A key question to be asked when it comes to VPNs is twofold in nature: What does it offer that others do not and is it worth the price? Surfshark is a popular option that offers a variety of options for VPN users and presents itself as the option for “securing your digital life.” But how effective is it really at this security promise?
Surfshark is a company that has been in operation for less than a year, reportedly located in the British Virgin Islands, placing them in an area that most may not anticipate. They are part of the RIPE Network Coordination Centre. They’ve slowly expanded and have made quite an impact on the VPN market.
Surfshark offers some very simple options to get started. A subscription begins at first with $11.95 a month for a standard plan. Surfshark also offers plans in 12-month and 24-month increments that price out at $5.99 (12 months) and $1.99 (24 months), offering a number of reliant options for users. This does place it on the higher end of pay rates for larger increments Users are then asked for an email and payment options. Said options are increasingly diverse, including credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay and a multitude of cryptocurrencies.
What makes Surfshark unique is that they offer add-ons for additional security. Surfshark offers HackLock (a feature that will scan for possible email leaks) and BlindSearch (which allows users to search “privately and efficiently with no ads or logs”) for an addition .99 a month. This is not an option offered by most VPN companies and certainly deserves attention.
Surfshark VPN offers a variety of app options for users. It is available on most desktops, including Mac OS, Windows and Linux, as well as smart TVs, Fire TV, Apple TV and other smaller models. Mobile options are also included, including iOS and Android. If a user wishes to keep the software contained in their browser, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox options are both available. Surfshark also offers options for gamers, where they can install a VPN directly into either their Xbox or PlayStation console. They also offer the Trust DNS option, which offers users the option to encrypt the DNS connections they use to get to other websites.
Surfshark relies on a 256-bit encryption method, which is a typical technique among most VPN providers. It offers three specific protocols for said encryption, including IKEv2, OpenVPN and Shadowsocks. Shadowsocks stands out as a particularly unique protocol, in that it is designed to breach through the internet barriers presented by restricted countries such as China or Iran.
Surfshark also offers the option to use “double VPN,” where a user’s IP will tunnel through one location, only to then be transferred through another. This particular function is primarily useful for those operating in countries like China and won’t provide any meaningful benefit to American users. But it certainly makes Surfshark stand out.
Surfshark’s VPN changes can occur easily if you access the setting. Swapping between VPN protocols is easily done through the settings there.
Surfshark provides a no-log policy, which means that they are emphasizing protecting user information as well as keeping any activity private and unrecorded. The only data that is gathered is the email, password and financial information required for the account itself. The data is not sold to third-parties and cookies are used on their site for basic functions.
Logging onto the service is a straightforward process. After installing the app, users are offered a display of possible servers and connections. It comes with 1,700 servers in 63-plus countries, which means that users will have a variety of options available to them; particularly if they feel a connection is slow. This is an average number of countries and servers, especially when compared to market leaders like NordVPN or ExpressVPN, but it should provide for the needs of the average user.
Users can specifically select a preferred server, or they can choose the “most optimized” option, which allows users to connect to whichever server will give them the best connection. They can also favorite their preferred servers. Unfortunately, the display does not offer any insight into server activity or strength, which makes choosing one difficult. And users also lack the option to select a particular server at a particular IP address.
An essential part of a VPN is its connection and whether it will hinder download rates. This will either make or break one’s relationship with a service. So how does Surfshark hold up?
On a 40 Mbps connection, we found ourselves having minimal connection issues depending on what server we chose. We found ourselves with a 35 Mbps download rate while connected to a New York server, and a 32.3 Mbps download rate for a UK server.
Opening up channels for streaming is a common use for VPNs. And streaming services know it, which is why many of them will implement protocols that might limit access to said services, including VPN services. So is Surfshark compatible?
Based on our testing, yes. The Surfshark VPN does not appear to hinder any of our attempts to stream Netflix in the U.S., Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and BBC iPlayer.
Whenever a user decides to incorporate a VPN into their daily routine, the big question is what sort of breaching ability does it have? Can it breach the internet protocols keeping certain countries severed from the world?
As mentioned earlier, Surfshark offers a multitude of tools for protecting and empowering individuals operating in international states, such as China and Iran. Options like the Shadowsocks protocol and double-VPN allow for users operating in restricted nations to take additional measures to protect and breach the local internet security.
Surfshark is a solid addition to the VPN market. Not only does it provide reliable connections and a variety of options, but provides additional accessories for security that many other VPNs do not. It is far pricier than your typical subscription and performs competitively with other VPN providers. But if security on an international scale is something you need, this is a wonderful addition for fulfilling such a need.