While the VPN technology was originally developed almost exclusively for business use, it has now become a staple for many regular internet users.
DataProt says 26% of all internet users have used a VPN at some point. That is a lot of people requiring VPN services and shows how the VPN has become an essential tool for privacy and safety online.
Here at TopVPN, we’ve reviewed and benchmarked hundreds of VPN services for desktops as well as mobiles. We’ve covered the most niche and bold VPN services in the market.
But never have we ever covered a customizable, cloud-based VPN solution like the UTunnel VPN.
What is So Different about UTunnel VPN?
UTunnel VPN is not your regular VPN. In the case of most VPN services, you won’t get to know much about the VPN server you connect to, except for its IP address. Also, you won’t have any control over who else is using the server.
But, with UTunnel, you can easily set up and connect to your own VPN server, which you yourself manage and control. You can set up this server wherever you wish, be it on the cloud with a cloud service provider or your own device.
Does that sound complex? Don’t worry. It isn’t all that complicated. You will get a clearer picture once you go through our review.
UTunnel has a user-friendly UI that makes the server setup and management simple, guides to help you figure out your own way, and technical assistance if you actually start to feel stuck.
Who else would want their own VPN and Why?
There are numerous use cases for using a private VPN with a clean dedicated IP address just for you, your business, or your family.
With its advanced functionalities and features, UTunnel is a business-ready solution, while offering the same flexibility and customizability to regular users.
UTunnel can be used to set up your own family VPN, which is shared exclusively among your family members, securing the privacy of everyone in your family.
But there is more than what meets the eye here. We’re sure you need more data to process your buying decision of a Cloud-based VPN subscription.
So without further add on, let’s take a deeper look into UTunnel VPN.
Performance is a major factor that is taken into consideration while choosing a technology service. Especially, when VPN services divert your network traffic through servers located in different locations, speeds could vary based on several factors. Above is our current non-filtered ISP speed.
Most VPN vendors offer you just a simple client application to initiate a connection, and all you have to do is login and connect to one of their shared VPN servers, which is not the case with a Cloud VPN.
So we first had to set up our own server on a specific location, which in our case was Toronto. This server setup was done from UTunnel’s web dashboard which is discussed later in this review.
The setup isn’t that tough to get through but if you feel lost, you can check out for help here. What you see above is our current server dashboard which is based in Toronto. You can also see our current IP but to use it you need one of their official apps.
We downloaded the UTunnel VPN client for Windows and logged in. To test the proper speed, we used Speedtest, a very popular and reliable source for testing internet speeds. So with Toronto as our present location, we clicked ‘GO’.
When connected to VPN, a certain speed reduction is expected, but UTunnel doesn’t let our speed fall below a specific point. We lose about 4 Mbps worth of bandwidth in both download and upload speeds, which is pretty unnoticeable in most cases.
This test above was just to the baseline network speeds when using the VPN. The connection speeds you get will depend majorly on the cloud provider and the geographic location where you choose to set up your servers.
So the simple takeaway would be that UTunnel is capable of maintaining favorable network speeds for your VPN connection. It’s up to the user which location and cloud provider to choose from.
Ease of Use
Generally, setting up your own VPN server is a complex task and requires some technical as well as networking knowledge to start with.
But, with UTunnel, setting up your private VPN is a simple task. After signing up with UTunnel VPN, there is an initial setup procedure that is required before you start using your VPN server.
This is unlike typical VPN services, where you sign up and then connect to one of the readily available public VPN servers. However, after the initial setup, using UTunnel VPN is just as easy as any other VPN.
Let’s take a look at how things exactly function with UTunnel.
Once you sign up and log in to your account, there’s an option that says ‘Create Server’ that lets you create an individual VPN server for your use.
Once you click on the button, you will be asked for your billing address details, which you can either fill up or skip to take care of it later. It’s the details on the next page that really matter.
On this page, you have to choose between two available subscription plans and the server types. The subscription plans and their features will be detailed later in the pricing section of the review. But, the server types will be explained here for your better understanding.
The server type is set to cloud by default as shown in the above screenshot. This cloud option would be your go-to choice if you are looking for the easiest private VPN setup with UTunnel.
In this case, you just need to fill in the details such as the server name (any name you like), your preferred cloud provider, and the server location for your cloud VPN server.
You get to choose between a bunch of leading cloud providers like Linode, Upcloud, DigitalOcean, and Hetzner to set up your VPN server. The available locations differ depending on the selected cloud provider.
You can use the slider to select the required number of VPN accounts and then select an available instance type (server specifications) based on your data transfer requirements.
There is also an on-premise server option available, if you need your server on your own home PC or if you’re already using cloud networks from Google, Amazon, Azure, or any other cloud providers which are not integrated with UTunnel.
