Many people use a VPN to both secure their digital lives and open up parts of the internet that may have been barred to them. But whatever their goal is, internet speed is critical to their effort. That’s why a VPN that slows down their connection and brings out buffering icons can be a dealbreaker. That’s why it makes sense to run a VPN speed test before you commit. How do you do it? And what factors are essential when assessing the results? This article covers it all!
Before the speed test: Factors to consider
Before we jump into testing your VPN speed, let’s review the elements that have a direct impact on your connection speed:
Factor #1: Your internet speed.
Sometimes it might seem that a VPN is responsible for the slow down when, in reality, your internet connection wasn’t impressive in the first place. So, be sure to test out the performance without a VPN as well.
Factor #2: Distance to server locations.
The best speeds always come from VPN servers near you – or even in the same country. But if you live in the UK and connect to a VPN server in Australia, a drop in speed is to be expected. The further away you are, the longer it can take to connect to the server.
Factor #3: VPN server hardware.
Your internet speed can slow down if you’re connected to an overcrowded VPN server. High server loads are more likely when you connect to a popular VPN server location like the US or the UK.
Choosing a good VPN provider 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.
Factor #4: VPN encryption.
Why does a VPN affect internet speed at all? One of the answers is encryption. When you’re using a VPN to access a website or service, a VPN has to encrypt your data to keep it safe from onlookers and then decrypt, so it doesn’t look gibberish to you.
Encryption overhead is the term for the part of your bandwidth used to transmit data that serves encryption and decryption purposes. Strong encryption algorithms can result in slightly lower speeds, but keep in mind that the change in speed is minimal. This is especially true when we’re talking about premium VPN services that invest a lot of money in building fast and secure VPN infrastructure.
Factor #5: 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 Wireguard, IKEv2, OpenVPN UDP and OpenVPN TCP.
Factor #6: Time of the day.
This might seem unusual, but the time of the day does impact VPN speeds as different numbers of internet connections are established. 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 should 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 a VPN and then use the same tool to test it with a VPN. If you’re not sure what is considered 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.
3 steps to test VPN speed:
Step 1. Close programs and applications that require a lot of bandwidth (streaming sites, Youtube, torrents, etc.)
Step 2. 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.
Step 3. 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 the Windows app settings.
Follow these steps to run the test:
Step 1. Disconnect from the VPN. You can only use this feature when a VPN is disconnected!
Step 2. Go to Settings on your Windows Surfshark app.
Step 3. Go to Advanced and click Speed test.
Step 4. Click Run Test.
Step 5. After the test is done running, you’ll find all the information regarding any server from Surfshark’s server list. You’ll see the download and upload speeds, as well as latency.
How to read VPN speed test results
The internet speed test results may not always be easy to read – that’s why we prepared some explanations.
Download speed – the higher, the better
When checking VPN speed results, you should pay the most attention to the download speeds. A higher number indicates faster internet speed for casual browsing, downloading, and streaming. Upload speed mostly matters if you’re the one sharing files or uploading content.
Surfshark does not encourage using a VPN in ways that would potentially violate the Terms of Service of other service providers.
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.
Get a fast VPN for your needs
A VPN speed test will allow you to choose the best VPN service for your individual needs. Don’t forget about the factors that ultimately impact speed results, like VPN server location or your usual internet connection speed. If you need more tips, read this article on boosting VPN speed. Or just skip all the busy work and just get Surfshark VPN, where speed is all but guaranteed!