Hola is a rather unique offering in the world of virtual private networks, and reviewing it poses a tricky challenge: on one hand, its free tier is arguably superior to most other alternatives with the same price tag, i.e. lack thereof; but at the same time, there’s not much else to it. Or rather: there is, but it’s just not worth it.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s return to the beginning…
Just pretend the free version doesn’t exist
Instead of letting you access company servers to encrypt and mask your traffic, Hola makes you the server – one that can leverage the resources of other users on its networks while simultaneously lending its own unused bandwidth. It’s a P2P take on VPNs that differs by a significant margin from most other services in the segment, free and paid alike.
It’s a neat idea, at least until you realize you’re signing up to participate in what’s essentially a botnet with a slightly more pronounced human factor. Even if it’s not required by any other Hola users, your excess bandwidth is likely to be sold through Luminati, a business whose very name doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in regards to expectations of privacy.
Then again, Hola’s free VPN tier doesn’t come with significant drawbacks in terms of speeds, but unfortunately, that’s not a testament to the company’s universal dedication to quality. Instead, it’s merely a side effect of its peer-to-peer foundations, meaning not even the premium version of the service will deliver performance comparable to a traditional virtual private network.
According to Hola itself, its free service’s sole reason for existence is circumventing online censorship. In that regard, Hola Free should be viewed as a proxy solution and not a VPN – especially when you factor in its performance limitations.
Even if you approach Hola from that standpoint, its ability to go around geographical restrictions imposed on various content leaves quite a bit to be desired.
For example, we were unable to use it to consistently access non-American versions of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and even HBO Now, which are some of today’s most popular on-demand video platforms. That’s a pretty damning issue seeing how Netflix access is touted as one of the main selling points of Hola VPN Plus.
So, sure, Hola may be talking about the aforementioned censorship from a purely political perspective but that’s not the kind of digital blockage many prospective VPN users are looking to combat. That’s a huge shame because in theory, the speeds Hola offers are good enough to support QHD video streaming at the very least.
Even that advantage is overshadowed by the fact that Hola still enforces data caps if you’re a free user, making hypothetical peak speeds a relatively useless datapoint.
Hola VPN Plus Performance
The vastness of Hola’s P2P network may not be great news for one’s energy efficiency but it does allow you to obfuscate your public IP address without major performance drawbacks.
Assuming you’re based in the U.S. and simply want to hide your true identity, using Hola VPN Plus should have next to no impact on your download and upload speeds. Ditto for users in Europe looking to make it seem like they’re from another country on the Old Continent or the U.S.
In terms of actual numbers, here’s how small of a hit you can expect your throughput speeds to take when you enable Hola:
Not bad, right? A 10% drop in download speeds and just over double that when it comes to upload throughput is nothing to scoff at. Unfortunately, things go mostly downhill from here.
A major negative side effect of using a crowdsourced VPN comes in the form of being absolutely crippled when it comes to file sharing. P2P VPNs simply don’t scale well when faced with sharp increases in bandwidth requirements. Your bandwidth also isn’t the only thing being shared with other users – expect some minor additions to CPU loads as well (from 10-15% based on our observations on a desktop running the i7 9770k).
That’s not the only reason making Hola a bad choice for torrenting, however. In fact, it’s not even the biggest one.
Hola VPN Plus Privacy & Security Features
That honor would go to Hola’s log-keeping policy which is nothing short of scandalous for a VPN company. Sure, you can use it to bypass region-locked content but only if you care about keeping that act a secret even in the slightest, run away from Hola and never look back.
The company openly admits to “regularly” monitoring user activity for any signs of potential misuse, which automatically disqualifies it from offering anything other than a farcical level of privacy protections.
Note that only the premium version of the service offers encryption, something deemed an essential aspect of VPNs since their inception. It’s at least up to date with modern-day standards, utilizing IKEv2/IPSEC protocols cryptographically secured with 256-bit keys.
Hola VPN Plus Warrant Canary
As expected of a VPN provider keeping extensive user logs, Hola VPN never had and almost certainly never will have a warrant canary of any sort. If you’re using it, don’t surmise your identity and browsing history are safe from prying eyes – assume the exact opposite. Check out our in-depth explanation of warrant canaries for more info on why you should care about this transparency tool, even though VPNs like Hola don’t: What is a Warrant Canary.
Hola VPN Plus Ease of Use
If there’s one thing Hola VPN does right, that’s certainly accessibility. The solution comes in the form of an ordinary desktop app which you can install in literally three clicks and enable or disable in another two.
The program itself takes the form of a Chromium-based browser, which is essentially a Google Chrome reskin. There’s also a Hola Chrome extension, but ignore it if you care about maximizing speeds.
On the other hand, Hola VPN supports more platforms than nearly any other service in the segment, with its ecosystem including not just Windows and macOS, but also Android, iOS, Linux, and even gaming consoles, as well as smart TVs and some other gadgets.
Ultimately, VPNs don’t get any easier to use than Hola, assuming you’re willing to call this creation a true virtual private network.
Hola VPN Plus Pricing
For maximum value , you have to pay for three years’ worth of Hola VPN Plus in advance. That would set you back $107.55 in total, or $2.99 per month. On the other end of the spectrum, paying on a per-month basis costs triple that amount – $11.95. One- and two-year plans offer some middle ground, featuring costs equivalent to $6.99 and $3.99 per month, respectively.
Otherwise, by far the best deal on Hola VPN Plus is the one offered to students, courtesy of Student Beans. It allows eligible customers to get a full year’s worth of the paid service for $35.88. You’ll need to confirm your student status with Student Beans and unfortunately, the deal is only valid for the first year.
While these prices aren’t above-average, Hola also adheres with an industry-standard money-back guarantee encompassing the first 30 days of the service – no questions asked.
The overall score doesn’t represent an average of all individual ratings but a weighted average which values Performance as 33%, Privacy & Security as 33%, Ease of Use as 12%, and Pricing as 22% of the final figure. It’s meant to standardize our reviews by giving more weight to the attributes we value the most in VPNs (speed, privacy, and security) without completely disregarding the rest. Naturally, much like any other review out there, the starting points/ratings are still inherently subjective to a particular reviewer’s experience.