VPNs are a technology that allows you to bypass geo-blocking to access streaming content worldwide, an activity we don’t condone or take responsibility for. But will it matter if you fail to find the fastest VPN servers, i.e., they work but are too slow to stream smoothly? True, VPNs have become more versatile as of late as users have found various applications for them, all thanks to a well-thought marketing campaign. Many have also abolished their views on how to employ a VPN.
Sure, a majority remains that chooses to hand over monthly subscription fees for what a VPN brings to the table, namely online security and privacy. However, a clique pursues VPNs, not for their security adaptations but their ability to work around geographical restrictions and government-imposed censorship. They crave the added benefits a VPN brings them. Thus, they find it to be more appealing the faster it is. But is there a way to find the fastest VPN server? Let’s find out!
What is a VPN server?
Before we head out to deal with the nitty-gritty of what affects VPN connectivity or how one can zero in on the fastest VPN servers, it might be best to determine the relationship between the two. Let’s start with what a VPN server represents, although we already extensively studied what VPN servers are, for those interested.
In simple terms, a VPN server is a device (virtual or physical) that acts as an exit point of a VPN. It enables the hosting and delivery of VPN services. The server is the endpoint at the VPN tunnel, where the outgoing traffic is decrypted and then routed to the internet. It completes the virtual private network by authenticating clients to access it and allows for secure communication over the internet. A VPN client encrypts and hands over data to the server via a tunnel, utilizing security protocols.
Now, this specific server, located at a remote facility, decrypts the data and sends it along the way to the target website on the internet. During the process, all the website can ever know is the IP address (the unique identification address) of the server that connects to it. In doing so, a server not only provides security to the traffic but also anonymity. The target won’t be able to find out where the traffic originated. Thus, we can say that a VPN server is an exit node of a VPN that facilitates secure and private communication over the internet.
A VPN model consists of:
- User > data origin > client > data encapsulation | tunneling by employing protocols > server > data decryption > sending the data to the target website
- Receiving results > servers > encapsulation/ encryption of data > new tunnel > client > decryption > host
Factors that determine your VPN speed
VPN speed can depend on numerous factors. This includes external factors affecting your Internet speed and internal ones like your selected protocols, Therefore, determining which factors affect your VPN connectivity can help you pinpoint the fastest VPN server. These factors are:
Your overall speed from the ISP
ISP (Internet Service Provider) is the one that supplies your internet connection and handles bandwidth. Now, a VPN connection can never be faster than your native internet speed. If you are stuck with poor VPN connectivity, chances are your original connection itself is slow or throttled by your ISP. Thus, we can say that your overall internet speed is the primary factor affecting your VPN connectivity. No matter the server you connect to, without solving your internet speed issues, it will all amount to nothing.
The OS running the client
While not directly, the operating system also plays a role in defining your VPN speed. Some VPNs cater to specific OSes. Thus, what if you have a poor VPN and want to change providers but can’t due to your OS? Although technically speaking, all leading VPN services try to support as many platforms as possible. However, another issue with an OS is that some security protocols also affect speed. To clarify, these providers may support the OS, but their clients will not have some protocols supported.
Your hardware selection
Since the inception of computer operations, the software was limited by the hardware it works on. No matter how good a software is, without decent hardware to run on, it simply cannot extract the maximum. The same is true for VPNs — every decorous VPN client has a minimum hardware requirement.
Another thing to remember is that the hardware you use to connect to the internet, such as routers and modems, also needs to be up-to-date. The device, if too old, can no longer implement the latest upgrades, and thus can never be as fast as a newer iteration.
Some protocols are faster than others. Why? They tend to prioritize speed over your security. Now, why does a VPN need something that can jeopardize a user’s security? Well, because many users don’t opt for a VPN for the sake of online security, but because they want the additional functionality of bypassing geo-blocking. Thus, for them, speed matters the most.
Now, most of the VPNs these days market themselves offering “military-grade encryption.” If you are not someone who needs such intricate features, try to change the strength of your encryption. Sadly, only a few VPNs provide the option to do so. Most VPNs use AES 256-bit encryption. Since it uses a longer cipher, the encryption process is slow and resource-heavy. To lighten up the traffic, you can use the older 128-bit encryption. However, beware — the older one is prone to vulnerabilities.
Firewalls and Antivirus
Sometimes your firewall or antivirus can prevent a VPN from performing to its max. Now, unless and until you are sure the problem isn’t with your VPN provider, we recommend either changing your antivirus or upgrading your firewall.
One of the most crucial factors that dictate a VPN speed is a server location. VPNs allow you to be anonymous and remotely access the internet by relying on their servers, which are spread all over the globe. These servers also provide you with the ability to bypass certain geo-restrictions. But remember, the speed of a VPN is inversely proportional to the distance between your location and the server you connect. Meaning, the further your VPN server is, the poorer your speed will be. That happens because of a phenomenon known as latency.
Latency is the amount of time data take to travel from one point to another. So the farther the server, the poorer the speed. However, fun fact! Latency doesn’t affect your streaming quality. So why does it matter? If you use your VPN for games, you will be bothered by latency. Otherwise, the delay is in fractions of a second that no one will notice. We never recommend using a long-distance server. Data travels in the form of packets, and it can get intercepted at every turn. Thus, by using a long-distance server, you are risking your speed and security.
