It may be a small VPN, but Moldova-based Kepard's website makes some big claims, in particular that it offers the ‘best free premium VPN’ for Windows, iOS and Android.
Could this be true? A competitor for the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN?
A quick inspection suggests no, not really: there are only nine locations (USA, Canada and Europe), P2P is only available on a single server, the free account limits you to 400MB bandwidth a day, you're allowed a maximum of two connections, and there are clients for Windows and Android only.
- Want to try Kepard? Check out the website here
But wait – there are plusses, too. OpenVPN, L2TP and PPTP support means you can set up the VPN on just about anything. There's a built-in NAT firewall, a premium feature on other systems if they have it at all. And the two connection limit is based on IP addresses, so if one of those is a router, you can connect as many devices as you need.
Moving to the commercial plan gets you unlimited bandwidth for a very reasonable price. A single month subscription costs $7 (£5.60, AU$9.30), but paying for a full year cuts that to an effective $2.92 monthly (£2.32, AU$3.88).
If that's not enough you can earn a month's free access to the service for referring a friend (up to a maximum of six months). This is still a very long way from the best specified VPN, but we were beginning to see the appeal.
Kepard's logging policy seems reasonable. The company only keeps session connection times and bandwidth used, but that's as you'd expect for a provider which has limited accounts, and even those logs are only kept for three days.
Any personal data you provide isn't shared with affiliates, sold for marketing or anything else. The only apparent exception would be a "subpoena, a court order or complaints from Moldovan official authorities regarding a criminal or/and civil investigation", and we'd hazard a guess that doesn't happen often.
Kepard's ‘reasonable usage policy’ isn't as clear, warning that "any client who raises irrational applications upon the service can be dropped..."; if a member "is not able to use the service rationally" the company may stop offering it, we're told.
As this is a fair usage clause we assume it means ‘don't use too much bandwidth’, but there's nothing here to define that, and in fact Kepard reserves the right to set the definition itself: "It is within Kepard discretion to state what an irrational use of the service is." Uh, okay.
The refund policy caught our eye, too: "There will not be given any refunds under any occurrences." It's stricter than most companies, but to be fair you do get a free 400MB/day to test the service, and that should be enough time to see if it's right for you.
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPN services
Kepard offers two clients of its own – one for Windows, one for Android – and basic tutorials to help you set up other devices.
We created a free account by providing our email address and a password, then downloaded and installed the Windows client. This can be used for testing right away under the company's free plan, subject to the 400MB daily bandwidth limit.
The client is a little strange. It's trying to reproduce the choose-a-flag-then-click-connect-type ease of use you'll see elsewhere, but this doesn't quite work. While other clients allow selecting countries and servers from a single list, for instance, Kepard provides two separate ways to access the countries alone, hiding the servers behind a separate Change IP button.
Might the client appeal to advanced users, at least? We clicked Settings, then OpenVPN Parameters, hoping to see a handy selection of checkboxes and lists. But no: there's just a text box to enter extra OpenVPN parameters, with an example of – http-proxy IP PORT. That's going to be meaningless to anyone but OpenVPN experts, who we suspect will probably be using the regular OpenVPN software anyway.
For all its design flaws, Kepard's client got us online in a few moments, and our real-world experience with the VPN was generally very positive. In our tests*, latencies were lower than average, upload speeds acceptable, UK-UK download speeds an excellent 25-30Mbps, with UK-US speeds lower but still 15-20Mbps.
What about the wider network? We checked a few European servers with very similar results. Torrents are only allowed on the Netherlands servers, so maybe they'd be slow? No, just the opposite – we got even faster downloads than the UK server at 35Mbps, an impressive way to wind up our testing.
Kepard may not have anything like the best website or clients, but the underlying service seems reliable, delivering generally above-average speeds for less than half the price of many competitors (on the yearly plan). If value is your top priority, take the free trial for a spin and see how it works for you. But if quality is your main concern, we'd suggest going for ExpressVPN instead.
- We've also highlighted the best VPNs