN up and running on a US West server on the WIndows 10 desktop app, we spent just short of five minutes bogged down in details like the checkout or the install.
SaferVPN also has a Chrome extension which served an almost identical purpose to the standard app, and had all the same features you’d see on the desktop version except the option to configure any settings.
SaferVPN never asked to restart our computer, didn’t cut out the connection, and had no extra components to install through Device Manager from start to finish.
SaferVPN was even able to both install and uninstall itself without even interrupting the music that was streaming at the time - a true feat unto itself.
SaferVPN offers one of the most seamless, foolproof installation processes we’ve seen on a VPN yet, so if you’re not as tech savvy as some or are buying a subscription for a family member, SaferVPN’s incredibly simple setup might be a stronger selling point for you.
With a white, blue, and green color scheme, SaferVPN is a service that gives you a sense of its modern feel from the first time you turn it on.
At that initial screen, you’ll see a list of servers on the left-hand side, which you can scroll through with your mouse to find the one you need. The right window contains your IP information, Time Connected counter, and a Protocol switcher along with the big green ‘Connect’ button.
The available settings were almost as basic as they come, including only the option to change your protocol, or toggle the Automatic Wi-Fi Security feature - and that’s it. Personally I would like to see at least a little bit more customization here, but I can also understand that SaferVPN was going for broad strokes with this application, and wanted it to be able to appeal to the masses instead of just the hardcore privacy enthusiast community alone.
All the same settings that can be accessed in the app can be easily configured via the button in the system tray, which was handy in case we wanted to quickly pop a connection over to a new server without diving into the full app.
That in mind, actually getting it to go down to the taskbar button only is not as simple as you might hope. One small thing that irks me with some of these VPN apps is that when you try to “X” them out, instead of closing to the hotbar, they just minimize instead, taking up space on your main taskbar and generally getting in the way whenever you try to Alt+Tab to another window.
With SaferVPN, I had to reboot my system with the “Start SaferVPN minimized” option checked first before I could get it to minimize fully, which is frustrating enough in its own right.
Performance and Speed
In our speed testing on a simultaneous 1GB up/down fiber optic line from Portland, Oregon, we connected to four different servers offered by SaferVPN, from all from different corners of the globe, and specifically in the cities of LA, New York, Singapore and London. Each server test was run five times at specific intervals to see how the bandwidth was affected during peak hours (9PM local), off-peak (6AM local), and once more on a Monday at 9PM PST, which is the busiest day for VPN providers collectively.
A more glaring problem with SaferVPN that irked me is that unlike some VPN services, SaferVPN doesn’t give you the option to select the exact server you want to use in a specific region. Instead, it automatically groups all of the available options into broad stroke choices like “US West”, or “UK Streaming, without any additional information or control.
This meant while we tried to get connected to a server in NYC, the closest we actually got was Suffolk County, New York. The same goes for the “US West” option which, while it did connect us to a server in LA, didn’t give us an opportunity to select a server that would be closer to the testing node, thereby giving the most optimal results.
That aside, according to SaferVPN’s own marketing assets, the company says that customers who use their service will suffer quote “No speed loss”, though as you’ll read on in our results this was anything but the case.
As you can see in the tests above, when comparing the dry run of a server test to that with SaferVPN turned on, we suffered a speed loss of just 55% when connected to servers on both the West and East coast of the United States. This easily makes it the fastest VPN we’ve ever tested here at VPN.com.
As far as the strength of the connection was concerned, SaferVPN held up well when it came to the IPLeak and DNSLeakTest results, but faltered when put under the scrutiny of DNSLeak.com.
Frustrations continued to mount in the performance department when we tried to find out the exact number of servers that SaferVPN has available at any given time. Like its founding year, SaferVPN claims two different numbers of server locations on two different pages of their site, so take anything we’ve written here with a grain of salt.
On the main page SaferVPN says it has 30+ server locations with 400+ servers available globally, however on the About Us page they only claim 150+ servers (as of June 2015). This FAQ page also claims just 150+ servers. We’d imagine the 400+ figure is the most recent estimation, though it wasn’t confirmed anywhere else on the company’s website.
When I queried a support agent about the discrepancy, I received the following response on the issue (posted verbatim from the chat):
“The number of IPs we provide each server is differential. On each location we have different number of servers, for example in USA West we have more than 12 servers and each server has more than 15 IPs. In Germany, 4 servers * 8 IPs etc? In total the number of IPs available reach to 1000 IPs. We load balance all the traffic throughout the different servers and IPs automatically to ensure best performance VPN infrastructure.
We have 4-5 IP's for each server and more than 100 IP's in total.”
