Would you like to secure your Internet connection when you’re using a public wireless network at a hotel, coffee shop or airport? If so, you should consider using a personal VPN service like Cloak or TunnelBear.
In a previous tech tip, I talked about reasons why you might want to sign-up for a personal VPN service such as securing all of the data that goes to or from your laptop while you’re using a public wireless network.
In this article we’ll briefly compare two personal VPN services including Cloak and TunnelBear. I’ve used both of these services over the past few months. Both are affordable, easy to set up and capable, but I prefer Cloak for its unobtrusiveness and helpfulness.
[Update 6/20/19: A couple of years ago, Cloak rebranded itself as encrypt.me.]
You can try both services for free. Tunnelbear offers a service plan which lets you send up to 500 MB of data over your Tunnelbear VPN connection for free. If 500 MB isn’t adequate then they offer paid plans which include unlimited data. Cloak offers a 14-day free trial. After that, you can choose from a selection or short-term or on-going plans that all offer unlimited data.
Both applications have very simple interfaces. Tunnelbear is an application. When you open it you see two buttons. One is the on/off button used to start or stop your VPN connection. The other button lets you indicate if you’re in the US or the UK. Additionally, the application displays the amount of data remaining if you’re using the free account. Cloak installs a menu bar icon whose menu provides a Connect/Disconnect command, a status indicator, preferences and a way to quit Cloak. I prefer Cloak’s interface since its menu bar icon is out of the way while Tunnelbear’s application seems much larger than it needs to be. Additionally, Cloak displays information notifications when it has connected or disconnected as well as when the public wireless network requires you to sign-in using your web browser.
Both applications reportedly work in many countries, but Cloak’s coverage might be more wide-spread. Cloak claims to work in most countries since they piggyback on data centers around the globe. While I don’t travel internationally much, I know many of my clients do, so this is an important feature. It’s unclear how wide-spread Tunnelbear’s coverage is. I assume they only have servers in the US and the UK and thus, I presume it’ll work in North American and European countries and maybe others. Both applications indicate that they don’t work in China.
Both services support Mac OS X and Windows-based computers as well as iOS devices like iPhones and iPads and Android-based phones and tablets.
It is important to be aware that using a VPN connection will slow down the speed of your Internet connection. VPN connections encrypt all network traffic that is transmitted across them. This encrypting and decrypting of data takes time and thus slows down your connection. Cloak estimates that you’ll see a loss of about 20% of your network throughput.
I hope you find this comparison helpful. Security is increasingly important. Both Tunnelbear and Cloak offer affordable, user-friendly ways to secure your network traffic when you’re on public networks, so try these services and start to use one.