Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Cloakbox Catch

The verdict is in: I’m pretty happy with my Cloakbox VPN router.  I love being able to surf as though I’m on a computer in San Francisco or the UK.  I’ve used it in two places, a temporary residential hotel and now (finally) in my permanent apartment. In both cases I literally just plugged it into the internet tap and it worked.  I love to tinker with settings, so later I adjusted things for higher security (e.g. WPA Personal) and a fixed location (rather than letting Witopia decide).  I also fiddled with the built-in WDS settings to get it to work with another Linksys router.  Everything was easy.

But it’s not entirely free.

Here’s my internet speed without the Cloakbox:

Internet Speed Test

Here’s my speed with the Cloakbox:

Internet Speed Test

My internet connection is much slower.  I assume some of this is due to the overhead of VPN, with extra encryption information being sent with packet. But the biggest problem is that every single communication gets sent across the ocean and back (sometimes multiple times), producing a much higher latency (upwards of 400+ ms).  That’s painful, although I find communication services like Skype are still completely usable.  But still, that’s quite a speed and latency drop.

Fortunately, you can turn off the VPN functionality at any time, and I do, so on longer uploads/downloads when I don’t need to get around any firewalls or when security is less of a concern, I switch it off.  Unfortunately you need to reboot the router each time, which can take a minute or two.

Bottom line: Cloakbox does what I need it to do and I have been recommending it to all my friends. For $199, it’s an easy way to eliminate one of the biggest hassles of living in a regulated internet.