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Seven things that slow down your VPN and What You Can Do About Itby@gershwin.aaron
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Seven things that slow down your VPN and What You Can Do About It

by Aaron GershwinDecember 10th, 2019
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VPNs are the #1 go-to software when talking about torrenting (where speed matters a lot) Yet, due to their technicality, some sort of a speed drop is inevitable. Slow speed does not automatically imply a lousy service, — a weak router or wrong local network configuration might as well be the problem. Pick a nearby server that’s not overloaded to get better speeds. Split-Tunneling allows you to list what is sent through VPNs servers and which goes directly through your ISP.

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Those accustomed to Virtual Private Networks probably know what a painful experience is slow connection speed. Paradoxically, VPNs are the #1 go-to software when talking about torrenting (where speed matters a lot), yet, due to their technicality, some sort of a speed drop is inevitable.

The VPN market is exceptionally competitive, and connection speed makes a huge difference when picking a service. However, slow speed does not automatically imply a lousy service, — a weak router or wrong local network configuration might as well be the problem.

Luckily, there are several ways to increase connection speed while using a VPN. In this article, I’ll start with the easiest (and sometimes trivial) and will get a bit technical at the very end. So continue reading and, hopefully, you’ll find something that will help you enhance your online experience.

Server location

Top-notch Virtual Private Networks offer thousands of servers in different locations. This is a necessity if you want to avoid geo-blocking. For example, to reach BBC UK, you need a server in the United Kingdom. And to unlock Spanish or American Netflix libraries you need servers in those countries too. A VPN then reroutes all your traffic through chosen server and grants you an IP address to bypass any geo-blocking along the way.

However, because of this, a slight speed drop is inevitable. After all, you are making one additional step, — instead of sending the traffic straight to its destination, you send it first to the server in question, and only then to the end-point. And if your chosen server is halfway across the world, then it will take some time to travel, thus decreasing your Internet speed significantly.

Unless you need a specific faraway server, there’s no reason to be connected to the distant one. Just choose a server nearby, the encryption will still be there, and your IP address will still be hidden, your privacy and anonymity intact. Also, most VPN providers have a quick-connect option that selects the fastest server automatically, but do not trust it blindly. If you are experiencing slow speed on the recommended server — try changing it, you might be surprised.

An overloaded server

There’s a limited amount of people that can use the same server without interfering with its speeds. That’s another problem with poorly developed quick-connect, it will send lots of users from nearby locations to the same server thus overloading it. Luckily, some VPN service providers (check the image below) show the server loads on their GUIs, thus solving the problem. Pick a nearby server that’s not overloaded to get better speeds.

Picture above is taken from NordVPN windows App, and you can check NordVPN review for a more elaborate speed comparison example.

Other tasks and programs

As mentioned before, slow speed does not always mean a poor VPN service. If you or anybody else on the same network are using a lot of bandwidth (like seeding tons of torrents), then your Internet speed will be low with a VPN or without it. There are several ways to get bandwidth statistics.

Once you have the data in front of you, double-check which processes are eating your bandwidth and turn the unnecessary ones off if possible.

A VPN on a router (or another weak device)

A VPN on a router frequently slows down the Internet connection speed. Although there are significant advantages to setting up a VPN on a router (for example, to use it with devices that are not compatible with VPN software), the drawbacks are there too.

The issue here is that routers don’t have a lot of computational power. And most high-quality VPNs are using sophisticated encryption algorithms that require a lot of it. If you want to set up a VPN on a router without a huge speed drop, you’ll have to invest some money into a new and good router. A quick google search will provide enough information to choose from.

If that’s not an option, consider leaving the router as it is and using a VPN App or browser extension.

Enable Split-Tunneling

Split-tunneling is a handy feature, however, you would need to find a dedicated VPN service provider to get it. From my personal experience, this feature is seldom overlooked. It allows you to list what information is sent through VPNs servers, and which will go directly through ISP.

For example, I want to play League of Legends and torrent a movie at the same time. If I do this without split-tunnelling, then torrents will eat up most of my bandwidth and LOL will experience lag. Unless I white-list it using a split-tunnelling feature, then torrent data flow will go through a VPN server, and LOL will go through ISP, decreasing the chance of interfering with each other.

Changing the protocol

VPNs use different ports and protocols that have different security and encryption configurations. Some are faster (although less secure), and some sacrifice speed for security, depending on your needs.

Most commercial VPN providers allow changing the protocol between TCP and UDP, the latter being faster, consider switching to this protocol if experiencing bad speeds.

Also, VPNs can be set up manually on the most popular OpenVPN protocol or IKEv2; both are known for a good speed-security ratio. Encrypted web traffic is sent through port nr. 443, so if you experience lag double-check whether this port is selected for VPN to use.

Other suggestions and solutions

Some may come as self-explanatory, but from my experience, people do tend to forget the simplest of things first.

If you’re using a Wi-Fi at home double check the speeds without a VPN. If they are low, and if there’s a possibility, plug in the device directly to the router Internet wire. And if they’re still bad maybe it’s time to upgrade the plan to a more powerful one.

Last, but not least, always read the reviews and first-hand opinions of the VPN service provider you’re thinking of subscribing to. Top-notch speed will be advertised on every web-page, so go broader and ask for advice when/if not sure.

Network infrastructure, the quality of servers, and data-flow paths all make an impact when talking about VPN speed. Naturally, some VPNs will have better infrastructure, and faster servers and those are the ones you’re looking for.