VPN providers that control their server networks - Own or exclusively rent

VPN providers often have thousands of servers across the globe – but not all of them own their own servers, control them, or even rent them exclusively. 

This comparison will let you know which ones do – and what advantages that bring with it. 

What VPNs control their servers?

Here's a quick list of the VPN providers that either own or exert high levels of control over their server networks. A more detailed look at these five – plus one extra – can be found below. 

  1. VyprVPN - The only VPN on the list that controls its own network. Great connection speeds and security features.
  2. IPVanish - Controls the entirety of its Tier 1 server network and has over 40,000 IP addresses at its disposal.
  3. NordVPN - Uses bare metal servers and is currently building it's own co-located network in Finland.
  4. ExpressVPN - Packed with security features, its TrustedServer technology helps it retain control.
  5. Private Internet Access - An ultra-secure VPN that exclusively rents bare-metal servers and has a court-proven no logs policy.

VPN Networks

Across the world, there are thousands of server farms, or data centers, that house huge numbers of servers designed for large, often corporate entities that need them, like VPN providers, streaming companies, and retailers. 

  1. VPNs that Own their servers - This is when the servers, buildings, and staff that look after the servers are owned by the entity using them.
  2. VPNs that exclusively rent their servers - This is when the servers an entity is using are owned by a third-party entity, company or individual. 

Unless a VPN company owns the land – or rents the office space – where a server is, they will likely rent significant proportions of their network infrastructure. If a provider is renting a server from some sort of data center, then it will be in one of two types:

  1. Bare metal servers have only one tenant on them – the VPN provider, which installs its software without outside influence.
  2. Shared servers have multiple tenants on at once using Virtual Private Servers (VPS). Two VPNs using shared servers that have identical server locations could be using exactly the same server. Any tenant can access this server.

Nowadays, with the question of user logs at the forefront of customers' minds, providers also tend to make a distinction between:

  1. RAM-only servers run completely on Random Access Memory and are thus 'diskless'.
  2. Traditional servers run off hard disks, and although they don't mean a provider is keeping logs, it stores data in a way RAM-only servers don't.

What does it mean to 'control' or 'own' a network?

In the VPN world, what it means to 'control' servers may differ depending on who's saying it – different providers use it to mean slightly different things, and customers may have different conceptions of what it entails too. An easy way to think about it is in four levels of server control:

1) Provider-owned networks. The entire network is owned by the provider, including all the servers and all the spaces they are located in. The provider has total control of the network.
2i) Partially provider-owned networks. Some of the network is owned by the provider. The remaining servers are rented from data centers and can be either bare metal or shared servers/VPS.
2ii) Provider-controlled networks. None of the network is owned by the provider. Servers are kept in third-party centers and are rented or leased, but they are exclusively bare metal servers with a singular client – the provider.
3) Partially provider-controlled networks. None of the network is owned by the provider. Servers are kept in third-party centers and are rented, but they are a mixture of bare metal and shared servers/VPS.
4) A VPS network. None of the network is owned by the provider. None – or very few – of the servers are bare metal servers, and the provider shares with other entities who need server access.

VPNs mentioned in this article will have their corresponding level noted (e.g. 2ii). This is not an official metric used by people in the industry, rather, it is to aid your understanding of the different types of networks VPN providers operate. 

Then there's also storage to consider – VPN providers that use RAM (R) to run their machines are more secure and therefore enhance controlA provider that operates with bare metal servers -- they're the only entity using them – is more likely able to roll out a diskless server initiative.  

Advantages of network control

For VPN providers, controlling your own networks rather than renting means you can:

Running RAM-only servers, on the other hand, is recommended because you can guarantee a no-logs policy in a more meaningful way – random access memory is wiped when the VPN powers down, so there is no log to be kept. 

Advantages of network ownership

It's quite normal for VPN providers to rent servers – some of the most popular providers do so. but there are some key advantages to both ownership first. 

For VPN providers, owning your own network rather than just controlling or renting means you can:

A closer look at the VPNs with full control of their servers

We take a closer look at what VPNs control their server network. Some of these services own all of their servers, we call these out below.

VyprVPN (1) is a privacy-conscious provider that owns, manages and maintains their entire network, which sets them apart from practically all other providers on the market.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.50 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

VyprVPN is owned by Golden Frog, a tech company that set out to do something other providers had yet to manage: build a VPN network that they themselves owned and operated. VyprVPN is just that, and can assure its customers that its servers – and in turn their data – will never be tampered with by third parties. Owning the entirety of its own network means VyprVPN doesn't have to place trust in the staff at an independent data center and can install updates and deal with faults much more quickly. 


