BTGuard VPN review

A VPN which specialises in protecting P2P users

Main
Image credit: BTGuard

Our Verdict

BTGuard is a poorly specified and overpriced service which, amazingly, turns out to be even worse when you try it out. Choose another VPN at random, it'll almost certainly be better than this.

For

  • P2P support
  • OpenVPN-compatible
  • Fast Netherlands server

Against

  • Expensive
  • Poor encryption
  • Only 3 locations
  • Singapore server is in the Netherlands

Most VPN companies avoid talking about P2P as much as possible, even if they support it: with all the potential legal hassles, it's presumably easier to say nothing at all.

BTGuard is very different, though, proudly heading its website with an 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. (Even these aren't what they seem, but more on that later.)

Browsing the website doesn't give us the feeling this will change any time soon. As we write, the website copyright message is dated 2014. The terms of service page was last updated in 2011. 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 ($10.14), dropping to £6 ($7.61) on the annual plan. Keep in mind that major providers including CyberGhost and NordVPN offer a vastly more capable service for $3 a month or less, if you're willing to sign up for two or three years.

Still, BTGuard claims to have a very speedy network, with 10Gbit servers and unlimited download speeds, and the company's focus on 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 BTGuard manages your data, 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.

Setup

Getting BTGuard setup is not the most straightforward process (Image credit: BTGuard)

(Image credit: Image credit: BTGuard)

Setup

We hadn't been impressed by BullGuard so far, and the poor picture continued when we tried to sign up, and the site told us our passwords could only contain letters and numbers: symbols aren’t allowed. Uh, what? Many sites insist on including symbols to improve security, but BTGuard doesn't even support them? That doesn't give a good impression of the company's expertise.

Payment is simple, at least. There's no direct support for card payments, but you can pay by PayPal and Bitcoin.

BTGuard has no clients, but a support page points you to OpenVPN and PPTP setup tutorials for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, routers and more. It has a 'last modified' date of 22nd July 2015, too, which is very up to date by BTGuard standards.

There's a distinct lack of useful information. Most VPN providers consider PPTP such an insecure protocol that they no longer support it, but the BTGuard page doesn't mention any security issues, and if anything recommends PPTP as it's easier to set up.

The setup tutorials will point you in the right direction, but they're generally very basic, just a handful of screenshots and a few lines of text.

The Windows OpenVPN setup guide does include one small bonus. Instead of having to download BTGuard's OpenVPN configuration files and manually move them into the right folder, it provides a self-extracting download that will do this for you. This can break very easily - it will fail if OpenVPN is installed in anything other than its default drive and location - but at least the company is trying to help.

Performance

Unfortunately BTGuard does not offer its own VPN clients (Image credit: BTGuard)

(Image credit: Image credit: BTGuard)

Performance

BTGuard has no clients of its own, so we opted to set up OpenVPN GUI on our Windows 10 system instead. This was simple and straightforward, and within a few minutes we were ready to test BTGuard's connections.

We started by connecting to a BTGuard server, disconnecting, and then checking the OpenVPN logs for any interesting information about security or encryption issues. And there was plenty to see, with warnings that the setup file hadn't defined any server certificate verification method, used only TLSv1 to secure the control channel (more up-to-date VPNs use TLS 1.2), and apparently employed a cipher with a 64-bit block size (it should be 256-bit, and would be with just about anyone else.)

Our connection was still encrypted, and any hackers hanging around your local wireless hotspot wouldn't easily be able to see what you were doing. But the level of security was poor, and far inferior to what you would expect from a professional VPN.

Another major problem appeared, too, when we realized the Singapore location was based in the Netherlands (or maybe Germany), and returning Netherlands IP addresses. We could maybe find a way to excuse that if the company has 100 other locations which are all where they should be, but as BTGuard has only three locations in total, it's more of an issue.

We connected to BTGuard's Canada and Netherlands servers and tried to access Netflix, hoping to see whether it would detect our VPN. This wasn't possible, unfortunately, as the Netflix site wouldn't even load when we were connected to BTGuard. Maybe this was a temporary issue and we would have better luck at some other time, but given BTGuard's other problems, we doubt that.

The issues continued to the end with our performance tests. The Netherlands server performed well at 65-70Mbps, but BTGuard's Canada location averaged only 8-12Mbps. We might live with that from a free VPN, but not a service as expensive as this one.

Final verdict

When a VPN has only three locations, and then turns out to be misleading you over one of those, you know this is bad. Factor in the feeble website, the total lack of clients, the poor OpenVPN encryption setup, and the high price, and we'd ramp up our BTGuard verdict to 'terrible.' Avoid.