That’s not exactly a clear answer, and even seems to contradict itself halfway through, but both through the live chat and over email this was the clearest response I could get.
SaferVPN offers a number of mobile solutions for users who want to take their identity protection with them wherever they go, including both an iOS and Android app.
Like its desktop counterpart, the SaferVPN mobile app for iOS is both easy to set up, and a joy to look at throughout. The app worked flawlessly during all of our tests, and offers similar settings as you’d find on the full client, including automatic Wi-Fi protection that’s applied whenever you connect to a public network.
Unfortunately the mobile server selection suffered from the same frustrating lack of specific locations to connect to, only giving you regions or countries to choose from a At any given time. This means that if you connect to the “Canada” server, for example, you won’t have any say of whether or not that server is on the East or West coast, or even somewhere in the middle.
As you can see in the mobile speed test results below, because we couldn’t get the specific server we wanted during testing, speeds to and from the US West server were pretty abysmal when compared to a non-secured connection:
Lastly, one cool little feature is the SaferVPN app gives users the option to access live customer support chat directly from the app itself. This was a nice addition, and could be a great help if you’re unable to get any kind of connection from your main computer and need an alternative way to work on a solution with a SaferVPN technician.
Because of the closed-wall nature of the app, we weren’t able to configure any additional security options through the mobile app, nor were we able to change how the VPN affected the native iOS VPN feature.
Security and Encryption
When using the desktop client, I was given the option to choose from a number of different protocols depending on my preferences, including IKEv2, L2TP Over IPsec, OpenVPN, and PPTP.
I also had the option to set this to Automatic, which would choose the best protocol for the particular server I was connecting to at the time.
In general there wasn’t a whole lot of noticeable speed loss when connecting internationally since the latency was already so high, but you could see a dip or two when connecting to the most local server, in my case US West, using known slower protocols like L2TP.
One helpful additional feature of SaferVPN is that it lets you create a virtual VPN hotspot from your Windows or Mac computer, which makes it easier to quickly add devices like gaming consoles and streaming boxes to your web of protection without installing any additional software.
SaferVPN also sells third-party routers like the Linksys WRT1900ACS and Netgear R7000, both of which are installed with custom DD-WRT firmware which automatically routes all traffic on their networks through a SaferVPN node first.
This can provide a blanket of protection to every device in your house without the need to individually install an app on each one, while also making it simple to protect devices that can’t run new software like an Xbox One or Roku.
As far as referral programs go, SaferVPN offers a tit-for-tat system where for each friend you refer to their service, they’ll grant you one extra month of free service.
SaferVPN updates their blog regularly with helpful guides to everything from streaming the NFL Playoffs, to how to better protect yourself while using a VPN on a public Wi-Fi connection. Whether you’re stuck trying to get access to a locked off streaming site or just want to view one geoblocked YouTube video, SaferVPN’s blog is your best chance to find an answer.
When it comes to customer service, SaferVPN offers two main methods of contact. First there’s the live chat option, which connects you to an agent directly from the website, while the other choice is to open a ticket and wait for a response via email.
SaferVPN claims to offer “24/7 customer support”, however when we tried to access the live chat just past midnight on a Wednesday, we were greeted with the following prompt instead:
Another time we went to the site (6PM on a Thursday), and the Live Chat option was simply gone for around three hours before going live again, with no other alternative way to get in contact being offered. All this is to say that if you run into a connection emergency later at night you might still find yourself waiting a while before you actually get in contact with someone who can help.
Even when we did eventually get in contact with an actual rep though, it was clear this was a person who had been farmed out from a foreign country, as much of the language used was either misspelled or poorly punctuated, resulting in a frustrating experience overall.
At one point they sent a completely different answer to my question, which gave a list of platforms the SaferVPN app was supposedly supported on. They included Linux (Ubuntu) and Windows Phone 8.1, neither of which actually run apps, but rather use alternative routes to network into the SaferVPN servers. The fact that the support I was speaking with didn’t even know the basic platforms the software was available on was a huge hit to the VPN’s credibility as a whole.
In case the lackluster support can’t solve your problem, SaferVPN does have an extensive FAQ page which covers most surface questions, as well as a few Knowledge Base articles which describe the differences in encryption technologies and how SaferVPN operates separately from antivirus software or firewalls.
SaferVPN is a company that claims to have been founded in 2013 on its “About Us” page, however we also found a blog page published by them two years ago which contradicts that number, claiming 2011 instead.
On that same note, we were unable to find any readily available information which told us where the company was based out of, though after some digging we found out they are based out of New York City, NY. This means the company is under US jurisdiction, a country which is a part of the Five Eyes global surveillance collective and has subpoenaed domestic VPN providers (like HideMyAss) for their records and logs in the past.
