Does a VPN Slow Down the Internet Speeds? Find Out How and Why

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Does a VPN slow down the internet speed? This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions when people think of virtual private networks. And with a good reason. For years, people have been telling each other that a VPN will have a significant impact on one’s internet speed.

The truth, however, instead sits somewhere in the middle. That might not be a satisfactory answer, but let’s go through the reasoning on this and find out why a VPN can slow down the internet speed.

How does a VPN slow down the internet speed?

There are different ways in which a VPN could slow down a user’s internet speeds. These issues won’t affect everyone and might affect someone to a larger or lesser degree.

Most premium VPN users suffer minimally from slower internet speeds, and in most cases, the difference in speed is too small to even notice. However, there can be times when some of the issues below may have a significant impact on a user’s internet speed.

Server locations

When it comes to the internet speed, the most significant factor is the location of the server a VPN user connects to. Let’s say someone in Russia wants to connect to a server in the US. They will probably have a slower internet speed than someone who connects to a server in Germany, for instance. So it’s essential for the VPN user to choose a server in a location that’s close to them if they can.

Of course, sometimes this isn’t possible. For instance, if someone in the UK wants to connect to a streaming service like Netflix which is based in the US. In that case, the UK VPN user may need to switch around between a few different servers in the US until they find a suitable speed.

How loaded a server is

It’s normal for people to have a slow connection speed when they’re connecting to a server that’s overloaded. This typically happens with free VPN services because they often don’t offer as many server choices as the paid ones do. However, it can certainly happen with paid VPNs as well. Especially if a lot of people want to connect to a server in a specific region, for instance.

It’s usually also hard to judge how loaded a VPN server is before connecting to it. However, some VPN services do indicate how many people are currently connected to a server, making it easy to switch to a less crowded one.

The level of encryption

The type of encryption a VPN uses can have an impact on connection speed.

The current standard for the industry is Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). This block cipher algorithm comes in varying degrees of strength, like 128-bit, 192-bit, and 256-bit encryptions. Whenever a VPN is slowing down the internet, it may be because they are using one of the stronger encryption algorithms in their service.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it means their service is performing well at keeping their clients safe. Although it might be a nuisance for anyone, who wants a fast connection speed. It might be better to switch to a different VPN with lower strength encryption then.

The type of encryption protocol a VPN uses

Stronger encryption protocols like OpenVPN will likely slow down the internet a bit. Faster encryption protocols like PPTP won’t slow down the internet, but they are generally not as safe to use anymore.

There is a middle ground, however, in the form of the L2TP/IPSec and IKEv2 protocols. These protocols offer encryptions that are still highly secure but don’t affect the internet speed as much.

This isn’t a feature that a VPN user can get around, though, regarding connection speed. These encryption protocols form part of what a VPN is. They’re an important feature which makes sure that the connection is private and secure.

How to test your internet speed

It’s quick and easy enough to run a speed test to see whether a VPN is slowing down the internet speed. There are quite a few speed test applications available online and most are pretty reliable.

When checking whether a connection is being slowed down by a VPN, simply run the test before turning on the VPN and then after. This is important even if a user knows how fast their connection is supposed to be.

The reason for that is because the speed test server is likely also in a different location from where the user is, which might also impact the internet speed a bit. It’s therefore also important to make sure to use the same speed test service both times to get the most accurate results.

Things to look out for when choosing a VPN

There are a couple of things people can look out for when they’re choosing a VPN service. These tips will help users make sure that the VPN they end up choosing is secure and fast enough to suit their needs.

User reviews

User reviews are one of the most reliable ways to see whether a VPN (or any service for that matter) is reliable. It’s also an excellent way to see if the VPN is suffering from any connection issues or slow internet speeds.

Split Tunneling

Split tunneling is a new feature that’s still being implemented by VPNs. This feature allows the VPN user to decide which traffic they want to be VPN-protected. So essentially, they can split their online traffic between being encrypted and decrypted.

Traffic that isn’t being encrypted will travel at the user’s normal connection speed while traffic that is encrypted might be slower. This is a great feature for someone who wants the benefits of a VPN for certain online actions, like streaming, but not others, like browsing social media.

Final thoughts

In the end, a high-quality VPN shouldn’t have that big of an effect on the internet speed. A VPN does slow a connection a little, and that’s normal. But a big negative impact on internet speed might mean it’s time to switch over to a different VPN.