Getting a VPN is more common to ensure our privacy and to unblock the geo-restricted web pages. But the VPN speed is also an equally important factor that most people, irrespective of their VPN usage, require it. It is often annoying when our connection becomes slow, or it gets interrupted in the middle of our sessions. Therefore, it is a wiser decision to pick the fastest VPN when we actually need it even for just security. Before we choose a VPN, it is recommended to know the possible factors that influence its speed, and we can select the one which is most optimal for our needs. Taking speed tests is one of the best choices to check its quickness in responses and data transfers. But we should also consider whether such tests incorporates data compression timings.
Things which Influence Connection Speed
Your Internet Service Provider’s Speed (ISP)
The Internet Service Provider mentions the speed of which they offer services to their customers at their marketing campaigns. But this speed limit is just for connection between our system and the ISP server. The VPN speed beyond their servers to connect to the final destinations is not at all in their control. We cannot do much about this issue, and also we should not fall a trap by considering the ISP’s speed as the entire connection speed. Anyhow, VPNs that offer good ISP speed can drastically reduce the overall time latency and improves the quality of connections. As a general rule, ISPs having servers that are located very near to us can offer faster connections. Hence, it is better to go for such ISPs or VPN providers with widespread serves or at least servers near to us.
Bandwidth Throttling by ISP
Most VPNs mention their services as they are unlimited in providing bandwidth and therefore the customers can enjoy speedy network. When we consider the practical scenario, even when the ISP does not put a check on the bandwidth; we still need to face connections slow-downs. They are mainly because of the unexpected firewalls or online regulatory bodies that a VPN connection needs to travel. These checks throttle the VPN speed as most country networks use investigation tools like Deep Packet investigation (DPI). These investigations take the time to go through a series of checks before entering or leaving the country’s web pages. This kind of DPI is more common in countries like the China, Iran, etc. than any other countries where the online regulatory policies are higher. One of the good solutions to the problem is to use a Stealth VPN, which is the best VPN for China. This Stealth VPN hides the actual VPN traffic and makes it look like a normal HTTPS traffic. Therefore, our VPN connection can escape a lot of investigations and can offer higher speeds. We can even perform a speed test with a normal VPN and with a Stealth VPN. Obviously, the Stealth VPN would win the race.
We can even measure the throttle levels that our ISP suffers by certain measuring tools and one among them is M-Labs. The feature mentioned above provides a clear visualization of what is happening behind the actual connections. It is a useful tool for those who wish to know more about how ISP throttling, Deep Packet Investigation, etc. affects our VPN connections and its speeds.
Programs Running in the Background
The bandwidth does not only determine the connection speed that the ISP offers, but also by the programs which run in the background. Suppose we automatically synchronize our mail accounts, or any other applications often with a specified time limit, then it will have an impact on our other downloads or VPN connections. Internet providers speak about their download speeds and not much about their upload speeds. This is because they offer a lesser upload speed than the download speed. If our data upload exceeds a quarter of the upload speed mentioned by the ISP, then it would drastically affect our download, and we would need to wait for the spinning ball icon for that to finish.
Cloud Storage or Online Storage
Also, we should be aware that the online storage or cloud storage takes a considerable time to carry out the process. These storage mechanisms have servers distributed at different geographic locations. Only then they can enable access from anywhere around the globe with the least disturbances. The most important concept behind this online storage is to update every server and to synchronize each time when storage is requested. This again takes time as the request needs to travel at least three servers placed to cover the globe. So, people who use Google Docs, DropBox, Google Drive, Microsoft’s Onedrive, etc should at least stop the storage processes when they carry out the speed test. Otherwise, the results of such tests would not reflect what it is meant for. Obviously, we would doubt the ISP for the slower connections but here the culprit would be the storage mechanisms.
Bit Torrent Clients
When we analyze the widespread use of VPNs, apart from the privacy and security features it offers, people look for torrent services from countries that might have geo-restrictions. Though these Bit Torrents enable our live streaming of audio or video, it has few drawbacks. To view the favorite programs, sometimes people even skip the security measures that a network such as a VPN, etc provides. The Bit Torrent Clients are also known for taking much upload bandwidth and it is a better idea to stop listening to such online services while the test is being carried out. But unfortunately, most people use a torrent VPN especially to use Bit Torrents without knowing the fact it is going to consume much of their connection or testing speeds.
Distance of VPN Server
The data we send through a VPN tunnel is first sent to the VPN server and then to the intended server by masking the real Internet Protocol (IP) address. A VPN provider would definitely have so many servers located around the globe. It is a wise idea to choose the VPN server is very near to us. If suppose we like to connect to the BBC iPlayer, then we should choose the U.K. VPN server that is very nearer to us. This can help in reducing the time taken for the data to travel from our location to the VPN server location. But after that, nothing is in our hands. The rest of the connection should be established as per the server in which the requested web page resides.