The next factor that can make a connection do or die is the throughput. Every server has a limited bandwidth output. Meaning, every server has a fixed amount of data it can handle. If the server is crowded or numerous people connect to a particular server, the server will undergo a severe shortage. By overloading a server, you can expend its bandwidth, which will result in poorer speed. Ergo, always choose a less crowded server for your VPN connection.
Good VPN employs decent algorithms that can effortlessly route the traffic over the internet. Poorer server infrastructure can mess this up and cause overhead, resulting in slower speeds. Therefore, always opt for veteran providers known for their server management.
CPU/RAM dictates the computational abilities of a device. Be it a client or a server, physical or virtual, a computer’s operation depends on the strength of the CPU/RAM. A weaker one will cause unnecessary delay. Always use the latest processors (you can afford, obviously) for your priority activities.
A wired connection is faster than a wireless one. Therefore, either switch to a 5 GHz frequency Wi-Fi or use Ethernet if you want decent speed. Although you can typically connect 5 to 7 devices (even unlimited with some VPN services) to a VPN, run some tests to find an optimal number of maximum simultaneous devices in your case.
How to find the fastest VPN server?
There are a few tips and tricks you can apply to improve your VPN speed. However, to find the fastest server, using the auto-connect feature on your VPN application is the most helpful. A VPN server that is not too far from your location while having a throughput below the average can be your most ideal selection. Still, try these steps below to find the fastest VPN servers.
Check if you are a victim of ISP throttling
After using a VPN, if you experience an increase in your internet speed, chances are you are a victim of ISP throttling. Some ISP intentionally throttles your bandwidth to limit your online activity. There are various reasons for this practice but for now, remember that ISP throttling can inter admittedly affect your VPN speed.
You can try talking to your ISP or changing your provider. Doing so can restore your internet connectivity and further aid your VPN speed increase. Also, look into your network cables and ensure their maximum bandwidth is well over your maximum assigned Internet speed.
Use the auto-connect features of your VPN
Every leading VPN provider implements the feature of Auto-connect into their clients. Why? To aid users with automatically finding a suitable connection. Most VPNs have thousands of servers, making it somewhat hard to manually comb through to look for a server with a light load and close-by location. In that case, users can rely on the auto-connect to find a suitable one. Auto-connect relies on the server location and load to determine which one can be the best for you.
Change your server location
You can also manually change the location of the server you connect. Most VPNs provide a list of available VPN servers (in the thousands). For quick and simple results, choose a server located physically close to you. Alternatively, go for a server that isn’t as popular as the rest, leaving it less crowded.
The choice depends on your application of VPN. If you are a hardcore gamer who uses VPNs to play online games, we recommend using a server that is located near you. The distance between the client and the server affects the latency. The longer the displacement, the larger the latency, and the slower the speed. Thus, if you use a server with latency issues, your game will experience lagging, albeit in milliseconds. Sadly, that can lead to FPS drops due to disbalance between network and hardware.
On the other hand, if you do not care for latency, always go for a less popular server. Remember, the more popular a server tends to be, the more crowded it will get. And with the increase in people that connect to it, the bandwidth reserve will decrease. So it is better to use a father but less crowded server if your online activity relies on bandwidth.
Troubleshoot your network
Sometimes the problem may lie with the connection. First, try to unwire everything before bringing it back. You can also try to troubleshoot or restart your
- Device — check if your software and hardware are up-to-date.
- Modem — Restart your modem and connect the device directly to it if the speed doesn’t improve.
- Router — If you use the older 2.4 GHz routers, maybe it’s time you get a new one? To achieve optimum speed at short distances, always use a 5 GHz router.
Change protocols to PPTP, L2TP, or WireGuard
As mentioned above, protocols can affect your VPN connectivity. Some protocols are wired for security, while others are superb for speed. However, this isn’t necessarily deliberate. Take PPTP, for example. It is a lightweight protocol that is infamous for having severe vulnerabilities. However, people still use it for streaming. Why? This oldest protocol comes with the lightest security feature; Which makes it is the best option for a speedy connection.
Another is L2TP. Although it doesn’t have weaker encryption like PPTP, it is developed exclusively for mobile use. As such, it is much faster than the rest. If your quest to find the VPN servers with the best speed and already tried to use WireGuard, you are doing something wrong. This open-source protocol is the sublime blend between security and speed, making it the number one choice for many.
Use a wired connection and try to upgrade your internet speed
If you can’t use a 5 GHz router for your wireless activities, use a wired connection. Ethernet is always faster than Wi-Fi. Another thing to consider is upgrading your data package. You can contact your ISP for an increase in your internet speed. Finally, consider switching your ISP if they’re unsuitable.
If all else fails, change your VPN
If everything mentioned above fails, it’s high time we realize and accept the truth. It’s time to change your VPN provider. Maybe the problem lies with the service, and who knows? Other than replacing your provider, there isn’t anything else left to do. Maybe it will be easier to find the fastest VPN server that way.