The main reasons to use a VPN are the privacy and security of your browsing data. One of the concerns many people have about using a VPN is that it will slow down their internet connection. This concern is legitimate, a VPN can slow down your internet connection. In this guide, we’ll cover the ways a VPN can and can’t slow down your connection and provide some tips to help speed things up.
One of the things a VPN does is encrypt your data before transmitting it to the VPN server. There’s a fair amount of misinformation on the internet that claims that encryption causes a slowdown. Realistically though, modern computer hardware can handle the encryption/decryption process incredibly efficiently, with essentially no performance impact.
It is possible that if you’re using an old, or budget computer or mobile device with a weak CPU, that this may cause more of a performance impact. If this is the case, you may want to consider upgrading your device.
“Ping” or “latency” is used to describe how long it takes for transmissions to get from you to the server. Ping is measured in milliseconds (ms) where a smaller value means there’s less transit time, meaning there’s less delay. Generally, connecting to a nearby server could see a ping as low as 9 or 7ms, whereas communicating with servers far away, especially on other continents can take “much” longer, with ping values nearer the 200 to 300ms range.
Tip: There are a thousand milliseconds in one second, so 200 milliseconds is 0.2 seconds. So even a “high” ping of 200ms is still not much of a delay for most purposes, but can be an issue during competitive video gaming for example.
As such, connecting to a VPN server nearby will result in your network traffic getting to the server and back faster than if you’re connected to a server on the other side of the planet. If your ping is too high, a pressing issue for gamers, you should try to connect to a VPN server as near to you as possible.
Download and Upload Speed
When you choose your internet package from your ISP, you generally get a choice of what upload and download speeds you want. These speeds are likely measured in “Mbps” or “Megabits per second”. If you’ve got a really fast connection to your ISP, it’s quite possible that your VPN provider just can’t match that connection speed. As such you may find that you can only ever use a percentage of the download speed promised by your ISP, because your VPN provider is just too slow. However, if your internet speeds are slower, you’re much more likely to find that your VPN provider has more than enough connection speed for your broadband.
If you’re in a situation where you can’t make the most of your broadband connection because your VPN is too slow. You may want to consider changing VPN providers or, alternatively, changing broadband plans to a cheaper tier to reduce your costs.
Free VPNs often have some form of data cap or data throttling in place to manage demand and keep usage fair. If you’re using a free VPN and your connection is too slow, you may just be on a throttled connection. If this is the case, you should try to switch to a VPN that doesn’t throttle your connection speed, although this may require you to switch to a paid service.
Tip: A data cap limits the total amount you are able to download in a certain timeframe. Data throttling, however, is an artificial limit to how fast a network connection you get.
Using a double, triple, or longer VPN chain is going to cause some delay. As covered in the section on “ping” any connection takes some time to travel from one server to the next. If you’re chaining VPNs, you’re adding steps, each of which adds its own ping. If your VPN chain is short and the chained servers are close together the combined ping could be relatively small. However, if your VPN chain involves going around the world multiple times, the connection delay can add up quickly. For example, a triple VPN chain with a ping of 300ms at each step would end up with almost a second of transmission delay.
If you’re concerned about ping slowing down your VPN chain connection you should limit the number of VPN servers in your chain, ideally to one. If you’re set on having a chain of servers, you can instead try to make the path between each server as efficient and short as possible, rather than going from the US, to New Zealand and back multiple times for example. There are few if any benefits to that sort of cross-world VPN – at the very least it would be beneficial to arrange them the way you would travel to them – the shortest distances between each point.
Can a VPN Make Your Internet Faster?
The simple answer is no. A VPN can’t make your internet connection faster, you can only download data as fast as your ISP will let you. If you’ve got a 10Mbps download speed in your broadband package, it doesn’t matter if your VPN can support 100Mbps, you can only connect to the VPN at 10Mbps.
The more complex answer is maybe, under specific circumstances. In some cases, your ISP may be performing traffic analysis and may throttle your connection to certain types of media. This sort of prioritisation of data isn’t legal everywhere so it may not even be an issue for you. If you are in this situation though, a VPN would hide your usage from your ISP, helping you to bypass the analysis and subsequent throttling. Unfortunately, if this is the case, your ISP might try to throttle your connection to known VPN servers too, so a VPN might not fix this issue. If you suspect this may happen, research your ISP and check whether or not they throttle certain services and VPNs – if they do, you always have the option of using a VPN that isn’t throttled to get better speeds.
All in all, a VPN does cause some slowdown in your network connection. This is primarily in the form of limited connection speeds for people with high-speed broadband packages, the use of throttled free VPNs, and higher pings when going through distant servers.
If your VPN speeds are limited due to your VPN, you should consider switching to a VPN provider that offers faster speeds or to a paid VPN. If your ping is too high, you should consider reducing the number of VPN servers your chain your connection through or how far those servers are away from you.