Hola VPN Review

Hola VPN was unveiled in 2012 by Ofer Vilenski and Derry Shribman. The software slowly gained popularity until there were more than 40,000 downloads a day in 2013. Since then, Hola VPN has been a prominent player in the VPN space. This free VPN appeals to a lot of people, but is it worth it? I took it through the paces to produce this Hola VPN Review. 

The technology behind Hola VPN makes it unique. Most VPN’s use servers located around the world through which they direct their users’ traffic. Hola VPN is a peer-to-peer VPN that uses its users to create the network.This is how Hola VPN explains in their FAQ: “Hola VPN routes your traffic through other peers (nodes) in the Hola VPN network, as opposed to routing through power-hungry costly servers.” Hola currently uses a mix of standard VPN servers along with the P2P network.

Important VPN Features

As you read this through Hola VPN review, look for a few key features you should find in every VPN. Each of these is important in one way or another, and your choice of VPN will depend on the features and what you want to use it for. 

  • Encryption Protocol 
  • Logging Policy
  • Server Location
  • Server Speed 
  • Streaming/ Torrenting 
  • Device Support

Hola VPN Review

Before I dig into the details of the service, the protocols, internet speeds, and the like, I need to note the biggest flaw in my Hola VPN experience. Every time I switched from one location to another, the VPN service switched itself off on its own. 

So, I ran a test on the US location. Then I switched to the UK location and enabled the VPN. I went to the speed test site, and I started the test. While the test was running, I switched back to the VPN app, and I watched the on switch turn off in front of me. This is completely unacceptable in a VPN. As long as the VPN can do this, there is no reason to use it, ever. As far as I’m concerned, that should be the end of this Hola VPN review. That said, let’s look at the features.  

Hola VPN Encryption Protocols

The free version of Hola VPN does not use encryption at all. Yes. You read that correctly. The free version does not use encryption protocols. Basically, that makes Hola VPN a P2P proxy rather than a true VPN. It still routes your traffic through a 3rd party server, but it does not encrypt that traffic from snoops on your network.

You have to sign up for a subscription to get encryption protocols. Premium and Ultra users get options for IKEv2/IPsec (default) or PPTP/L2TP. IKEv2/IPsec is one of the more secure protocols, so these customers get decent encryption protection. 

Hola VPN Logging Policy

Logging policy illustration

Hola VPN logs every user’s data. “Log data may include the following information – browser type, web pages you visit, time spent on those pages, access times and dates.” They state openly in their privacy policy that they will report criminal activity to the appropriate authorities. Hola VPN also shares some of their user data with business clients, too. 

I guess we should credit Hola VPN for being so open about their lack of security. They put it all out there on their website, clearly telling users what they are getting. But it makes Hola VPN one of the least secure VPN’s in the market. 

Hola VPN Locations

Hola VPN has location options for 41 countries. The vast majority of them are in Europe, a handful in South America, three in North America, several in Asia, one in Israel, and none in Africa. This offers a variety of nations through which you can route your traffic with plenty of alternatives in most areas. Unless it’s important for you to route your traffic through Africa, Hola VPN’s server locations are pretty good. 

Hola VPN Speed

We tested Hola VPN’s speed through several countries. I ran my tests on an internet connection that boasts 100Mbps upload and download. When I started the test, I ran a control to make sure it was running up to speed. After that, I tested both the free version and the premium version in each location.

No VPN:

United States 

The speed in the United States was very close to the same as without a VPN and the server ping was pretty low. The premium test beat the free test but not by a lot. The biggest difference was the ping, which was cut in half by the premium version.

Free

US Server Free

  • Ping: 50
  • Download: 93.13
  • Upload: 84.16

Premium

  • Ping: 24
  • Download: 93.94
  • Upload: 94.89

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom location did not fare quite as well as the US one. Speeds slowed down a bit, but the ping almost doubled. Once again, the premium service beat the free one but not by much.

Free

  • Ping: 94
  • Download: 87.05
  • Upload: 56.42

Premium

  • Ping: 91
  • Download: 88.71
  • Upload: 75.85

Switzerland

Switzerland was a big disappointment. The free version slowed to a crawl, about 10 percent of the max speed of my internet service. The premium version was a little better, but the upload speed was still only half of the maximum possible.

