People using their operating system's PPTP capability are given configuration details that are easy enough to follow -- especially if you view the videos at the HotSpotVPN site. People choosing the OpenVPN option get a link to a download page that remains active for 48 hours. Linux and Mac users and people using Windows XP are provided with automatic installers; Windows 7 users need to jump through a few hoops -- run an installer and a separate configuration package.
The service is pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it operation. When you run the OpenVPN client software under Windows, for example, you see an icon in your system tray that's green when connected to the VPN server, red when it's not and yellow when it's attempting to sync up. Once you have a handle on that detail, you just keep paying the subscription fees and you'll keep getting secure Wi-Fi connections. Theoretically, using a VPN slows down a network connection, but in the case of HotSpotVPN, it's nothing I noticed.
If you have technical questions, you don't get as much live support as users of WiTopia or StrongVPN. You visit the company's Web site and fill out trouble tickets for questions that the FAQs and knowledgebase cannot answer. There's a neat browser sidebar that is useful for some self-help steps, but in general, I felt a bit more on my own than with the other services.
At a Glance
Prices: HotSpotVPN-1 (PPTP-based): $3.88/day, $6.88/week, $8.88/month, $88.80/year. HotSPotVPN2 (OpenVPN-based, with complimentary PPTP account): $10.88/month or $108.80/year (128-bit encryption), $11.88/month or $118.80/year (192-bit encryption), $13.88/month or $138.80/year (256-bit encryption).
Pros: Simple installation and configuration, flexible duration contracts (including one-day and one-week conference rates), OpenVPN accounts include complimentary PPTP connections for handheld devices.
Cons: Complicated pricing tables with different rates for different encryption rates and services, fewer support options.
During this evaluation, I called upon the service to help during a holiday weekend and waited more than 24 hours for a response, which seemed like an excessively long wait -- although in fairness to the company, the answer to my question was lurking in the knowledge base.