You have your VPN connected, you’re all snuggled up on the couch during lockdown and starting to watch the next episode of your favourite show. Then, without warning, your screen starts buffering and the perpetual 'wheel of death' appears in the centre of your screen and the picture freezes. Has this happened to you? If you’re using a VPN to watch geo-blocked streaming content, this is not something you want to happen.
What VPN Speed do I need?
There are many myths surrounding VPN speed required for certain services and many people use 'IPTV Services' that are run privately. These tend to have little or no bandwidth. These services work OK until there is demand, such as a live football game, when they will buffer and the stream will breakup regardless of VPN speed.
In general, VPN speeds of 10-12 Mbps are fine for normal web surfing and video streaming. Gamers, who tend to demand more data in real time, usually want to achieve 30 or 40 Mbps, and there are those that want to see big numbers around 100 Mbps which are more than achievable; in tests we achieve these 100Mbps speeds on our 'high end' Guardian Security App Routers.
Are you caught between a rock and a hard place; you need to use a VPN to enable geo-blocked content but because of the VPN encryption, it seems you have little choice but to trade your internet speed for the ability to unlock the geo-blocked content and benefit from the online security provided by the VPN - or do you?
Can a VPN actually make your internet faster?
Before you get too excited let me say, if you have a good Hardware, Network and ISP, that due to the overheads of the encryption of a VPN, a VPN will slow down your connection BUT in some cases it can speed up your connection.
How? This is due to the fact that many ISPs practice bandwidth throttling and shaping; this is when your ISP slows your connection, and that of other users connected to their service on the same node as you, as their system has become crowded and they are struggling to provide bandwidth to all the users.
With more and more on-line gamers and TV streaming services, many ISPs can not provide the bandwidth 'advertised' to all the uses at the same time so they monitor the traffic and throttle certain traffic types to allow more bandwidth to their other uses. Companies such as Netflix pay ISPs not to throttle their traffic. This allows customers who stream Netflix to escape the throttling whilst other customers are throttled. This is fast becoming an issue as more and more streaming services become available online.
If you connect via a VPN your ISP can not monitor your traffic as the VPN will not allow them to do so. This means, if you were be throttled by your ISP, they will no longer be able to do so and hence your speed will increase. If your ISP advertises 50mbps and you find you get 25>30mbps at peak times chances are you are being throttled.
You need to use OpenVPN protocol to defeat ISP throttling as other protocols such as L2TP and PPTP can be seen by the ISP and will be throttled.
Our Guardian Security App, ExpressVPN Routers and Mini PnP VPN Routers all use the OpenVPN protocol regardless of VPN Provider and work with all the best providers such as Surfshark, Nord, IPVanish, Express, privateinternetaccess, Pure and Cyberghost
So how can I increase my VPN speed?
There are three main things to consider when selecting a VPN server to connect to. packet loss - the further your data travels the more packets are lost and slower your connection, number of networks to pass traffic - if your traffic passes through several networks your connection will slow, and bandwidth limitations - there are limits on the quality of data cables and server bandwidth in some countries and too much traffic on these will slow your connection.
In general, always connect to a VPN server location closest to your actual location. If you live in the UK then select a UK server and ideally the closest one to your location. If you need to connect to the USA to spoof your real location and unblock content then pick a USA server that is closest to your real location; New York is nearly 3000 miles closer to the UK than San Francisco or Los Angeles - if in doubt use an online map to find the closest!
Change Your Protocol Settings. As mentioned above don't use L2TP or PPTP VPN if you want to avoid ISP throttling. Use OpenVPN, as used on all of our routers. OpenVPN has 2 different protocols which are used by all the top VPN providers. Our routers allow you to select either of these protocols. The protocols are TCP Transmission Control Protocol and UDP User Datagram Protocol. TCP does error checking and recovery but is, by default, slower than UDP as it adds overheads to the VPN tunnel. UDP is 'connectionless' and assumes error checking and recovery is not required. TCP is a more stable protocol so if your VPN keeps dropping try TCP.
So after reading that TCP is slower you would assume to get best VPN speed use UDP? Well in theory yes but in practice, maybe not! Why? well most people will hit google or their VPN providers website and will find it says 'UDP is quicker' and they will all connect to the UDP. This overloads the UDP servers and slows your connection.
I'm confused now, what protocol do I need to use? The savvy user will try both TCP and UDP servers. They will also try servers that aren't in main cities as people assume if their closest server is London then London will be fastest. Look for other close servers that aren't the obvious choice as these main ones are often overcrowded. One particular provider has a server in London, London is the closest server to my location but it always tends to be slow. The same provider also has a server in Amsterdam, this is almost 300 miles away but it is often a good 10 > 15mbps faster on TCP than the London one on either protocol.
It always pays to test a few servers and protocols before settling on one, then don't play around, just leave it connected and it will become stable and reliable.
So you have tried all of this and your VPN is still slow?
Restart your devices
Turn off any devices hogging the bandwidth on your network
Always invest in the best hardware and don't use cheap, slow WiFi extenders or Powerlines
Use quality full copper Ethernet cables If an Ethernet cable is described as CCA then avoid it. CCA is the abbreviation for Copper Coated Aluminium which is a cheap and inferior alternative to full copper and will restrict bandwidth.
When connecting via WiFi always connect to the 5GHZ channel whenever possible as this is faster than 2.4GHZ
Upgrade your Router; If running a VPN from a Router check the CPU speed of the Router. A Router with 1800MHZ CPU will run a three to four times faster than a router with a 800MHZ CPU. Not all Routers are capable of running a VPN using OpenVPN. If your Router is running L2TP or PPTP it will get throttled. If you need more advise on Routers just drop us a line.
When all is said and done, using a VPN will give you security, peace of mind, the ability to unblock content and, in some cases a faster more reliable connection.
Share your VPN experience in the comments below; Have managed to gain more speed through your VPN or found A VPN provider or a server location that is always fast?