We live in the age of the internet. This invariably means that most, if not all, of our activities are conducted online. This portends risks far beyond what was obtainable in the analog age. With every foray into cyberspace, you expose yourself to risks in the form of hacks, malware infiltration, and so on.
One way to guide against this is to fortify your digital presence with a VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) strengthens your network, fending off cyber snoops and stalkers. There are quite a number of VPN providers available. In this review, I will be taking a look at one such provider, CactusVPN, examining its features, pros, and cons. Hopefully, this would be helpful when it comes to deciding on the provider to settle for.
CactusVPN made its entrance into the VPN space in 2011. It rapidly grew so that in 2013, it had to expand, incorporating a lot more members of staff than at the start.
At the moment, this provider has about 37 servers in 22 countries. This is by no means amazing, but it could suffice. This is especially when you consider that it unlocks almost 340+ restricted sites and secures your network both with the AES 256-bit encryption and 7 other choice protocols and several options of ciphers for some of them.
CactusVPN further provides apps for major device types. It affords you unlimited data bandwidth while also allowing you to connect an unlimited number of devices. It tops it off with generous subscription offers and a free trial (for some locations). While CactusVPN may not be the top-of-the-line VPN, I would say it gives value for your money.
The server count a VPN has is quite important for several reasons. The first is that it gives you the room to change your location at will. If, for whatever reason, you want your IP address to depict that you are in any particular location, connecting to a VPN server in that location does it. More so, you can easily change a server when you experience lags.
Simply put: the more server the provider has, the better.
Sadly, CactusVPN has just 37 servers in 22 countries. The distribution is as follows:
- The Americas: 10 servers
- Europe: 21
- Asia: 6
Some of these servers are optimized for torrenting and P2P file sharing. Additionally, this provider gives you a bonus with the servers because they are all proxy servers. You can use them whenever you want with no issues whatsoever.
Speed and Performance
Lags and delayed speeds can mess up your VPN experience. You need great speed to be able to surf, stream, and download content with minimal interference. Furthermore, if you are into torrenting and P2P file sharing, you even need fast speed the more. Slow speeds would lead to an unpleasant streaming experience. For torrenting and P2P file sharing, when speed lags, you can get exposed to danger.
A couple of things can affect the speed of the VPN. Ordinarily, using a VPN reduces your browsing speed. However, excellent providers try to keep the drop in speed as little as possible. Also, proximity to the server you connected to could also affect your speed. The closer you are physically located to the server, the higher your browsing speed.
CactusVPN boasts that all of its servers are high speed. On its website, the provider boasts that it uses only 1 Gbps. When you run into any challenge, you can simply refer to any of its administrators to have it sorted out.
This service provider allows you to sort its servers by speed. You can carry out a speed test on the website before settling on any. You do not need to take its word for it concerning how fast its servers are. This saves you time and the energy you would have expended searching for the best fit.
Safety and Security Features
Enhanced security is one of the chief jobs of a VPN. A VPN ought to have strong enough features to keep you safe from every form of cyber attack. This is the reason a lot of providers go out of their way to make sure that their security features are stellar and up to date. CactusVPN is no exception.
This VPN encrypts its servers with the AES 256-bit encryption pattern. This is the strongest encryption detail you will find all over the world. Hence, it is the military standard.
In addition to this, you also get to choose from any of the protocols available on this service. You can choose either the OpenVPN (TCP & UDP), Wireguard, SSTP, SoftEther, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP. This flexibility is excellent for your security.
More so, this provider comes fitted with a kill switch that kicks in if your VPN connection momentarily fails. You also get to enjoy the obfuscation option. Here, surveillance agencies, especially those sponsored by the government, will be unable to detect the fact that you are using a VPN.
To complete its slew of security features, CactusVPN prevents DNS leaks while you are browsing. You can encrypt your DNS queries with the DNS-over-HTTPS feature. When you do this, third parties will be unable to monitor what websites you visit. You will escape from targeted ads and phishing attacks.
Anonymity and Privacy Features
A lot of VPN providers are not clear about their privacy and logging policies. In some cases, they do this in a bid to take advantage of the loophole to deal with your data the way they please. Hence, it has often been reported that many providers have been discovered to share users’ data with third parties. Apart from being a gross violation of your privacy, it could also potentially expose you to threats.
Subsequently, it does list a couple of situations where it might be forced to share your data. This includes when a court order or subpoena mandates it to do so. This sounds a little contradictory. However, when you consider the fact that this provider does not retain your logs, a court order or subpoena would be of little moment. This is because, even with it, there will still be nothing to share.
There is no information regarding the audit status of the privacy claims of this provider.
It is important to clarify that your provider of choice has apps for the devices you own. This is because hopping on a subscription without being certain about this would be akin to foolishness. You would, in essence, be wasting your funds.
