BTGuard

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Most VPN companies downplay torrents. Some don’t support them at all. BTGuard is very different, though, proudly heading its website with its offer of ‘Anonymous BitTorrent Services’.

BTGuard’s website offers very few details on its VPN service, maybe because there’s not much to talk about. There are no clients to check out, for instance, and only three locations to choose from: Canada, Singapore and the Netherlands.

Browsing the website doesn’t give us the feeling this will change any time soon. As we write, the demo videos were posted six years ago. VPN-related support documents are all dated January 30, 2013. The last post on the support site’s news page was made on November 12, 2013. There’s little sign of activity or life.

The pricing isn’t very enticing, either, with single-month subscriptions costing a chunky £8.29 ($10.20, AU$13.50), dropping to an effective £6.22 ($7.66, AU$10.14) if you pay for the full year up-front.

Still, BTGuard claims to have a very speedy network, with “multiple 10Gbit lines of capacity” and “multi-homed bandwidth to multiple tier one networks”, and the company’s specialist P2P support might encourage you to give them a chance.

Privacy

BTGuard’s privacy policy is extremely brief at under 250 words, and although we’d normally say shorter contracts are better, this one has probably gone a little too far.

There are some direct statements. The front page tells us there are “no records of usage stored”, the privacy policy states that the company “DOES NOT collect your Internet Protocol (IP) addresses or customer usage”. That sounds positive, but because there are no definitions of terms it’s hard to tell for sure.

There are some clear statements on how your data is managed, at least, including: “We do not sell, trade or rent your personal information to other companies.”

But occasionally it does get a little vague: “We will collect and use of personal information solely with the objective of fulfilling those purposes specified by us and for other compatible purposes, unless we obtain the consent of the individual concerned or as required by law.” Are you confident you could list everything this allows the company to do? We’re not.

Performance

BTGuard has no clients of its own, so we opted to set up OpenVPN on our Windows 10 system instead. The BTGuard website provided what seemed to be capable instructions – but then the problems started.

Every time we tried to connect to any of the servers, OpenVPN displayed an error code. This didn’t mean anything to us, so we checked the logs and found it was complaining about the ‘register-dns’ line in BTGuard’s opvn configuration file. When we took this out, the profile connected correctly, and if we specified a DNS server in a different way (‘dhcp-option DNS 208.67.222.222’ may be correct although we’re OpenVPN novices) it also still connected.

Once online we ran speed tests* on each of BTGuard’s three locations, and the results weren’t bad at all. Our geographically closest server in the Netherlands only managed downloads of around 14Mbps, but Canada was averaging close to 20Mbps, and Singapore managed around 25Mbps, though with a lengthy 540ms latency and upload speeds of barely 1Mbps.

This couldn’t match the highest speeds of the competition, but that’s no surprise when BTGuard doesn’t have a local UK server. Overall, we think BTGuard should give you decent performance almost wherever you are.

Final verdict

This is a costly VPN and there are hardly any servers. We couldn’t even get connected until we edited the configuration file. BTGuard’s performance is a highlight, and if you need to download torrents on a speedy Singapore server then maybe it’ll appeal, but everyone else will find better deals elsewhere.

*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we’ve reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.

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