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NordLayer review


Launched in 2019 as NordVPN Teams and rebranded to NordLayer in 2021, NordLayer is part of Nord Security’s suite of products, including NordPass, NordLocker, and NordVPN. With over 8,000 businesses protected, NordLayer provides robust security solutions by focusing on Security Service Edge (SSE) principles and delivering Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), Secure Web gateway (SWG), and Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) solutions.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that NordLayer is one of the best VPNs for business currently available. While being easy to use (for both the admin and the employee), NordLayer also packs quite a few features and offers high-end security that your company so desperately needs.

In short, this corporate VPN allows you to protect your data from people outside your enterprise, manage your team members and teams, and get a dedicated server with a dedicated IP address.

However, is it really for everyone? In this NordLayer review, we’ll take a closer look at this cloud VPN solution and see whether it really holds up.

📖 No logs policy:Collects access logs
💵 Price:From $8.00/month
🖥️ Servers:33+ countries
🍿 Streaming services:Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer
🔥 Coupons:Get up to 22% OFF NordLayer!

NordLayer pros & cons

Features of NordLayer

Even though NordLayer can be perfectly used as a personal VPN, it also offers a bunch of features that a regular user wouldn’t even know what to do with. That’s because, first and foremost, it’s a business VPN. This means that, aside from all the regular stuff like hiding your real IP address, it packs lots of features that most companies will truly appreciate. These include:

  • Two-factor and multi-factor authentication
  • Shared Gateways
  • Virtual Private Gateways
  • Fixed IP & IP allowlisting
  • Site-to-Site (access to company's internal data)
  • Smart Remote Access
  • DNS fitering by category
  • Deep Packet Inspection (Lite)
  • Custom DNS
  • Always On VPN
  • Auto-connect
  • ThreatBlock
  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • User Provisioning
  • Device posture security
  • Activity monitoring reports
  • Browser Extension
  • Idle Session Timeout
  • Network segmentation
  • Single sign-on (SSO)
  • Biometric Authentication
  • Cloud Firewall (FWaaS)

Let’s take a look at the most important ones.

Gateways and servers

With Shared and Virtual Private Gateways, NordLayer operates over 30 server locations worldwide, allowing businesses to connect to their local and cloud network securely.

Shared Gateways establish encrypted tunnels between remote users and the internet. They facilitate access to geo-specific content and support various activities such as conducting Q&A sessions and running automated tests from different virtual locations.

Virtual Private Gateways, on the other hand, utilize dedicated servers to enable organizations to connect their devices securely to both their cloud-based resources and their local on-premises network. This type of gateway empowers organizations to implement IP allowlisting and precise network segmentation, enhancing security.

Having a dedicated server with a fixed IP is one of the most important things when it comes to protecting a company’s resources. This prevents unauthorized access to documents, financial data, and other confidential info.

Security features

The comprehensive security tools include Virtual Private Gateways, Fixed IP, Network Access Control, Network Segmentation, DNS filtering, Deep Packet Inspection, AES 256-bit encryption, and the anticipated Cloud Firewall.

NordLayer also offers Cloud Firewall (FWaaS), an agile network security layer operating as a cloud Security Service Edge element. The service is adaptive, scalable, and low maintenance compared to traditional physical firewalls.

Network segmentation is an advanced feature that can be rather useful for companies, especially those with many employees. It lets you divide the network into subsections to improve security and network performance.

For example, you can restrict certain branches from accessing the financial reporting system of your business. In other words, you can manage your employees’ access to the company's resources.

User authentication & management

With features like MFA, Biometric authentication, Single sign-on (SSO), and User Provisioning, NordLayer ensures robust authentication and user management.

If you’re concerned about unauthorized access to the VPN (and, consequently, your company’s data), then you definitely want your employees to use two-factor authentication. Luckily, NordLayer offers this feature, and you can choose 2FA via SMS authentication or TOTP (authenticator application).

NordLayer 2FA

Instead of logging into Apps or control panel with a username and a password, users can log in with preferred Single Sign-on (SSO) options. Currently, NordLayer supports logins from:

  • Azure AD
  • Google
  • JumpCloud
  • Okta
  • OneLogin

Product applications

NordLayer offers a user-friendly Control Panel, centralized billing, license transferability, and integration with multiple network vendors, enhancing administrative efficiency.

