Welcome to our IronSocket Review. We checked out this Hong Kong based company which is expanding with new servers in new locations at a fast pace. We took a look at their service, speeds and pricing and compared them to other providers we’ve reviewed in the past. Can this lesser known name compete with the big boys? Read on to find out…
The Website & Packages:
The IronSocket website is fresh, informative and easy to navigate. All the required information is clearly presented and allows you to easily understand the options available in terms of both service and critical attributes such as payment options. One of the interesting features of the website is the public access to the “Network” section, something which some other providers usually reserve for the members only areas. Not only does this give you the full list of city and country locations, includes extra details such as the server IP address for both HTTP and SOCKS5 but also has the added option of listing which servers are suitable for P2P use. This is an excellent feature as there are many users who use a VPN solely for the privacy they give when using torrents and such like and with this it allows you to understand which servers are suitable allowing you to make an informed choice if they are close enough for your liking before signing up.
There is an extensive section dedicated to set up guides and covers all major computing platforms, routers, gaming systems, mobile devices and even some TV set top box type products. Again these are all available openly to the public and will make a good reference should you sign up.
IronSocket follows suit with most VPN providers and has one package type available which can be taken on varying lengths of time. This ranges from 1 Month at US$6.99 to $35.95 for six months and finally a full year available at $49.95. Again similar to other providers this allows for a reduction in the monthly cost with the greater time scale that you commit to. The service works out at a mind bogglingly low US$4.16 per month when taken over a full year and at this price there are actually very few providers who offer a price as low or lower than this.
A good range of payment options are available which include Paypal, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover and finally the well requested Bitcoin. The full range of what I would consider standard payment options are available and with the ability to pay via Bitcoin increases the appeal to those who seek to pay in the most anonymous way possible, a good start for IronSocket.
IronSocket aren’t to my knowledge a name that instantly springs out at you and with the relatively unknown name gives the impression that they are industry newcomers. After all they launched the brand only recently in 2013 and so it makes sense that the name is not as well known as some of the industry leaders. However this is where the misconception ends and after reading up on their history it is quite clear that they are far from wet behind the ears. In 2005 they launched a service known as HideMyNet which offered similar services to what they offer today although with fewer options, from this history they moved forward improving on not only their service but also their customer service, server base and more, relaunching with the IronSocket brand.
The full range of typical protocols are available across the range of service lengths and include PPTP, L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN. One intriguing feature of the service is not only do you get access to their VPN products but also included as part of your package is access to HTTP, SOCKS5 and a DNS Proxy. While the first two are available at some other providers, the most surprising feature that isn’t available at most providers is the ability to make use of the DNS Proxy.
For those unaware of the possibilities of making use of their DNS proxy server, it allows you to access geo-restricted content such as TV streaming service around the world without the need to connect to a VPN server, basically it satisfies the geo-location requirements of the various streaming websites without actually needing you to route your actual connection through another server, the beauty of this is you can stream content from up to 82 services around the world including the BBC, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora and more without actually leaving your home connection allowing you to continue to browse your normal sites under your home IP. The theory behind this is you receive your full home connection speed as the content you’re watching or accessing is not being routed through a third party server before it reaches yourself.
In terms of accessing this feature you have to authorise your current IP to work with the service, this is easily achieved by logging in to your account on their website which has three spaces for you to enter the IP address you wish to allow to make use of the service with other easier options for updating in future well documented. This feature alone is usually offered as a separate package from various providers and the fact that it is included in the already low prices makes it an attractive and very welcomed addition to the service.
Unfortunately IronSocket don’t currently offer any type of custom software and as a big advocate of it, especially for the doors that it opens for the new comer it is disappointing to see. I have been informed that there are custom software packages planned for the future and hope to see these introduced at the first possible opportunity. As way of compensation for the lack of software there are a large range of guides for many systems available on the website. These are all well thought out and offer step by step instructions of what to do next. Some of the guides for the more major systems such as Windows come with handy screenshots which will no doubt assist new users although with guides such as the one for Android it would be nice to see similar screenshots aiding the set up as these are currently lacking in this and some other areas.
