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The features of the company's service are:
- One-day free trial
- Seven-day money-back guarantee
- Easy to install and use
- Extra security for China
- Kill switch
- Gets into Netflix USA
- P2P allowed
- Accepts PayPal and Bitcoin as well as credit cards
- OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP
- Custom app for Windows
- Third-party OpenVPN app for Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and routers
ShadeYou VPN has servers in 15 countries. Subscribers get access to servers in 12 countries: the USA, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, the Ukraine, Canada, Spain, Hong Kong, France, Sweden, Russia, and Romania.
Subscribers to the Premium plan get access to one extra server in the USA, Sweden, and Russia. They also have access to servers in Australia, Singapore, and Finland.
Torrent downloads are allowed on the servers in Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and Sweden. One server in each of the UK and the Ukraine can be used for downloading and two of the four servers in the USA (Chicago and New York) can be used for P2P activity.
Speed and Performance
The report VPN Speed Testing Done Right explains the new ProPrivacy speed test system.
When you type a web address into your browser, it first has to go and find the corresponding internet address for the host that stores that page. This action is performed by referencing a DNS server. The speed of this cross-reference can make a difference to the loading time for a web page in your browser. The graph below show the DNS access times for ShadeYou VPN when compared to industry leaders ExpressVPN and IPVanish and another leading VPN, Buffered.
As you can see, the speeds experienced by all for of these VPN vaires quite a lot from day to day. Shade You manages to keep close to the speeds of ExpressVPN and IPVanish for most of the test period.
However, ShadeYou VPN doesn't perform very well in terms of establishing a connection. While the industry leaders take just a few seconds to get the VPN link functioning, ShadeYou took a lot longer, pushing it, almost literally, off the chart.
I connected to the VPN's United Kingdom 2 server from Nottingham in the UK while using a residential internet service provided by Virgin Media. The website IPLocation.net references five IP location databases to report on the actual location of an address. These databases identified the server's location as London. I then connected to the ShadeYou New York server. Four of IPLocation's reference databases located this server in NY, but one said that it was in Nigeria.
The test site ipleak.net examines the DNS calls that a computer makes over the internet as well as its reported location. The UK server checked out as being in London and the one DNS server spotted was also in the UK. This was not my regular DNS server, so the VPN had hidden my identity well. The test site also confirmed that the New York server of ShadeYou did place my location as being in the USA and the DNS server used by my connection confirmed this impression. Another test site, doileak.com confirmed the results from ipleak.net
My internet service provider does not use IPv6 addresses and so I was unable to test for IPv6 leaks.
Pricing and Plans
ShadeYou VPN operates two different service plans. You get access to all of the servers of the VPN with the Premium plan. The Standard plan is a lot cheaper and it isn't much different from the Premium plan. The cheaper plan provides access to servers in only 12 countries instead of 15. Also, you get slightly weaker encryption with the Standard Plan and you only get an allowance of three simultaneous connections, instead of five with the Premium plan. Otherwise, the benefits of the two services are the same.
Although there isn't much difference between the two plans when you pay for a one-year subscription, the monthly subscription plan with the Standard plan is a little less than half the price of the Premium plan.
The company accepts an impressive range of payment types.
You will see from the above image that you can pay with Bitcoin, which gives you a great opportunity to protect your identity.
Privacy and Security
Owners of Windows PCs and laptops are fortunate enough to get a custom app for ShadeYou VPN. This app isn't available on other operating systems. OpenVPN connections to the VPN can be achieved on Macs, mobile devices, and Linux machine, but only using third-party clients. Those other apps don't have as many features as the ShadeYou VPN client, but they will get the job done. One can only be hoped that they are working on versions for other operating systems.
This review focuses on the custom app for ShadeYou VPN. However, it is worth noting that the OpenVPN connect and OpenVPN GUI clients are extremely efficient and will permit anybody to connect to ShadeYou securely.
The ShadeYou clients give users access to L2TP and PPTP protocols, but we are going to focus on OpenVPN, which is the best of the three VPN protocols that you can use in the app. (PPTP is considered insecure so you should stay away from it.)
