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The fastest VPNs of 2021

Got the need for speed? Here are some of the top VPN providers that don’t compromise on speed.

As online security breaches continue to happen, savvy Internet users are becoming more and more aware of the need for VPNs. The problem lies in the fact that using a VPN can drastically affect your browsing speed – leading to big downturns in your efficiency and enjoyment. In this guide, we break down the basic components of how speed is measured for a VPN and which VPNs offer the fastest speeds.

How is VPN speed evaluated?

When it comes to VPNs, speed is measured in three distinct ways:

  • VPN speedUpload speed. In general, upload speed will be slower than download speed because most computers download information more quickly than they upload it. Speed is measured in megabytes per second (Mbps).
  • Download speed. Most users look at download speed as the most important statistic associated with a VPN since it represents the rate at which data is transferred from the Internet to a user’s computer.
  • Latency. Latency measures the time that it takes between your computer issuing a request and receiving a response from the website it has contacted. Latency depends on both the speed of the transmission medium (ie, radio waves or optic fibre) and how many delays there are in transmissions on the path between the two (ie, routers and modems).

Why are so many VPNs slow?

The following factors can limit the rate at which a VPN transfers data:

  • Server location. The closer you are to the physical location of the server, the faster the data will move from one place to another. If you’re in Toronto and the VPN server is in Ontario, you should get a pretty quick connection. If you’re in Toronto and the closest server on your VPN is in Oslo, things can slow down considerably.
  • Your Internet speed. Regardless of the quality of the VPN you use, a lot of the speed factor is still going to be determined by your computer and its Internet speed. If your personal Internet connection lags or has periods where it goes down, that’s going to be reflected in the VPN’s performance.
  • VPN protocols. VPN protocols define the level of security in your connection. The more encrypted your data is, the slower it will travel. This is ideal if you are entering credit card information to make a purchase. On the flip side, if you are using your VPN to stream video or torrent files, less protection will equal higher speeds.

Is the fastest VPN always the best?

While speed can make a large difference to usability, being able to clock high speeds does not necessarily make it the best VPN. Speed often comes at the price of security, which can let third parties see all sorts of private information as you use the Internet. Other factors like ease of use come into play as well. Depending on the user, the “best” VPN can vary significantly based on that person’s priorities.

How to make sure you’re getting the best VPN speed

Many VPN products have free trials, so taking a road test before you buy will allow you to compare which has the best speed in your area. You can use a speed test to get your own network’s average latency, download speed and upload speed, then run the test again while trialling each of the VPNs. Your own network will be the baseline to test against as it should have the lowest latency and the fastest download and upload speeds.

Image: Shutterstock

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