As internet privacy and security become a growing global concern, the use of virtual private networks (VPN) is becoming increasingly prevalent among internet users, individuals, and businesses worldwide.
At the same time, some VPNs can cause serious delays to your internet connection, resulting in a poor user experience that can negatively impact your team’s productivity.
This article covers all the main factors that can cause a VPN to slow down your internet connection and how you can overcome them.
Why Do I Need a VPN Anyway?
Put simply, using a VPN is the easiest way to quickly improve your security posture, regardless of whether you’re an individual user or a business organization.
A VPN hides your original IP address by routing all your internet activity through encrypted secure channels, preventing the websites you visit from tracking and monitoring your activity. This is helpful in situations where you want to avoid targeted ads or need to cover up your tracks for whatever reason, such as visiting the dark web.
A VPN may not be enough to protect you from targeted attacks. But if you’re a small or medium-sized business or use additional solutions such as password management and privileged access control, the chances of that happening are extremely low.
What Causes a VPN To Slow Down My Internet Connection?
To understand why and how a VPN might hinder internet speed, we must first look at how the VPN encryption process actually works. Essentially, it routes your communications and browsing activity through an external server, granting you a new, anonymous IP address that belongs to the remote server you’re connected to.
While some VPNs offer real-time velocity optimization, it’s almost inevitable that this will take slightly longer than if you weren’t using a VPN.
Small, insignificant delays may be tolerable and go unnoticed. However, it’s always a good idea to test your VPN speed so you can find out which circumstances are slowing you down and possibly optimize them to achieve a faster and more reliable internet connection.
Which Factors Should I Look Out for When Optimizing My VPN Speed?
The Location of Your Selected VPN Server
The more removed the VPN server location is from where you are, the longer it takes to route your activity through the encrypted channel. Keep in mind that connecting to a server in a foreign country may also cause some of the websites you visit to display content in a different language.
So, we recommend selecting a VPN location that is close to you and displays content in a language you understand.
The General Load on Your VPN Server
If there’s a large number of users connected to the same server simultaneously, you may experience a considerable decrease in internet speed even when using a nearby server.
As mentioned earlier, some VPN providers, such as NordVPN, offer real-time speed optimization. This means that if the server you selected is overloaded, a new location will be automatically selected and connected so you’ll always have the best possible speed.
If you’re still wondering which VPN provider to choose, this would be a good feature to look out for. Visit our list of recommended VPN providers to choose the one that best fits your needs.
The Security Protocol
Another factor that impacts internet speed is the security protocol used by your VPN provider. For example, an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) running on 256 bits is considered a top military-grade security protocol but may add a slight lag because it involves a more complex encryption process.
Most of the better VPN providers, including ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and NordVPN, will offer multiple security protocols to choose from. If you prioritize speed over security, lower-grade protocols may be a better choice for you.
Your IP address would still be sufficiently anonymized even at a lower level of encryption, and you’d be getting maximum connectivity speed.
Is a Free VPN Slower Than a Paid Vpn?
Even though there may be some exceptions, free VPNs will generally be more restricted in the number of locations they offer and may not be as good for limiting the number of users on each server.
This means that paid VPNs will almost always be faster than free ones.
As with any software-as-a-service platform, paying for a premium license means you get better value. When it comes to VPNs, a small monthly subscription fee goes a long way and protects you from severe threats jeopardizing your business continuity.
With that said, if not properly configured, even a paid VPN can slow down your internet connection. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check your settings every once in a while and make sure you’re using the fastest options available.
Can a VPN Accelerate My Internet Speed?
The short answer is yes; under certain circumstances, it is possible to have faster speed when using a VPN.
Whether or not this is possible largely depends on your internet service provider (ISP). This is because many ISPs throttle internet connections during peak times to allow decent speed for all users.
A good VPN bypasses those restrictions, so you’ll end up getting an even better internet speed than if you weren’t using a VPN.
How Do I Test My VPN Speed?
Now that you know which factors affect your VPN performance testing your internet speed should be fairly simple. Just visit one of our recommended testing sites and run the test to see exactly how long it takes to upload or download data packets with or without a VPN. If the difference is significant, you can reconfigure your VPN settings or switch to a VPN provider that offers greater flexibility.
Internet speed issues are probably the biggest drawbacks of using a virtual private network, especially since we are used to lightning speed in the palms of our hands. Don’t let that mislead you into thinking you’re better off without a VPN.
When it comes to selecting the right software tools for your business, there’s always going to be some level of compromise between security and usability. While it may feel like a nuisance at first, there’s always something you can do to improve speed, and as the technology continues to evolve, new solutions will make it even easier. Bottom line, ask any cyber attack victim and they’ll tell you: It’s better to be safe than sorry.