A VPN can protect your online privacy, making it harder for third parties to snoop on your activities and track you. VPNs can also help protect you from malicious software and websites, and also get around any geo-blocking that might exist at your geographical location.
This article will take you through all the features that NordVPN has, including the breadth of its server offering, additional privacy functionality, compatibility with The Onion Router (TOR) and it's no log policy.
Table of Contents
The first thing to notice about NordVPN is that when you open it up, instead of a giant list of servers, you are presented with a map. You simply click on a country or specific city and you will then connect to the VPN servers located there. This is extremely easy and user-friendly to operate. NordVPN can be used with virtually no understanding of what a VPN is because it uses a graphical representation of what would otherwise be a confusing list of countries and server names.
Of course, you can also go through the list of VPN servers on the left-hand side of the UI. It gives a conventional list of all the available servers that NordVPN offers, in more than 50 countries across the globe. You can also manually search for a specific country you're interested in.
Here's a video guide I put together, showing how easy it is to download, setup and connect to NordVPN in under two minutes:
Specialty Connection Types
NordVPN offers specialty servers designed to be used with TOR, for P2P file-sharing, for video streaming and others for extra privacy. This is something that is not common with competing VPN providers.
You can either manually choose the server you want to connect to, or let NordVPN select the fastest available server based on your location and connection speed.
The standard servers are the servers that encrypt your IP address with a new IP address. There is no additional security or privacy added to your connection except that your IP address is replaced.
The second server type offered by NordVPN is the "Onion Over VPN". Onion Over VPN adds another layer of privacy. This service sends your traffic through one of NordVPN's dedicated servers, followed by the Onion network, before it reaches the open internet. Normally, you'd need a TOR browser to access the Onion network, but thanks to NordVPN, you don't need any third-party browser.
Another type of VPN server offered by NordVPN is called a Double VPN. Double VPN is also similar to Onion Over VPN. However, in this case, instead of sending the traffic through the Onion network, NordVPN sends it through two different VPN servers. This encrypts your data twice before it reaches the internet. The one limitation of this service is that it only works if you have both TCP and UDP protocols open and functional on your system. You don't have to worry too much about this though, as NordVPN uses OpenVPN (TCP) and OpenVPN (UDP) protocols by default, so as long as your router or network configuration supports it, you'll be able to use Double VPN.
Other strong next-generation protocols offered by NordVPN include IKEv2/IPSec and NordLynx (erstwhile known as WireGuard). The protocols are easy to audit and debug too. NordVPN uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), an encryption standard approved and used all over the world.
You can also opt for dedicated IP servers for an additional cost. This is even more secure for obvious reasons. You get a single IP address assigned specifically for you. This is the complete opposite of what the standard servers offer. When you connect through the standard servers, you are assigned an IP from a pool of many available IP addresses. Those IP addresses are generally shared among others using the same standard server service, so if another NordVPN customer does something while assigned that IP and a service, such as Netflix for example, blocks the IP, you might be be able to access the service either. Having your own IP address ensure that this cannot happen.
Finally, NordVPN has Obfuscated Servers specifically designed for countries with additional internet access regulations, such as North Korea, China, and others. If you're unable to visit sites blocked in these countries, you can connect through Obfuscated Servers to visit them. The issue with some of these countries is that most of the VPNs are blocked in them. Obfuscated Servers may help eliminate that problem too.
NordVPN has well over 5000 servers in 59 countries all around the world, which covers most locations you'd want a VPN for. However, Africa, South/Central America, and the Middle East are places where there are few NordVPN servers. However, due to internet infrastructure and/or political regimes in many of these areas, they are locations where most people would not find a VPN particularly useful. Having said that, there are other VPN providers who do have servers in some of these places, so variety in terms of countries where it has servers is not NordVPN's strongest point.
NordVPN itself is based in Panama, a country with very privacy-orientated legal provisions. This puts it at a big advantage to providers based in locations such as the UK, where the logging of VPN activity is legally mandated. To that end, NordVPN does not keep any logs whatsoever, ensuring your privacy from governments, businesses, hackers, scammers and other prying or nefarious parties. NordVPN keeps literally zero records or logs concerning what servers you connect, your traffic, and in fact whether you even connect to any of its infrastructure at all.
