Top Level Overview
Moldova based privacy company, CactusVPN, offers a fledgling VPN service with good security and solid features.
So, right off the bat, I’m just going to let you know that CactusVPN has servers in just 9 countries/cities: the United States, London, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Germany, France, Canada, South Korea, Australia.
It’s enough, but some people may want more.
If you are cool with this server setup, you will find the pricing reasonably attractive, especially on the annual payment plans. Hold tight and I’ll run you through it.
Customer service is more than sufficient. They offer 24/7 support through a customer support email system and usually reply within an hour or two.
In addition, users can also peruse CactusVPN FAQs, which include helpful information about how to solve common issues. I appreciated that they had 24/7 support and a live chat option.
CactusVPN offers a 24 hour free trial period, which is nice but may not be totally sufficient for users who want to test the full capabilities of the program over a 48-72-hour period.
That said, they offer a 7-day trial for SmartDNS, which we will talk about later.
In addition, the company does offer refunds, but for limited circumstances. For example, they state in their FAQ that they offer ‘’30 days money back guarantee if you can’t connect to our VPN servers using all of the VPN connections included in your package.”
They won’t refund for any issues with speed or website unblocking because they reason 24 hours is sufficient time to test the product.
CactusVPN offers a passel of different plans for users:
- US VPN is $4.99 per month (4 servers in the USA).
- UK VPN is $4.99 per month (6 servers in the UK).
- Liberty VPN is $4.99 per month (4 servers in Netherlands, 2 in Romania)
- Smart DNS + VPN is $6.99 per month (16 servers in USA, UK, Netherlands, Romania)
- Smart DNS is $4.99 per month (original provider’s speed)
All plans include all of CactusVPN’s features: SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, SoftEther and PPTP protocols and Proxy.
On the face of it this doesn’t seem that cheap compare with the top boys on my list, but check out the annual pricing. The liberty package gets you a very secure VPN for a pretty small fee.
CactusVPN is interesting because it can be used on multiple devices, but it only allows users to connect to three devices simultaneously. This is honestly all I really need, and may also be just fine for a mid-sized household.
I also appreciate that CactusVPN has Smart DNS to change your individual DNS settings to match CactusVPN’s Smart DNS servers, which reroute your data without affecting your speed.
I think this is a pretty handy tool, but it comes with a caveat! Note that with Smart DNS, all data is sent directly to your device and is not encrypted (unless you are visiting an https site). This is because SmartDNS is solely for unblocking websites and not as a security function.
If you want encryptions, use VPN mode.
One feature of CactusVPN that I really love is the Apps Killer, which is like Kill Switch 2.0. Yes, that good!
It functions really efficiently: instead of switching off the internet (in all of its glory) in the event of a VPN blip, it’ll just halt or kill certain applications (customizable by you) when a VPN connection is threatened.
Brilliant. It’s nice to be able to restart apps and not have to reboot the connection as a whole.
The desktop program itself is nice and streamlined. There are simple menu tabs: “connection,” “settings,” “apps. killer” and “info.” Information is easily laid out and extremely simple to operate.
For example, under the ‘‘connection’’ tab, you can select the country flag of the place you’d like to connect from, choose a city from the dropdown menu, choose your VPN protocol and click ‘connect.’
It’s one of the most intuitive menus I’ve seen. When I’m using a VPN, I don’t like to see a whole lot of information I’m not immediately concerned with, so I like that CactusVPN keeps it uber simple.
CactusVPN also offers unlimited bandwidth, so hooray for that!
Security & Privacy
Since CactusVPN is based out of Moldova, I have very few fears about mandatory data retention laws in the country.
In addition, CactusVPN insists that it is a no log company:
We have adopted Zero Logs policy. That means we keep no logs at all.
It is also interesting to note that Moldova may be one of the best places to source a VPN provider as most European data retention laws do not extend to this small country.
I like that they aren’t based out of the US or the UK!
CactusVPN is standard and secure with security. They offer OpenVPN, SSTP and SoftEther VPN protocols. CactusVPN also provides 256 bit AES encryption- nice and safe.
In terms of L2TP/IPSec protocol, you can choose your encryption level from 128 to 256 bit. Options are always nice, but a lot of VPN providers don’t consider L2TP/IPSec secure enough for many people’s VPN needs. My preference is OpenVPN.
I never felt vulnerable to attack partially because of other great features like the Apps Killer, which I love because it allows you to stay secure in the event of a VPN blip. No more annoying internet reboots!
Speed & Performance
Let’s talk speed. CactusVPN’s is actually pretty decent. In my experience, upload speeds are only slowed by a very tiny amount (less than 5 bytes). I had no trouble streaming media or uploading files or sharing data, which is relieving.
I should just note though- I’ve only used the US and UK servers, so I can’t comment on the viability of the Amsterdam and Bucharest ones.
As previously stated, CactusVPN’s customer service is pretty good. They are available 24/7 to respond to questions and other comments and also have a live chat system, which is fast becoming an industry standard.
Reply times vary from twenty minutes to an hour and a half, which is fair. On the times I did reach out, the staff was extremely pleasant and offered helpful instructions.
In addition to the customer support service, CactusVPN also offers an extensive FAQ page that details commonly reported problems and their solutions, which is a nice addition.
CactusVPN offers a semi-generous refund policy. It’s technically a 30 day money back guarantee, but it is not ‘quibble free’ like I’ve seen with others. If you can’t connect to a certain website or just don’t like the client in general, don’t expect to see your money whiz back into your account.
CactusVPN will only refund for specific technical issues as they believe your 24 hour free trial is enough of a test drive to determine whether or not you’ll stick with the product (it’s not).
Signing Up & Getting Started
With CactusVPN, signing up is easy as 1,2,3. You just enter an email address and your name and if you decide to buy… payment details.
Speaking of which, you can use a variety of payment options- from major credit cards to payment services like PayPal and Alipay to the ultra-secure Bitcoin. The variety offered here is helpful for users of varying privacy needs.
CactusVPN Review Conclusion
I thought that CactusVPN offered some nice features, though it lacked the server locations that I felt would make it a practical choice for me (and probably most VPN users).
I especially liked the Smart DNS feature, the Apps. Killer function and the fact that the service was pretty speedy.
I thought that their three device connection policy was sufficient and that the service for the price listed was fairly adequate- though a better bargain would include many more server locations, which I’ve seen for a competitive price.
I like that they offer 24/7 support. I didn’t have to wait long for an email response, and they offer live chat – which is appreciated.
CactusVPN was definitely high in my books for visual appeal. The desktop and mobile clients are easy on the eyes, as well as very intuitive and generally user friendly.
CactusVPN’s speed on their US and UK servers is excellent. I was able to stream media quite quickly, which for most is a primary use of the Internet. All in all, this is an underrated VPN service that will become increasingly popular as it expands its server reach.
- The Price
- Awesome desktop client
- Speedy connections
- Kill switch
- Comprehensive security options
- Based in Moldova
- 24-hour free trial on basic plans
- Smaller number of servers than some other providers