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Why it helps to have a VPN

A VPN is vital providing security against threats and also for hiding your online identity. VPNs achieve this by channeling your traffic via a secure tunnel that is safe from prying eyes and other attacks. Also, when using a VPN, your real IP address is masked, so no one will know your real identity when surfing the internet. These capabilities allow a VPN to offer other more useful functionality as discussed below.

By using end-to-end VPN encryption and hiding your IP address, a VPN can enable you to access online content from around the world including social media, streaming sites, and other authoritative sites. The encryption also helps you to avoid surveillance and tracking from your ISP, hence providing you with more privacy.

Using a VPN for streaming

Everybody has a need for speed. Nothing is more annoying and frustrating than waiting for a web page to load. Besides general browsing, high-speed VPNs are best for specific niches which require less ping and more bandwidth. People who engage in real-time tasks are the ones in need of a fast VPN. Such activities include HD internet streaming and peer-to-peer sharing such as torrenting. The best VPNs for gaming and the best VPNs for torrenting are the ones that are the fastest. Since VPNs reduce your internet speed for encryption purposes, you won’t accomplish the above tasks without frustration unless you use a fast VPN.

How to measure VPN speed

Measuring the speed of a VPN is not an easy thing to do, as various factors may affect the VPN speed. These factors may lead to strange readings. For consistency during our tests, we ensured that all of the same conditions for each VPN were identical. The parameters used to gauge the speed of one VPN were also applied to gauging the speeds of the other VPNs tested. The speeds were then measured regarding download speed, upload speed, and ping rate.

Nevertheless, there are some factors that can’t be kept constant, so it’s important to note that the results of our tests are not absolute. The factors that affect and determine a VPN’s speed include the following:

  • Servers and location – Servers greatly determine the results you will get when measuring VPN speed. At some times, you may connect to a loaded server and get low speeds, while other times you may connect to special servers and get incredible speeds. The location of a server also determines the speed of a VPN, and this is observable from the ping. The further away a VPN server is located, the larger the ping value and hence the lower the speed. Sometimes the ping value can be high simply due to the VPN infrastructure.
  • ISP Speed – This is the internet speed provided by your Internet Service Provider. When the ISP speeds are higher, your VPN connection may not be impacted, and you might not notice any speed change. But when the ISP speed is low, a VPN connection will seem to lower your internet speed by noticeable levels, and you may end up experiencing that a particular VPN is slow.
  • Connection between your ISP and VPN – Besides the ISP speed, the connection between your VPN and a particular ISP can also impact on your VPN speed. When the interconnection is weak, you will lose a lot of speed even if you are on a high-speed internet connection.

Download Speed, Upload Speed, and Ping Rate

In any network setup such as that of a VPN, there must be a server, a client, and files or traffic passing through and from the client and the server. The following parameters are used to measure speed in this setup:

  • Download speed – This is the measurement of how data is transferred from the server to your device. This data can include files, streaming content, and even simply browsing the internet. This speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The higher the value, the faster the connection is and therefore the speed.
  • Upload speed – This is the opposite of download speed. It’s the measurement of how quickly data is being sent from the client to the server. It can also range from web browsing to sending files, like via a peer-to-peer sharing platform. It’s also measured in megabits per second (Mbps), and the higher the value, the faster the upload speed is.
  • Ping – Ping stands for Packet InterNet Groper, a utility that’s used to determine the connectivity between two devices – and in this case, your device and a server. The point of interest in this connectivity test is how fast streaming information reaches your device – that is, the time it takes for the connection to be made. Ping is measured in milliseconds (ms), and the lower the ping value, the faster the connectivity.

Free Fast VPNs for Streaming

At the current rate at which VPN providers are popping up, it may be hard to resist a free, fast VPN that claims to be as speedy as a premium VPN. But as always, there’s a catch with anything that is free. In order to finance a free VPN, most VPN providers push ads during your free service. These may actually violate your privacy and security.

Apart from ads, free VPN providers have other limitations, the most common of which is capping your bandwidth. This is done to encourage you to buy the paid version. Free VPN providers may also lack some functionalities, as they may offer weaker encryptions and unfavorable privacy policies.

To avoid putting your security and privacy at risk by using free VPNs, use our recommended VPNs above. Some of them offer the best low rates available, particularly on long terms plans.

How to Speed Up a Streaming VPN Connection?

