Speed makes the world go round. From the solar system to terrestrial traffic, speed is a constant component of life, the universe, and beyond. Computing and technology is no different. One of the primary metrics we use for the measurement of progress in technology is speed. Thus, processing power of a computer or the download bandwidth of the Internet are features which consumers demand continuous improvements in, a demand that leading tech firms are extremely proficient in meeting.
VPNs are no different. The quality and strength of a VPN service is usually evaluated by its speed, the other important feature being security. You can have the most secure VPN in the world, but what good is it if works slower than your grandma’s dial-up connection from the 90s?
No good. So I am going to talk about 7 factors that determine your VPN speed. While you’re at it, you can check out the list of fastest VPN providers that I compiled after testing on various servers.
1) The speed from your ISP
VPN services, at their best, can only provide an Internet speed as fast as your allocated bandwidth from your ISP. In fact, even the fastest VPN services reduce your base speed to some extent.
So, you need to have a fast Internet connection in the first place to get good speeds with your VPN as well.
2) Server Load
The number of users connected to a given VPN server has a strong impact on the speed you are going to get. If the server is overcrowded beyond capacity, the VPN can slow your Internet down to a crawl.
Some VPN clients will display information regarding the available bandwidth on a server and the percentage capacity that has been filled by users. You should use a different server, preferably one with fewer servers and smaller load to receive better speeds.
3) Server Location
The location of the VPN server you are connected to also plays a critical role in the server speeds you are going to get. As a rule, the closer the server is to your physical location, the better will be your speed and latency. If you are connected to a remotely located server, your data packets would have to travel a longer route before they can communicate with the website or service you are trying to access.
The VPN speed varies from server to server. As evidenced by these VPN speed test result, some VPNs are optimized to work best with certain server locations. Many of top VPN providers automatically choose the fastest server depending on your existing location. However, you can try out different servers to find one that offers the best speed for you.
4) Strength of Encryption
The level of encryption your VPN is using for your traffic also has an impact on your connection speed. For instance, if the VPN is operating on 128-bit encryption, the speed will generally be faster than what you can get on 256-bit encryption.
As such, there is a trade-of between security and speed. Stronger encryption introduce overheads that inevitably slow down the connection, while weak encryption does not weigh down VPN speed as much. I wouldn’t recommend compromising security just to get a small speed boost, however, but the point is, encryption is one of the factors that affects speed.
5) VPN Protocols
VPN services function using different tunneling protocols. PPTP was the earliest protocol that made VPN tunneling possible. It is still believed to be the fastest of the protocols. However, it is also the least secure and none of the reputed VPN brands recommend using PPTP to establish VPN connection.
The most advanced protocol that is in use today is OpenVPN. This protocol can work over either TCP or UDP, the latter usually giving better results in terms of speed. Currently, OpenVPN offers the best balance of speed and security.
6) Network Type
The way you are connected to the Internet has considerable influence on your speed. If you are on a Wi-Fi, the speeds are comparatively lower than the speeds you typically get through a wired Ethernet connection. The difference between wired and Wi-Fi Internet speed becomes more pronounced when you have a considerably fast connection in excess of 50mbps.
So if you are frustrated with slow VPN speeds and you are on a Wi-Fi, try hooking your device directly to your router. In some cases, you can even get twice as fast speeds!
7) Routing Algorithms
Every VPN service uses some form of algorithm that controls how your data travels from server to server on the Internet. A VPN with a poor server infrastructure will lead to considerable overhead, which causes slow speeds. However, veteran VPN services having consolidated infrastructures can route your data much more efficiently through the network.
This is why you should purchase reliable VPN providers like PureVPN, NordVPN, or ExpressVPN, as these have a well-developed network running on advanced routing algorithms.
VPN speeds are affected by various different factors, some of which are uncontrollable by the user, while others can actually be controlled. If you are unable to get the speeds that you are aiming for, then it might be time to upgrade your Internet connection or get a faster VPN service.