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Why Does My VPN Feel Slower Than a Dial-Up Modem? (And How to Fix It!)

Why Does My VPN Feel Slower Than a Dial-Up Modem? (And How to Fix It!)
May 06, 2024

We all know the struggle. You fire up your VPN, ready to start working or maybe unblock some geo-restricted content, but suddenly your internet grinds to a halt. What gives? Why does a tool that is supposed to keep us safe and make our lives easier actually make them harder?

While VPNs can introduce some lag, understanding the "why" behind the slowdown can help you chip away at the issue and potentially fix it while still staying safe.

Why VPNs Sometimes Slow You Down

There are a few key culprits behind a sluggish VPN connection:

  • Encryption Overhead: VPNs encrypt your data traffic, scrambling it into an unreadable code before sending it out into the digital wilderness. This is fantastic for security, but it takes processing power to perform. Stronger encryption (like 256-bit) offers the best protection but can also be more resource-intensive.
  • Distance Matters: When you connect to a VPN server, your data takes a detour. Instead of traveling directly to the website you're trying to access, it first gets routed through the VPN server, adding physical distance and potentially increasing latency (the time it takes for data to travel). 
  • Server Load: Just like any server, VPN servers can get congested if too many users are connected. This overcrowding can lead to slower speeds for everyone.

Features of a Good VPN and How They Protect You

Even with the occasional slowdown, a good VPN offers a wealth of security benefits:

  • Encryption: As mentioned above, encryption scrambles your data, making it impossible for anyone snooping on your connection to see what you're doing online.
  • IP Masking: As most of us already know, VPNs hide your real IP address, replacing it with the IP address of the VPN server you're connected to. This makes it harder for websites and trackers to pinpoint your location.
  • Kill Switch: This feature ensures that if your VPN connection accidentally drops, your internet traffic gets blocked entirely, preventing any unencrypted data leaks.
  • Split Tunneling: Some VPNs allow you to choose which applications or websites get routed through the VPN and which ones use your regular internet connection. This can be helpful for activities that require low latency, like online gaming.

Boosting Your VPN Speed: Working From Home Securely and Efficiently

Here are some tips to streamline your secure browsing experience while working remotely with a VPN:

  • Choose the Right Server: If you can, connect to a server located geographically close to you for the best possible speed. Many VPN providers offer server load information, so you can choose a server with less congestion.
  • Consider Encryption Strength: If speed is a major concern, you might experiment with a slightly less robust encryption standard like 128-bit. Remember, striking a balance between security and speed is key.
  • Disconnect When Not Needed: If you're not actively using the internet for work or browsing securely, disconnect from the VPN to free up processing power and bandwidth.
  • Invest in a Fast Connection: A robust internet connection at home is the foundation for a smooth VPN experience. Consider upgrading your internet plan if your current one is a bottleneck.
  • Check for Updates: Ensure your VPN software and device drivers are up to date. Newer versions often include performance improvements.

Do you work with a VPN on the regular? Let us know!

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