Free

  • Ping: 114
  • Download: 7.63
  • Upload: 15.32

Premium

  • Ping: 109
  • Download: 91.83
  • Upload: 48.24

Singapore

Singapore was also very slow with a long ping. While the free version’s download speeds were fast enough to do some streaming, the upload speed was abysmal. At least it was still faster than dialup. The premium version had better upload speeds by comparison, but it still wasn’t fast. 

Free

  • Ping: 238
  • Download: 33.13
  • Upload: 0.30

Premium

  • Ping: 237
  • Download: 62.85
  • Upload: 18.07

India

India gave me inconsistent numbers for each test. Wild swings in upload and download speeds could make this unpredictable. 

Free Test #1

  • Ping: 226
  • Download: 22.30
  • Upload: 83.50

Free Test #2

  • Ping: 226
  • Download: 72.95
  • Upload: 52.22

Premium

  • Ping: 222
  • Download: 19.83
  • Upload: 44.22

Hong Kong

Hong Kong was one of the best countries outside of Europe and North America. Both free and premium speeds were comparably good with premium beating free in upload speed.

Free 

  • Ping: 199
  • Download: 83.90
  • Upload: 26.73

Premium

  • Ping: 203
  • Download: 85.33
  • Upload: 41.67

Columbia

Columbia’s speeds were the biggest disappointment of all my tests, less than 1 Mbps upload and download for the free version and just over 1Mbps in the premium version. 

Free

  • Ping: 360
  • Download: 0.56
  • Upload: 0.48

Premium

  • Ping: 350
  • Download: 1.42
  • Upload: 0.71

Brazil

I couldn’t let Columbia’s speeds be the only ones to represent South America, so I tested Brazil. Upload and download speeds were similar to Hong Kong’s. 

Free

  • Ping: 137
  • Download: 93.07
  • Upload: 45.16

Premium

  • Ping: 136
  • Download: 78.83
  • Upload: 41.74

Hola VPN Streaming and Torrenting

I had no problems streaming content through various sites. I spent a lot of time looking through Netflix in far-flung countries. The site claims row after row of content sites that work based on user experience, too. 

I tried torrenting through Pirate Bay, but I couldn’t get them to work with either the free or the premium version. 

Hola VPN Device Support

This VPN supports nearly any device you can think of from iOS to Android to PS4. In addition to the PC and Mac versions here’s what they offer:

  • Web Browsers (Proxy Only): Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Microsoft Edge (notice no Safari)
  • Mobile: iOS, Android, Huawei, Amazon
  • TV(Proxy Only): Apple TV, Fire TV, Smart TV (brands listed: LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Toshiba)
  • Consoles (Proxy only): Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4

You should notice how many of these are proxy only and not true VPN services. 

Paid and Free Versions

Hola VPN’s service is divided into three categories: Free, Premium, and Ultra. Each of these has strengths and weaknesses. The biggest weakness of the free version is that there is no encryption at all.

 

Free Premium Ultra
Usage Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Speed Basic  Fast Ultra Fast
Privacy No encryption Encryption Encryption
Simultaneous Connections 1 10 20
Fast Support no Yes Yes
Streaming Quality SD HD HD
Server Access ~500 ~1000 ~1500
Smart DNS No Yes Yes

Conclusion

Hola VPN has some decent features, but it suffers from one important flaw. It switched itself off on a regular basis. As I figured out the pattern, I thought I could manage it, but it still got me several times. I went through my tests until I got strange numbers. Of course, when I checked, the VPN was off. Any VPN with this problem is simply unusable. 

Even without these problems, Hola VPN is only useful for a select few. It is not for people who want any kind of privacy, whether encryption, logging, or from snooping eyes. Encryption gets only slightly better when you go into premium or ultra subscription services. In the end, this Hola VPN review concludes that it is not worth using.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James H

James is a writer from Chicago, IL who is concerned about big tech and how the internet companies gather private data for their own uses. He is an internet specialist and technology review writer, and you can find his work at Lifewire, Amendo, the Federalist, and Brew Your Own Magazine.

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