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VPN Gate Review: network of independent servers

Last updated: July 8, 2020 By Dean Chester

VPN Gate reviewVPN Gate is not an ordinary VPN service. It’s a free distributed net of servers run by volunteers and linked to a single center. Still, there aren’t servers, like in traditional data centers, but ordinary computers with special software. 

You also can launch VPN Gate on your PC and join this network. Other users’ traffic will go through your computer.

The service was launched in 2013 and it has been so popular that over 3 million connections are registered per day, while 174.000 Tb of data was transferred through the network since 2013 [1].

VPN Gate was launched by enthusiasts to apply the SoftEther VPN protocol, which was developed by the University of Tsukuba [2]. The distinctive feature of this protocol is applying the traditional SSL encrypting used in https addresses. It is a bit faster than OpenVPN, but it almost doesn’t play hardball on reliability.

I decided to test VPN Gate to find the answers to the questions:

Is it really free?

What tasks is it appropriate for?

How to use it?

What are its pros and cons?

Is it safe enough?

Having done the in-depth research, I prepared the review with the answers to those and other questions related to VPN Gate.

Use the quick links for easy navigation:

Without further ado, I’ll start with its general characteristics.


Characteristics of VPN Gate

Pricing policy Totally free
Rating for free VPN High
Platforms With the SoftEther VPN: Windows, macOS, Linux, configurations for: Android, iOS, routers
Speed Unstable, mostly slow
Encryption 256-bit
VPN protocols OpenVPN, SoftEther, IPsec, PPTP
Torrenting Depending on the server
Netflix Depending on the server
Logging policy Yes
Ads Yes
Support service No
Price Free

Main functions

  • Masking of IPs and sites you visit
  • Unblocking of sites
  • Bypassing censorship in different countries, including China, Iran, and others.

Extended functionality

  • No extended functionality

Thanks to almost invisible SoftEther protocol, the list of servers which are run by volunteers and constantly different, large number of the mirrors of the official website, VPN Gate is appropriate for bypassing censorship.

This service will be mostly appropriate for users with the experience of working with a file system and network configurations. It seems that Windows and Mac versions with free apps and no configurations required are more appropriate for inexperienced users.

Find more details about the pros, cons and specifications of use in other chapters.


Specifications of VPN Gate use

Before I list the pros, cons and what you should use VPN Gate for, it’s mentioning about an important nuance and how to use this service

While using VPN Gate, you’ll connect through other users’ computers with SoftEther configured! Third-party traffic won’t go through your device until you set up the VPN Gate client for a desktop and choose one point in the “VPN Gate Public VPN Relay Servers” extended settings.

Agree to launch VPN Gate server on your PC

Don’t worry if you don’t notice this setting. It is not active by default. 

There are 3 ways of using VPN Gate:

  1. Setup of a special app on Windows, macOS, or Linux
  2. Configuring of the current system parameters
  3. Setup of free software with an open OpenVPN code and its configuring

You can learn how to do it on its official site of VPN Gate.

I believe that the third way is the easiest one. But it’s not appropriate for bypassing censorship in China, Egypt, Iran, and other countries where VPN use is monitored. Then you need to turn to variant #1. 

To set up the VPN Gate client, you need to set up the SoftEther client. They are in a single zip file. Its downloading is slow enough and it takes too much time to set up and configure the clients.

 For faster setup of VPN Gate and if you don’t need to bypass severe censorship, it’s easier to use the OpenVPN software. 

Ads from volunteers’ servers

First, I didn’t understand how it’s profitable to provide a VPN service via VPN Gate for volunteers. But I understood when I first connected to it.

The ads:

Ads on VPN Gate

Thus, this service shows ads. In particular, it’s done by some volunteers that offer their servers for use. But for me as a user, it doesn’t matter who does it. There are ads while using VPN Gate, and I prove this fact.


Pros of VPN Gate

Unlimited choosing of countries and servers

While testing VPN Gate, it offered 5709 servers, but configurations are available only for 100-200 servers (read more about this problem in the ‘’Difficult to search for countries’’ chapter). 

If you are patient enough, you may find any country, but Asian countries are more popular, especially Japan.

Among the servers with the highest speed rating, I found the one located in the US with the speed of 398 Mbps as it was claimed:

US location for testing the service

Looking further forward, I should mention that I failed to access the Internet via that server. Later, I changed it to another server.


Configurations for all devices

Thanks to the opportunity of using OpenVPN, PPTP(SSTP) and IPsec protocols, VPN Gate can be configured almost on every internet-enabled device (as I’ve mentioned above, SoftEther is available only for desktops). But you will have to do it manually. You can download the configuration files here.

I have already tested the OpenVPN client in the review of VPNBook. Having changed its configurations, I easily tested the launching of VPN Gate on Android and iOS via the OpenVPN protocol.

VPN Gate works on all platforms in the same that’s why I just checked the efficiency of the technology and did speed and IP leaks on PC. 


Works with Netflix

There were no problems with watching Netflix for the US. The service didn’t detect the use of the unblocker. I managed to stream an average-quality video:

VPN Gate for Netflix

I wasn’t surprised as VPN Gate uses real computers located at home or work but not virtual servers that are blacklisted.


Invisible VPN protocol

  The SoftEther VPN protocol was developed in 2013-2014 as part of Daiyuu Nobori's master's thesis research at the University of Tsukuba [3].

One of the distinctive features of SoftEther VPN is its invisibility for security firewalls, proxy-servers, and the fact that there’s no need to configure NAT on the backend.

