We’ve talked about VPNs before and why you would want to use one, but one question I get asked a lot is, “will using a VPN negatively affect my internet speeds?” And in short, the answer is yes. There’s pretty much no way around it. That being said, if you pick a good provider, a close server to you (geographically), as well as a server that doesn’t have high load you can minimize the negative impact using a VPN will have on your internet speed.
Note: A good tool to check your internet speed is https://www.speedcheck.org/. They also have a useful guide to help you understand the intricacies involved.
I’m a fan of the VPN provider, NordVPN (I recently wrote an article that shows how you can get up and running using NordVPN in about 5 minutes), because among other things, they offer hundreds of servers around the world and you can usually find one nearby that doesn’t have a high load. That being said, if you’re looking for an alternative you can take a look at the roundup of VPN service providers we did a while back.
Now back to the question, in an effort to show you how using a VPN can affect your internet speeds, I ran a few speed tests. You will notice that the speed test with the best results is the one without a VPN connection.
In addition to having the best speeds without a VPN, take a look at the ping time–without a VPN the ping is 3ms and the two speed tests below using a VPN have higher ping times. This higher latency is only normal with a VPN since your connection is first going to the VPN, then hitting the speed test servers, and then running the speed test as opposed to a device without a VPN simply going directly to the speed test servers without a “middle man.”
As you will notice the speeds essentially were halved while connected to a VPN server with a 15 percent load and that was around 2 miles away from me. Additionally, you can see the ping time increased from 3ms to 5ms. Now, clearly these internet speeds are still plenty fast and with most normal web browsing and/or file downloads you will not see a real difference in page load times or smaller file downloads. But what if you connect to a VPN server that isn’t close to you? I wanted to do another speed test connected to a VPN server that was even farther away from me. I picked one with 50 percent load that was about 270 miles away and ran the test again.
Unsurprisingly the results were even worse. The ping time increased to 15ms and both the download and the upload speeds dropped even more significantly. At this point, you would really be sacrificing your internet speeds. Browsing the web would still be fine, but downloading and uploading would definitely be hampered quite a bit.
So what should you do? Should you give up extra privacy for more speed or give up some speed for more privacy? Ultimately that’s up to you but what I can recommend is always picking a VPN server with the lowest usage load and that’s close to you. If you do those two things you reduce the amount of latency between your computer and the server making for a better VPNing experience.
For more in-depth information about VPNs and their technology, check out vpnvanguard.com, a site with tons of relevant information on VPNs and online privacy.