One of the inconvenient aspects of no custom software is the requirement to download individual server configurations. IronSocket tend to push the use of OpenVPN Connect for Windows but for those using OpenVPN with OpenVPN GUI the process is slightly different. My standard testing routine would involve either downloading custom software if available or if not downloading the full range of server configurations and copying a range of them over to my OpenVPN config directory. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to download the full range of config files and this has to be done on an individual basis directly from each server. It isn’t an overly huge issue as most people are only likely to make use of a handful of servers, but for those who like to download the full range in one go they will find this a small annoyance.
The VPN service is graced with Shared IP Addresses which from a privacy angle are more secure. When you make connection you are assigned an IP address which will also be assigned to other users. Many users visiting many different websites or accessing different internet based resources lead to a tangled web of data going all over the place from the same IP, from this it would be more difficult for someone to narrow down your actions over those of another user making use of the same server at the same time.
For what I classed as more unknown service one of the areas which IronSocket excel in is the huge range of locations available. With no fewer than 35 different country locations available spanning all major continents it makes the service an attractive option for globe trotters and users around the world. In many cases both smaller and larger VPN providers only concentrate on certain standard countries and although there is merit for precise localisation there is also a global demand for VPN access and by catering to some of the locations which IronSocket do it makes them a refreshing change for users from certain regions. There is more than 1 country location on offer in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and the Oceania region with most major countries being covered on each continent.
The great thing about having an expansive list of countries available means the widest possible services become available in terms of geo-restricted content. So while not only can you make use of the usual tasks such as secure browsing or increased privacy but also benefit from being able to access a huge range of entertainment resources from all corners of the world. While making use of the service I was able to stream TV shows from as far away as Australia without any issues and as such the benefits of a wide range of countries becomes clear. Not only that but when you travel either on business or pleasure you will want to connect to a server closest to your location for speed reasons. If you for example travelled to China but the closest server was in Europe then you may struggle, with so much choice IronSocket have most eventualities covered and this kind of situation is unlikely to arise.
Having access to the SMTP protocol is somewhat hit and miss with providers and many block this type of connection due to abuse by people sending out large amounts of spam. Fortunately this feature is available at IronSocket and so for those of you who use a desktop email client you will be able to send emails without issue.
For those of you who like to try before you buy so to speak, a 7 day money back guarantee is included. Of course for this in the first instance you have to sign up and pay for an account, but if you weren’t happy for some reason then they guarantee to refund your payment as long as it falls within 7 days of you joining. This is a nice touch but they do state that if you are experiencing technical difficulties you should contact them in the first instance as they will always try and resolve any issues you experience first.
I tested IronSocket for a variety of purposes from every day web browsing to TV streaming services. I found in general accessing servers to be fast and reliable. I was a little concerned that due to the large range of servers from a provider I hadn’t personally heard anything about previously it may of been a case of too many servers with too few resources. This wasn’t the case and for the everyday servers I made use of such the Swiss, Netherlands and UK ones I found them to be totally acceptable to do your daily internet tasks through. Testing both the US server for Hulu and the UK server for BBC iPlayer presented no issues even when opting to stream in HD or the highest equivalent. I was even surprised to see that when accessing the Australian server I could still access Australian streaming sites such as ABC iView without issue all the way from over here in the United Kingdom. As to be expected there was a small 5 second delay before the show started but after this no buffering, delay or lagging issues were experienced.
As with all our reviews we take a selection of servers closest to our location here in the United Kingdom plus one or two further afield and test them for speeds achieved. We take a 1GB test file and attempt to download it via each of the servers while making use of a download manager to open as many concurrent connections as possible. The speeds achieved could vary for yourself depending on your location and due to the large number of servers that IronSocket offer it would be impossible to test each and everyone of them. However the speeds below should give a good indication of the level of quality of speeds achievable.
