Goose VPN is a young privacy provider based in the Netherlands. It’s small in comparison to the top VPN providers – the front page talks of around 13,500 Goose users worldwide – but the company still manages to offer some appealing products and plans.
Goose has a capable network of 59+ servers. Most are in Europe and the US, but there are also servers in Australia, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Israel and Singapore. The full list is available on the Goose site.
There’s support for P2P on some of these servers. Goose allows installing and using the service on unlimited devices, and there are custom clients available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, as well as instructions for setting it up on some routers.
Service levels seem promising, with 24/7 support available every day of the year, and an aim to answer and solve all user questions within three hours. Goose says it doesn’t outsource support, too, which gets a thumbs-up from us.
Pricing seems fair. A one-year Unlimited Goose plan gets you unlimited traffic for €4.99 (£4.40, $5.60) a month, paid annually. You can get the same product with monthly billing, although there’s a big price hike to €12.99 (£11.50, $14.60) a month. Meanwhile bargain hunters can get a limited 50GB a month plan for only €2.99 (£2.65, $3.40), a good deal if you’ll only use the service occasionally.
Goose offers an optional security add-on which blocks access to malware, phishing and other dubious sites for €1 a month (£0.90, $1.15). CyberGhost includes a similar service as standard on its paid accounts.
The company has a seriously stingy 30-day refund policy, where you’re only guaranteed to get your money back if you’ve used less than 100MB bandwidth. Fortunately, the program also offers a ‘free first month’ on every plan. This may not be quite free in every situation, as you can be charged €0.45 (£0.40, $0.50) to validate a PayPal account, but it does mean you can run serious tests over a long period for almost no upfront cost at all.
Goose boasts of its ‘no log policy’ at the top of the website, but if you’ve ever gone VPN shopping you’ll know every provider does the same, even when it’s not entirely true. That’s why it’s always a good idea to drill down into the small print and discover what’s really going on.
The policy clearly explains that Goose doesn’t “cache, collect or store logs of users’ internet activities”. Even better, it goes on to cover session data, explaining that the service doesn’t store your originating IP address, or any information about the servers you use within a session. Many VPN providers are vague about that issue, if they mention it at all.
The only data which seems to be logged is the bandwidth use per account. That’s no surprise for a company which offers a limited bandwidth product, and that detail on its own can’t compromise your privacy.
The policy also highlights some other relevant plus points, in particular that Goose owns and manages its own network, which should mean it understands and is able to control exactly how everything works.
Moving on to the Goose terms of service page revealed an unusual fair use policy. Instead of vague warnings about ‘excessive usage’, Goose sort of spells out the limit: when “a user utilises more than 1% of the entire Goose network’s bandwidth”. That sounds fair to us, but even if you break the limit, you’ll be warned before the company takes any action. And, reassuringly, the policy states that this has never happened.
Another clause discusses P2P usage, warning that you must only use file sharing on servers marked as P2P-friendly in the client. If Goose discovers you’ve broken this rule, your account will be terminated. That’s no surprise, but what’s interesting is that it shows Goose isn’t building these restrictions into the server setup, maybe blocking ports and protocols, or the client software: the company prefers to trust its users. That’s unusual, and earns yet another thumbs-up from us.
Signing up for Goose VPN is a reasonably simple procedure. Provide your name, email address and a password, then select a package and choose a payment method.
There’s an unusual restriction in that credit card payments are only available for annual packages, so if you’re paying monthly your only alternative is PayPal. But if that’s not an issue, the good news is that the first month is free, or rather, as previously mentioned a €0.45 payment to validate your PayPal account. Sign up for the €2.99 (£2.65, $3.40) limited account, for example, and this gives you 50GB data transfer for a maximum upfront payment of €0.45, more than enough for extensive testing.
A ‘welcome’ email arrives after signup. Some services use this to present download links, details on your account, setup instructions and more, but disappointingly, Goose just gives you links to its FAQ page and email support. We headed off to the website, found the download page ourselves, then grabbed and installed a copy of the Windows client.
The client has a basic but straightforward interface. Available servers are displayed in a list, so you select your preferred server, click the Connect button and the program tells you when you’re online. The client updates with your Goose-provided IP and you can then surf as usual with your new identity.
One immediate problem is the default server. Other VPNs usually select the nearest server to you, but Goose just displays its list in alphabetical order, so Australia is always the default. We tried it anyway and were unable to connect at any point over several days.
Connecting to our nearest UK server was much easier, and in our testing*, this showed excellent results, with minimal increase in latency and download speeds of 25-30Mbps. We checked European neighbours, and found OpenVPN connections dropped to 10-20Mbps (IKEv2 was significantly better at 20-25Mbps). There was also another repeated failure to connect, this time with the Madrid server.
Trying a UK to New York connection saw latency increase again, but within an expected range, and download speeds remained acceptable at 25-30Mbps. We tried the other servers and found little change, with even California giving us 25Mbps downloads and more.
We had to go a very long distance to see performance tail off, for example with Singapore giving us 5Mbps, and Hong Kong only 2Mbps download speeds, as well as intermittent socket errors. But even here there were positive performers, including 15-20Mbps connections to India.
The client had one or two annoyances which appeared over time. By default it displays a warning every 15 minutes when it’s minimised but not connected. That sounds like a reasonable idea, but it’s poorly implemented. Instead of using a desktop notification, the client pops up a window which grabs the focus. If you’re typing and not looking at the screen, you might lose several keystrokes, then have to click back on your application and type them again. You can turn this off, fortunately, but it shouldn’t be necessary.
We completed our tests by running a few privacy checks via dnsleaktest.com and other sites, and found some unusual results. Goose VPN appears to be doing all the right things, reconfiguring our device to use OpenDNS while connected, and most of the time this worked perfectly. But with one system, we noticed one or two (not all) test sites suggested there was a DNS leak.
We spent a long time trying to diagnose this, with no success. The most likely explanation is it’s a very unusual issue with this one test system, so we’re not counting it against Goose, and we’d recommend you don’t, either.
We’ll update this review if we discover the cause of the problem. In the meantime, if you’re concerned, all you have to do to verify Goose’s effectiveness is to visit ipleak.net and dnsleaktest.com while connected to the VPN. It’ll take about a minute. If they show a DNS server relating to your ISP, you’re also seeing the same issue. But if both sites report OpenDNS IP addresses, which they did with all but one of our devices, it means the service is properly protecting your online activities.
A likeable service, with good support and a clear ‘no logging’ policy. The connection issues with some servers are a concern, but maybe we were unlucky. Take the trial anyway and see how Goose VPN works for you.
*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we’ve reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.