Hola manages to provide free VPN services to its users through the use of crowd sourcing its members' bandwidth.
- Free VPN services via peer to peer sharing
- Premium subscription that ensures your computer will never be used as a client
- Completely free for users willing to share their resources
- Takes up little space and runs directly through your browser
- Helps users protect their privacy and navigate the internet more quickly
- Collected data could be a privacy concern
- No way to know who's using your IP address
As privacy issues become more and more a concern in the online community, VPNs are going to increasingly take center stage as important safeguards against unwanted intrusions from advertisers, data collecting corporations, and online criminals. Virtual private networks have become one of the most popular methods for using the internet with discretion, and a number of options have made themselves available. They manage to accomplish this by connecting computers to secure networks, masking their internet protocol address and stopping any potential snoops in their tracks. But finding a quality VPN usually means paying a premium, and free VPNs can come with pretty severe limitations in terms of bandwidth and access. Hola is doing something largely unique in the market. Rather than renting our their networks to individuals or advertisers to use as internet portals, Hola only asks that its users spare a bit of their idle resources in return for access to a VPN. It's a crowd sourced solution to the traditional bandwidth problem. There are multiple advantages to this approach. For one, it means that Hola doesn't need to worry about server or bandwidth costs. Instead of connecting to a remote server hosted by a private company, your internet traffic is routed through other users who are using the Hola service. Additionally, this makes it harder for the sites and apps you visit to recognize that you're using a VPN in the first place, providing an added layer of discretion to the way you surf. That said, the nature of the service raises some concerns. Hola claims that the resources and bandwidth of their users are only put to work when their machine is idling and that the allocation used from any individual machine should be minimal, but they don't offer raw numbers. Also of concern is the fact that other users will be taking actions using your IP address. More cautious web users might be concerned that they could be held accountable for the circumspect or even criminal activities of other individuals. To deal with this problem, Hola tracks the information on its users, an unconventional choice for a company that trucks in privacy, but a necessary one given the nature of liabilities involved. This information, which includes server logs, might be a red flag to more suspicious users, but the logic behind it makes firm sense, and those who aren't overly protective of their information can get a lot of mileage out of this service. If the thought of other users connecting to the internet using your computer makes you nervous, Hola offers a paid subscription as well. Premium users can connect multiple devices to their VPN, and they'll never be used as a peer in the Hola network. Hola is simple to use, operating as a basic browser extension, and the ins and outs of the interface can be picked up in an afternoon.