If you’re looking for a way to keep your personal data secure and private when you’re online, you’ve probably heard of virtual private networks (VPNs). Essentially, a VPN creates a secure connection between your computer and internet service provider (ISP) that encrypts all of your data, allowing you to connect without fear of having your information compromised. However, did you know that using a VPN can actually slow down your internet connection? Here’s a brief rundown of just how much of a speed bump VPNs can put on the internet.
Limited To School And University Browsing
One of the primary reasons people use VPNs is to be able to browse the internet privately and securely. When you use a VPN while you’re at school or college, your internet connection is generally restricted to browsing the websites that your school or university provider allows. Because the entire point of using a VPN is to keep your personal data secure while you’re online, you may encounter throttling or speed restrictions when you’re not at school or university.
For example, let’s say you have the T-mobile USA network. Using a VPN with T-mobile might put a noticeable strain on your internet connection because T-mobile has agreements with various content providers that stipulate how much data you can use and how quickly you can use it. If you go over your data limit, you’ll be billed for extra data — even if you don’t use any. While you’re not supposed to be on the internet when you’re using your VPN, you might encounter problems with your ISP because of this; they won’t be able to monitor what you’re doing while you’re connected to them.
Increased Lag Time
Another downside to using a VPN is that it can increase your lag time. When you’re not using a VPN, your internet connection is routed through the open internet. However, when you’re using a VPN, all of your internet traffic is routed through a VPN tunnel, which has to be negotiated with your ISP. As a result, using a VPN can put a noticeable load on your internet connection, causing it to drop out once or twice every hour.
ISPs could potentially compensate for this by giving you faster speeds, but in reality it’s not so simple. For one thing, they have to agree to let you use a VPN on their network before they’ll even think about increasing your internet speed. For another, since your internet connection is now being routed through a VPN tunnel, any updates to your software or hardware will require you to reconnect to get them. The result is that you might have to update your VPN software or install a new wireless card just to get your internet speed back to normal after you connect to a VPN.
Increased Bandwidth Usage
A third downside to using a VPN is that it tends to use more bandwidth when compared to regular internet usage. When you’re not using a VPN, your data is traveling through the open internet, which is generally free. However, when you’re using a VPN, your data travels through a tunnel that typically costs your VPN service provider money to set up and maintain. As a result, using a VPN can cause your monthly bandwidth consumption to shoot up to an estimated 300% or more.
While this might not seem like a big deal on the surface, when you consider that most people are now spending more time online and that there are more and more people connecting to the internet, these kinds of increases can add up quickly. In some cases, people have even complained that using a VPN caused their internet to break altogether because of all of the additional traffic.
Loss Of Privacy
A fourth downside to using a VPN is that it compromises your privacy. When you use a VPN, you’re essentially trusting the company with your personal data because they’ll be the ones negotiating with your ISP for you. As a result, you’ve given up some of your privacy – unless, of course, you use a VPN that encrypts your traffic and data (which you should definitely do).
There are a few positives to using a VPN. The first is that it allows you to unblock websites that your ISP might otherwise censor. For example, if you’re in the country of China and you try to view a site like Facebook, you’ll probably encounter some interference from the government because Facebook is blocked by default. However, by using a VPN, you’ll be able to view content that you might otherwise be unable to access.
The second upside is that some VPNs will allow you to get free VPN use by connecting to a reputable VPN provider’s server. Once you’re connected and authenticated, you can use the free service to connect to any other server that the provider supports, without having to pay for it. In some cases, you might not even need to create an account to do this – just leave the server address in the config file and you’re good to go. Of course, you should know and understand what you’re doing before doing this. If you don’t, you might end up getting hacked or infected by a virus. Finally, using a VPN means that your internet connection is less susceptible to getting hacked, which is a good thing if you’re not very tech-savvy or if you just want to keep your personal data secure online.
In most cases, the cons far outweigh the pros if you’re looking to use a VPN. Inevitably, you’ll have to give up some privacy for security. If you’re already spending a decent amount of time online and don’t want to jeopardize your security, it might be smart to avoid using a VPN unless you’re willing to pay for it or use a free VPN that supports only certain servers (usually the North American ones).