The hidden truth behind ‘unlimited’ or ‘lifetime’ VPNs
With the allure of anything “unlimited,” consumers often think they’re getting a great deal. Whether it’s unlimited minutes on a business mobile plan, or a meal at an all-you-can-eat buffet, it’s hard to argue against an “unlimited” deal and the value it likely represents.
In the world of VPN, in general, customers have two options: paid or free. Both have relative pros and cons, and free products certainly have limitations.
Many freebies have a fairly strict monthly data allowance, for example, and always remember that these free VPNs have to earn you money somehow – which might include playing around quickly and quickly with your data. We’ve certainly argued in the past that free VPNs aren’t worth it.
However, a new breed of VPN plans is emerging, which avoid the issues of “completely free” offers, while still trying to give customers a favorable value offer. They fall into the emerging category of “unlimited” or “lifetime” VPNs, which means you pay a (fairly large) one-time fee initially, and you can then use them forever without any additional fees.
However, if you do a quick search online, you will see that there are some huge discounts to be had on these lifetime deals which can make them look very tempting.
At the time of writing, we’ve seen lifetime subscriptions on offer at super low prices as low as $29 (around £22) – that’ll save you cash for just three months with some providers.
But not so fast. Looking at things closely shows that these mega bargain deals are not sold directly by VPN providers, but by third-party sellers.
And at this point, it is worth bearing in mind the phrase “buyer warning,” or “buyer beware.” All we are going to say here is do your due diligence and research, check out the reselling company thoroughly, read customer reviews online, etc. After all, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably…
(Image credit: Shutterstock)
money money money…
We understand that running a VPN costs money; In fact, some serious money. A VPN should have plenty of bandwidth for all of its users, and maintain a large selection of servers, ideally across a wide area of countries. For example, TechRadar Pro’s top VPN pick of 2020, ExpressVPN, operates with 3000+ servers in 94 different countries.
Also, don’t forget to consider software development costs for multiple platforms (desktop, mobile and possibly other devices). Finally, consider the cost of marketing a VPN and providing technical support. Yes, running a VPN can certainly be a costly endeavor.
So, given all of that, it doesn’t really make sense to sell a lifetime VPN and support from a reputable provider for a one-time cost of a moderate dinner at a restaurant.
Therefore, these unlimited VPN offerings appear to be an unsustainable business model. They plan to continue taking people’s money up front, with their amazing VPN offer for the rest of the user’s life.
The VPN then hopes more subscribers will continue to sign up to keep the model viable for longer, so they can continue to sell more subscriptions. It is not hard to see how this house made of paper could easily collapse …
(Image credit: Shutterstock.com/Askobol)
There are clearly risks involved in shelling out money up front for a lifetime service, only to find out that the VPN shuts down. This can be a real risk with lesser known providers, and it may leave you seriously. A failing company could restart its business under a different name and/or brand, keep the same network of servers and devices, and repeat the trick again.
If you end up with a lifetime subscription to one of these dodgy outfits, you’ll likely struggle as well in terms of support. After all, the company already owns your money, and you gave up the ability to vote with your wallet after that initial payment.
Therefore, there is no incentive to provide any kind of quality support, or indeed any support at all, without reason to respond to user complaints. The same applies to potential issues with congestion or slow connections. Once again, any complaints will likely fall on deaf ears.
As for your privacy, or any no-logs guarantees? Again, these promises may seem pretty hollow – a “lifetime” VPN may be looking to maximize any profits going forward by selling data to third parties. Who knows – you might not be better off than if you had used a free VPN and paid absolutely nothing.
Even if the company is completely honest, with complete integrity, this does not guarantee that you will get a good long-term deal. A VPN may work fine now, but what if, in a couple of years, it’s slower, Netflix gets banned, you hate the new interface, and a new service launches that’s much better? VPNs change, and so do your needs, so it is simply unrealistic to think that the best option for you now, will be the best option forever.
In conclusion, offering a lifetime VPN service is definitely a possibility to be wary of, and it might tempt the savvy buyer to look elsewhere.
In fact, when you consider the many potential downsides of a lifetime VPN subscription, you may feel that just shopping for a good VPN with a cheap two or three year deal might be the way to go. And as always, to stay safe, always buy directly from a reputable VPN.
Yegor Sak, from popular free VPN provider Windscribe, disagrees with our analysis.
While they were examples of VPNs that sold lifetime subscriptions, then closed a store and ran with the money, to suggest that the same applies to all VPNs offering lifetime subscriptions is ridiculous. This is like saying “Since some mutual funds turn out to be Ponzi schemes, all mutual funds are Ponzi schemes.” If 90+% of your revenue comes from lifetime accounts, I agree with the valuation, because it basically becomes a Ponzi scheme. If most of your revenue comes from regular accounts, the benefits, from a business perspective, are as follows:
1. Third party services offering lifetime subscriptions (Stacksocial, Tanga, Daily Steals, etc.) expose the product to a very wide audience that the VPN provider alone may not be able to address, especially at zero marketing cost. We’ve had dozens of articles featured on various “tier 1” publishers like Engadget, Lifehacker, CNET, TNW, Popular Science, ExtremeTech, the list goes on. This exposes the brand to millions of people (and the tech writers in those posts) that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. It’s great for building credibility and great for SEO. You will also be surprised how many people will read about lifetime accounts on these sites and then buy a regular monthly subscription.
2. It helps forge partnerships with companies that offer lifetime deals, which opens doors to new opportunities, like a TV clip we did a few months ago on a group of US TV networks, which showcased our product to more than a million people. without costs.
3. It obviously provides a cash injection that allows (new) companies to hire more employees, develop features faster, and fund their own marketing efforts. If you can take the $30 you get from a lifetime user, and get two non-life users for that price, why is that bad?
You are also overestimating the cost associated with providing the service to a single user.