With privacy, security and keeping our data safe an ever-growing concern in a digital world, you may or may not have heard of a VPN. And you might be wondering, does a VPN slow down Internet and "how does VPN affect internet speed?". It's a reasonable question. While we all want to keep our data as secure as possible, if the trade-off is to slow your internet down to the point where it becomes impractical, can that really be considered a solution?
We'll endeavour to answer the question of exactly what impact a VPN has on internet speeds. And if you've never encountered a VPN before, we'll let you know what a VPN is, how it works, and how it might benefit you.
What is a VPN?
A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Without making things too complicated, a VPN essentially provides you with additional privacy and anonymity. VPNs work by masking your IP address. When you use an open network, your data could potentially be intercepted by other users of that network.
A VPN works by creating a link between your local network, and another location, potentially in another country, or even another continent. It makes you seem as if you are somewhere else entirely. VPNs also scramble the data you send, making it unreadable to third parties.
A VPN will also hide your internet browsing history, your location, you can access streaming services from other countries that you may not have access to in your local area. It also makes life more difficult for hackers, who may want to access your data. And it isn't just for governments agencies. Even us mere mortals can benefit from the greater layers of protection it offers. If you're concerned about someone being able to access your online banking passwords, for example, or emails, then a VPN may be worth exploring.
But if you did decide to use a VPN, what impact might it have on your internet speed? Is it going to be a problem? Let's see.
How Does VPN Affect Internet Speed?
Let's start with a simple discussion of the journey your data takes when using a VPN. Rather than going straight from point A to point B, your data will travel via an encrypted 'tunnel' to your VPN provider, Point C. It will then be sent from Point C to Point B. So there are additional steps in the journey. Data has to travel through more servers, and the data is also encrypted and then decrypted when it reaches its final destination.
So yes, a VPN does affect internet speed. But before you decide that having a VPN just isn't going to work, it isn't as binary as saying a VPN slows down your internet. We'll explain.
Yes, in some cases, a VPN will slow down your internet speed. But if you are using a good VPN, the difference will usually be negligible. Almost impossible for you to notice. Even more confusingly, some VPN providers will provide a smart network. This will work out what the best server to use is, based on giving you the fastest speeds possible. So it may connect you to somewhere relatively nearby, or somewhere where the traffic is particularly low. VPN speed can also be dictated by the level of encryption you are using. Top-level encryption takes longer than slightly less-secure encryption, so that can also make a difference.
Does a VPN slow down Internet?
And finally, a couple of other factors to bear in mind: sometimes, your ISP will throttle your internet speeds, for example, if you are online at peak time. A VPN can circumvent this, and speed things up for you. And there can also be a difference between paying for a VPN and using a free one. A free VPN may limit the servers you have access to, saving the others for their paying customers. So a paid service should (in theory at least) give you a faster experience than a free one will.