Updated: Nov 9, 2021
The abbreviation VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is used on the one hand as a transport medium for data and on the other hand to connect different users to a communication network. In connection with VPN, it is often criticised that the speed of the internet connection is reduced. Myth or fact? A look into the shoals of virtual networking.
Those who work on the road, from changing company locations or in a home office need secure access to the company's data and documents. This requires a fast internet connection as well as encrypted access to the company's internal network. The latter is often achieved via a so-called VPN connection.
A VPN, i.e. a virtual private network, is used to virtually connect different users who are on different physical networks. As if they were on the same network. This gives them access to the data for which they have authorisation. For example, someone who works from home and has set up VPN access to the employer's corporate network can work as if he were at his workplace. They have access to their drives, data and documents. Access is usually as simple as a telephone call and can be achieved in just a few clicks. VPN establishes an encrypted connection, the so-called VPN tunnel. All data traffic and communication passes through this tunnel, which guarantees data security. Many modern operating systems already contain components that make it relatively easy to set up VPN access. Depending on the configuration and security requirements on the part of the company, identification takes place by means of passwords, public keys or digital certificates. To make the necessary settings correctly, it is therefore best to contact the company's IT manager.
Encryption needs data
A central aspect of the VPN solution is security, which is why good systems have integrated encryption that enables tap-proof and tamper-proof data transmission without taking a greater risk. Encryption with a VPN system works by splitting all data into packets and encrypting them before they are sent. This is a relatively complex process. After encryption, each packet is provided with additional control data. The size of these packets depends, among other things, on the size of the data that the recipient accepts.
In connection with the topic of security, two further aspects play an important role: the selected VPN protocol and the VPN solution. The most common protocols are IPSec, L2TP, PPTP and OpenVPN. L2TP is often combined with IPSec to ensure the highest possible security. OpenVPN is also secure, but is particularly suitable for connections through mobile networks. With regard to VPN solutions, there are countless options from well-known providers Cisco or Microsoft, but also free apps. With the latter, however, special caution is required with regard to security.
The benefits of VPN solutions are undisputed today, but numerous users complain that VPN access reduces surfing speeds, sometimes significantly. Still other users describe the slowed internet connection as a myth. The best thing to do, therefore, is to test it yourself right away. First carry out the internet speed test with VPN connection and then without. If the deviation is less than 15%, experts assume that everything is fine and that other factors may be temporarily influencing the surfing speed. If the deviation is more than 15%, it is worth checking various settings and adjusting them if necessary.
Check VPN location
The distance between your own device and the VPN server should not be underestimated when it comes to data transfer speed. This refers to both the geographical and the virtual distance. The internet consists of millions of individual networks that are connected to each other. It is possible that two networks located in the same city are less well connected than two networks located on different continents. This is because the data must connect via so-called third networks if there is no direct connection. This can cause major fluctuations in the transmission speed. In principle, however, the following rule applies: the shorter the distance of the data connection, the faster the connection. After a certain latency, even the bandwidth of the internet connection no longer plays a role. So choose a location for your VPN server that is not too far from your employees' places of work.
Check the firewall
Other factors that cause slow surfing speeds are the use of specific security software and firewall settings. It may be that certain firewall providers do not allow certain VPN connections through or constantly check the data, which can slow down the internet connection.
The user is also a trigger
Much more central and often underestimated, however, are the streaming activities of employees. This has nothing to do with the VPN connection, but it significantly affects the internet speed. The more data that has to pass through a single tunnel, the slower the connection. Exactly the same applies to the number of people using a server at the same time: The more, the slower the connection. Ultimately, internet speed is always influenced by a combination of bandwidth, data volume and number of users.