In this case, you have to enter a server name and the IP address of your available server. You can then select the number of accounts/users using the slider and then finish the payment.
After checkout, you have to access your server manually and execute a few commands on it to complete the setup as explained in UTunnel’s on-premise server setup guide.
You will need a fresh Ubuntu 18.04 installation on the selected server. This on-premise option gives you complete control over your server.
Now the obvious question is: ‘Why does it still seem a little complex?’
Well, the answer could be summed up as more control and security.
The flexibility offered by UTunnel for your private VPN setup gives you a sense of control that a lot of other VPN services lack.
Once set up, UTunnel gives you all the data about your server on its web-based management console. For some people, knowing what is going on under the hood does matter.
You can track your VPN usage and view analytics about your server’s bandwidth, memory, and CPU usage right from the front dashboard.
The last thing left to do to use the VPN server you set up, is to simply download one of UTunnel’s official client applications suitable for your device from their website and get to use your own private cloud VPN.
Now, to manage your VPN server, you need to know how the web console works. Given below are the various tabs available on the console.
There are 6 tabs for easier navigation:
- The Dashboard gives an overview of your server stats, licensing, activity logs, and billing.
- Server tab to manage the configuration of all the currently running servers.
- Subscription tab to view or modify your subscription plan or the number of user licenses.
- Events to go through your activity log.
- Support to get assistance for your service
- Profile to manage your user account and authentication settings.
As you see, this is pretty much all it takes to run your very own VPN server. But there’s more…
…if you wish to add more users to your server, you need to go to Servers > Click on your Server Name > Click on User > Click on Invite User >Input the Email Address of the user you want to add.
The invited user will get an email with the invitation to the server which he/she has to confirm to get access to the server.
As simple as that.
Now, let’s talk about UTunnel VPN client apps. They offer client applications for most devices: Android and iOS when it comes to mobile platforms and Windows, macOS, and Linux for PC platforms. Using these apps is as simple as logging in with your credentials and clicking a button to activate the VPN.
On Android, you will clearly be able to see a key symbol in the status bar indicating that your network is being routed through the VPN. All the stats and logs will show up on your web dashboard.
The UI for the android app is intuitive and easy to use. Once the VPN is activated, your IP will change to the VPN server’s IP. You can click on ‘STOP’ to turn off the VPN.
Also, you can access the Knowledge Base and Customer Support right from the app if you get stuck somewhere. This comes in handy when you’re away from the computer.
So the setup process might look a little difficult to figure out at first. But it is actually a lot simple. Once your VPN server is set up, you can start inviting users from the Users tab on the server page right away. The Client apps are quite simple to use too.
Now, the pricing is a tough nut to crack. With most companies, you’d probably expect pricing tiers that go by monthly or annually. UTunnel currently runs a monthly billing scheme and determines its pricing is based on 2 things:
1. The type and number of user accounts/licenses purchased:
There are two subscription types, Basic and Standard. You can see the features offered with these plans on UTunnel’s pricing page.
The Basic plan currently runs at $5/month/user license and comes with most features required for setting up and managing your own VPN.
The Standard plan will cost you $7.5 per month per user license, which is justifiable as it is more feature loaded with many additional options targeted toward business users.
On the server set up page, you can choose your package and the number of user accounts you want using the slider.
2. The server type and Capacity:
As far as server options are concerned, you can either choose the Cloud/On-Premise option as displayed in the above image.
By cloud, they mean setting up a VPN server with one of UTunnel’s integrated cloud providers. In this case, you have to pay for the server costs to UTunnel apart from the licensing costs which we saw earlier.
The cloud option gives you a choice of servers and locations to set up your VPN server and starts from $2.75/month for the cloud provider Hetzner and $5 per month for other providers such as DigitalOcean, Linode, and UpCloud.
Given below is the screenshot of the section where you select the cloud provider and location of your choice from the drop-down menu.
Based on your selection of cloud providers, you get different instance types out of which you can select one. We decided to choose Tokyo as our choice of server location due to Japan housing some of the fastest servers in the world.
Next, you get 3 choices ranging between $10.00/mo to $25.00/mo with 1 user license. In the following displayed rates, the license cost is also included, which in our case was 1 license.
To elaborate, the price split-up in this first case is $5 for the basic license/account + $5 for the Linode micro instance, which makes it $10 a month.
The micro instance comes with a 1 TB Data limit along with 1 GB RAM and a single-core CPU which we feel is more than enough for a single user. You can use it for casual browsing, streaming, or downloading.
If your data needs go beyond the casual user, 1 or 2 TB probably won’t do it. The Medium instance is the highest tier in this configuration. You get 4 GB RAM, a dual-core CPU, and 4 TB data.
Once you choose all those as you wish and checkout, you’ll have your own VPN server.
There’s a catch though.
