Hotspot Shield

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Description

Hotspot Shield is a software application that creates a Virtual Private Network connection for the user (this is commonly referred to as a VPN). Many people will have never heard of a VPN, however most of them would have also encountered a situation where they would have benefitted from one.

Features

This software allows users to bypass local and regional browsing restrictions, a problem that has affected citizens in many countries that wish to restrict access to social media networks (such as Facebook and Twitter). A famous example of this occurred during the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt during 2011, when the total number of Egyptian users skyrocketed from 100,000 to more than 1,000,000 in less than 24 hours.
Aside from this, the software can also be used to access video streaming sites that have been locked to a particular country, as well as enhanced security during web browsing. A ‘Free’ version is available with advertising displayed on-screen, while the ‘Elite’ product removes this and brings faster connection speeds – which costs just under $30 per year. A free 7-day trial of Hotspot Shield Elite is also available to anyone who is considering the upgraded service.

A VPN allows users to bypass regional restrictions by creating a kind of ‘tunnel’ to access the internet. It is undetectable outside of the connection, and it essentially makes the user appear to be browsing from an alternative location. For example, if Facebook is banned in a certain country, the software makes the device appear to be accessing the internet from a permitted area (this could be the USA or the UK). Security enhancements are also a major feature of Hotspot Shield, as it provides a private connection when data transfer is usually unencrypted and open.

Public Wi-Fi hotspots can be found in airports and railway stations, but they are often vulnerable to ‘snooping’ and other underhand systems. A VPN connection runs within this open environment, but it is extremely secure. If total data usage is a concern, mobile users can use Hotspot Shield to compress data that is downloaded, potentially resulting in a lower data bill. To access any of its features, one click is needed on the Hotspot Shield icon – this activates all VPN processes on the host computer. When purchasing the ‘Elite’ version, buyers are entitled to the same levels of protection on up to five different devices (these are all covered by the same license).

Comparison

When comparing Hotspot Shield to other products in this area, one of the main differences is the price of the software. 12 months of high-speed access works out at $29.95 per year, and this includes virtual server locations in the USA, the UK and Australia (three countries with very few restrictions on internet usage). There is also the option to purchase 6 months of access for $19.99, however many users will prefer to take the full year for $10.00 more.
A similar service with Overplay.net can cost up to $9.95 per month, and StrongVPN can cost hundreds of dollars per year. There are also a number of free VPN products available, but there are two main disadvantages to these – a lower amount of bandwidth and a lack of custom options. Bandwidth is extremely important when trying to view video content over a VPN, and free options make it difficult to watch both SD and HD-quality programming.
Being able to customise the service is also essential for the best VPN experience, as this enables the user to browse on a full range of devices. Hotspot Shield users also benefit from a dedicated customer services team, and the advice is well worth the few dollars per month that a paid subscription will cost.

Conclusion

Overall, Hotspot Shield is an essential service for anybody that needs to browse securely over a public Wi-Fi network (this is the opinion of many major online magazines, such as CNET). The developers have invested in a considerable amount of infrastructure, ensuring that the service remains reliable in the face of growing customer numbers. Research has shown that a large amount of internet-related crime takes place over unsecured Wi-Fi networks, and it is comforting to know that this can be avoided for a relatively small monthly fee. While other more expensive options may be suitable for corporate and extremely high-volume users, Hotspot Shield is ideal for the everyday user.

The fee also includes malware protection, and this is based entirely in ‘The Cloud’ to keep its database of definitions updated 24 hours a day. For many prospective customers, the thing that will ‘clinch the deal’ is the fact that the license allows the user to have the same online protection on computers, laptops, mobile phones and tablets – up to five different devices.
This can also be used with family members to keep everyone protected, as younger users may be unaware of the dangers when surfing within a public hotspot.

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