We want everything fast – a website to open instantly, a file to download fast and the whole browsing experience to be flawless, however, some trade-offs need to be made in order to stay safe and secure online. VPN is a great service to protect your privacy, but it comes with the cost of a slight internet speed reduction. But why does VPN reduce speed and is there a way to improve it?
Table of Contents
How does VPN affect internet speed
Generally, when connected to a VPN the internet speed might decrease from 5% to 30% on average due to data encryption and decryption processes. There are factors such as VPN server’s load, distance to it, connection protocol used and even the VPN provider itself that can make a difference to your internet speeds.
8 tips on how to increase your VPN speed
If you’re experiencing slow internet speeds when connected to a VPN, try follow these easy tips and you might et the results you want:
1. Connect to the closest VPN server
A distance to a VPN server influences the internet speed directly. The further the server is from your actual location the more time it takes for the internet packets to travel. The further a VPN server is the slower the connections will be – increased latency, ping, and big lags.
Example: imagine that you are located in the US and trying to visit a website, which is also hosted there. Then, you connect to a VPN server in Asia – that creates a huge round trip that takes additional time until it reaches the destination. Connecting to the VPN server far away from your actual physical location might reduce download and upload speeds immensely.
To avoid huge internet speed reduction caused by distance and to increase latency try to connect to the VPN server closest to you – don’t be afraid to connect to the same country you live – the security provided by a VPN still be the same as connecting to any other country! In cases where you want to reach censored content and still need to connect to a specific country – try to choose a city or region that is closer to you if that’s possible.
2. Switch to a least loaded server
When many people connect to the same server they share its resources at the same time. When these limited resources can not be accessed immediately it is said that a VPN server has a big load. Having a big load on a server means all the processes that transfer data are put in a queue and delayed this way slowing down the internet speed.
To deal with an increasing data transfer on a server some VPN providers put a bandwidth limit to ensure a smooth experience for all users connected to that server. A bandwidth limit means that only a certain maximum speed limit can be reached at the time. During the high-load period, slow VPN connection speeds might be experienced until there are fewer people connected to it.
Try switching up servers to find the one that is currently the least loaded – this would greatly increase your VPN connection speeds.
3. Select a different VPN protocol
When a connection to a VPN server is initiated using a particular encryption protocol, the rules on what algorithms will be used to secure the connection are negotiated. Different protocols use different standards and vary in levels of security, complexity and the time it takes to encrypt all your data, for example:
PPTP is considered the fastest, but the least safe VPN protocol – it compromises security and is not recommended to use.
A VPN protocol that uses 156-bit key encryption is slightly faster than the one that uses 256-bit key encryption
Connections made with UDP are faster than TCP ones
4. Upgrade your devices
Your device’s processor (CPU) power has a direct impact on how fast encryption and decryption processes work. The better the computer’s processor, the faster these processes are, meaning the faster VPN connections will be. However, the encryption process only slightly influences the connections speeds and does not have a big impact, but still could play a role.
The router in use is also important – old routers might not have the good processing power and limit internet speeds with VPN, especially if the VPN is set up on the router itself and the internet traffic is encrypted there.
5. Do not use unnecessary features
Some VPN providers offer a feature that is commonly known as double or multi-hop VPN. It routes your internet traffic from one VPN server to another and encrypts it twice. Even though this double encryption adds extra security and privacy, however it takes a considerably longer time and distance your internet traffic has to travel.
Another additional feature is routing your traffic via Tor network. Using specific VPN servers that route your regular traffic through a Tor network sacrifices a huge portion of the VPN speed. It does add an additional anonymity level, but the Dark Web is much slower than your regular connections.
6. Change your VPN provider
Every VPN provider has a different implementation on how they have their server network setup. There might be different technologies, OS and hardware involved that play a big role in how speeds a VPN server can reach. One VPN provider might offer faster connections than the other just because they have their infrastructure in place. If you constantly get slow speeds with a VPN, maybe it’s time to try a new one? I would suggest trying either NordVPN or Surfsharksince both have a great server network, speeds when downloading and a 30-day money back guarantee.
7. Upgrade your internet plan
Your chosen internet plan can have an impact on the maximum speed you can achieve when browsing. If you have a regular home internet plan which is usually 50 or 100 MBit/s even with a VPN you can not bypass this limit. Considering a VPN would also slightly decrease the connection speeds you might want to upgrade your internet plan to fit your needs.
8. Use a wired connection
Most of the time the internet connection made through the optical fiber or cable is way faster than via Wi-Fi. And the latter is much faster than the mobile connections. Try using wired connections for faster speeds.
How to test your VPN connection speed
To test the VPN speed is super easy – all you need to do is connect to a VPN server with your VPN app and try out one of these automatic speed tests that tell you latency (ping), upload and download speeds. Once you do it, disconnect from the VPN server and do the test again – this will give you an idea of how much slower the connection is with and without a VPN. A website speedtest.net allows you to select a server you can connect, so the speed tests could be more precise.
I did a speed test on a regular home 50 MBit/s internet plan from a local ISP using NordVPN on speedtest.net
First, I tested the speeds without a VPN locally and transatlantic connection (from Europe to the US). Then I tested how VPN affects when connected to the same servers. And here are the results:
VPN speed test result summary table:
Transatlantic (Europe to the US)
Distance influenced the VPN speed from Europe to the US resulting in an unchanged latency (ping) – which is really impressive and download speed reduced by 9.2 % and upload speed reduced by 13.4% which are very good results for a VPN service.
An internet speed using a VPN is influenced by a few factors – a distance to a server, its server load, an encryption protocol in use and a VPN provider’s server infrastructure. Your own network set up and device’s capabilities also play a role in achieving good internet speeds. The few things to try that may increase the quality of the connection are to connect to the closest server, use UDP based protocols and if that does not work, maybe it’s time to find a new VPN provider?
CyberWaters is a mixed crew of cyber security enthusiasts with a keen interested in data privacy, security and technology behind it. We provide cyber security related content and give advise on best practices and tools how to stay safe and secure online.