A great security feature built into the client is the ability to turn on a kill switch. A kill switch stops data from traveling outside of the VPN tunnel: which stops any unencrypted data from leaking to your ISP. It also means that your real IP address is always concealed
OpenVPN uses two types of encryption - one for establishes the security of the connection using a public key encryption system - called RSA. And the main data channel cipher, which is used for encrypting and decrypting data. ShadeYou VPN uses AES encryption for data encryption.
ShadeYou VPN's website claims that the RSA encryption for the Standard plan uses a 2048-bit key and the Premium members get a 4096-bit RSA key. However, while using the standard service, I checked the log file and that showed that the connection used a 1024-bit key. This is a problem because a 1024-bit key is no longer considered secure.
The AES encryption for data uses a 256-bit key. This is very good and matches the level of security used by the best VPNs. However, the weak security used for the control channel's RSA encryption, means that anyone who can crack the session establishment encryption key will be able to capture the AES key as it is sent to the client, making all of the transmissions accessible to snoopers despite the seemingly strong encryption used for the data.
People who download files illegally take risks. Although downloading a movie may seem a fairly harmless activity, it is breaking the law. Torrenters need to cover their tracks and a VPN is an ideal tool for that kind of identity protection. However, if the VPN keeps logs of connections and activity of their customers, those records can blow your cover. It doesn't matter if the staff of the VPN company declare that they would never hand over those records because if they are presented with a court order, they have to.
The situation that ShadeYou VPN has created is ideal. If copyright lawyers or the police come knocking at the door, there is no information to seize. So, your identity is protected effectively by this VPN service.
Ease of Use
The Homepage of the site is attractive and features a slideshow containing scary facts to motivate site visitors into taking out a VPN subscription.
The information on the site touches on all the important issues of privacy and explains the circumstances where people would need a VPN and how the service could help. The sales patter on the Home page doesn't go into much detail about how the VPN works, but this is not unexpected on a sales page. The site is well planned and was obviously put together by a professional web design company. The main navigation channel for the site is a short menu at the top of each page. Some of the menu items lead to drop-down sub-menus that contain more navigation items.
The menu stays fixed in the window as you scroll down the page. There are more links and also contact information in the footer of the site.
All in all, the site has a reassuringly professional tone. Another nice feature is the ability to switch the language of the site from English to Russian.
The site includes a blog, which is accessed from the Support sub-menu, where it is called "News."
The blog isn't operated as a news service, but it contains some interesting articles on the security and privacy industry and also notifications on expansions in the service.
When you sign up for the service you can log in to the website. However, unlike many VPN services, ShadeYou VPN does not have a client area. All that the login provides is access to a download link for the app, which appears at the top of the site above the menu. This is no great advantage because the app can be downloaded from a page that is accessible to anyone in the "Connect" area of the top menu.
The Support menu item gives access to all the information and contact pages of the site. This is where a link through to the blog can be found. You can also get to the FAQ page from the Support submenu.
The FAQ page would be a great place for the company to give deeper, technical information about the service -- information that would be inappropriately detailed for the sales purposes of the Home page. However, there is no such detail in the FAQ answers.
The footer includes the email address of the support department. However, you can also send a message from the website. The Feedback item on the Support submenu leads to a simple contact form.
You can expect a reply by email within a day.
There is a live chat facility on the ShadeYou VPN website. It is accessed via a green tab, which is visible at the bottom right of the page. This tab stays in place when you scroll up and down the pages on the website. When no one is working on the help desk, the label on the chat tab reads "Send us a message." Unfortunately, after visiting the site for several days, I have never actually seen the chat facility active.
A message window opens when you click on the green tab.
This message won't get to the support team any faster than the messages you enter on the Feedback page. You will receive an email response to the queries that you enter in the Chat window.
You can try out the Standard service for 24 hours using its free trial. To get this, click on the free trial button in Homepage.