It is a good practice to look for the server load before choosing a VPN server. When a VPN server is overloaded with so many data traffic to be handled, then it would result in slowdown of further connections to the appropriate web pages. Luckily, most VPN clients have the option to showcase their server loads for the user to select the one which has a minimal load. This is a useful practice for the VPN providers themselves as it helps in distributing the traffic to other servers as well.
Also, the type of encryption and decryption processes that a VPN performs would affect the connection speeds and the test speeds. So, whenever we try a VPN speed test it is better to choose the one with minimal encryptions in case we are not much worried about the security issues. Otherwise, we should face the consequences of VPN protocols and encryptions in order to ensure the security and the privacy of our data. There is a useful tip for those who use OpenVPN protocol as it runs on both TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) connections. TCP follows error correction mechanisms, and it waits for the further connections to be established until all the packets have arrived. But UDP establishes connections and then sends data packets back and forth. It means that in UDP the connections are not on hold until the entire data arrives. Therefore, UDP is faster in offering connections and it is a wiser decision to choose OpenVPN with UDP while performing such tests.
How to Test VPN Speed?
We have lots of measuring tools to get an idea of how fast our network and connections are. But we cannot simply rely on those results as they never consider all the possible factors that affect the speed. After analyzing which the best suits the scenario, we have presented the below list.
Speedtest.net is known for testing the internet connection bandwidth, with an interactive user interface. It also helps in identifying which internet service providers and mobile networks are the fastest in offering connections. It also provides mobile apps for Android, Windows Phone or iOS and we can easily measure the device’s cellular and wi-fi data connections.
The main drawback with speedtest. net is that it does not take LZO compression into account and which results in deviation of the actual speed level from the original.
We have conducted separate tests for downloads and uploads and in each of them with and without a VPN. The results showed that the upload speeds are not favorable with connections that use a VPN. This is mainly an LZO compression issue, and we need to rely on other testing tools for upload processes. For downloads, the connections with VPN area faster than without VPNs. This is working correctly for download processes. Though it has a few issues when considering compressions, speedtest.net is one of the most widely used measuring tools among people around the globe.
Testmy.net uses broadband speeds to accurately test the speed of our internet connections and it uses HTML5 for its testing purposes. It even has automated tests to monitor our connections continuously. It never uses any third parties to carry out the processes and therefore we can trust the results for sure. Also, it overcomes the problems associated with LZO compression and presents almost better test results.
It does not have as many public servers as speedtest.net to offer minimum distance covered testing servers. Again, the time taken to test is inclusive of this testing server distance, and therefore we can expect a latency in the test results, but actually, it shouldn’t be.
For uploads, connections with VPN are slower than the ones without a VPN. For downloads, connections with VPN are almost equal or slower than the connections without a VPN. The results are inconsistent, and this is mainly due to the distance of the testing server. As a general rule, we can get faster connections when we choose a nearer VPN server. Therefore, we need not pick a testing server which is in proximity.
Speedof.me is also an HTML5 internet speed test measuring tool, and it does not require Flash or Java installed on our systems for its operations. The greatest news is that it is optimized for mobile devices and it works well with iPhone, iPad, etc. Another interesting factor is that Speedofme automatically chooses the testing server based on its stability and not on the proximity. The upload speeds for VPN connections are nearly 37% faster than not using such connections. The download speeds for VPN connections are 65% slower than not using such connections. The results are much consistent except for anomalous upload tests in which the results are three times faster than other upload test results. This is practically not possible, and hence we cannot surely comment on its overall accuracy.
After analyzing a series of testing tools, it is nothing wrong we can still try out a manual test process. Here, we should go back to the olden day procedures of pressing a stopwatch and should look for when to hit it stop! So, we can take a sample file and compress it for best results. The compression helps from escaping LZO compression loses. The next step is to upload and note down the time taken for the upload process. The same should be repeated for the download process.
When we tested with a 100MB test Zip file, for upload, the connections without a VPN are 12% faster than the connections with VPN. Also, for download, the connections without VPN are 22% faster than the connections with VPN. The results look logical although the values are not exact ones as human errors are always possible.
After we consider some of the widely used automated testing tools, it looks that the one-time test is not enough to judge the performance of a network. Though the manual speed tests yield good results, it is not workable in our day-to-day lives. Also, it is recommended to choose a nearer VPN server rather than selecting a nearer testing server. The distance of the testing server has very less impact on the results. Each of the speed as mentioned above measuring tools have its limitations but on the whole Speedofme of consistent when you do not wish to install Java of Flash. Otherwise, Testmy.net works well by overcoming LZO compression issues as well.