The servers tested in order are Australia, Netherlands, New York – USA, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
IronSocket Off Peak Speeds
IronSocket Peak Speeds
The Encryption & Policies:
As with any provider I always choose to make connection with OpenVPN due to the inherent security and safety that this provides. IronSocket offer the default OpenVPN encryption of BF-CBC. This in itself is not a huge issue as it is secure enough although with many other providers now offering AES-256-CBC it would be nice to see this introduced in the future as a more secure encryption cipher. Another slight disappointment is IronSocket are also using a lower end RSA key size of just 1024 bit. Many providers have now started improving their RSA key size due to the recommendations to phase out the use of 1024 bit because of the likelihood of them being factored in the very near future. Although safe from the average user those who have concerns about the computing power of the government or a unscrupulous hacker with a large botnet might feel that the RSA key size could do with improving.
One of the nicer features of the “Policies” of IronSocket is under their Network section it is made clear which servers are acceptable to make use of P2P on. With this clear information it allows you the informed choice before you sign up and also which to make use of when signed up.
A pleasing aspect of the service is how open and honest IronSocket are in terms of their logging policies. In terms of the lengths that they go to to communicate those intricate details it is unmatched from any VPN company that I have previously reviewed. Their Data Retention guide gives individual details per server on the length of session logs that are recorded. For example on their Argentinian server there are zero session logs recorded but in contrast on their Danish server these are kept for 365 days. Although the latter may seem extreme after speaking with IronSocket themselves they informed me that their logging policy was based on the requirements of the individual countries and they only enable logging periods for as long as the requirement is made against them. While this is never going to please everyone I find it fully refreshing and an ideal way of being as open and honest as possible about any logging requirements. At least with this open policy they are a provider who can’t be accused of going against their terms if such a situation was to arise.
Support is provided via ticket system only although a well maintained presence is felt on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook with updated posts regarding new additions to their service and other uses. As way of a test I fired off two support requests at different times of the day. The first was responded to within 46 minutes and the second within 4 minutes which in comparison to other providers are some of the faster response times we have received.
It would be nice to see a live help system introduced to compliment the ticket system as it is already manned 24 hours per day, 7 days per week but with response times as fast as this it is not a necessity.
The Verdict aka tl;dr:
IronSocket may not initially roll off your tongue when you think of VPN providers but are certainly one you should be considering. Firstly they are rather cheap and when signing up for a full year package they become extremely cheap, even to the point they nearly rival the price of the cheapest competitor. Not only are they cost effective but also offer a comparable service to the majority of better providers out there.
On a price point alone they make a provider that is definitely worth considering but with this comes added extra features such as the DNS proxy which isn’t available as an inclusive price at most other providers and usually a separate service that is charged for on an individual basis. This means not only do you get a top notch VPN service but you also get added features thrown in basically “free”
A large range of server locations are available spanning every major continent, this puts IronSocket in the upper tier of providers in terms of locations available meaning the service is suitable for not only users who frequently travel a lot but also open to users worldwide looking for local servers for speed reasons. There are actually only a handful of other providers who offer so much location choice. Coupled with a wide range of servers available the speeds achieved for both downloading and streaming media from the likes of the BBC and Hulu was more than acceptable and within the ranges of some of the better providers we’ve tested in the past.
The policies are clear and honest, IronSocket makes no excuses for their terms and conditions and go to great lengths to be as clear and concise as possible which in the tangled world of VPN providers is certainly a welcomed sight. One area which was a little disappointing was the encryption on offer with OpenVPN, although it is considered secure it is at the lower end of the scale and with other providers moving upwards in terms of ciphers and RSA key size it is something that IronSocket should concentrate on and upgrade in the near future.
Overall IronSocket are most definitely a worthy contender for your business. They provide a good service at a more than affordable price. Some of the features that are on offer for such a low cost are simply amazing and I would certainly recommend considering them should their services meet your requirements.
|Price:|| (5 / 5)|
|Reliability:|| (4 / 5)|
|Speed:|| (4 / 5)|
|Servers:|| (4 / 5)|
|Policy:|| (4 / 5)|
|Support:|| (3.5 / 5)|
|Average:|| (4.1 / 5)|
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