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Does VPN affect Internet speed?

The acronym VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is used on the one hand as a transport medium for data, and on the other hand to connect various users to a communication network. Users often complain that VPN slows down the speed of the Internet connection. Fact or fiction? A glimpse into the depths of virtual networking.

Anyone who works while on the go, at different company locations or from home needs secure access to the company’s data and documents. For this, a fast Internet connection and encrypted access to the company’s internal network are required. The latter is often achieved by way of a so-called VPN connection.

A VPN, that is to say a virtual private network, serves to connect various users who are located on different physical networks with one another virtually, as if they were on the same network. This gives them access to the data that they are authorised to access. And so anyone who works from home, for example, and has set up VPN access to their employer’s company network, can work as if they were at their desk in the office. They have access to their drives, data and documents. Usually, access is as simple as making a phone call and can be achieved in just a few clicks. VPN establishes an encrypted connection, known as the VPN tunnel. All data traffic and any communication passes through this tunnel, which guarantees data security. Numerous modern operating systems already include components that allow VPN access to be set up relatively simply. Depending on the configuration and security requirements imposed by the company, identification takes place using passwords, public keys or digital certificates. So that the necessary settings are made correctly, it is best to contact an IT manager from your company.

Encryption requires data

A central aspect of the VPN solution is security, which is why good systems have integrated encryption that allows tap-proof and tamper-proof data transmission without a high risk. Encryption with a VPN system works by splitting all data into packets before it is sent and encrypting these. This involves a relatively complex process. After the encryption, each packet is encoded with additional monitoring data. The size of these packets depends on what data size the recipient accepts.
In connection with the topic of security, two further aspects play an important role: the selected VPN protocol and the VPN solution. The most common protocols are IPSec, L2TP PPTP and OpenVPN. Often, L2TP is combined with IPSec to guarantee the highest possible security. OpenVPN is also secure, but is particularly suitable for connections by means of mobile networks. As regards VPN solutions, there are countless possibilities from the well-known providers Cisco and Microsoft, but also free apps. Caution must be exercised regarding the security of the latter, however.

Speed test

The benefits of VPN solutions are uncontested today, but lots of users complain that VPN access considerably reduces their Internet speed. Other users dismiss this as fiction, however. The best thing to do is to test this for yourself now. First carry out the Internet-Speedtest with the VPN connection and then without. If the deviation is less than 15%, experts presume that everything is OK and that other factors may be influencing the browsing speed temporarily. If the deviation is greater than 15%, however, it is worth checking various settings and possibly adjusting these.

Check VPN location

The distance between your own device and the VPN server should not be underestimated in the transmission speed of data. Both the geographical and also the virtual distance is meant here. The Internet consists of millions of individual networks that are connected with one another. It may be the case that two networks that are located in the same town are less well connected than two networks that are located on different continents. This is due to the fact that the data has to be connected via so-called third-party networks when no direct connection is available. This can result in great deviations in the transmission speed. The following basic rule applies, however: the shorter the distance, the faster the connection. Above a certain latency, even the bandwidth of the Internet connection no longer plays a role. So look for a location for your VPN server that is not too far from your employees’ places of work.

Check firewall

Other factors that result in a slow browsing speed are the use of specific security software and the firewall settings. It may be that certain firewall providers do not let through certain VPN connections or permanently check the data, which can slow down the Internet connection.

The user may also be responsible

Much more important and often underestimated, however, are the employees’ streaming activities. This has nothing to do with the VPN connection, but significantly affects the Internet speed. The greater the amount of data that has to pass through a single tunnel, the slower the connection. The same also applies for the number of people that are using a server at the same time: the higher the number, the slower the connection. Ultimately, the Internet speed is always influenced by a combination of bandwidth, data volume and number of users.

Jens Jahn

Product Marketing Manager B2B

Business Clients Private Customers