Facebooking in China: SunVPN review [Updated 2x]

[Update 2 — SunVPN sent a fix less than 48 hours after the ‘China problem’ – which affected several major VPNs in China – began. And I didn’t contact them about it to complain, they sent it out on their own. All I had to do was download an attachment and copy the files to the folder they specified. Simple. And it worked! Friends using different VPN services had to wait longer… one up to a week.]

[UPDATE 1 — Right as I went to publish this, our previously flawless VPN service stopped working. I suspect it has something to do with this: Chinese Internet Connections Unreliable in Run-Up to Party Congress and Why Using the Internet in China is So Frustrating These Days.]

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As foreigners in China, we automatically have this little problem:

It doesn’t matter if your grandmother wants to see your pictures of her great-granddaughters on Facebook, and the same goes for YouTube. If you want to access those kinds of sites in China, you’ll need a little help in the form of a VPN. Thankfully, you don’t even have to know what “VPN” stands for in order to use them. We’re not all that technologically literate, but the VPN we’re currently on works fine and is simple to use.

Facebook, YouTube and many others weren’t blocked when we first arrived in China, and back then VPNs weren’t that common. But now with tighter internet restrictions, VPNs are becoming standard-issue for expats. We’re probably online less than the average foreigner, but Facebook is where we share our kids’ pictures with family and keep tabs on friends from back home, so access is important.

Over the years in China we’ve used a couple different VPNs to get over the Great Firewall, and right now we’re test-driving SunVPN.

SunVPN

SunVPN installed easily the first time(!) on both our laptops and phones, and works like they said it would. I was surprised how hassle-free it was because I’ve come to expect hassles with this sort of thing. There are multiple servers in multiple countries to choose from, and we only occasionally have to pick a different one when the one we’re trying to use won’t connect or quits working. Either way, there’s plenty of back-up and we’ve never been without a connection.

See the image below for the list of servers. I don’t know what any of that techie stuff means, but I don’t need to. All I do is right-click and choose one that says “fast”, and it works.

Here are their main features and links:

  • VPN service
  • buy VPN
  • China VPN
  • OpenVPN/PPTP VPN available
  • the safest OpenVPN encryption available (256 bit AES)
  • custom OpenVPN/PPTP installer for Windows
  • custom Tunnelblick installer for Mac OS
  • worldwide server network
  • other common VPN features: unblock all Internet restrictions (China, Oman, UAE etc), watch USA/UK TV from abroad, keep safe from Firesheep etc.

P.S. – I did learn, however, that there is one detail in the instructions that must be heeded: when clicking the desktop icon to open the program (after it’s been installed), you can’t double-click it like normal. You have to right-click and then choose “Run as administrator” or “Open as administrator.”

P.P.S. – I’m usually loathe to encourage people to get online more than they already are. If you aren’t on Facbeook and don’t see a specific need, I suggest you just skip it, and spend more of your life having real human contact. I only got on it several years ago to stalk my sister’s sketchy boyfriend, but once all my extended family became users and we moved overseas we’ve been stuck with it.

P.P.P.S. – Apparently even VPNS aren’t invincible. Even as I was going to hit “Publish” on this post, we started having problems connecting for the first time, and did a lot of people using various VPN services: Chinese Internet Connections Unreliable in Run-Up to Party Congress and Why Using the Internet in China is So Frustrating These Days. But SunVPN sent a fix in less than 48 hours that was easy to apply. So we’re back online, despite the ever-tightening Great FireWall of China.

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