How to measure the speed of your VPN connection

Hello, my name is Nicholas Cuts. I am an employee of SwitcherryVPN. My new article is all about your internet speed. You will learn how, why and to what extent VPN affects the speed of data transmission/reception. The article also provides a number of helpful tips to minimize the negative impact of VPNs on your Internet speed. Finally, the article provides step-by-step instructions that will help you accurately measure the speed of your Internet connection, both with and without a VPN.

Why VPNs can lower your Internet connection speed

A VPN provides anonymity, privacy and security but the price comes in the form of a slight decrease in Internet speed. The reason for this is obvious: VPN users do not access the Internet directly but through a VPN server. A secure VPN connection is formed by creating a VPN tunnel between the client’s device and the VPN provider’s server. In other words, all the user’s Internet traffic must first pass through the VPN server. Also, a certain amount of time is spent encrypting/decrypting traffic. All these factors cannot but have a negative impact on the speed of data reception/transmission.

Internet speed may depend on the vpn connection
Internet speed may depend on the vpn connection

Factors that affect the VPN connection speed

Data transfer speed depends on many elements with VPNs not always being the main reason your Internet is slow. Here are the main factors that affect your Internet speed:

  • The home hardware. If your modem/router is able to transmit a maximum of 20 Mbps per second, then this will be your maximum speed. The speed also significantly depends on how many people are using the router at the same time – if other members of your family want to watch YouTube videos on their computers or start downloading files from torrents, then the data transmission/reception speed for each individual device connected to the router will naturally drop;
  • The initial Internet connection speed. Your Internet speed has an upper limit in the form of whatever top speed your Internet provider can, well, provide. Moreover, the average speed of your Internet connection is likely to be much lower than the maximum speed promised by your ISP, especially during peak hours, when lots of users go online simultaneously, which leads to overloads and the Internet provider’s servers slowing down;
  • The distance to the VPN server. The further the VPN server is from the user, the more its Internet speed decreases (all other things being equal). And this is not surprising – after all, the greater the distance, the larger the chain of servers/routers that the signal must pass through and, accordingly, the longer the response delay (ping) grows;
  • The VPN server’s power and bandwidth. Establishing and maintaining a VPN tunnel requires significant computing power. Outdated, low-speed servers are poorly suited to work with modern cryptographic protocols. Besides that, if the server has a low bandwidth, then it will fail to cope with transferring large volumes of data and during peak hours for users connected to such a server, the Internet speed will inevitably drop;
  • The used cryptographic protocol. Internet speed can be affected by the type of encryption protocol used. As stated in the previous point, modern secure cryptographic protocols require a powerful, high-speed server. If your VPN provider’s equipment isn’t up-to-date enough, you can try using the less secure 128-bit encryption used in L2TP and PPTP protocols instead of the 256-bit one (if possible). In this case, the data transfer speed may increase significantly, but the security and privacy of the VPN connection will be significantly reduced;
  • The VPN server’s load. If the VPN provider has few servers and many clients, that can cause overloads of individual VPN servers during peak hours. Clients connected to “overpopulated” VPN servers will experience dramatic drops in Internet speed. In this case, you can sometimes try to restore speed by changing your geolocation and connecting to another, less loaded server.

What’s more important – speed or safety?

Of course, safety always comes first. However, in some cases, when speed comes to the fore, it is quite acceptable to slightly lower the level of protection without compromising safety too much.

Internet speed is critical when you:

  • are streaming videos or watching live broadcasts;
  • are playing multiplayer games;
  • are using the Internet for voice and video communication (Skype and other audio/video messengers);
  • are downloading large files from torrents or file servers.

For the first two points, you can sacrifice safety in order to achieve maximum speed. But you need security for torrents, read about it here. Also you can check how secure your VPN is with our instructions.

Not all vpn services are equally secure
Not all vpn services are equally secure

What parameters need to be considered when measuring Internet speed

The overall speed of the Internet depends on three components:

  • ping (delay time);
  • download speed;
  • upload speed.

Ping (delay time)

The delay time is the time it takes to get a response from the server. The delay time mainly depends on the physical distance between the user’s computer and the server. The closer the server is to you, the smaller your ping. Response speed is important primarily for people playing online multiplayer games.

The speed of receiving data from the server (download speed)

Most ordinary users judge their Internet speed by their download speed (essentially merging these two terms). The higher the speed of receiving data from the server, the faster you can surf the web and download files from torrents and file servers. This parameter becomes crucial when a person streams content. Only by having a high speed of receiving data from the server can you watch videos online and in high quality. For example, to smoothly stream HD content (720p), you need a speed of at least 5 Mbps, and for Ultra HD videos (1080p) – no less than 25 Mbps.

The speed of uploading data to the server (upload speed)

The data transfer rate is always lower than the receive rate. The reason – limits set into play by ISPs, who try to decrease the loads on their servers.

High-speed data transfer is critical for users who host online broadcasts in real time or those who communicate using online audio and video services and file exchanges.

Measuring Internet speed and studying the impact of VPNs on data transfer speed

The following is a detailed instruction which you can easily and accurately use to measure your connection speed.

There are several ways to measure your Internet speed:

  • by using a counter built into your modem or router;
  • by using special software;
  • by using specialized websites.

The simplest and most affordable way of the three is the last one. There are dozens of websites that let you test your Internet speed for free. Here are the most popular choices: Speedtest.net, TestMy.net, Fast.com, Speedof.me, InternetHealthTest.org, SpeedTestXfinity.com, SpeedSmart.net, Speedcheck.org, OpenSpeedTest.com, SpeakEasySpeedtest. But we highly recommend checking your internet speed with our own free switcherry-vpn.com/speed-test service. Please note that the test result may be different for each service, since the distance between you and the server on which the selected site is located affects the Internet speed.