With its self-owned network, VyprVPN can guarantee privacy in a much more meaningful way than most providers. Other advantages include being able to create server clusters with its network that can pick up your connection in the event that it drops, and from a customer point of view, you won't have to worry about servers being too full, or whether the one you'd like to connect to supports your favorite protocol – there's a uniformity and simplicity for all users. VyprVPN has a number of other innovative security features including their Chameleon Protocol, which scrambles open packet meta-data to make it look like normal traffic, and has a good track record of unblocking geo-restricted content. If your heart's set on a VPN that's in control, then VyprVPN is the one for you – and even if your heart isn't set, you'll get your money back after 30 days if you aren't happy.

IPVanish (2i) the entirety of its Tier 1 servers and is well-know for its reliable connection speeds and advanced security options.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.62 - $9.99
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

IPVanish is based in the privacy averse US, but don't let that deter you – this provider owns more of its own servers than most of the other VPNs you've heard of put together. Its entire Tier 1 network is owned and managed by the provider, helping them amass a huge bank of over 40,000 IP addresses for customers to use. Such ownership means IPVanish doesn't have to outsource any aspects of its security architecture for the Tier 1 machines and can thus avoid creating vulnerabilities. The company's management of its own servers has also allowed it to push its network to the limit when it comes to speed; it's a popular one amongst gamers as it does not affect ping time and even allows you to pick servers based on it. 


Although not all IPVanish's servers are in its Tier 1 grouping, 100% of its servers are bare metal, so rented ones do not have another client. It also provides a wealth of contemporary security features to keep users extra safe when they're not surfing Tier 1. IPVanish provides its users with AES-256 bit encryption and a number of widely-used VPN protocols such as OpenVPN and IKEv2, and of course has a kill-switch to preserve your privacy even when your connection drops. IPVanish offer a month-long money-back guarantee too, so you can take its Tier 1 servers out for a test run, no costs incurred.

NordVPN (2ii) (R) is taking an increasingly direct path to securing its hardware perimeter. It's buying up data centre space in Finland and has a bare metal network.

  • Pricing

    From  $4.13 - $11.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

NordVPN is a Panama-based VPN and a great pick if you're looking for a VPN that can exert control over its network. NordVPN has a fleet of over 5,000 bare-metal servers, which means you don't have to worry about other parties having access to the server your using, nor affecting your connection speeds by taking up processing power. Not only is NordVPN the only tenant on all its servers, every single one is diskless – meaning no data is processed on a hard drive and will be lost forever when the server disconnects. NordVPN has recently started to acquire space in a Finnish data center to construct its own colocated network of servers, something they said they're going to extend to server locations in other countries soon. 


Alongside these exciting projections for increased network control, NordVPN has a number of excellent security tools that make it well worth the download. NordVPN is one of the only VPNs to provide a Double VPN feature that pings your traffic through two private servers instead of one, and the CyberSec tool protects your device from malware attacks. The company has also recently developed NordLynx, a technology built around the relatively new WireGuard protocol so customers can enjoy the enhanced speeds at no cost to their security whilst it's still being road-tested.


NordVPN also stands out as a bit of a speed demon – on our daily speed tests, they're always near the top of the pack, so that's good news if you plan to stream geo-restricted content. Remember, with NordVPN you have 30-days to decide you're happy or you'll get your money back, so download now and decide later. 

ExpressVPN (2ii) (R) is a shrewd choice for anyone who considers network control a priority, thanks to it's bare metal server network and TrustedServer technology.

  • Pricing

    From  $6.67 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

ExpressVPN is well-known in the VPN world as one of the most reliable, trustworthy providers around, and they're also one of the VPNs with the most control over its network. ExpressVPN's TrustedServer technology ensures all of its 3,000+ servers are run off RAM – which is used to process only your current session as it is happening – all the data is lost from the system once you power down. ExpressVPN doesn't have to jostle for processing power or server space with other VPNs, businesses, or streaming servers, as it leases all of its servers on a single-tenant basis. 


