A virtual private network (VPN) enables internet users to encrypt their browsing sessions and communications and keep their online activity anonymous. However, VPNs affecting internet speed is a key concern for users. Despite their ability to provide additional layers of privacy and security, VPNs can slow down internet connections.
A VPN encrypts data and sends it through various servers in different locations, hiding the user’s true location. It also provides the user with a different Internet Protocol (IP) address, which ensures their identity is hidden throughout their browsing session.
A VPN ensures higher levels of security than users would be able to achieve through a regular Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection. It is also particularly useful for providing VPN protection in public networks and offering stronger protection than a simple firewall can offer.
How a VPN Affects Internet Speed
Does a VPN decrease internet speed? Can a VPN slow my internet connection? For VPN users, these are valid concerns.
To answer these questions, it is important to understand that one of the biggest issues that prevents a VPN from working effectively is latency, which is the amount of time between an action a user takes and the expected response. For example, latency can occur when a user clicks on an image and it takes longer than expected for the image to display on their screen.
VPNs can negatively affect the speed of an internet connection in a range of ways, including:
Distance to Server
The further the distance between a user and the VPN server, the further a data packet has to travel and the greater amount of latency. Conversely, the closer a server is, the quicker the VPN connection will be. Therefore, unless users require a VPN server in a specific location, it is best to choose one that is nearby.
Having too many people logged on to a server can affect the speed of a VPN connection. Multiple users connecting to a server can result in overload issues, which particularly affect free or slow VPNs that push too many users into not enough servers, restricting the amount of space available.
Encryption is critical to making VPNs private and increasing wireless router security. It ensures online traffic cannot be intercepted or spied upon by hackers and prevents users’ browsing data, personal information, and login credentials from being stolen. However, delivering the highest levels of encryption can cause latency and slower internet speeds if not executed effectively.
Internet Speed of ISP
Slow internet service is not always caused by a VPN. Often, it is because of sluggish internet connections from the user’s internet service provider (ISP). ISPs may purposefully throttle the bandwidth they offer, resulting in slow internet speed for certain websites or periods of time.
In this situation, a VPN can enable users to bypass the internet connection provided by their ISP and gain the quicker download or streaming speeds they require.
Free VPNs Can Slow You Down
Free VPN services can help users secure their browsing sessions. However, because they are free, they have limitations. VPN providers tend to limit how many servers are accessible to non-paying users, which increases the amount of traffic, and in turn, the strain on those servers. As a result, free VPN users are more likely to experience increased latency and slower internet connections.
How Top Check Your VPN Speed
Regardless of how fast a provider claims their VPN to be, it is best to check the internet connection speed. VPN speed can be verified using the following process:
- Step 1: Disconnect from any connected VPN and run an internet speed test by visiting an online speed test website. The site will have a button that says “Go,” which will then run checks against download/upload speeds and the latency of the connection from the ISP.
- Step 2: Connect to a VPN service and choose a server in a preferred location. Use the speed test website to run another check. This will likely result in an increase in latency, which means both the download and upload speeds will appear lower than before.
How To Choose the Right VPN
To avoid VPN-related latency issues, choose a VPN provider that offers good coverage and server quality. Top tips for selecting the right VPN service include:
Choose the Right VPN Server Location
VPN connection speed can depend on the location of the server. For example, South Korea has the fastest internet speeds in the world with an average of 26.7 megabytes per second (Mbps) compared to the global average of just 5.5 Mbps. Other VPN servers that likely offer higher speeds include Sweden (19.5 Mbps), Norway (18.8 Mbps), and Japan (17.5 Mbps).
Check VPN Server Coverage
Coverage is crucial to getting access to a server in a prime location. This can be a server closest to a user’s current location, which should offer them the least latency and highest internet speeds. Users may also need to be able to access servers in various locations, which would allow them to stream content from different countries or avoid regional restrictions. Check a provider’s server coverage and the locations available on their website before signing up.
Find a Provider Offering a Wide VPN Server Choice
VPN providers that offer a broad choice of servers in various locations are less likely to be affected by latency. A high-speed, premium VPN provider will offer wide VPN server coverage in many locations.
Compare VPN Options
Different VPN providers excel in different areas, such as speed, encryption, or anonymity. Assess the qualities of the providers available to your organization, and choose one that meets your specific requirements.
For example, users that want to stream content from various geographic locations need a VPN provider with a broad range of server locations and the ability to unlock blocked content. Users that work with highly sensitive information will put more emphasis on a VPN that offers high-grade encryption and does not retain logs.
How Fortinet Can Help
Fortinet helps users and organizations increase the security of their wireless networks with a range of VPN solutions. Fortinet VPN solutions ensure users can add encryption to their wireless networks, limit who can access their systems and resources, and secure their firewalls and routers. Fortinet VPNs also enable users to increase the security of their Wi-Fi connections, strengthen their networks, and protect their routers from hackers.