What Safer Social Ltd. Retains From SaferVPN sessions:
- A time stamp when you connect and disconnect to our VPN service;
- The amount of data transmitted (upload and download) during your session;
- The IP address used by you to connect to our VPN;
- The IP address of the individual VPN server used by you.
After this, SaferVPN is safe to emphasize they “...DO NOT store details of, or monitor, the website you connect to or any of the data sent over our network when using our VPN service.”
Like most VPNs these days, although SaferVPN may not be tracking your identity directly, they are still keeping an eye on their complete set of users as aggregate metadata. The company says they only use this data to inform how to patch the product or create a better user experience, stored on SaferVPN servers located in New York City, NY.
Although SaferVPN discourages the use of torrents on their network in the Terms of Service, there aren’t any blocks in place to prevent it. That said, the company claims they only allow torrenting through their Netherlands servers at the moment, so if you’re too far away from that node, you might find yourself waiting a few days just to get a single file downloaded at a time.
That said, SaferVPN has worked together with Advancing Human Rights to launch the Unblock the Web initiative, which aims to provide a total of 1 million hours of internet access to dissidents and journalists reporting from repressed societies around the globe. This is a proactive step for protecting the free exchange of information, and reinforces the image that SaferVPN is a company that cares about personal liberties and the basic human right to privacy.
Last, if you’re ever curious to find out what specifically SaferVPN might know about you, the company will send you a complete report for $10 flat, delivered to an email or physical address of your choosing. This includes where your data is stored, who has seen it, and the sum total of all the information they have that’s tied to your account.
Cancel and Uninstall Process
In order to cancel the service, we only needed to enter the Settings portion of our online profile, and hit the “Cancel button”, highlighted here:
SaferVPN allows you to cancel your subscription at any time, and you will still have access to the service up until the paid date regardless of if you bought a month, annual, or two-year plan.
As we mentioned earlier, the process of uninstalling SaferVPN couldn’t have been simpler. To uninstall SaferVPN, all we needed to do was use the uninstall tool that was provided with the setup, seen below:
Within two clicks SaferVPN had completely uninstalled itself, with no traces of the program left behind via unconnected devices or hidden temp files. Similarly, you can also remove the program with the same amount of effort by finding it in Programs and Data on Windows and uninstalling it from there.
SaferVPN scored very high marks in the Trustpilot.com community, with users scoring them a 9.5 out of 10 in 351 reviews. Of those reviews, 88% scored SaferVPN five stars, 5.7% scored four stars, 1.4% scored 4 stars, 1.7% scored two stars, and 2.8% rated one star.
Reviewers on sites like SecureThoughts and That One Privacy Site weren’t as kind however, noting that both the lacking customer service and the overall number of available platforms contributed to their eventual lower to midrange scores against other providers.
SaferVPN offers three different services, which come at three separate price points. As of this writing, the company is running a “Winter Sale” on its Basic VPN service made to support one device at a time, which at max would net you an 80% discount off a two-year subscription ($83.77 upfront/$3.49 monthly). There were no price breaks available for the rest of the plans though, which came out to $7.49/mo a’la carte, or $5.99/mo if you bought a year subscription for $71.90 upfront.
The Winter Sale also extends to the 5-device Premium package, which came in at $10.82/mo a’la carte, $9.99/mo if you buy a year upfront ($119.90), or $5.49/mo for the two year package at $131.78 upfront.
SaferVPN offers a 14-day money-back guarantee, no strings attached, and also has a free version available which limits you to one day of usage with no credit card required.
For business users, SaferVPN offers packages of 10 users for $55 a month, 20 users for $105.14 per month, or you can customize the service for your own business needs and get a personal quote.
SaferVPN is not an enthusiast’s VPN service, and it lacks a lot of the deeper customization we like to see from more advanced providers. That said, it makes up for any missing complexity with ultimate simplicity, and a streamlined setup process on both your desktop and mobile device that puts most other competitors to shame.
Its speeds and customer service, however, left a lot to be desired. People can have serious technical issues to deal with at all hours of the night, and it’s important to have a trained support staff available to answer those high level questions at any time of day (if you promise 24/7 service, at least).
If you’re looking for a no-muss, no-fuss VPN experience that never lets you peer too far over the garden wall to see how the sausage is made though, then SaferVPN is the choice for you.
- Streamlined easy-to-use app
- Great connection reliability
- Fast speeds for the price
- Decent price
- Helpful return policy
- Can’t select specific server locations beyond region/country
- Poor live chat support
- Vague logging policies