VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) have been rapidly gaining popularity among users, and for very good reasons. A VPN service offers far greater levels of privacy and anonymity as well as helping overcome geolocation blocking. Firetrust, creator of the outstanding MailWasher program, has now joined the fray with a new VPN service called HideAway. I am a huge MailWasher fan so was pretty keen to check out this new offering from Firetrust.
HideAway is delivered as a “fremium” model, which means there is both a free and premium service available. HideAway can be installed and used indefinitely for free BUT the service will automatically disconnect every half hour. The user must then wait 5 minutes before connecting again for another half hour, and so on. Purchasing the premium service obviously does way with this limitation.
HideAway – Easy to Use yet Highly Effective VPN
According to Firetrust, HideAway is not your regular VPN, it’s “like a VPN on steroids“, and the company backs up its claim with the following comparison chart:
*Note HideAway’s guarantee of “no logging”. This is really important because it means that, regardless of who comes knocking or the legalities involved, there simply is no information to disclose:
We don’t keep logs of your activity so can’t be compelled to hand over any information as we have none.
After working with HideAway for several weeks, I have to agree, it really is a terrific service. Apart from its obvious advantages over standard VPN, one of the aspects of HideAway which immediately impressed me is its sheer ease of use. A VPN can present a somewhat daunting prospect for less experienced users but not so with HideAway – setting it up to do exactly what you want it to do is child’s play. This is achieved via collections of pre-defined rules categorized under various self-explanatory headings:
Collections include: Video on Demand, TV, Sports, Music, Kids, Software, Countries, Websites, Security & Misc. All rules under each category are associated with a brief description of what they do, add as many rules as you like and simply enable whichever rule is most applicable at the time.
HideAway also includes advanced features which allow users to create their own custom rules and filtering for ultimate flexibility. You can, for example, create custom rules to redirect, block or ignore traffic to different countries simultaneously. Or setup filters to be in different places at the same time – for example, you could be in the US for one website while simultaneously in Japan for another.
HideAway System Wide VPN
Enabling the HideAway service system wide is achieved under the ‘Countries’ category by simply selecting a server location to add. HideAway currently includes 15 different server locations to choose from and I have it on good authority that a further 6 locations (Milan, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, and Moscow) will be added very shortly.
The first thing you need to do though is choose the best location for you. To do that; click on the SPEED button across the bottom of the interface. This will automatically ping all HideAway’s server locations and open a new window displaying the results:
Select the most suitable server location with the lowest latency; that is, the lowest speed shown in milliseconds – lower is better, lowest is best. As you can see from the above screenshot, for me here in Australia the most suitable server location offering the lowest latency is LA.
Once you’ve added a rule, turning the VPN service and encryption on or off is just a matter of clicking a button:
Why the separate VPN and encryption buttons? Good question:
Encryption adds a bit of overhead, so your internet connection won’t be as fast with encryption turned on. So, if you don’t care about encryption for some websites, you can turn encryption off for those websites and applications to get full download speeds.
There is normally a certain amount of speed loss when connecting through a VPN, ping latency through your local ISP will generally be quite a bit lower than through the VPN servers – distance being the governing factor. However, after several weeks testing – surfing, downloading, etc – speed degradation when connected through Hideaway has been barely discernible, certainly not sufficient to cause any issues or concern. Of course, this is largely contingent on how fast your connection speed is to begin with, so your mileage may vary. I’m connecting via older ADSL1 averaging around 9Mbps, so not exactly supersonic.
HideAway – Free vs Premium
Both services offer the exact same optimum levels of privacy/anonymity and identical features, the only difference obviously being one of convenience – or perhaps inconvenience – with the free service automatically disconnecting every half hour.
Still, there aren’t too many free VPN services I’m aware of that offer a full featured trial that never expires. Most will limit data to an unrealistic maximum (500MB per month), do not support BitTorrent, and come with limited features and/or speed. In comparison, HideAway free represents a real bargain. Plus, if you’re thinking premium, HideAway free presents an opportunity to thoroughly check the service out before committing.
- View a lot of additional information about Hideaway and its features (including premium pricing) on the home page here: http://www.firetrust.com/en/products/hideaway-secure-unlimited-vpn