If you’re shopping for a VPN, you may have come across the term “simultaneous connections.” Many providers like to market how many of these they allow, but what exactly are they and how do they work?
What are simultaneous connections?
In the case of VPNs, concurrent connections are when you have more than one active device (the connection) on your VPN subscription at the same time (that’s the “concurrent” part). The more of these your provider allows, the more connections you can have open at the same time.
They are not to be confused with split tunneling, which is when a VPN allows you to decide which programs do and do not use the VPN. Simultaneous connections are separate connections, so you can have your phone connect to Boston while your laptop is connected to New York City.
Simultaneous connections are important to users because without them, you’d have to get a separate subscription for every laptop, desktop, and smartphone you have active, which would be an expensive proposition – even the cheapest VPNs like Surfshark can cost around of $60 per year. .
Instead, one subscription will serve multiple devices at no additional cost.
Connections, not devices
Note, however, that we say “active connections”. Almost all VPN providers will allow you to install their client, the program that allows you to use the VPN, on as many machines as you like. Only the number of devices that make use of the VPN is restricted.
For example, you could install ExpressVPN, which allows up to five simultaneous connections, on all your devices plus that of your entire family; as long as only five VPN clients are active at the same time, no problem.
That said, be aware that some VPN services take a different approach. For example, CyberGhost only allows you to add a certain number of devices to your account, limited by your plan. Only registered devices can be active at the same time.
However, aside from these few exceptions, most VPN providers will follow the rule of allowing unlimited installs and only limit active connections.
Benefits of simultaneous connections
You can probably guess why simultaneous connections are a good thing: One subscription can cover multiple devices for multiple people, meaning you only need to pay for one, not multiple bills. Generally speaking, running multiple connections at the same time won’t slow down your connection either, so it’s not like connecting more than one device will affect performance.
If you want to share a VPN with your family or have a small office, it might be a good idea to shop around and find a VPN provider that offers lots of simultaneous connections.
Which VPNs offer simultaneous connections?
Most of the services we feature in our roundup of the best VPNs offer a decent number of connections. Sadly, our favorite provider, ExpressVPN, only allows five, which isn’t great considering their price of $100 per year. Its archrival NordVPN is only slightly better, allowing you to have six simultaneous connections.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are also VPNs that offer much more, or even unlimited connections. For example, Private Internet Access allows you to connect up to 10 devices at the same time, while Windscribe and the aforementioned Surfshark allow you to connect an unlimited number.
If you have many devices that you plan to use with the VPN at once, consider looking for a VPN that offers as many simultaneous connections as you need.
That said, if you really like a particular service and want to use more devices at the same time than it allows, you might consider using a VPN router instead. This is a WiFi router that has the VPN installed. This way you can have an entire network use the VPN, but it only counts as a single connection, which is pretty cool.
To get an idea of what’s out there, you can take a look at some of our best WiFi routers. The overall winner, the Asus AX6000 (RT-AX88U), allows you to install a VPN on it, as does the Linksys WRT3200ACM. However, for most people, just using the simultaneous connections allowed by your VPN should be enough, so make sure you install your VPN client wherever you want.