Why does a VPN slow down your Internet connection?

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VPNs will slow down your connection, no matter how much some unreliable VPN providers like to claim otherwise. However, why does a VPN slow down your connection and are there ways to fix this problem?

What affects VPN speed?

Although some providers like to claim that their VPN can increase your internet speed, the fact is that VPNs will always cause some speed loss, the question is just how much. When a VPN is said to be fast, it just means that it loses less speed than its competitors. There are three main reasons why VPNs slow down your connection, here they are in descending order.

Distance to VPN server

The biggest issue that affects internet speed when using a VPN is the distance between you and the VPN server, and the greater the distance, the worse the loss. If you’re in New York City, for example, a server in Boston will slow you down less than one in Los Angeles, let alone one in Tokyo.

This is because, as ethereal as the data may seem, it must still obey the laws of physics. When you browse the Internet, you send and receive so-called data packets, and these must physically travel to and from you. The longer the path, the greater the delay between the call and the response.

You can see this directly when you test your speeds yourself: connect to a nearby server, then connect to one further away. Most likely, the first server will give you a better and faster yearly result than the second. However, if not, one of the other factors could be at play.

server load

Another big factor in VPN slowdowns is the load on the server you are connecting to. A server can only handle a limited amount of traffic. The closer you get to that limit, the greater the slowdown, there is no way around it.

As a result, if you connect to a server that is close to capacity, even a few miles away, you may do worse than a server in another country that has no users. Of the three factors, this is the most influenced by the VPN providers themselves. A good service will invest in better infrastructure so users don’t experience slowdowns due to server load; ExpressVPN servers are a good example.

Encryption and Protocol

The last factor that affects VPN speed is the protocol and encryption used. Although not as important as distance and server load, it does play a role. This is because when you use a VPN, you are sending your information through a so-called VPN tunnel. Before being sent, packets are encrypted and then decrypted when they reach their destination. This process takes time. It’s not much, but along with the other factors, it can add up.

Heavier encryption takes longer to encrypt and decrypt, so that plays a role, as does the protocol used. This is partly because the level of encryption is determined by the VPN protocol, but also because some are simply faster than others. For example, IKEv2 is faster than OpenVPN, but it has some security issues.

How to speed up your VPN connection

With the above information in mind, we can also find ways to speed up your VPN connection. Not all of our tips will work for everyone, but even applying them to a modest extent should see a major improvement.

Choose a nearby server

The easiest way is to use a different server. If you’re in New York, choose that server in Boston over the one in Los Angeles. If you are in Great Britain, use one in the UK or Ireland instead of mainland Europe. That said, if you’re using your VPN to communicate with Netflix, you can’t switch servers that easily, so you may want to look at other options.

switch protocols

We’ll start with a tip you need to be careful about, namely changing protocols. This is because, unless you know what you are doing, altering the protocol settings could put your security at risk. However, if your connection is very slow, switching from TCP to UDP might speed up your connection, or even use IKEv2 instead of OpenVPN if security isn’t your primary concern.

Choose a good VPN provider

Finally, it is quite possible that your provider is using poor servers. In that case, we recommend that you check out our selection of the best VPNs, as most of them perform admirably. The fastest VPN out there is probably ExpressVPN, as it uses state-of-the-art server architecture for load balancing.

The difference between a good supplier and a bad one is like the difference between day and night. Switching VPN providers could be the simple, albeit expensive, solution you’ve been looking for to fix your speed issues.