NordLayer’s Control Panel (which is not an app but a web client) is easy to use and navigate, making the service one of the most beginner-friendly business VPN solutions.

NordLayer control panel view

Here’s what it allows you to do:

  • Invite new members, assign roles and teams
  • Create Virtual Private Gateways and assign dedicated servers
  • Set up user provisioning with the most popular SCIM providers
  • Enforce multi-factor authentication
  • Set preferred login methods
  • Implement network access control features like Network Segmentation, IP Allowlisting, Cloud Firewall
  • Implement internet access security features like DNS Filtering, Custom DNS, DPI, Threatblock
  • Create Device Posture Security profiles
  • Monitor network connections, devices and administrator actions
  • Setup features that establish remote connections between sites or devices
  • Enforce additional security settings like Always On VPN, Auto-connect, Idle session timeout
  • Manage your subscription, download invoices

The control panel itself looks pretty minimalistic. You will find these main sections:

  • Organization. Here, you can manage both your teams and individual members. For example, you can add new members or gateways to different teams. When it comes to members, you can see their status (Active, Suspended, Invited, or Inactive).
  • Network. In this section, you’ll be able to manage all the info related to your gateways and servers.
  • Settings. Here, you’ll be able to set up the Smart Remote Access feature, which lets you use the company’s resources even when there’s no internet connection. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do it – your account manager will help you with that.
  • Downloads. This section contains links to all the NordLayer applications. It also allows you to send manual configuration instructions to your employees.
  • Activity. This section showcases two types of activity information – user actions activity and connection activity information.
  • Device security. This lets admins check and evaluate member's devices according to predefined security rules and get notified about devices that are non-compliant.

Network connectors

Network connectors like Site-to-site and Smart Remote Access provide more options for hybrid ways of working.

Site-to-site is useful for companies with multiple offices in different geographic locations needing regular corporate network access. They function as secure VPN tunnels between two or more networks, providing safe pathways to exchange private data - away from external users.

Smart Remote Access helps to create a virtual Local Area Network and access devices on the internal network. Secure all endpoints and enable file sharing without the barriers of a traditional LAN between company devices and servers.

NordLayer offers a recently introduced Browser Extension. Secure Web Gateway browser extension service enables access to resources exclusively via an internet browser. The secure connection is established by setting up a browser plug-in or the browser’s settings. It is kept within the browser limits — all other internet traffic goes through the default device and network configuration.

Network monitoring

Network monitoring is enhanced with Activity Monitoring reports for visibility over user-level connections to and from gateways showcasing names of the members, devices, and source IP addresses. Reports provide member activity history, including the date and time of a particular member connection session.

Moreover, NordLayer offers Device Posture Monitoring, a security feature that allows organization administrators to check and evaluate member devices according to predefined security rules and get notified about non-compliant devices.

Security controls

Options like Auto-connect, Always On VPN, and Idle Session Timeout add extra layers of control and security to network management.

Auto-connect is one of those features that you can also find in personal VPNs, like the NordVPN app for regular users. In short, you can set up the VPN to activate as soon as an internet connection is detected – this reduces the risk of an employee forgetting to turn on their VPN app.

NordLayer autoconnect window

Unfortunately, during our tests, the feature showed itself to be rather buggy: sometimes, it took a long time for NordLayer to connect to a server.

Is NordLayer safe?

Yes, NordLayer is completely safe to use. It uses the market-leading AES-256 encryption, which is used by organizations that require flawless security, such as online banks and government bodies.

When it comes to its tunneling protocols, NordLayer doesn’t disappoint either. For example, you can choose NordLynx, which is NordVPN’s upgraded version of WireGuard. It retains all the speed while being even more secure.

You can also use OpenVPN TCP or OpenVPN UDP, both of which are staples in the VPN world. Lastly, we have IKEv2, which is the most suitable for mobile devices thanks to its stability.

NordLayer tunneling protocols window

Logging and jurisdiction

When it comes to the jurisdiction, though, we have some concerns. In 2020, NordLayer relocated from Panama to the US, which is a less privacy-friendly country and belongs to the 14-Eyes alliance. On the other hand, you should look at the service’s logging policy to see what kind of data it truly collects.

Luckily, there’s nothing worse than what you’d see in the logging policies of other business VPNs. NordLayer will keep your company’s original IP and email address, as it’s necessary for the provision of the services.

