Hola VPN Review

May 25, 2018

8:00 am

Rating

54%

Rating Description:

  • Ease of Use: 4 stars
  • Features: 2 stars
  • Privacy: 1 stars
  • Speed: 3 stars
  • Help & Support: 3 stars
  • Value for Money: 4 stars
Pros
  • Free to use
  • Relatively speedy
  • Keeps no data logs
Cons
  • Uses your bandwidth
  • Security concerns in recent years
  • Not leakproof
  • Weird “browse-then-connect” way of working

Free, but with security concerns

Hola VPN isn’t a VPN in the classic sense, but a peer-to-peer network that does a broadly similar job. If you want to access services that are locked from your region, such as a streaming feed only available abroad, then Hola may be worth a try. However, there have been some serious concerns about the way Hola makes your bandwidth available for other users. On top of that, Hola is far more limited and less privacy-focused than most ‘classic’, paid-for VPN services.

For the best possible privacy and a superior VPN performance, we’d recommend paying for a cheap VPN, rather than going free with Hola. You won’t have to spend much – PureVPN is our best-rated VPN service, and it’s less than $2.50 per month to run.

With a normal VPN, you connect to the provider’s server through an encrypted, private link, and any websites you visit or services you use see the server’s IP address rather than yours. This hides your true identity and location.

With Hola VPN, the users make up a network of different IP addresses spread around the world, and when you connect to a website or service, your traffic is routed through these different connections to hide your IP address and location, and – optionally – make it look like you’re connecting from the same country as the website you’re trying to use.

Is Hola VPN Safe?

Hola-Review Why Use Hola VPN?

The biggest and best reason to use Hola is that it’s free. You simply download the app or the browser extension and join the network. But what’s the catch?

The main flag is that Hola VPN is using your bandwidth and processing power to route some of its traffic. Translation? Your internet connection becomes available for others via Hola.

Hola makes it clear that other users can’t access your system or any data held on it.

However, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of strangers using your connection at all, you can pay a premium to use the Hola service without acting as a peer in the network yourself. But, if you’re willing to pay for a VPN, there are far better services to get your wallet out for.

While Hola Claims the service can help privacy, the real focus is on unblocking websites that you can’t normally use, either because they’re locked to a specific region or blocked in the country where you’re connecting from.

How to Use Hola VPN

Downloading and installing Hola couldn’t be much easier. The website will find and install the right extension for your browser automatically, or you can download a Windows applet that works from the system tray at the bottom-right of the desktop.

There’s also an Android app for download from the Google Play store. There’s no need to sign up to anything or sign in.

Using Hola is a little unintuitive at first. You can connect by clicking on the icon in the browser toolbar, and Hola VPN will recommend sites that other users in your region have connected to.

To change location, though, it’s better to browse to the site you want to use, click the icon and then select which country you’d like to appear to be connecting from. This feels a little odd, though it works OK in practice.

Hola VPN: The Good

Hola-VPN Review The Good

Though it’s not a particularly feature-rich service, Hola has its merits. For a free service, it does the job respectably, and it’s a good “taster” VPN to try first if you’re not sure about paying for a service.

Unblocking Services

Hola does a fine job of unblocking regionally-locked sites or services, though it isn’t always successful. For example, we found that it unblocked the US-locked Comedy Central from Europe.

However, Hola didn’t manage to crack open Netflix in the US when we tried to reach this from overseas. Netflix is pretty savvy at detecting VPNs, and Hola isn’t the only service to fail to outfox it.

No Data Logging

Hola doesn’t log any personal information about you as a user or your browsing activities.

Surprisingly Good Speeds

Hola is surprisingly fast in action, and not just for a free service. We didn’t always get top speeds when connecting to the US from overseas, but when we did, Hola delivered some of the fastest connections we’ve seen from any VPN.

Hola VPN: The Not-So-Good

Hola-VPN The Not So Good

It’s a little unfair to judge Hola by the merits of a fully-fledged VPN service, as it doesn’t set out to be quite as feature-rich. However, Hola has two downsides you should pause to consider before using the service:

Poor for Anonymity

Hola isn’t as strong on privacy or anonymity as standard VPNs. When we tested it for leaks, several tests pinpointed our ISP and even our real IP address. In short, this isn’t the VPN to choose if true online anonymity is your main consideration.

User Policy Concerns

Hola has come under fire in recent years after it was revealed that users’ bandwidth was being sold on by the company to third-parties, including spammers. Meaning? Someone else could be using your internet connection, supplied by Hola as part of the peer-to-peer bandwidth sharing.

Let’s say someone on the other side of the world was using your connection to access illegal pornography, or conduct a spam attack on a site. If these activities were investigated, it could potentially be your IP address that was (at least initially) associated with them.

Hola states in its terms that use of its services are supervised, and any such illegal activity could see the true IP address of the perpetrator shared, not the hijacked IP address of an innocent Hola user. Nonetheless, this insight into the workings of the Hola network may be enough to deter plenty of would-be users.

Hola VPN Prices

Most users will likely go for the free Hola service, with all of its associated downsides of having to offer your bandwidth up to peer-to-peer sharing.

If this doesn’t appeal, you can consider the premium service at $5 a month or $45 annually. You’ll still use other peers’ connections, but you don’t have to supply a connection as a peer yourself, so there should be less impact on your own connection speeds.

However, if you’re willing to spend in the region of $45 per year, we feel you’re better off spending on a proper VPN service such as PureVPN or NordVPN.

Best VPN Alternatives to Hola

We’ve got quite a few reservations about the service that Hola offers, and it’s not the only free VPN that causes us concern. A paid-for service can offer many more features, as well as watertight protection and strict policies about how they handle your data. The best news is that you can grab a great VPN for just a couple of bucks a month. You’ll never look at another free VPN ever again

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The Verdict

Hola works reasonably well as a free unblocker for location-locked services, but it’s not a great all-round VPN. Other services give you stronger protection, without the impact on your own bandwidth that Hola hits you with. This is the price you pay for a free service – you’re putting something back into the pot – but it’s arguably a risk too far. Take a look at our review of PureVPN to see why we’d recommend this low-cost VPN service more.

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Stuart Andrews has been writing about IT and consumer technology for over twenty years, working across many of the UK's biggest specialist titles. While specializing in PCs and related technology, software and cloud-based services, he also writes about IT in education, video games and internet security

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