TunnelBear offers an easier way to stay anonymous online

VPN software can be great for browsing anonymously, bypassing trackers, perhaps avoiding some web censorship. But it can also be awkward to set up, tricky to use, with all kinds of potential pitfalls and issues to consider.

TunnelBear is, fortunately, a little different. It’s a solid and reliable VPN service with all the functionality you need (and more, probably), but smart design means it also keeps any of the usual hassles to an absolute minimum.

Installation is very straightforward. You need to create a TunnelBear account before you can use the program, but this is simple enough -- just enter your name, email address and password -- and it’s all handled within the installer.

Using the program is just as easy. Choose a preferred country for your VPN (the choice is currently United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France and Japan); click the "On" button, and wait. Within a few seconds TunnelBear connects to a VPN server and is ready to use, no further configuration required.

Other services will often restrict their free edition in all kinds of ways, perhaps limiting the countries you can choose, or only providing access to slow, overcrowded servers. But again, TunnelBear takes a simpler approach. The only restriction with the free version is a monthly traffic allowance of 500MB. As we write you can add an extra 1GB a month by tweeting about the service. And if that’s not enough, paying $4.99 a month/ $49.99 a year gets you unlimited tunneling for your PC or Mac, and two further mobile devices.

For all this simplicity, there is some real thought here. If the VPN connection is lost, for example, this doesn’t mean your privacy is exposed; rather, TunnelBear’s "Vigilant Mode" automatically blocks unsecured traffic until the program can reconnect.

We still had one or two small annoyances, like the fact that TunnelBear only appears to document the purpose of "Vigilant Mode" in a press release. There’s no local help to explain the setting, with the program redirecting you to an online support site, which apparently doesn’t think the configuration options are worth mentioning, either. Okay, it’s not a big deal -- typical TunnelBear users probably won’t be playing around in the settings, anyway -- but it’s hard to see why we can’t have some kind of context-sensitive help here, even if it’s just a line or two.

Put these relatively trivialities to one side, though, and TunnelBear is a great package: the service connects quickly, is fast (even for the free edition), works with every website we tried, and is extremely easy to use. Go try it, right now.

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