Having your connection encrypted and protected by a Virtual Private Network has a small price, which is an impact on speed. That speed loss can be big or small, it depends on some different factors. That's why we wrote this post, to explain why there is a speed reduction and what to do to minimize it.
Let's have a look at the main reasons that cause a reduction in the Internet speed when using a VPN:
Your Normal Connection Speed
This one is the most obvious. The VPN is limited by your normal Internet speed. For example, if you have 100mbps from your Internet Service Provider, the speed of the VPN will never be higher than that.
Distance from the VPN Server
The server location is another important factor. Generally speaking, choosing a VPN server in a country close to you will give you faster speeds. A distant server can increase your latency and slow down your downloads.
It's worth mentioning that this rule has an exception, when VPNs optimize servers for torrenting. In that case, even if those servers are located far away, they will still have a good download speed, but the latency is still high though.
The number of people using the same server will also influence the speed. If 500 people are crowding a server, the speed will be different than if only 10 people were using it. It basically divides the bandwidth of the server through all those users, making it slow.
What modern VPNs usually do is to have several servers per country. That way, users won't be all together on the same server, but spread through many of them. This is one of the biggest disadvantages of cheaper VPNs, they normally have one server per country, making it crowded and slow.
This one is related to the previous topic. When talking about load, it's impossible not to talk about bandwidth, as they are directly connected. The bandwidth of a server is the capacity it has. Servers are different, some have a high bandwidth capacity, and others have a low one. The bandwidth will be divided by the number of users on that server
When we say that a cheap or free VPN has bad servers, the bandwidth is exactly what we mean. A low-grade VPN has a very low bandwidth per server, because it's expensive to have high capacities. That makes the VPN server to reach its limit with just a few users. That's one of the main reasons why VPNs have such different prices.
Encryption and Protocol
Encrypting your connection also consumes some bandwidth and that results in speed loss. In other words, the higher the encryption, the bigger the impact on speed. And since the VPN protocol determines the encryption level, it's important to choose it well. We always recommend using OpenVPN UDP, as it offers the best combination of security and speed.
As you can see, speed is the price to pay in order to be protected and anonymous. The “million dollar question” is how much speed should you have to sacrifice for that encryption. The answer will always be in the quality and reliability of the VPN provider. A decent provider will always provide you with more bandwidth, better encryption, more servers, and a greater VPN connection speed. That being said, you should always avoid low-quality VPNs that make everything slower and less safe.