I would advise that you go with a provider with apps for a wide range of devices apart from yours. You may have to change your device at some point. Also, you may want to share the VPN connection with a friend or family. This can only be possible if the VPN is compatible with any of such devices.
CactusVPN provides native apps for major device types. You can download, install, and run its apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, and FireTV. It also boasts of browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers.
In the same vein, it allows you to connect an unlimited number of devices. The standard in the market is 5 simultaneous VPN connections, with some providers going as high as 10 simultaneous connections in some cases. However, CactusVPN gives you the liberty to connect as many devices as you want, using just one account.
Streaming and Torrenting
A lot of VPN users resort to using a VPN to satisfy their streaming needs. This could be either to simply tighten their security or ramp up their streaming speeds.
However, most people use VPNs to bypass restrictions on streaming platforms. Content providers typically have licenses to broadcast their content within a specific region. This effectively shuts out users who aren’t located within the catchment area designated by the VPN. This can be frustrating; imagine being unable to access your favorite TV show because you are stuck in the wrong country.
A VPN helps you bypass this challenge by providing you with a compatible location. When you connect to a VPN server, you automatically assume whatever region you are connected to.
Fortunately, CactusVPN’s superpower is unblocking streaming platforms. On its website, it lists no less than 340+ platforms it can unlock with ease. This includes the popular ones such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime. Relatively unknown ones such as CCN Go and ABC news are not left out, too.
This is not all: you can connect to different sites in different regions at the same time. For instance, you can stream content from the USA and the UK simultaneously with no challenges at all.
Furthermore, this provider gives you an unlimited bandwidth of data. The absence of bandwidth caps means that you can stream to your heart’s content unhindered.
This provider also supports torrenting and P2P file sharing. It is doubtful whether all of the servers are compatible with doing so. This confusion stems from the fact that it expressly states that some servers are torrenting-enabled while keeping mum about the status of the others. Hence, you may have to check out each server’s designation before connecting to it for torrenting.
This provider provides directions on how to connect to its servers for your torrenting needs on its website. Unfortunately, it does not get into the specifics about the process. It simply admonishes you to connect to servers in countries without restrictions on torrent download. These countries include the Netherlands and Romania.
Plans and Pricing
CactusVPN has different plans and pricing offers catering to different individuals. Below you will find a complete breakdown.
- Monthly subscription – $6.99
- 3 months subscription – 16.79 in total
- I year subscription – $38.49 in total
- 2 years subscription – $66.49 in total
The provider also gives a 3-day free trial period, which gives you access to all of CactusVPNs servers. So it might be a good idea to test the free version first! CactusVPN is one of the few VPNs that offer a free trial version which we think is a huge plus in the overall review.
CactusVPN has a very intuitive interface. I found it straightforward while downloading, installing, and making use of the VPN. Furthermore, when you run into any challenge, you could easily resolve those by speaking to the provider’s customer response team. As already stated, its server count leaves much to be desired. However, if you are willing to overlook this minor glitch, you will have a memorable experience with this provider.
Does Cactus Work in China?
The ability to bypass the Great Firewall of China is the ultimate decider of a VPN’s unblocking prowess. The Chinese government takes the subject of surveillance very seriously. They frown at the use of VPNs within its borders and so identify and block users who attempt to use the services of a VPN within China.
Similarly, they prevent people outside of Japan from having free access to China-specific content. VPN providers often run into serious challenges overcoming this gridlock. In fact, many have been known to expressly state that they cannot get around the Great Firewall of China.
CactusVPN, however, says the opposite. This provider claims to beat the ‘unbeatable’ encryption used by the Chinese authorities. It affords users the benefit of using its obfuscation feature. Here, these countries’ surveillance systems will be unable to detect that you are using a VPN. On the other hand, it also claims that its SoftEther protocol can allow access also while in China.
These claims have not been independently verified.
Pros and Cons
- Fast Connection: CactusVPN provides you with a strong and reliable connection to meet all your VPN needs.
- Great Unblocking Ability: One great thing this provider has going for it is its ability to unblock geo-restricted sites easily. It boasts that it can unblock more than 340+ restricted platforms. This is a huge advantage by every standard.
- Unlimited Bandwidth Caps: You get no limit on the data you can expend using this VPN.
- Provides Apps for the Major Devices: You will hardly have any challenges downloading an app for your device using this VPN.
- Torrenting and P2P File Sharing: Some of its servers are compatible with torrenting. This surely is great news for those looking to torrent files.
- Limited Servers: With a server count under 40, CactusVPN is still far from playing in the big leagues. It limits your reach in so many aspects.
I have examined all of the features of this foremost VPN provider. As you must have noticed, CactusVPN provides a decent service for those on a budget. Follow this guide to come to a conclusion if you are still at a loss regarding which way to swing.