When you freelance you have a lot of reasons to use a VPN as there are a lot of different interests that need to be protected. Even info not that sensitive needs to be treated like it is if it belongs to someone else. The pandemic work from home thing has certainly put VPNs into the mainstream so I’m far from alone in using them.
I got into VPNs because of a sales promo years ago. I use Avast on some of my systems, so I got a promo about their new VPN service. All I remember was that it was too cheap to pass up, so I gave it try. Over time it did fine. There were a few times it would take a while (30 seconds or so) to connect but the interface was easy enough to understand and the speed was good about 95% of the time.
At renewal, I decided to drop their SecureLine VPN and try something new. It wasn’t the price, that was competitive, it was that I wanted to try something different as I was getting very tired of the Avast nag/promo popups. It seemed no matter the setting I would still get these random pop-ups, usually highlighting an overhyped “threat” that probably scares some users into upgrading their product.
After some research, I decided on Surfshark based on features, price, and it’s own competitive promo. It generally ranked second or third in reviews NOT hosted on sites with VPN in the name. I’m not saying that’s bad, but I’d rather get my info from… say… PCMag than say… mostexcellentvpnservices.com. Surfshark had some caveats but it seemed solid enough.
So, I bit. Took advantage of the promo, downloaded, and installed the desktop application which opened up to a lot of choices with a loaded left menu but easily understood. The interface was straightforward as you expect for a VPN service highlighting things like Fastest Server, Closest Server, and Location Server with a long list of country-based servers.
I tried Fastest Server and it eventually connected but took uncomfortably long to do so. With SecureLine I had a couple of connection issues over the years, but it was very rare. The things just hooked up reliably, so I was shocked at not being able to connect right away with Surfshark.
After several attempts, I canceled and tried the Dallas servers which hooked up rather quickly. No noticeable speed loss on the connection but that depends on what you are doing. Sending documents or messages is fast compared to some video feeds. I didn’t notice a big difference in SecureLine and Surfshark concerning actual usage once I was hooked up. All seemed well that first day.
Day two was when the trouble started. I don’t leave my VPN on all the time. I use it for certain things, so I turn it on and off which was never a problem with Secureline. The main reason is the speed issue as I live in rural America with fair to poor internet service. A ten to twenty percent or higher speed drop-off is very noticeable if you are trying to follow a tutorial on high def so you can read the menus as you go.
I had to change protocols to get the service to work only to read that there might be some features that wouldn’t work on the present protocol. I persevered until I got a connection. Didn’t have much problem later on that day but the next day was more of the same with a new problem.
I couldn’t hook up no matter what protocol I was using due to a socket error or some such thing. A chat button to tech support was on the popup but I ignored it for the first few times and kept trying till I got a connection.
I was not used to this behavior from a VPN. This is not something I had to do with Avast Secureline. I’m really starting to appreciate that service and probably shouldn’t have thrown it under the bus so cavalierly.
After a couple of days of fighting with the connection, I finally clicked that CHAT button and got Glenn, who provided respectful and friendly service, but could not really do anything for me. Other than tell me to turn off my antivirus. It seems some interfere with the service but that is a big red flag for me, so I knew our conversation was over.
Finally, after three requests for a refund over the conversation, he initiated one and I already have it refunded to me. Glenn did his best to solve the problem and retain me as a customer. I only wish the Surfshark VPN service worked as well as he did.
With that in mind, I carefully weighed my next two choices using research (ignoring my innate ability to pick the wrong one) and chose NordVPN which I have installed, has a simpler interface, and hooks up when I want it to. So far so good but we’ll see how this service pans out over time. If some of you are already chuckling at my choice then stick around and be amused.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.