As well as excellent network control, ExpressVPN offers AES-256 bit encryption, a kill-switch, and an encrypted private DNS server, as well as useful functions like split tunneling which allows you to send some traffic through a VPN and some traffic elsewhere. ExpressVPN's customer service line is top-notch, so if you have any problems with set up, they'll be on hand with advice - and they'll give you more than four weeks to decide if you're satisfied with its 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Private Internet Access (2ii) have been well-regarded in the VPN market since their claim to keep no logs was proven in court - so it's no shock they keep their network in check with bare metal servers and excellent privacy tools.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.69 - $9.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a VPN with an excellent reputation for keeping users safe and is widely liked by Reddit users. In terms of network control, PIA uses exclusively bare metal servers in all its VPN locations, so they're not sharing with companies or entities you wouldn't want to have access to the server you're sending your traffic through. They have over 15,000 of them too, so that's an expensive endeavor and one that shows how serious they are about keeping its customers safe. 


In fairness though, if you know anything about PIA that should not come as a surprise – despite being located in the US, known to be a bad apple when it comes to privacy - they're one of the only VPNs to have their no logs claims tried-and-tested in court. What's more, their recently-implemented NextGen network - which will give customers better speeds and security and includes switching to 10Gbps network cards from 1Gbps – is a great illustration of the provider's plans for the future. Another good reason to download PIA is that you can use the same account on ten devices, so if you have friends and family who want to make the switch to a VPN that can guarantee privacy in a more meaningful way, it doesn't cost any extra! take it out for a spin for 30--days and you'll get your money back if you're unhappy at the end of it. 

Surfshark (2ii) (R) is the most cost-effective VPN on this list, but has an impressive list of security features and recently switched to RAM-only servers.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.49 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

Surfshark is relatively new to the VPN game but already has a large subscriber base thanks to consistently delivering on its privacy promises. Surfshark keeps no logs of its user activity, and in an attempt to gain more control over its rapidly growing network of over 3,200 servers, have taken any, so the tiny amount of data held about customers on its servers – needed in order for them to connect to the internet – is only held as long as its sessions continue and lost forever when they disconnect, rather than spending any time on a hard disk. Surfshark advertises bare metal servers in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Israel - so they have complete control over how its programs are implemented and who has access. Although there is some evidence virtual servers might be being used in some locations, its network control is still above and beyond most VPNs out there. 


On top of this, Surfshark has some great privacy tools – Camouflage Mode, for example, can hide your VPN from your internet service provider, making it look just like normal traffic. Multi-hop, on the other hand, sends your traffic through two servers for extra protection. They also have a CleanWeb tool to ensure malware is a problem of the past. One of Surfshark's USPs is that you can connect an unlimited amount of devices to the same account - and with your 30-day money-back guarantee, your entire family can test it out and tell you what they think! 

Do any free VPNs have control of their own network?

It's very unlikely a free VPN will have control over their own network – even if they claim to. The vast majority of free VPNs you can find on places like the app store rent servers. 

Owning, building, and maintaining your own network of servers doesn't come cheap – and it's no surprise that the VPNs that exert the most control over their networks are all paid services. 

Free VPNs should be avoided at all costs due to their unfortunate reputation for slapdash approaches to user privacy. Sadly, some of the worst offenders have aggressive marketing strategies and have reasonable user bases, giving them an air of legitimacy – but go near them at your peril. 

Are there any disadvantages to owning your own network?

Some industry experts suggest that a possible disadvantage of owning your own network – or some may say an advantage of renting one – is that it's easier for government and law enforcement authorities to make demands for data and information from the network provider.

When renting servers VPNs can, if questioned, claim they don't own the servers and thus can't provide access. The owner of the server farm it's located in might say they aren't allowed to touch rented servers so there's nothing they can do. This is a level of wiggle room, to some extent, that could not be afforded to a VPN in control of its own network, as it makes it more difficult for the government to ascertain exactly what entity it needs to pursue. 

Conclusion

Hopefully now, the advantages of both owning and exerting as much control as possible for both provider and customer. Here are our top five picks again in case you're still undecided: 

  1. VyprVPN - The only VPN on the list that controls its own network. Great connection speeds and security features.
  2. IPVanish - Controls the entirety of its Tier 1 server network and has over 40,000 IP addresses at its disposal.
  3. NordVPN - Uses bare metal servers and is currently building it's own co-located network in Finland.
  4. ExpressVPN - Packed with security features, its TrustedServer technology helps it retain control.
  5. Private Internet Access - An ultra-secure VPN that exclusively rents bare-metal servers and has a court-proven no logs policy.

Written by: Aaron Drapkin

After graduating with a philosophy degree from the University of Bristol in 2018, Aaron became a researcher at news digest magazine The Week following a year as editor of satirical website The Whip. Freelancing alongside these roles, his work has appeared in publications such as Vice, Metro, Tablet and New Internationalist, as well as The Week's online edition.

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