Unlike other regular VPNs that allow you to freely switch between multiple public servers, here you’re bound to the one location that you chose.
But on the plus side, here you have your own VPN server at your favorite location, that you yourself manage and control.
That doesn’t mean that UTunnel will not let you have access to multiple VPN servers. If you need a VPN server in another location, you can set it up just like the previous one and you will be able to effortlessly switch between the servers.
Also, you can join as many VPN servers owned or managed by someone else as long as you get an invitation to join them from the server admin. Once you join such servers, they will also be listed in the VPN applications, ready for you to connect.
So, while setting up your VPN server, simply choose a good location with good pricing and you’re all set. Most people don’t tend to switch to several locations frequently. One location usually gets the job done.
That’s not all. If you choose the server type to be on-premise, you can bring in your own server, and you will be paying only for the user accounts/licenses.
In that case, you will be setting up your VPN server on an external cloud provider like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, etc. or on your own device.
So if you’re concerned about pricing, rest assured, UTunnel’s plans are quite flexible and budget-friendly. You will have a pricing plan to choose from based on what you need.
Further, let’s explore UTunnel’s security features. To start with, let’s take a look at the encryption standard used. UTunnel VPN uses 256 bit AES encryption which is really secure and ensures that your data is well protected during transmission.
But, when it comes to the choice of encryption protocols, you might not find too many choices. However, that’s not an issue you should be worried about as UTunnel uses OpenVPN and IPSec IKEV2, which are considered the industry standard.
Apart from using strong encryption, there is another essential defense system that UTunnel offers, which is the inbuilt Firewall.
This Firewall offers protection against many malicious websites and also the domains which you can choose to add to the blacklist.
You can also block access to websites based on their country-level TLDs and manually input IP Addresses that need to be blocked.
You can enable UTunnel’s Firewall feature by navigating to the Server tab, clicking on the Server name, and then going to the Security settings.
Another useful security feature from UTunnel is the Two-Factor Authentication. If you don’t know, the Two-Factor Authentication involves authenticating your identity through 2 mediums that belong to you when you log in to an application or website.
For instance, if an unknown entity is trying to break into your account through a decrypter and figures out your password, he can’t exactly login until he has another separate code, which you only have access to.
Such a code could be generated only by you using an authenticator app that you have already linked to your website or service or will be sent to you in your email.
Once you enable Two-Factor Authentication from the Profile tab, apart from your email and password, you’ll need to enter your TOTP from your Google or Microsoft Authenticator app or your OTP from your email to log in to your UTunnel web-console/VPN client application.
2FA makes UTunnel VPN more resilient to data theft or data leak, especially when dealing with sensitive business or personal data.
Overall, UTunnel is a well-rounded package when it comes to security features and can help you and your network keep out of trouble.
UTunnel has this widely-used method of resolving issues: a ticketing system. This method is popular among similar technology-related services because there is more direct involvement by the developer for problem resolution.
Right inside the Support tab, you can create a new ticket to be issued. You can simply attach a screenshot of your issue and some additional info to get your point across better.
Our posted query was quite simple. We wanted to know how they manage their servers and if they have an autonomous operation or employ external services to take care of a few tasks.
The reply took around 10 minutes to arrive through email which is good enough since it is directly managed by the technical team. The reply was brief and to the point.
Everything is managed by the in-house expert personnel, so there are no security related loopholes. They handle all maintenance related activities.
To recap, the ticketing system from UTunnel is an effective solution to all your basic to advanced queries. The support team is clear and precise in solving issues.
UTunnel is surely one of the most unique VPNs we’ve reviewed, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. This is not your regular VPN provider. It’s more of a VPN solution.
Some might complain about the limited number of locations available if you are setting up your Cloud VPN with one of UTunnel’s partner providers. But also the fact is that UTunnel actually covers major locations around the world.
Just in case you need a VPN server in a location not available directly with UTunnel, you can always set up your VPN on your own cloud account with any cloud provider who has that location available. In that case, all you’ll need is an On-Premise VPN setup with UTunnel.
Another one would be the complexity of having to manage your own VPN with a dashboard, keep an eye on the stats or configure new users when required to.
But believe it or not, it is all in goodwill.
Most people don’t need a dozen locations to shift through, they’ll mostly end up using only one. Secondly, if you’ve gone through the Ease of Use section, getting a hold of the dashboard and the basics isn’t as tough as it sounds.
Managing and configuring the VPN and its users might be an essential requirement for businesses that use UTunnel for setting up their secure remote access.
Plus, for regular users, learning to manage your own VPN could make you a little more knowledgeable about how things work under the hood. Also, the amount of control you get is something you would appreciate in the long run.
So our verdict? UTunnel is a unique and innovative VPN solution with a lot to offer in all aspects.