Just keep in mind that the website of NordLayer keeps a bit more information, including your operating system, IP address, cookie data, and browser info.

Speed performance

NordLayer is a pretty fast VPN service thanks to the implementation of the speedy NordLynx tunneling protocol. During our tests, the tool managed to maintain about 96% of the original speed (both download and upload) in the best cases. The speeds were actually better than the ones of NordVPN, which is an impressive achievement.

Baseline: 299.01 Mbps download, 296.27 Mbps upload

Location (NordLynx)
DownloadUpload
UK
290.48284.29
US259.44284.66
Australia207.40210.32
Switzerland270.49269.55
Japan245.26125.19

The speeds with IKEv2 were also pretty good, sometimes dropping only by a mere 20%. However, in many cases, it dropped by about 40%, which, while not perfect, is still pretty decent. The speed drop mostly depended on how far a server was located from us.

Meanwhile, OpenVPN UDP sometimes retained more than 90% of the original upload speed. However, the download speeds weren't as impressive.

Finally, OpenVPN TCP slows down the speed even more, retaining only about 12% of the original download speed on average. Of course, this drop in performance can be expected from this tunneling protocol, as it favors security over speed. When using OpenVPN TCP, I could even feel some lagging, which wasn’t the case with other protocols.

Plans and pricing

When it comes to pricing, NordLayer is definitely not the most expensive business VPN, especially compared to the likes of Perimeter 81. When getting a long-term plan, you can pay as little as $8.00 per user a month, which is pretty reasonable.

Also, NordLayer has a minimum number of users – 5, whereas Perimete81 has a minimum number of 10 or 20 users, so you can really save money if you need a VPN for a small business. You also get a 14-day money-back guarantee and 6 simultaneous connections per user.

YearlyMonthly
Lite$8.00 user/month$10.00 user/month
Core$11.00 user/month$14.00 user/month
Premium$14.00/user/month$18.00/user/month
CustomConsultation requiredConsultation required

Let’s take a closer look at each type of subscription separately.

Lite

For the Lite plan, you can either pay $8.00/month or $10.00/month for a user depending on your subscription period (of course, the yearly subscription is cheaper than the monthly subscription).

This plan includes:

  • Cloud VPN
  • Intuitive control panel
  • Centralized settings
  • Kill switch
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • SSO with Google, Azure AD, Okta, OneLogin, JumpCloud
  • Auto-connect
  • Shared access to 30+ gateway locations
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Always On VPN
  • ThreatBlock

Keep in mind that you can’t get a dedicated IP with the Lite subscription.

Core

In the meantime, the Core subscription costs either $11.00/month per user (yearly plan) or $14.00/month per user (monthly plan). You can also purchase a dedicated server with a fixed IP for $40 per month.

The Core subscription offers everything included in the Lite one, together with:

  • Purchase dedicated servers
  • Choose between 25+ virtual private gateway locations
  • Available dedicated account management
  • DNS filtering
  • Deep Packet Inspection (Lite)
  • Custom DNS
  • Network segmentation
  • Dedicated Account Manager

In case even the Core plan doesn’t 100% suit your needs, you can always aim for the Premium or Custom subscription. You’ll need to request a consultation in order to talk about your specific requirements.

Premium

Premium plan is a combination of network access control solutions with more granular network segmentation and the ability to interconnect websites and devices. It starts from $14.00/month/user if you get a yearly subscription or purchase it for $18.00 with a monthly option.

The premium plan offers everything that the Core plan does, together with:

  • Device Posture Security
  • 10 Cloud Firewall (FWaaS) rules
  • 6 devices per account
  • Site-to-Site connector
  • Smart Remote Access
  • Browser extension
  • User provisioning
  • Priority tech support and a dedicated account manager

Torrenting

As we check the torrenting capabilities of every VPN we review, NordLayer and other business solutions are no exception. After all, this might come in handy at certain jobs.

So, torrenting actually worked, which is great, but the speeds were not that amazing. It was possible to reach only 5-6 Mb/s on the UK server. However, the speeds with the US server were even worse, dropping to a mere 3-4 Mb/s.

All in all, even though NordLayer allows P2P connections, it wouldn’t be our first choice for torrenting.