Speed when using NordVPN is comparable to other providers, it isn't the fastest speed out there, but it's still good. Of course, the speed will vary a lot depending on what country you're in and which server you are trying to connect to.
During my testing, I generally suffered a speed loss of around 20-30% when connected to NordVPN versus without. However, streaming from Netflix in 4K was still absolutely fine, as was browsing the internet and syncing with various services such as Google Drive. No stuttering, or lost connections occurred. The only activity where the speed loss might put you at an unreasonable disadvantage would be downloading files - whether via torrents, or otherwise.
NordVPN is not just a regular VPN that provides extra security. It has more than 25 benefits, including some premium features you can only get by subscribing to a higher tier plan.
NordVPN acts as an anti-virus for your internet. It protects you from hazardous files, infected websites, and unknown trackers.
You can access NordVPN and connect up to six devices with a single account.
As stated above, NordVPN does not track, collect, or share your private data with any third party.
On this matter, Private Internet Acesss, a competing VPN provider, was audited by big four accounting firm Deloitte in August 2022, in relation to their no logs policy, and passed. It would be reassuring if NordVPN went through the same exercise.
Dark Web Monitor
NordVPN notifies you if your credentials are leaked on the dark web.
NordPass allows you to secure all your passwords, credit cards, notes, and other personal information in a secure vault. This is similar functionality to what LastPass and other password managers offer.
NordLocker allows you to secure any type of data (video, images, documents, etc.) in a secure locker online. You can save up to 1TB worth of data.
Is NordVPN Safe?
The most important question when using any Virtual Private Network software is whether it's safe or not. To be honest, nothing can be 100% guaranteed safe when you're browsing the internet. The only thing you can do is try to maximize both your security and privacy in order to minimize the risks.
Of course, just like any other service, VPNs can also get hacked or exposed. But, as I've already discussed, the protocols used by NordVPN are highly secure and use the latest available technology to encrypt your data. The chances of those protocols being cracked is infinitesimally small in practice.
Has NordVPN ever suffered any security issues or data breaches itself, though? Yes.
In October 2019, NordVPN announced that it had suffered a data breach in one of its third-party servers (a rented server) that was located in Finland. The server was first brought online on January 31, 2018 and, according to the available evidence, the server breach likely occurred on or around March 5, 2018.
Following the event, NordVPN posted the key facts in a blog post with a complete timeline of the incident and the countermeasures it took. Apparently, the breach was possible due to poor configuration from the third-party data center, of which NordVPN was never notified.
So, while I believe that NordVPN is one of the safest and most reliable VPNs available online today, it is important to note and assess its response to incidents such as the one that occurred in 2018. NordVPN could have most certainly let users know about the breach much, much earlier.
NordVPN offers multiple plans, and each plan has its own tier. The maximum subscription term you can buy is a two-year plan, and the minimum is a one-month plan. In between, you will find a one-year plan. These three plans have their own tiers - Standard, Plus, and Complete, with Standard as the base tier and Complete as the top tier option with all the available features.
Monthly plans start at $11.99/month and go up to $14.19/month, depending on the tier you choose.
The yearly plan starts at $4.99/month and goes up to $7.19/month, depending on your chosen tier. You can save up to 56% if you choose the Complete version of the yearly plan. Of course, the catch is that you must pay for the entire year in advance.
Finally, the two-year plan starts at $3.09/month and goes up to $5.29/month, depending on your chosen tier. You save up to 68% on the Complete version of the two-year plan compared to if you were paying for it month-to-month.
The highest tier of each plan seems to give the best bang for the buck. NordVPN has a 30-day, risk-free, money-back guarantee, so don't be shy about going for the two-year plan to maximise your savings! If you don't end up liking NordVPN you can get a refund for any reason whatsoever (or no reason at all).
NordVPN is great value for money if you want a VPN with a high level of security for the long term, and you don't mind not having servers in some obscure countries.
If you have decided you would like to try NordVPN, check out the plans here.
For any questions regarding NordVPN please feel free to post in the comments section below and I will do my best to get them answered.