The button takes you through to a very simple form. To sign up, you just need to create a username, enter an email address, and create a password. You can set up a new webmail account if you don’t want to give your regular email address. However, don't just type in a made-up email address. It has to be an email account to which you have access.
You will receive an email. Click on the confirmation link in the mail to activate your account.
You can download and install the app before you sign up for the free account or the paid plans. However, you will not be able to use the app until you have a live account.
You need to set up an account in order to take out a subscription. If you have tried the free trial, you already have an account. If not, this is your first task once you press the "Join VPN" button below the description of the plan that you want. These are shown right down the bottom of the Home page, which you can get to quickly by clicking on "Prices" in the menu. Thesign-upp form is exactly the same as the one for the free trial.
After creating or signing into your account, you are taken back to the plans descriptions. Select the duration and the plan that you want and then press "Join VPN."
Select your preferred payment type to proceed. The following screen depends on your chosen payment method. However, you will receive a payment confirmation email once your payment has cleared.
If you haven't already downloaded the app, you should do that at this stage.
The ShadeYou Windows VPN client
The installer creates a shortcut on your Desktop. Click on this to get the app to open.
The first time you open the app you will need to login. Click on the "Remember me" box so that you won't have to enter your credentials in future.
The app is very small, but has all of the functionality you need.
The big slider at the top of the app is its most eye-catching feature. However, before you turn the VPN on, you need to check out a few of the settings. The first aspect the VPN that you get to change is the encryption protocol. The options are OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP. You are better off leaving this as OpenVPN.
Next, take a look at the Port setting. If you are going to be downloading, playing online games, watching streaming videos, or using internet telephony app, you would be better changing this setting to a UDP port because UDP is faster than TCP.
The server location that you select is important if you want to get into geo-restricted sites. You need to pick a server that is in the same county as the website or video service that you want to access.
If you want to download with the BitTorrent system, make sure that you select a server that has the word "torrent" next to it.
There are a couple more settings for you to consider before turning the VPN on. These are away on another page of the app and you get to them by pressing the cog symbol at the bottom right of the window. Select Settings from the cog menu.
The kill switch is available in this screen. You should turn it on. You can also change the language of the app in this screen. Click on "Safe" (which probably should be "Save") to get back to the main screen of the app. Now you can click on the slider to get the VPN turned on.
Click on the slider again to turn the VPN off.
While connected to the United Kingdom 2 server of ShadeYou, I tested access to British video sites. The VPN got past the proxy detection systems of the BBC iPlayer. I was also able to watch videos at the websites of ITV and Channel 4. Unfortunately, Netflix UK wouldn't let me watch videos.
Connected to the New York Server of ShadeYou and then tried American video sites. I was able to get into Netflix USA. However, ABC detected the VPN and blocked me. NBC and CBS both let me watch videos.
The ShadeYou app is only available for Windows. Windows users can also set up L2TP and PPTP manually in the network settings of the operating system and they can also choose to use the third-party app called OpenVPN GUI. This app was written by the people who developed the OpenVPN protocol, which means it is very secure. However, it doesn't have a very good user interface and doesn't include a kill switch.
If you have Mac OS X you can set up L2TP and PPTP manually. With macOS, you can't have PPTP, but you can create an L2TP VPN connection manually. With both of these operating systems, you can install Tunnelblick for free to use OpenVPN.
On Android and iOS you can install OpenVPN Connect, which, like OpenVPN GUI, was created by the OpenVPN organization. You can also set up PPTP and L2TP connections manually on both of these operating systems except for iOS version 10 and later, which does not support PPTP.
A version of OpenVPN can be set up on Linux machines. You can set up an OpenVPN connection on DD-WRT and Tomato routers and L2TP and PPTP VPNs protocols are available for manual setup on Synology routers.
The Customer Support department lets this VPN service down. The live chat facility is an excellent feature, or at last it would be, were it ever attended. The support team doesn't seem to operate around the clock and it takes too long to get a response from them.
ShadeYou has the core of an excellent service and if they can add on some more servers, they will very likely gain a large customer base.