A lot of people use a VPN for streaming sports, movies, videos, TV shows, etc. And that’s where the internet speed is critical. A slight drop in speed, and you’re stuck with a loading icon.
A VPN that slows down the internet can be a dealbreaker for the majority of users. That’s why, before committing to a VPN long-term, you should test it out. But how to test VPN speed? And what factors are essential when assessing it?
In this article, I’ll provide you with the answers.
Before the speed test: Factors to consider
A VPN consists of many components that affect internet speed and overall performance. Some factors aren’t even determined by a VPN. So, before jumping into testing VPN speed, let’s review the elements that have a direct impact on slower/faster internet connections.
- Your internet speed. Sometimes it might seem that a VPN is responsible for the slow down when, in reality, the internet’s speed wasn’t impressive in the first place. So, be sure to test out the performance without a VPN as well.
- Distance to server locations. The best speeds always come from nearby servers. If you live in the UK and connect to a VPN server in Australia, a drop in speed is normal. The longer a request has to travel, the longer it can take to connect to the server and back to your device.
- VPN server hardware. Your internet speed can slow down if you’re connected to an overcrowded VPN server. This problem is the most prominent in popular locations, such as the US or the UK. Choosing a fast VPN, like Surfshark, will guarantee servers with no less than 1Gbps port connected. For servers with higher bandwidth (the US and the UK), the number increases to 2x10Gbps. The higher the number, the faster the connection. It means that such tasks as streaming videos and downloading files don’t suffer from lagging and buffering.
- VPN encryption. Why does a VPN affect internet speed at all? The answer is encryption. When you connect to a VPN server and then go to any website, a VPN has to encrypt your data to keep it safe from onlookers, and then decrypt it doesn’t look gibberish to you. Robust encryption algorithms can result in slightly lower speeds. Keep in mind, though, that the change in speed is usually minimal when we’re talking about premium VPNs that invest a lot of money in building fast and secure VPN infrastructure.
- VPN protocols. Not all VPN protocols were created equal. Some offer better speeds (e.g., OpenVPN UDP), while others are more stable (e.g., OpenVPN TCP). Some top VPN providers allow users to tinker with protocol settings. With Surfshark, for example, you can choose between IKEv2, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, and Shadowsocks.
- Time of the day. This might seem unusual, but the time of the day does impact faster or slower connections. This point is closely related to the server overload I touched on before in this article. Then again, as I said, top VPN providers that invest in proper VPN hardware understand this problem and solve it by increasing bandwidth.
Now that you’ve learned about factors affecting VPN speed let’s see how to test it out.
How to run a VPN speed test
Important to remember: You’ll have to test your internet speed two times. First, without a VPN, and then with a VPN. The goal is to find out how much your VPN impacts internet speed.
Testing internet speed without a VPN
By assessing your internet speed without a VPN, you’ll be able to compare the results fairly. I suggest using a speed testing tool (e.g., speedtest.net) to test the speed without VPN, and then use the same tool to test it with a VPN. If you’re not sure what is considered a good speed, I suggest looking up average internet speeds by country.
Testing internet speed with a VPN
After you’ve tested your regular internet speed, turn on a VPN, and rerun the test. Some VPNs have built-in speed testing features (Surfshark has a built-in speed test on the Windows app), but in most cases, internet speed testing websites or apps will do the job. Run a speed test throughout multiple platforms for even more accurate results.
This is how to test VPN speed:
- Close programs and applications that require a lot of bandwidth (streaming sites, Youtube, torrents, etc.)
- Open an internet speed testing tool:
– speedtest.net is the most commonly used speed testing website.
– fast.com is an internet speed test created by Netflix.
- Click Go, and the calculations will begin automatically.
Testing VPN speed with Surfshark’s VPN speed test
For now, the Surfshark VPN speed test is only available on the Windows VPN app. You can find the test in Windows app settings.
Follow these steps to run the test:
1. Disconnect from the VPN. You can only use this feature when a VPN is disconnected!
2. Go to Settings on your Windows Surfshark app.
3. Go to Advanced and click the Speed test.
4. Click Run test.
5. After the test is done running, you’ll find all the information regarding any server from Surfshark’s server list. You’ll see download and upload speeds, as well as latency.
How to read VPN speed test results
Download speed – the higher, the better
When checking VPN speed results, you should pay the most attention to the download speed. A higher number indicates faster internet speed for casual browsing, downloading, and streaming.
Latency – the lower, the better
Simply put, lower latency (or ping time) means better speeds. It’s the amount of time that it takes for a device (computer, phone, etc.) to send a data packet to a VPN server. Think of it this way: it would be a bit strange if the person you’re having a conversation with wouldn’t answer your question right away even though he or she is standing right in front of you.
A VPN speed test will allow you to choose the best VPN for your individual needs. Don’t forget about the factors that ultimately impact speed results. Those are your internet speed without a VPN, distance to server locations, server bandwidth, the time of the day, VPN encryption, and VPN protocols.
If you feel like no matter what you do, a VPN is slowing down your internet connection, I highly suggest you read this article on boosting VPN speed.