Does a VPN slow down internet speed?
Every privacy-conscious netizen knows that VPNs are among the best online security tools. While they are incredibly useful, one of the main concerns remains: can VPNs slow down internet speed? Well, the short answer is yes. A slight speed loss is normal. However, VPNs can also increase speed. Sounds confusing? Let us clear things out.
Will using a VPN affect your internet connection?
When you connect to a VPN, you route your traffic through remote servers before reaching the final destination. It’s like an extra stop on a journey between your device and the internet. Connections with an additional stop will always take longer than direct ones. Hence, it’s extremely likely that a VPN will have some effect on your internet speed.
Also, a central characteristic of a VPN is encryption. It involves a relatively complex process that requires computing power and time. Encryption works by ciphering all of your data packets before letting them move towards the final destination. The process might put a strain on your connection and lead to slightly slower browsing.
However, in some instances, a VPN can make your connection faster. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) purposefully put bandwidth limitations for their users. ISPs deliberately track users’ traffic to check if they perform any bandwidth-intensive activities, like gaming, streaming, or torrenting. Since VPN encrypts your traffic, your ISP can no longer identify what you are up to. As a result, they don’t have grounds to restrict your connection.
What affects the speed of a VPN?
As previously mentioned, connecting to remote servers and encrypting your traffic can lower internet speed. Under ideal conditions, you will experience little to no drop. However, that’s not always the case, and VPN can make your browsing difficult. So, what factors play the key roles here?
- Server location
The physical distance between you and the VPN server has a significant impact on your speed. The farther your chosen VPN server is, the longer your data packets will travel. For example, if you’re residing in the UK and connect to a server in Japan, your data moves all this way until it reaches the final destination. Hence, the closer the server is, the faster connection you get.
- Encryption level
The more robust the encryption protocol is, the more resources — including bandwidth — it needs. The current standard of VPN encryption is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). However, AES comes with different strength levels, such as 128-bit, 192-bit, and 256-bit encryption algorithms. The higher the encryption level, the more extra layers it adds when encrypting your traffic.
While you can use lighter encryption to get better speeds, you’ll sacrifice these extra protection layers in the process. In other terms, there’s a small tradeoff you have to make for the highest possible security. Still, prime VPNs find ways to handle the most robust encryption algorithms without compromising users’ speed.
- Server load
If multiple users connect to the same VPN server and it gets overloaded, the speed automatically decreases. In other terms, how crowded a VPN server is directly affects how fast it will be. So, if you notice problems with your internet connection, try switching to another server.
How to get the best VPN speeds?
The slight speed drops are not shocking. However, you should make a small sacrifice for the ultimate privacy and security online. The good news is that there are some easy tricks to avoid VPN slowing down your connection too much. With the right tools, tricks, and setting adjustments, you can optimize the best VPN performance possible. Here’s what you can do:
- Switch servers. Try connecting to a geographically closer server. Try a few other nearby ones to get the best results. Alternatively, Atlas VPN offers the “Optimal Location” feature, which automatically picks you the optimal server. The algorithm combines different variables, such as the physical distance and server load.
- Temporarily disable your firewall or antivirus software. Firewalls, anti-malware programs, and similar cybersecurity tools filter your incoming and outgoing traffic as VPNs do. Therefore, these programs can affect both: your internet and VPN connection speeds. Of course, permanently disabling your firewall might not be the best solution from the security perspective. However, you can temporarily turn it off for bandwidth-intensive activities to get the fastest speeds possible.
- Reboot your router/modem. This one is a simple yet effective way to improve your network and VPN performance. Sometimes, your router can suffer from memory leaks that slow the connection down. An old-fashioned reboot is all it takes to fix it.
- Use a wired connection. Without a doubt, Wi-Fi spots are incredibly convenient. However, a wired connection isn’t as prone to interference. Therefore, because there’s less contention for bandwidth, your speeds can be faster if you use the wired connection.
- Run the VPN on your device, not the router. Most routers don’t have enough processing power. So, encrypting and decrypting the traffic is a real challenge for them. Unless you have a powerful router, your connection speed and general stability will suffer. Therefore, for maximum performance, it’s best to set up a VPN on each device individually.
So, does a VPN slow down internet speed? It might, but the drop should be barely noticeable. It’s definitely worth making a small sacrifice for having the ultimate security online. Now that you know what factors affect VPN performance, you can always use the tips on fixing it at ease. To make matters better, Atlas VPN offers options to provide you with the most suitable servers automatically. Additionally, we optimize each server to reduce lagging and buffering.
Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.