VPN speed is not absolute, and this means it can be increased or decreased by certain factors. To improve VPN speed, one must influence these factors to favor speed, as discussed below:

  • Server location –The proximity of the server is essential when you want to influence a VPN speed. As a rule of thumb, the closer the server is located to your current location, the better the VPN speeds. Ping can also be affected by proximity. For example, the higher the ping value, the further away a server is located, and vice versa. To avoid losing some functionality and speed, select a server located in your country.
  • Server load – At times, you might select a server that’s geographically closer to you but still ends up getting poor VPN speeds and performance. This could be because of heavy server load. Heavy server load occurs when a lot of users have connected to a particular server, hence making it strain. This leads to poor performance. Before choosing a server based only on proximity, take note of the server load. Servers with few users have a higher performance index. Most VPNs offer a quick connect feature which automatically chooses the best server based on your proximity, server load, and other factors. But these conditions are not always guaranteed, as this feature can connect you to poorly performing servers. Therefore, sometimes it’s better to choose the server manually.
  • Protocol and encryption – For security and privacy, VPNs use specific protocols with a respective encryption setting for secure tunneling. Protocols determine the encryption to be used. For VPNs, the stronger the encryptions, the slower a VPN is and vice versa. But that’s not usually the case; some VPN protocols can balance between performance and security. Finding the best protocol can result in better speeds without compromising your security.

FAQs: VPN for Streaming

Can a VPN improve my internet speed?

Only in rare instances can a VPN improve internet speed, such as when there is ISP throttling. However, it’s rare for this to occur. All VPNs reduce internet speed by a certain percentage due to the encryption involved. So the bottom line is that typically VPNs cannot improve your internet speed.

What causes a VPN to be slow?

Encryption used by VPNs account for a certain percentage of why VPNs are slow. The other percentage is due to the speed determinant factors such as server location, server load, and even bandwidth.

Which VPN protocol is the fastest for streaming?

Protocols dictate how VPNs encrypt and perform communications between the user device and VPN servers. Common VPN protocols include:

  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2
  • L2TP/ IPSec
  • PPTP
  • VPN proprietary protocols such as Catapult Hydra

OpenVPN protocol is the best and most reliable protocol as it balances both performance and security. This protocol further uses two distinct ports, the TCP and UDP ports, as well as 128-bit and 256-bit encryptions for its functionality. In TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), OpenVPN is more reliable because it checks for errors and ensures data packets are not lost. This usually makes TCP slower than UDP.

On the other hand, UDP (User Datagram Protocol), is less reliable as it doesn’t provide error checking. The plus side, however, is that it’s lightning fast, and this makes OpenVPN the best protocol for streaming.

IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2 protocol) is an excellent VPN protocol for mobile connections; it’s both fast and secure.

L2TP/ IPSec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol/Internet Protocol Security) is a secure protocol suite, but many VPNs implement it poorly, making it vulnerable to attacks. It uses limited ports and it’s slow, but it’s compatible with most devices.

PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol) is one of the fastest protocols, but it’s very weak and not advisable. Use it only if you aren’t concerned about security and privacy.

Proprietary protocols are specific to particular VPN providers, and you might only encounter them in few VPNs.

How to find the fastest VPN server for streaming?

Finding the fastest VPN server can be a daunting task and mostly depends on VPN providers. Providers who offer filters such as bandwidth, server load, ping, or latency make it easy to find the best and fastest VPN server for streaming. In such cases, you will only choose a server with a lower ping value, more bandwidth, and a smaller server load.

Any VPN server that meets the above criteria is considered to be fast. For VPN providers that lack these filters, you have to perform a trial on most servers till you find a fast one. VPN servers located closer to you will always be faster unless they are overloaded.

Does a fast VPN equal a good VPN?

Speed alone doesn’t qualify a VPN to be considered good. This is because some VPNs can sacrifice security for better speeds. Other factors such as privacy, reliability, logging policies, and even customer care support should be considered. If all of these factors are considered to be good, then a VPN can be deemed good.

Which is the fastest VPN for Android and iPhone?

On mobile platforms, any VPN with the IKEv2 protocol is considered to be the fastest option.

Is the fastest VPN always the best?

The fastest VPN is always the best when performing specific tasks such as streaming HD content and when sharing files via a peer-to-peer platform. The best VPN for gaming and the best VPN for torrenting are the ones that are the fastest. If more security is needed, the fastest VPN that can’t actually provide the required level of protection, would therefore not be the best.


Online activities involve many tasks which require one to be secure and also private. Tasks that require streaming HD content or file sharing will mean that you’ll need a fast VPN. Our list features robust high-speed VPNs with cheaper subscription plans, quick installation, and good ease of use. All you need to do is download the client, log in, and connect to your preferred server. You can start with ExpressVPN; it’s a complete package that includes high levels of security, lightning speed servers, unlimited bandwidth, and other many features.

Written by: Graeme Messina
20 November 2018

Graeme is an IT professional with a special interest in computer forensics, security, and software. When not building networks and researching the latest software trends, he enjoys writing technical articles and blog posts.