Smart VPN Review
Created back in 2010 by the team behind France’s largest torrent website, Smartorrent, SmartVPN is a Casablanca, Morocco-based VPN service from a company named Anonymous SARL.
Given that SmartVPN was launched in response to a French legislation that allowed government agencies to systematically hunt down copyright infringers, the service is specifically aimed at heavy BitTorrent users and shields them from receiving warning letters.
Is My Privacy Protected with SmartVPN?
It’s clear that connection logging does take place, but how long they’re stored for is somewhat of a mystery. Ideally, there would be no connection logs moving forward, but it isn’t uncommon practice in the industry. There is always some element of faith on your part, that SmartVPN – or any other VPN prover, for that matter – won’t compromise your data and hand you over. Being a relatively new service, there isn’t much more to comment on the matter than what you see above, and in the balance of this article.
What information do we collect, how and why?
- Data that you provide voluntarily to us
When you use our Site or Service, or you otherwise communicate with us, we may ask you to provide certain personal data voluntarily, including but not limited to:
- First and last name
- Email address
- Postal address (including ZIP Code, State, City and Country)
We may ask you to provide some or all of this personal data when you register an account with us, subscribe to our marketing communications, purchase products or services, and/or submit enquiries to us. We use this information to create and administer your account, send you marketing communications, provide you with the products and services you request, and to respond to your enquiries.
- Data collected automatically
When you use our Site, products, or services, we may collect certain data automatically from your computers or devices (including mobile devices). The data we collect automatically may include your IP address (explained further below), device type, operating system details, unique device identification numbers (including mobile advertising identifiers), browser-type, browser language, geographic location (as explained further under “Location information”) and other technical information. Collecting this data enables us to better understand the visitors who use our Site, products, and services, including where they come from and what features are of interest to them. We use this information for our internal analytics purposes, and to improve the quality, relevance, and security of our Site, products and services.
For example, every time you connect to the Site, we store a log of your visit, which contains the data described above. We can then customize your user experience by displaying Services relevant to you, in the appropriate language and currency. We may also use this information to block IP addresses where there is a breach of the Terms and Conditions for use of the Site.
Some of the data may be collected automatically using tracking technologies, as explained further under “Cookies and similar tracking technology”.
Cookies and similar tracking technology
Cookies also enable us and our third-party partners to track and target the interests of our users to enhance the onsite or in-product experience through content and features.
We, along with our service providers, may also use other Internet technologies, such as Flash technologies, Web beacons or pixel tags, and other similar technologies, to deliver or communicate with cookies and track your use of the Site, product, or service, as well as serve you ads and personalize/customize your experience when you are using our Site, product, or service and/or when you are on other websites where those cookies can be accessed. We may also include Web beacons in email messages, newsletters, and other electronic communications to determine whether the message has been opened and for other analytics and personalization. Most browsers automatically accept cookies, but you can modify your browser setting to decline cookies by visiting the Help portion of your browser's toolbar. If you choose to decline cookies, please note that your ability to sign in, customize, or use some of the interactive features of our Site or Service may be impeded, and the content you see may not be as relevant to you.
How Much is SmartVPN? Is There a Free Trial?
SmartVPN offers three plans varying both in price and the features contained within. For this review, we’ll be focusing on the Premium Plan, as the server limitations (DE,NL) in the Basic plan might make it geographically unappealing for many users not in close proximity to these countries, or those with unblocking-focused needs. The price increase from $3 to $6 per month isn’t too steep of an increase for more server locations. You may also opt for the altogether pricier $13 per month option, if you’d like a dedicated IP, although this does mitigate your anonymity somewhat – leaving you vulnerable to an end-to-end timing attack.
Every plan gives you a choice of major encryption protocols, which we’ll discuss in more detail below. Suffice it to say that OpenVPN should be your pick in the overwhelming majority of cases. There are also discounts in direct proportion to the length of your commitment, increasing in 5% discounts, as shown in the image above. You can save 5% for quarterly registration, 10% for semi-annual, and 15% if you enjoy the service and would like to commit for a year. You may pay with any major credit card, PayPal, or even by Bitcoin through bitpay to fully preserve your anonymity. There’s also a 7-day money-back guarantee with some caveats partially reproduced below.
“All the refunds made beyond the period of 7 days window purchase shall be considered in the lone discretion of SmartVPN, only when the subscriber sworn to demonstrate the unavailability of the service or that the same was used during the subscription period or that many reasonable efforts were made to contact to the SmartVPN to resolve the problem.”
Meaning, SmartVPN must not work on your devices before and after contacting SmartVPN support, as convoluted as the prospect may appear to some. However, even Bitcoin payments get refunded – as all others – in USD. Not a bad deal, as most providers don’t offer Bitcoin refunds.
SmartVPN Speed Test
Speeds were consistently great, across all servers in informal testing, and the numbers backed the anecdotal performance impressions up. Speeds averaged in the 15 Mbps range downstream for both UK and German connections. US speeds were surprisingly excellent as well – despite the large distance geographically – averaging in the 12 Mbps range downstream.
No DNS leaks whatsoever came up during this SmartVPN review. That being said, it’s always good to check up on things yourself, as a leak almost invalidates using a VPN in the first place.
How is Customer Service at SmartVPN?
Support comes in two forms, LiveChat, and ticket-based. The support agents answered my questions to the best of their abilities if a bit abruptly at times. On the other hand, nuanced questions were redirected to ticket support and took several days to respond. The FAQ section isn’t too informative, but it does manage to address simple questions. It would be nice to see a more expanded FAQ area in the future, but that tends to come with time.
SmartVPN legal registration is based in Morocco (which has similar DRD laws to the EU), under the aptly named Anonymous company moniker. There are 15 total servers to choose from in the Premium plan, spanning 13 locations mainly in Europe, one each in the US, Canada, Japan, and Singapore. The coverage is then somewhat sparse for those living in or traveling through much of Africa, South America, and Australia – though updates are forthcoming with new Brazilian, Irish, Lithuanian, [South] Korean, and Australian (in addition to some mystery servers), scheduled by the end of next week.
Unfortunately, you may only have one device connected to the VPN at a time, though that may soon change with the release of bespoke mobile clients for Android and iOS. Visit SmartVPN using the link below or keep reading for some thoughts on security.
Is SmartVPN Safe?
Security, unfortunately, amounts to a mixed bag, if only because we’ve not received a reply as to exactly what encryption methods are used, other than possibly the default OpenVPN package 256-bit AES as listed on the website protocols section – but there isn’t anything else to say but pure speculation until the SmartVPN’s design team cares to comment.
SmartVPN has some of the best raw speeds around, with reliable connections to boot. Unfortunately, some concerns about encryption do pose an unsettling feeling, as does the lack of any trial or refund policies.