One of the most recognisable VPN brands in the world and certainly one of the most memorable names. Hide My Ass (HMA) is a goliath VPN provider and boasts an incredibly impressive network of servers and IP’s. We took the time to review their offering, and here is what we thought:
Website: Naturally we started with the frontend website and clearly a lot of time and design has gone into it; the colour scheme doesn’t scream “trust me with your connection”, but then again neither does the cartoon ass. HMA is refreshingly different I suppose, however - whoever is in charge of their frontend UX needs a little kick up the ass (see what I did there) - The navigation is impossibly difficult and they have seemingly dumped anything useful under a rather unpleasant link labelled ‘Tools & Contact’. The site is informative and does support a wide range of languages which is definitely a major plus point.
Plans and Pricing: HMA keeps things super simple with the pricing and doesn’t offer different ‘packages’, instead the folks at Hide My Ass offer 3 different plan lengths (1mo, 6mo, 12mo terms). Predictably if you pay month to month you pay more at $11.52/mo than if you pay for a year upfront at $6.56/mo. The pricing does make them competitive, however they are towards the upper end of the market. As a side note, we do like the plan term names; Kick-Ass, Smart-Ass and Half-Ass!
Features: It’s difficult to find fault with HMA’s feature set, they are unquestionably the most feature rich product in the marketplace. It’s pretty cool to see a company developing their feature set as intensely as HMA do, and they now boast; Hidy My Phone, Free Web Proxy, IP:Port Proxies, Anonymous Email, Anonymous Referral Scheme and a number of impressive browser extensions. Furthermore their server network is HUGE, sprawling across 190 countries, 340 locations and an incredible 121,000 IP’s, it is clear that development of their network has been their primary focus, and nobody can argue with the result!
Security & Protocols: HMA offer four protocols for their customers to utilise when connecting to their network; OpenVPN-UDP, OpenVPN-TCP, PPTP and L2TP. This protocols on offer are perfectly adequate and makes HMA competitive with it’s peers, to compete with the top offerings they need to add SSTP, SOCKS5 and IkeV2 to their protocol set. For maximum security ensure you connect using the OpenVPN protocols.
HMA’s policy on logging is pretty standard, basically they keep an eye on how much bandwidth you are using and how often you are using their product but they don’t log any activity (e.g websites visited, IP’s accessed etc).
Customer Support: HMA are one of the only VPN providers to offer phone support, which is a real nice touch (GMT 9am - 5pm - UK number only). The support center has an abundance of useful articles and the search is super quick. Industry standard live chat is present on all parts of the website, and the responses to chat are well written/informative. The only criticism of the support process is that the ‘submit a request/ticket’ link is not prominent as I would like it to be. Response time to the submitted ticket was a perfectly acceptable 14 hours.
Customer Dashboard: The customer dashboard/portal is super clean and very simple. HMA have really stripped anything unnecessary out of the dashboard and the customer is left with only 3 options; Edit Details, Manage Subscription and Download Software. ‘Manage Subscription’ is a bit clunky but other than that, using the dashboard is a pleasant experience.
Desktop Client: The desktop client came as a total surprise, in stark contrast the website the client was drab, poorly designed and tbh, pretty boring. I will however give it some credit for using native OS components and a clear navigation. Nothing on the client is really too intuitive, generally it is cluttered and poorly thought out. It does however have some cool features like IP Bind, IP Address Settings and a variety of speed tests, but this isn’t enough to make up for the poor layout - I strongly suspect it was designed by an engineer! The client really needs a bit of an overhaul and I would be very surprised if this wasn’t on HMA’s road map.
Mobile: The mobile client isn’t particularly well designed either however the technology behind the app has been well thought out. Unfortunately the process of installing a vpn profile through HMA is not a pleasant one; it navigates you away from the application and fails to return you to a familiar location. Changing location is also not just a simple 1 or 2 click connect as each time you wish to connect to a new server, it needs to fetch profile information and create the profile in the native VPN. It could have been totally random but I also found that my mobile internet failed to work correctly after I had installed a profile (not connected to the profile though), once I uninstalled HMA, I could use mobile internet without issue - interesting.
Conclusion: Overall I was left feeling a little disappointed by HMA, the frontend website promised so much and the product itself delivered so little. Yes, having hundreds of thousands of IP’s and hundreds of locations is worth boasting about - however, are they really necessary? It leaves me thinking that perhaps if they focused their attention/resources more on the UI/UX than building an insanely big network it would greatly improve the overall experience and probably lower costs for both HMA and their customers.