Invisibility while trying to detect VPN is carried out by HTTPS with a complete imitation of an ordinary website visit.


No IP leaks

IP leak tests for OpenVPN and SoftEther VPN were passed successfully:

No IP leaks

But be careful while reconnecting of the Internet: when you change to OpenVPN, your real IP may be seen, and the VPN Gate client for Windows may enter sleep mode and after it exits sleep mode, VPN doesn’t get back and running. This took place when I tested the service on PC.


Cons of VPN Gate

Difficult to search for countries

The locations available for use are on the homepage, but it’s very difficult to use it. They are only sorted by protocol, while there’s no filter by protocol and other parameters.

Besides, you can’t get the whole list because it’s protected from DoS attacks:

Serve list is partially available

Only 100 servers with the highest rank of quality (speed).

Among the most popular counties are:  

  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • Vietnam
  • Thailand

The most popular countries among users such as the US, UK, and European countries are rare here.

It’s worth mentioning that if you use the VPN Gate Client, 200 servers sorted out by country, speed and other parameters are available.


Slow speed

The server speed claimed is 19.5 Mbps. My ISP allows 100Mbps, so if it is fast enough, I may see 14-15 Mbps, taking into account speed drop while using a VPN tunnel.

But…

Slow speed of VPN Gate server

In fact, the speed is 10 times slower than claimed! It’s quite strange. Firstly, they have no reason to tell a lie. Secondly, I was watching the Netflix film in average quality, while it requires at least 3Mbps.

After several tests were done, I noticed that the speed is always different, and its maximum is 28Mbps. 

Still, I decided to find a stable and fast server and changed it to the US one (after a few trials) with a 28Mbps speed.

But everything was repeated. This time, the speed was so slow that I failed to measure it:

Server speed is too slow

After a few unsuccessful tests for 8 servers, I finished with it.Тhus, I failed to find the best server - VPN Gate is another free VPN with slow speed.


Logging policy

VPN Gate is originally a scientific project and funded by the University of Tsukuba.   “No Logs” policy is mostly the feature of commercial products. In most cases, it’s followed for the purpose of marketing.

Besides, the servers don’t belong to the SoftEther Corporation, and they are mostly ordinary computers of users-volunteers who use the VPN Gate Server. In the Terms of Service, there’s no information about banning of keeping other users’ logs. 

Thus, you can’t rely on the service as regards confidentiality and you don’t have to register on the website.


Difficult setup and no apps for mobile devices

Before I managed to work with the VPN Gate app, I had to waste a lot of time on it.

  • First, I downloaded the software (it took me a long time).
  • Then I set it up.
  • After that, I understood how to find the list of servers available.
  • Then I got connected but faced some ads...
  • … but the VPN was not active:

    Not connected to the Internet

     

  • I had to find the reason. It happened because of the server. 
  • I changed to another server.

This helped me to cope with the problem.

I'm bound to say that I felt tired of extra actions. It’s easier to a use an all-round VPN with 1-2-step connections.


No extended functionality

In comparison with the multi-functional VPNs, VPN Gate is aimed at marketing and doesn’t compete with commercial providers. It only consolidates the distributed network of computers to popularize the SoftEther VPN protocol. 

The extended functionality and user-friendly apps of the commercial VPNs are caused by competitiveness, but VPN Gate is not commercial.

Such providers as NordVPN, CyberGhost VPN, Surfshark offer user-friendly software with a wide choice of additional functions


Information about the company-owner

VPN Gate is owned by SoftEther Corporation and the University of Tsukuba.

Address:  1-1-1 Tennodai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8577

Website of VPN Gate: www.softether.org


Conclusion

VPN Gate is too complicated for average users. Setup specifications. configurations, changing of locations make it appropriate for advanced users and staff scientists.

Still, you can bypass advanced firewalls, but even for this task, you can use convenient VPN services with the obfuscation of a VPN protocol.

In other cases, I recommend using more private VPNs with user-friendly apps for all platforms that don’t require being configured.


Top 3 alternatives

NordVPN – 5000+ servers in 60 countries, which are 99% online. The extended functionality, including obfuscation servers, military-grade encryption, the opportunity of using it free of charge. 

CyberGhost VPN – a large all-round service with a free trial aimed at privacy and bypassing geo-restrictions. 

Surfshark VPN – the cheapest service among the best paid VPNs. It has the same functions, like the two ones mentioned above have.  In addition, there is a wide choice of double VPN and obfuscation servers to cope with the most complicated tasks. 800+ servers in 50 countries.


References

  1. The official website VPN Gate
  2. University of Tsukuba
  3. SoftEther VPN in Wikipedia
VPN-Review - Chief Editor
Dean Chester
Cybersecurity and online privacy expert and researcher. He's been published on OpenVPN, EC-Council Blog, DevSecOps, AT-T Business, SAP Community, etc. Dean has been testing VPNs for 8 years.

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3 user reviews for VPN Gate Review: network of independent servers

No fuss Free VPN

Had no issues once I got the right software, with the plug-in included for the first time installation! Speed is not what this VPN is about, but access to blocked web-sites! Anyhow it is FREE, so I am grateful I get access to blocked content :o)
Cheers

Logging

AFAIK, they only keep logs for two weeks so that’s something

Softether

Hi there! Can you tell me more about this new protocol they’re using? I get that it is invisible but how secure is it, exactly? Would you compare it favorably to OpenVPN, for example? Also, are there any other VPN services that make use of it?