From that point on, you simply run the off-the-shelf OpenVPN software and you're tunneling securely from your laptop to StrongVPN's servers.
It's impossible to say definitively that StrongVPN's servers were more responsive than anyone else's. There are too many variables to account for. However, I ran through a suite of Web pages and videos using identical machines and lab conditions for each personal VPN in this review, and found StrongVPN's servers almost as responsive as the control machine running an unsecured connection.
At a Glance
Prices: PPTP packages: $7/month (SF, NY, Miami); $12/month (SF, NY, LA, Chicago), $15/month (multiple cities worldwide). OpenVPN packages: $10/month (SF, NY, Miami); $15/month (8 cities), $20/month (multiple cities worldwide). All servers: $30/month (multiple cities worldwide). All packages have a 3-month minimum.
Pros: Strong showing of servers worldwide, fast server response times, 24/7 support via chat and Skype, static IP addresses.
Cons: Complicated pricing policy, changing servers requires logging in to StrongVPN's Web site and ordering new configuration files.
So far so good, but there are a few dings against StrongVPN. First, it's not the easiest solution if you want to change servers around. Just to make sure I had the most responsive server, I checked the company's Web site and decided to try another New York server that the site told me had five free slots. I logged in to my account, clicked the Change Server slot, and was e-mailed another link to a Zip file with configuration data.
This isn't a big deal for someone with tech smarts, but it turned out that StrongVPN limits the number of times you can do this: Lite packages allow for five server changes a month (with three trial switches during the first month); Standard and Deluxe offer two more server changes, for a total of seven per month. Any more changes and you will need to purchase a switching upgrade, which starts at an extra $5/month.
StrongVPN is a mixed bag. Its service team is very responsive and very knowledgeable. Its server selection is large and its latency seems to be minimal. But it uses the same off-the-shelf OpenVPN client software that the other personal VPN providers do, so it doesn't stand out from the pack in that respect, and its doesn't modify the configuration process as smoothly as the others. And the packages that the company offers are flexible, but can be overwhelming to an untrained customer.
Understanding off-the-shelf VPNs isn't easy, even for someone with grounding in networking. WiTopia's strength is that the company does a lot of the work for you up front.