Streaming

Whether your job requires unblocking various streaming libraries or you simply want to catch up with your favorite show during your break, it’s good to have a VPN that can bypass the blocks of streaming services.

NetflixYes
Hulu✅ Yes
Disney+✅ Yes
BBC iPlayer✅ Yes

So, we were quite lucky with Netflix during our in-house testing – we could access the US, UK, and Swiss libraries. However, the tool didn’t work with the libraries in Belgium, Germany, Canada, Italy, Australia, and Spain. On the other hand, the situation can always change and you might just be able to unblock these libraries in the future. You can also try using another server if your current one doesn't work with the library you need.

Meanwhile, Disney+ worked with quite a few countries except for the US, Australia, and Spain. While BBC iPlayer wasn’t a tough nut to crack.

How to download NordLayer?

download nordlayer
  1. Go to the NordLayer website, and click the button Downloads
  2. Click Download NordLayer. You will be directed to the dedicated app store
  3. Open the downloaded file. Follow the instructions, install the app
  4. Login to your account with your credentials
  5. Connect to your chosen server and protect your business with this advanced VPN provider!

Interface and ease of use

It’s important for a business VPN to be user-friendly, especially when there are a lot of new members coming in – it might be difficult to train everyone to use an advanced application. Luckily, NordLayer is easy to use, as the user apps don’t include lots of settings and are pretty self-explanatory.

NordLayer is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux (just keep in mind that the latter doesn’t have a graphical user interface). There are also browser extensions available for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.

Desktop applications

The Windows app of NordLayer has a dark, clean theme. It’s very easy to navigate – the Settings tab simply includes the General options, Auto-connect options, the selection of tunneling protocols, and the account options. Also, its ThreatBlock feature worked perfectly.

ThreatBlock feature is similar to NordVPN’s Threat Protection, so you might already be familiar with it. So, ThreatBlock will prevent the user from accessing malicious websites that not only display dangerous ads, but might also steal sensitive company data. This feature successfully passed all our tests. It prevented ads from showing up and even blocked malware-containing pages specifically created for testing.

NordLayer on macOS main view

Meanwhile, the interface of the MacOS app looks totally different. Instead of a right-side menu, the app has the menu placed at the top of the screen. Also, the Preferences window is light in contrast to the dark Windows look. The app offers the biometric login option but lacks the kill switch feature, just like the iOS version of NordLayer.

NordLayer macOS menu

Mobile applications

Just like the Windows one, the Android application isn’t difficult to use at all. It has the same dark theme that’s easy on the eyes.

Similarly, the iOS app is also dark-themed. It looks almost identical to the Android application. Interestingly, it also has almost all the features that the Android version offers, which is quite rare in the world of VPNs. The kill switch is also implemented within the OS level.

NordLayer iOS main view

Unfortunately, we have nothing good to say about the TheatBlock feature on both the Android and iOS apps of NordLayer. It didn’t block the websites we tested on it, which was rather disappointing.

Customer support

The customer support of NordLayer is really good. You can reach out to an agent 24/7 by either using a live chat or email. In addition to this, NordLayer also has an extensive knowledge base. We tried out the live chat and received a very quick answer – we didn’t need to wait for even a minute.

It’s also important to mention that the subscribers to the Core and higher plans will get priority 24/7 support and a dedicated account manager. Meanwhile, those who purchase the Custom plan get premium live 24/7 support for custom technical implementation, as well as a dedicated account manager.

NordLayer video review

Have a look at our NordLayer video review on YouTube if you'd like to learn more about the best business VPN while seeing its interface in action.

Conclusion

NordLayer solidifies its position as an essential tool for modern businesses, offering a comprehensive package of security solutions. With an impressive array of features, scalable pricing plans, and a relentless commitment to innovation, it stands as a competitive option for businesses seeking to fortify their network security.

The user-friendly design, compatibility with popular IAM providers, and the option to customize according to business requirements make NordLayer a recommendable choice. With the recent rollout of their Cloud Firewall feature, NordLayer demonstrates a commitment to evolving and adapting within the dynamic realm of cybersecurity.

Whether you're a small startup or a large enterprise, NordLayer's agility, security, and user-centric approach make it a worthy consideration for your network security needs. With NordLayer, cybersecurity becomes not just a requirement but an asset that propels business growth.

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