Virtual Private Networks have two primary purposes. First, a VPN can be used to remotely access a private network. Second, it can be used to route your traffic through a private network for the purpose of concealing your identity and location as you go about your online activities.
In this article, we focus on the latter. Read our reviews on the best logless VPN providers if your main reason for using a VPN is to keep your online activity private.
Depending on the VPN service you’re using, the connection can, at times, be choppy. Networking is no simple task, meaning there will likely be a lot of times when you experience some issues. Among the most common problems that VPN users run into are slow connection speeds. Here are some useful tips to help you improve the speed in case your VPN connection becomes slow.
Choose a different server location
Among all the potential solutions for improving the speed of your connection, this is the most obvious, because it involves the actual mechanics of how VPNs work.
Let’s consider a case in which you’re using a VPN to circumvent certain issues related to routing that affect the ping rate while you are playing an online multiplayer game. Changing the VPN server you’re using alters how your data moves on the Internet, and helps you avoid problems such as network outages affecting certain servers.
For instance, let’s say you’re playing the online game from New York and you’re accessing a gaming website that has a server in the same city. Typically, your data takes the fastest path to the server and follows the fastest path to return to your device, resulting in a 20-millisecond latency.
Now, suppose you’re playing the game using a VPN based somewhere in Europe. In this case, your data will travel to Europe, back to New York, back to Europe again, then back to your device. The additional distance that the data travels results in a 250-millisecond latency.
Therefore, you can improve the speed of your VPN connection by selecting the VPN server that is closest to your final destination. However, keep in mind that this method is only relevant for browsing activities that are affected by the latency of the connection.
Choose a different type of encryption
VPN services employ a variety of security protocols to encrypt the data and allow you to tunnel through them. Needless to say, the types of protocols used vary from one provider to another. However, well-established providers support most of the standard protocols.
By definition, encryption expends a sizable portion of computational resources. Bear in mind that the VPN encrypts every single bit of data that exits on your device and decrypts all the data that comes back. The more powerful a certain encryption technology, the more resources it requires to make the computations.
Therefore, if the processor on your device does not have the adequate capacity to handle a particular level of encryption computations, it is likely to become a bottleneck in the network. That means that even if your ISP offers you a bandwidth of 100 Mbps, your connection will still be slow if you’re using encryption so powerful that your device can only manage to process data at 10 Mbps.
In theory, the hierarchy of VPN protocols in terms of speed from slowest to fastest is IKEv2/IPSec > SSTP > OpenVPN > L2tp/IPSec > PPTP. If the device you’re using to access the Internet lacks adequate computation power, step down from these protocols one at a time until you find one with satisfactory connection speeds.
Keep in mind that this method is applicable if security is not your top priority for your online activities. It is, therefore, a suitable method of improving your connection speeds if you’re using the VPN to access Geo-restricted content from a streaming service, for example.
Set up the VPN on an individual device, not on your router
There are two ways in which you can set up a VPN. You can either set it up on your router, or you can set it up on a particular device, such as your smartphone, tablet, desktop, or gaming console. For better VPN connection speeds, you’re better off setting your VPN on the individual device that you’re using.
To make routers more affordable, manufacturers of these devices design them in such a way that they don’t require the latest CPU technology to function. As a result, even last year’s smartphones have faster processors than most of the latest routers. This means that routers generally have a lower capacity for handling high-level VPN encryptions.
Furthermore, even in a case where you have a router with a processing capacity matching that of the latest smartphone, for instance, you still need to keep in mind that it’s only one router handling the encryption/decryption of the data for a number of devices on the network. That’s a huge computational load.
Give both UDP and TCP a try
UDP is generally faster than TCP because once the latter creates a connection between two points, such as your device and the website you’re visiting, it needs to constantly confirm that all the data has been received at both destinations. In contrast, UDP just transmits the data onto the Internet and doesn’t bother to confirm that it arrived at its destination.
The additional work done by TCP makes it considerably slower, because numerous acknowledgments need to be made between the senders and receivers of data. It is, therefore, a better idea to use VPN over UDP to achieve good speeds. Go to your VPN settings to see if there is an option for manual switching, which varies with different providers.
Moreover, your ISP might detect your TCP traffic and throttle it over the VPN. In reality, this occurs more often than you might imagine because most users use a VPN to torrent or stream content, both of which employ TCP. Note that while switching to UDP may improve the speed of your connection, it may also make it more unstable.
Use top VPN providers and ISPs to get speedy, high-quality services
Ultimately, your VPN can’t improve the speed of your connection beyond the level which your ISP offers. If poor quality Internet is the reason why your VPN is slow, then the only option available to you is either to upgrade your Internet package to a better plan from your ISP or to use an ISP that offers better quality Internet broadband services.
In some cases, it might be helpful to switch from Wi-Fi to a wired Internet connection. Also, note that free VPN might throttle your connection speed, so avoid those.