If you’re looking for a free VPN service, one of the options you’re bound to stumble across is Hola. Hola is a VPN service dedicated explicitly to unlocking websites.
Free is rarely without strings attached, however. So, is there a catch?
We decided to find out for ourselves. Let’s see what the verdict was in our Hola VPN review.
What is Hola VPN?
Hola VPN is a service designed to serve as a geo-unlocking tool, providing you with access to websites around the world. The company, which is based in Israel, began providing VPN services in late 2012.
According to the company website, more than 190 million people use the service worldwide. The company says that it :
Hola VPN is unique because it is community-powered, operating as a peer-to-peer VPN. The company relies on other people’s idle resources to provide you with secure access to the internet.
Hola relies on an HTTP routing overlay network that it incorporates into its client-side software and server network. Hola provides two different versions of its services. There is a free version designed to unlock websites and overcome censorship. There is also a paid service that provides you with a more private browsing experience.
Furthermore, Hola VPN says that its product runs on a wide array of devices, including:
The fact that Hola VPN is free and utilizes peer-to-peer networks could be enticing for many people.
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the more prominent pluses that we identified during our Hola VPN Review.
As we know, one of the most significant advantages of Hola VPN is that there’s a free option.
You can download the service instantly, without having to pay a cent. Additionally, Hola VPN Pro is also quite affordable, much more so than other VPN services.
When using a VPN, you’ll likely find that your performance is bound to suffer a little bit. A lack in speed is the tradeoff that you make for geo-spoofing. However, when testing Hola VPN, we found that connection speeds were faster than other VPNs.
Perhaps the primary reason for this was the fact that the company does not channel traffic through servers. Instead, thanks to its peer-to-peer network system, Hola relies on the direct internet connections of other users.
When using Hola VPN, you’ll pick one of two areas, either the European Union or the United States. You’ll then connect through another user’s internet connection in that area, which is what allows you to spoof your location.
During testing, our benchmark was 97 Mbps. When we connected to EU web services, our download speed was around 85 Mbps, which was about 12 percent slower than the benchmark.
Our upload speed was roughly 39 Mbps, which was about 26 percent slower than our benchmark of 53 Mbps. However, both of these figures are considerably better than some of the other free VPNs we’ve tested.
The rates on US connections were not quite as good, although they were still better than those seen on other free VPNs. The download speeds in the US were roughly 33 Mbps, which was about 65 percent slower than our benchmark. The upload speeds performed the worst. The upload speed of approximately 8 Mbps was about 85 percent slower than our baseline.
Although Hola VPN is free, there are a significant number of “Cons” that we identified when conducting our Hola VPN review. Below, you’ll find some of the most significant problems that we identified during testing.
How can Hola VPN provide services for free? The company says that it does so by selling its services to businesses.
We’re not buying that.
Hola VPN gets away with offering free services because the product logs your information and browsing history and sells it to third-party companies, like marketers. This tends to be quite common for companies that offer free VPN services and is typically why they have a free option to begin.
There, in plain black and white text, the company admits to logging data.
Hola says that :
Furthermore, Hola VPN admits to logging your private information as well. It says that this not only includes your IP address but your name and email address. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that Hola VPN says that it logs your payment and billing information.
This should raise serious red flags to anyone interested in using the product. The entire point of using a VPN is that it provides you with a secure connection while browsing the web. However, because Hola VPN is distributing your sensitive information to other companies, you’re jeopardizing your data even more than you would be without using a VPN.
When using Hola VPN, you’re serving up your private info on a silver platter.
Cooperate with Surveillance Alliances
As we mentioned before, Hola VPN is located in Israel. However, this should also cause concern for users. That’s because Israel cooperates with the Five Eyes Alliance. The Five Eyes Alliance is a group of countries that share information regarding web safety and security.
Essentially, what this means is that Hola VPN could turn your information over to the Israeli government at any time. Israel could then share this information with other countries, such as the United States and Canada. Typically, this may not be a big deal considering that VPNs provide anonymous services.
But, as we just established, Hola VPN keeps extensive records of your data. If the company is forced to turn its information over to Israel, the government would immediately have access to things such as your name and original IP address. This too should cause significant concern and make you think twice about downloading Hola VPN.
Lack of Security
Another thing that stands out about Hola VPN is that there is a noticeable lack of security with the product. Typically, VPN providers use things such as AES-256 Encryption and the OpenVPN Protocol to protect the information of their users. However, because Hola VPN is a peer-to-peer network, these things are not possible.
Hola instead relies on the bandwidth of others who have downloaded its product. Essentially, when you connect to Hola VPN, you’re using another person’s IP address – assuming their identity, if you will.
For one, this should give you serious pause, because the company will too use your idle resources when you are not present. Imagine someone overseas connects to your IP address and launders money that is later used to fund illegal activity. The FBI traces the action back to your IP address.
How can you prove that you did not perform the illegal activity, considering that the police have records of the transaction passing through your IP address? Hola seems to assume that customers will use its peer-to-peer network connections solely as a way to get around censorship, but there’s a strong chance that criminals use the VPN for much worse.
Hola tries to claim that these connections are safer than the ones offered by other VPN services, but we do not see it. Take, for instance, AES-256 Encryption. This is the encryption code used by United States government agencies like the FBI and CIA.