Preparing for the test

To get an accurate result, you must do the following before the test:

  • close all programs that have Internet access (online games, downloaders, torrent clients, email applications, etc.). Only your primary browser should be open;
  • also stop all background processes that are allowed to access the Internet – these can be, for example, various services that automatically update the operating system, programs, antiviruses;
  • if you access the Internet through a router, make sure that other devices connected to the router are turned off, or, even better, just connect to the Internet directly;
  • since you will first be measuring your Internet speed without a VPN, your VPN client must be closed as well. (If your VPN is installed on a router, then temporarily disable it in the settings.)

Internet speed is measured twice – first without the VPN, then with it.

Testing progress

Go to this webpage switcherry-vpn.com/speed-test (the VPN must be switched off!).

Click the Go! icon in the center of the screen and give the test results a few seconds to load:

Record your results for the following parameters: Ping, Download Speed, and Upload Speed. Please note that in addition to the above parameters, you will find the vibration value (jitter). In our case, vibration refers to how much the Ping value changes over multiple measurements. For example, if the Ping test was performed twice with the results being 20 and 21 milliseconds, respectively, then the vibration will be equal to 1 millisecond.

Checking speed with Switcherry
Checking speed with Switcherry

Start the VPN client, connect to the VPN and test again and record the test results. To check and compare the obtained test results, you can additionally go to any other service that measures Internet speed, for example, Speedtest.net:

Speedtest service
Speedtest service

Click the Go! icon in the center of the screen and wait for the test results:

Test results
Test results

Record these parameters – Ping, Download Speed and Upload Speed.

Now launch your VPN client (if you have a VPN on your router, then set up the router to work with the VPN) and connect to the VPN server. Retest the speed and record the new results for Ping, Download Speed, and Upload Speed.

Evaluating the results

Evaluate the test result using the following formulas:

  • for the Ping: Delay time without a VPN/ Delay time with a VPN*100%;
  • for the Upload and Download Speed: Speed with a VPN/Speed without a VPN*100%.

Let’s say the reception speed without the VPN was 30 Mbps., and with it – only 28 Mbps. Then, using the second formula we get 28/30*100=93,33%. So the speed with the VPN, compared to the speed without a VPN, decreased by less than 7 percent.

If the VPN slows down your Internet speed by less than 10 percent, that’s a great result. The speed dropping for no more than 30% isn’t critical. But if it drops for more than that, try changing the VPN server and do the test again. If changing the VPN server didn’t increase the speed, then you might want to consider switching to a different VPN provider.

The latency time (Ping) is calculated the same way. Please note that the latency can increase several times if the VPN server you choose is located on a different continent.

Advantages of SwitcherryVPN

SwitcherryVPN guarantees its customers security and privacy while maintaining the highest possible connection speed. Our main advantages:

  • the company has over 6,000 servers scattered around the world. You can easily find a server in the country and region you need;
  • powerful modern servers with wide bandwidth provide our customers with high-speed Internet access at any time of the day;
  • even on free plans, our clients have safe and fast Internet access;
  • our software is easy to set up to run at the fastest speed possible. To get the fastest connection speed, after launching the VPN client, simply click the “Fastest Mode” button, and the program will automatically connect you to the least loaded VPN server closest to you.

FAQ

1. Does the VPN affect my Internet speed?

1. Does the VPN affect my Internet speed?

Yes, VPN always (except for the case described in the last Q&A) to some extent increases your ping and reduces the data transmission/reception speed.

2. What effect do encryption protocols have on data transfer rates?

2. What effect do encryption protocols have on data transfer rates?

The more secure the encryption protocol, the longer it takes for the VPN server to process (encrypt and decrypt) the data. However, if the VPN provider has modern, powerful, high-speed servers, then the time spent on encryption is minimized.

3. What should I do to reduce the impact of the VPN on my Internet connection speed?

3. What should I do to reduce the impact of the VPN on my Internet connection speed?

To do this, you need to follow these simple rules:

  • only choose VPN providers with modern, powerful, high-speed servers. Also remember that the more servers a VPN provider has, the less the load on each individual server and, therefore, the higher the Internet speed;
  • connect to the closest (geographically) VPN server to you. But remember that sometimes (during peak hours) the server closest to you can be the most overloaded. In this case, you can try to connect to a more remote, but less congested server;
  • if possible, choose the least loaded server. (However, if your VPN provider has the correct software, then you will be connected to the server closest to you and the least loaded one automatically);
  • if data transfer speed is more important to you than security, for example, when streaming content, then change the encryption protocol (if possible). In other words, instead of a resource-intensive protocol using 256-bit encryption, such as OpenVPN, use the simpler but less secure L2TP or PPTP cryptographic protocols.

4. Can a VPN increase my internet speed?

4. Can a VPN increase my internet speed?

As strange as it may seem, in some cases a VPN can significantly increase the speed of your Internet. The reason for this paradox is as follows. Some ISPs set restrictions regarding the data transfer/reception rate for their customers. But if the ISP’s server has outdated software, then VPN tunneling allows you to bypass these limitations, since the old server software takes into account and limits the data transfer rate going only through TCP/IP and UDP protocols and is not able to control the traffic passing through encrypted VPN connection.

Author: Nicolas Cuts

Product Managers at SwitcherryVPN. Have 5 years background in management and marketing. I never stop learning!

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