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Our VPN Speed Testing Methodology Explained

Interested in how we test and analyze VPN speeds here at ProPrivacy? We’ll take you through the methodology we use to get the most accurate results.

Many VPNs claim to be the fastest on the market, but speeds will differ drastically depending on the service selected, as well as various additional factors that we’ll discuss in detail below.

 

Often the most important aspect when choosing a VPN, speeds will have an impact on almost every online task. For example, a slower connection can lead to streams buffering, and games lagging. We test all VPNs in terms of download speeds and overall performance.

ProPrivacy: Speed testing methodology

All VPNs are likely to impact download speeds to some degree, although results will vary depending on the provider, and the capability of its network.

Here’s how we conduct speed tests for VPNs:

  1. We take the average of multiple speed tests, performed three times across three separate locations
  2. We test connections in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, as long as there are servers available in all three regions
  3. Each server location will have an average download speed, while the combined results of these nine tests are averaged together to give a final result
  4. The same will be done for upload speeds
  5. Speeds are measured using theOokla Speedtest.net desktop app, rather than the browser version
  6. The tests are performed on a 1 Gbps connection using a desktop device and a wired connection for optimal results
  7. If possible, we will connect to a recommended server location

The basics: VPN speed testing

The average user is mostly concerned with download speeds, so that’s the main criteria we look at during testing. However, we also measure upload speeds, although we won’t record the ping (ping determines how fast a data travels from one place, like a computer, to another, like your VPN server.

We perform the tests using a VPNs desktop app (Windows or macOS) on a 1 Gbps connection. This ensures fair results, as all speed tests are done in exactly the same way for every provider. If a connection is suspiciously slow, or doesn’t match with previous test results, we will retest once after 60 minutes to ensure no skewed measurements.

Speeds are measured using the Ookla Speedtest.net desktop app. The app is owned by Ziff Davis Inc., who own providers such as IPVanish, and StrongVPN. However, it has been used to conduct hundreds of VPN speed tests over the years, with no suspicion of favoritism for their owned services and even allows other VPNs to donate server infratructure to improve accuracy of results.

If a VPN offers several tiered plans with different speeds, we will use the highest-ranking tier to ensure that we record the fastest connections on offer.

VPN servers

VPNs deploy servers found in various locations worldwide to give the user access to a corresponding IP address for that region. Unfortunately, this can lead to some slowdown while the VPN is connected.

Rather than sticking with a sole server, we compare providers based on speeds seen in a range of popular locations.

The United States is a great place to start, given most providers offer multiple servers in the region. For example, NordVPN has servers in 15 cities across the US. It’s also home to numerous popular streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

The United Kingdom is the second server location we test. It’s a large market for VPN use, while it’ll give a better idea of the server speeds you can expect while connected to European locations.

Australia is the final region we use for testing purposes. Another country that is generally covered by most providers, it shows the strength of a VPNs network when avoiding larger regions such as the US and Europe.

VPN protocols

A VPN protocol is the set of instructions (mechanism) used to negotiate a secure encrypted connection between two computers. A number of such VPN protocols are commonly supported by commercial VPN services. The most notable of these are PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, Wireguard, SSTP, and IKEv2.

We use the fastest secure protocol available, which is likely to be Wireguard (or a proprietary flavor of Wireguard from one of the providers), followed by OpenVPN and IKEv2. (If the VPN offers a proprietary protocol with improved speeds, that’s what we’ll be testing.) In any case, we will make a note of the protocol selected.

Further testing

As well as using a tool to check download and upload speeds, we test the VPN in terms of practical usage. Will it avoid lag and buffering while accessing streaming platforms?

Which VPNs do we test?

Any provider, from barebones free VPNs to the best premium services. As long as it has servers to connect to, and a secure protocol, we’re willing to test it out.

How we test VPNs at ProPrivacy: Further notes

Speeds are important when picking a VPN, but many other factors should also be taken into account, such as your location, the device/s you are using, and what you want a VPN for. If you are using a VPN for torrenting or using a VPN to stream, speeds are going to be especially important. Numerous additional factors may have an impact on your connection speeds. As a rule of thumb, servers located nearby tend to be quicker.

Another factor to consider is that results may vary depending on your location, which may be different to the testing region. However, these speed tests should give a good indication of the overall performance you can expect with a VPN.

Written by: James Milin-Ashmore

James has written about privacy and online security for a number of platforms, primarily focusing on VPNs, software, and regulations. He has worked for LiquidVPN, VPN Mentor, Secure Thoughts, AlwaysVPN, and many others, as well as producing regular tech content forEthical.net.

76 Comments

Jack
on October 13, 2022
Reply
When we can see the testing result?
Peter
on September 3, 2021
Reply
Do you collect any information about what plans/subscriptions are used to get the speeds? ProtonVPN , for instance, have different plans/subscriptions that provide different speeds. Do you collect and can you share this type of information?
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/2021/08/andreas-squarejpg-avatar_image-small.png
Andreas Theodorou replied to Peter
on November 12, 2021
Reply
Hi Peter! Whenever a service offers tiered speeds, we use the highest-ranking tier to ensure we are able to show the absolute maximum that our readers can expect from the service. This prevents us from showing a lower speed if the provider can actually be faster.
Hugo
on August 11, 2021
Reply
A good source of information, but it's a pity not to have the upload speeds!
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/2021/08/andreas-squarejpg-avatar_image-small.png
Andreas Theodorou replied to Hugo
on November 10, 2021
Reply
Hi Hugo, thanks for the comment. I've passed it along to our dev team as this is definitely something which would add value to our tests. We're wanting to upgrade our speed tests in the coming year so we can hopefully make this an additional feature.
Aziz Ur Rehman
on June 3, 2020
Reply
I have noticed Nordvpn Speed Increased inspeed tests. Is it due to new protocol? Also i dont see hotspot shield added to the list. It would be great to see how it performs using its hydra protocol.
Quick Brown Fox replied to Aziz Ur Rehman
on October 23, 2020
Reply
Nord VPN is able to increase its speed by implementing the Wireguard protocol via NordLynx, its own version of Wireguard. To use Nordlynx, go to the Settings button, click Auto-connect, then click " Choose a VPN protocol and server automatically," then slide its indicator from "On" to "Off," When you see the dropdown box, select "NordLynx Recommended." That's all there is to it.
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/2022/06/ray-walshpng-avatar_image-small.png
Ray Walsh replied to Aziz Ur Rehman
on July 9, 2020
Reply
It is still using OpenVPN. If it is faster then it has just improved its network as far as we know.
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