It would take supercomputers billions of years to crack AES-256 encryption. There is no chance that an anonymous peer-to-peer network is somehow safer than the encryption code used by the most powerful government agencies in the world.
During testing, we also identified detectable leaks in the Hola VPN software. When leaks occur, hackers can locate your original IP address, thus defeating your anonymity. Leaks can bring down even the strongest of VPNs.
When conducting our Hola VPN review, we ran the program through six leak-detection tests. The software failed half of the tests. This means that there’s a strong chance that your IP address will be exposed when using the service.
Not Compatible with Netflix
One of the most significant benefits of using VPN services is that they provide geo-spoofing, allowing you to change your location to somewhere else around the world. Hola VPN does this well. For instance, if you’re in the United States, you can tell Hola VPN that you wish to connect in the United Kingdom, allowing you to watch local shows and visit websites.
A few years ago, many people began to then use VPNs as a way to watch alternative Netflix shows. Netflix relies on geo-tags to provide you with relevant content. For example, you’ll receive the American version of “The Office” when in the United States, and vice versa when you’re in England. With a VPN, you could watch the American version of “The Office” even when in London.
Unfortunately, Netflix began to catch wind of this and installed a VPN-blocker on its site. Now, Netflix finds a good number of VPNs, so users cannot watch alternative content. Although there are still some VPNs that aren’t flagged by Netflix’s blockers, Hola VPN is not one of them. During testing, Netflix identified us immediately and blocked content. This happened on each one of the servers that we tried.
So, if you’re looking to use a VPN to watch Netflix or stream other content, you’ll want to look into using an alternative product such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
Lack of Torrents
Another downside to Hola VPN is that you cannot download torrents when using the product. Unfortunately, Hola is a bit misleading when it comes to this. The company’s website does not say anything about not being able to use torrents. However, we tried to download torrents through this VPN and were shot down.
The likely reason for this is the peer-to-peer network connections that Hola uses. Because you’re routing your internet connection through someone else’s router, you’re at liberty of that individual’s service provider’s rules when it comes to torrenting. Most internet providers forbid the downloading of torrents, which is why Hola isn’t the best VPN for torrenting.
Lack of Device Support
One of the other things that frustrated us when conducting this review was the lack of device support that the company offered. However, it wasn’t merely the lack of support that bothered us – it was the misleading advertising on the company’s website.
When you view the company’s website, it would appear as though Hola VPN works with dozens of different devices. Yet, when you go to the download link for these devices, you receive a message that says, “Hola does not yet support this device.” So, the company’s website makes it seem as though you can download the product on any device when, in reality, you can only download it on a couple of tools.
This falls in line with something that happened a couple of years ago when Hola was caught using its free subscribers as a botnet to sell a premium service. Essentially, the company was stealing data and bandwidth from its free customers and passing it off as its own.
Hola VPN offers its services for free. However, if you’re looking for more security when browsing the web, you can consider subscribing to Hola VPN Plus. Hola says that the subscription service not only protects your privacy, but it also allows you to browse from any country. Hola does not specify what kind of privacy or security you receive when upgrading. However, you can connect up to ten devices when using the subscription version of Hola.
Interested customers can purchase Hola VPN Plus for a bit less than $3 per month. The company also offers a 30-day money back guarantee with this service. However, it appears that when ordering, customers are forced to purchase a three-year plan. After a 75 percent discount, customers end up paying about $110 total.
Customers can purchase this subscription using popular payment options like PayPal, as well as major credit cards such as:
Ease of Use
If you’re interested in using Hola VPN, you’ll find that it is easy to use. All you need to do is download the product and install it on one of your devices. The company does not limit how many devices onto which you can install the product. Once you install the product, you’ll need to create an account.
You could do so quickly using a Google or Facebook account that you already have. However, as we mentioned, there are significant security concerns when using this product. It could be in your best interest to forgo using one of your personal accounts and instead create an alias account dedicated specifically for use on this VPN.
One of the other features that make Hola VPN so easy to install is the fact that you can install it as an add-on on your web browser. During testing, we found that we could use Hola VPN as a web browser extension in less than a minute from the time we clicked “download.”
Some users did find that their computers lagged a bit when connected to specific sites. For instance, one person used the web browser extension in an attempt to watch a British television show. The user’s computer froze for about a minute. However, after a minute, the computer unfroze itself, and the site began working.
Unfortunately, there is too much wrong with Hola VPN for us to recommend that you use the service.
One of the most significant red flags that we found was that the company logs all of your information, which most users shouldn’t be comfortable with.
Logging tends to be the case with many free VPN services, so it doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise, but it does cause significant concern.
Furthermore, Hola VPN is severely behind competitors when it comes to security. There is no encryption offered when using this VPN, which could put your personal information at risk.
Also, Hola VPN is practically only useful for unlocking websites. The service does not allow you to torrent or watch Netflix. The company’s customer service is subpar as well. If you decided to pay to upgrade to the paid service, you’d find that the features are still subpar compared to other VPN options that require you to pay.
When it comes to VPNs, it’s better that you invest in a quality product to ensure that your information is safe. However, even if you wanted to use a free VPN service, there are other alternatives that you should choose over Hola VPN. Be sure to check out our list of the best VPNs available today so that you can find a service that better suits your needs.