Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Review of Private Internet Access (PIA)

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

The question I receive the most is "what VPN service should I use when I travel?".  I started writing and testing the most popular ones and so far you can read these ones:

The next most requested service is Private Internet Access (referred to online as PIA). 

Introduction

Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the most popular and affordable VPN service providers around. At last count, PIA offers 3,193 servers hosted in 24 countries. PIA belongs to an organisation called  London Trust Media, Inc. 

The tech

Private Internet Access is an easy choice for the general consumer because of the wide range of clients it supports: MacOS (10.4 and newer), Windows 7/8/10, Unix/Linux, Ipad/iPhone (PPTP, IPSEC, L2TP), Android (PPTP, IPSEC, L2TP, OpenVPN), DDWRT, Tomato OpenVPN, PfSense OpenVPN.

It not only securely reroutes your traffic but it can also block ads, trackers and malware. It does support P2P traffic and has a strict no log policy. 

Rick Falkvinge, head of privacy at PIA, talking about their no log policy and why it's important.

The client

Their clients are simple and straightforward but offer interesting features like the level of encryptions, DNS leak protection and a kill switch (to stop all traffic if the VPN drops).

It will let you pick a region to exit from but not a particular server. 

PIA allows you to connect up to 5 devices simultaneously. 

The speed

For comparison purposes, I tested PIA against ProtonVPN, ProXPN, UnlimitedVPN and VyprVPN. All terminating in Canada. My connection to the internet was a machine connected straight into my internet router with no other traffic (keeping all the variables controlled). The machine was a freshly imaged version of Windows 10 with all of the latest patches applied and only Google Chrome installed.

My connection is a 100MB down / 10 MB up. Without a VPN I usually get performance slightly better than advertised. With VyprVPN (the fastest), I managed to get close to 95MB down / 9.6 MB up. With PIA, I managed to get 87 MB down / 7 MB up. 

My ping without a VPN was below 12 ms but hit around 25-50 with PIA. 

Netflix?

People want to know if they can access US Netflix via PIA and based on my testing, the answer is: almost never. During my testing, Netflix detected the PIA connection and blocked access. A small number of recent online comments (on various sites) said Netflix worked for them but I was not able to reproduce it.

Support

I had no need for support but read dozens of complaints online about their support. Your mileage may vary. 

Price

The annual price here is a no-brainer: $39.95US a year everything included. This is an incredible deal. VyprVPN comes in at ~$80 a month (paid annually). 

Conclusion

PIA offers a trusted and well respected VPN service for a very competitive price. If you need a layer of protection from your ISP then this is definitely an option you need to consider. Advanced users may find the sparse low granularity interfaces annoying but then again, sometimes you just want things to work without having to tinker.