Top Level Overview
VPN provider Private Internet Access (PIA), based on US soil, acts as an affordable and secure VPN service.
US location aside (which does raise some questions about the security of the program), PIA offers high levels of encryption and security at an extremely affordable price.
Though PIA only has servers in 24 countries (which is definitely a bit of a bummer), they do have over 3,200 servers- which is sort of amazing.
However, the company is expanding at a fast pace and PIA’s website assures its patrons or potential customers that they are in the process of adding servers in new countries, which is a necessity for more comprehensive coverage.
Because PIA is still a fledgling company, many geographic areas on the map are not covered (think Oceania, Asia). As PIA grows in popularity, more servers in more locations will become available.
PIA customer service is great because they are available 24/7 and they offer support through email. Their system is streamlined and they are pretty prompt when replying.
Response times will vary a bit, but PIA lists an estimated wait time on each of their customer service channels, which is fantastic. It takes the guess work out of troubleshooting. They used to offer a LiveChat options, but have since removed it due to “security concerns.” (I’m yet to find out why).
PIA does offer a 7 day “risk free” trial, which is great for customers on the fence.
Refunds are offered up to 7 days after a plan is purchased, which is less generous than other refund offers I’ve seen, but still acceptable.
Private Internet Access offers three separate plans for user:
- Monthly Plans start at $6.95/month, and is billed every 30 days.
- 6-Month Plan is a plan that runs for 6 months, priced at $5.99/month and billed at $35.95 every half year.
- The most popular package (and the best deal) is the PIA Yearly Plan, which is (an astonishing) $3.33/month for 12 months, billed at $39.95 every year.
All plans include all of PIA’s features: 24/7 customer support, encrypted wifi, servers in 24 countries, highest security encryption, 5 simultaneous device connection, unlimited bandwidth/server switches, no traffic logs, ad/malware blockers and instant setup.
I was amazed, (but incredibly grateful) that PIA has a 5 device connection policy. For the price of the yearly plan, this is an absolute steal, especially for those who have a lot of devices or a larger household or a small business.
This is the lowest priced VPN company I’ve found so far and the fact that it offers the highest amount of connections blows my mind.
PIA can also be connected to any device and operates on over 34 systems, from Windows, Mac and Android to systems like Linux, Windows and OSX. This, at least, gives you an unlimited set of options.
Signing up for PIA is easy, as I’ve come to expect from all VPN services. All you need is an email and a payment method.
PIA accepts most major credit cards, for convenience’s sake, and also PayPal, Amazon Pay, CashU, OKPAY, mint, WebMoney, Mobiamo, over 100 different kinds of giftcards and everyone’s favorite: Bitcoin.
After paying your monthly, bi-annual or yearly fee, PIA will send you an email with setup instructions that will direct you to the system download that you need. From there, it’s a piece of cake.
While it’s not the most visually appealing program as it vaguely reminds me of Windows applications from the mid 2000s, PIA’s service and features are certainly streamlined. Every feature you require for the service is easily found on the pop-up client.
From there, you can select and activate operating features like Port Forwarding, the VPN Kill Switch, DNS Leak Protection, IPv6 Leak Protection and Small Packets.
You can also improve ease of connection by selecting options like “start application at logon” and “auto-connect when App is started.” From the main menu, you can also select your connection location.
Visually and stylistically it is not impressive- organizationally, it is.
Security & Privacy
As I mentioned before, I have really come to expect that every serious VPN company is going to provide high grade 256-bit encryption, which PIA does. PIA also offers a great range of security options, which is surprising for a company that is so inexpensive.
Users can choose from a variety of safety protocols, including PPTP, L2TP/IPSec or OpenVPN (the most secure). In addition, for users who want to prioritize security over speed, PIA allows customers to encrypt data with AES-256.
I loved that PIA offered additional security features, like the Kill Switch, which is a necessity for locking down your personal info. I am a wifi mooch, so I frequently use public networks to surf the web, make purchases over the internet and to transfer funds from my online bank account.
I know that an unsecured public network is rife territory for spies and hackers and that I could end up with compromised personal data. So, I’m glad that PIA gets this too and has decided to include a Kill Switch. This should be a universal VPN thing!
Something else I want to talk about…
PIA’s status as an American-based VPN company. They state on their website in their terms that
This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Indiana…without regard to conflicts of law principles…you hereby submit to the jurisdiction and venue of said Courts. You consent to service of process in any legal proceeding.
While this raises questions about whether or not PIA would be forced to hand over data in the face of a court or government order, PIA also states that it is logless, so there wouldn’t be anything incriminating that they could present. This seems pretty cut and dry, but I still feel slight reservations about using an American -based company.
Speed & Performance
Ok, onto speed. There’s nothing more irritating than waiting for a page to load or a tv show to buffer. That being said, speed is somewhat of a deal-breaker for me. PIA passed my speed test with semi decent colors.
Speed is superb on US based servers, where speed differences were not even detectable, averaging only a few bytes. On UK servers, there was a bit of a lag. PIA speeds will definitely have you zipping around, browsing to your heart’s content and of course, streaming video… on US based servers.
Everywhere else, you may experience some lag, but it depends on what you’re accustomed to.
As previously stated, PIA’s customer service is excellent, though they have recently removed their dedicated LiveChat option. Their email support system is ready to go 24/7, and any requests to the team at customer service rarely took long to address, which I appreciated.
Though response times sometimes vary, PIA has an estimated wait time posted up on their support page, taking the guesswork out of troubleshooting. Responses have always been pleasant and helpful, kudos!
PIA offers a half decent refund policy- 7 days, money back, guaranteed. This is not as stingy as offering no refund, but I would’ve liked to have the entire 30 days to make a decision.
They also offer a 7 day risk free trial, which will give you sufficient time to test out the service.
Signing Up & Getting Started
With PIA, signing up is very easy. You just to enter an email address and some payment details (yes to Bitcoin, yes to 100 different types of gift-cards!) and poof! You’re part of the PIA family. Immediately after, you should receive an email with download links.
Private Internet Access Review Conclusion
I thought that PIA offered many excellent features that a top-notch VPN provider would, but was a bit slow on European servers and didn’t offer the global coverage that many others do.
That said, I think it’s really fantastic that PIA offers VPN protection on up to 5 devices because their prices are amazing. This could be a wonderful bargain for larger households or small businesses.
I felt supported by PIA’s customer service- they offer 24/7 support through email, and were always pretty prompt and helpful.
PIA does have a clear operating system, but it is nothing to write home about, visually. However, program features were clearly laid out and I didn’t have an issue connecting or selecting security protocols.
PIA’s speed for US servers is a game-changer. It is super fast and great for file sharing and streaming. European based servers were slowed and varied from a tiny lag to a discernible one, which may impact frequent international users.
Again, PIA’s amazing prices cannot be topped. If you don’t mind having an American-based VPN, you won’t find these features at this price anywhere else!
- The Price
- 5 Simultaneous Connections
- 24/7 Customer Service
- Servers in only 24 countries
- Bit of a lag on UK servers
- Based in the USA, which may, even though PIA is logless, put some people off.