Five Crucial VPN Network Performance Features
While most people associate VPNs with secure, private Internet browsing, many want a VPN network for access to blocked media content. For this growing group, network performance factors are paramount. Share
Our blog predominantly focuses on VPN network security and privacy. Yet new research has indicated VPN users value access to better entertainment content almost as much as they value browsing anonymously. So, the performance features of the services also need analysis. In this article, we’ll dive into the research to show how prevalent VPN use has become and detail several performance criteria so VPN shoppers looking for quality media streaming can make informed choices.
VPN Use Is Prevalent and Frequent Around the Globe
Through its Q4 2015 survey, the Global Web Index found almost one out of every four respondents had used a VPN network to access the Internet. For Q1 of 2016, GWI recently published new results that found VPN/proxy server usage had risen to 25% globally.
And the usage is not a one-time deal; in fact, a startling 25% of the VPN users surveyed said they accessed their network nearly every day. Sixty percent said they accessed their VPN network at least 2-3 times a week.
Fast-growth countries are heading the charge in terms of VPN popularity. Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia are the countries where Internet users are most likely to use VPNs – around 4 in 10 do so. China’s rate is lower (almost 3 in 10), but this represents the largest pool of VPN users in one country thanks to its population size.
Motivations for VPN Use
GWI cited five main motivations for VPN use:
- Anonymous web browsing (31%)
- Access to blocked entertainment content (30%)
- Access to restricted sites like Facebook and Twitter (27%)
- Access to restricted sites at work (26%)
- Communication with friends/family abroad (25%)
Cited only 1% less often than anonymous web browsing, blocked content access via VPNs has also grabbed recent headlines. During the company’s last earnings call in April 2016, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said of VPN users:
“It’s a very small but quite vocal minority,” CEO Reed Hastings said during this week’s earnings call. “So it’s really inconsequential to us, as you could see in the Q1 results.”
Yet even as he said this, the company also ramped up efforts to block access to geo-restricted content.
And the content access battle promises to get more heated. Netflix may own the market share now, but Amazon, Hulu, and Apple are all planning to expand their streaming services.
VPN Network Performance Issues
Since “access to blocked entertainment content” almost equaled “anonymous web browsing” in the GWI survey, we can assume prospective VPN customers are interested in the network’s performance almost as much as its security. This means the amount of data a network can transfer per second is vital. After all, streaming HD video takes enormous bandwidth. And services stand to lose customers if the screen freezes and buffers during the opening credits.
Unfortunately, VPN network speeds cannot match their regular connection counterparts because of several factors, including:
One of the main advantages of using a VPN is access to a server in another country where the content you want is accessible. The downside is this distance between your location and the content-providing server elongates the amount of time data packets travel, thus reducing speed.
- Server bandwidth/crowding:
If the VPN server has a slow mbps speed and has several users accessing it at once, the output will slow.
- Encryption Overhead:
Several VPN networks have default settings that prioritize privacy over performance. This means encryption is set to its highest level and the protocol settings are set to the slower – but more secure – Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) instead of the faster – but less secure User Datagram Protocol (UDP).
- Local settings:
Having a slow Internet speed with your regular connection and using Wi-Fi instead of a LAN connection are two ways to scuttle your VPN network performance before it ever starts.
VPN Performance Features to Look For
Sensing the strong demand for streaming content, many providers have raised their games and addressed speed factors. Other providers, however, have lagged behind and do not offer optimal performance. So, for those who value the network performance over security concerns, here is a list of features to look out for.
Many of the large VPN networks can afford more server bandwidth per user. VyprVPN, for example, owns all of their 700+ servers, which makes them faster compared to smaller networks who share server space with others.
Operating System Compatibility
Some networks do not support mobile devices. Others may not support OSx or iOS. Shoppers should definitely check these performance criteria before choosing a VPN, otherwise they may not get access to their iTunes library or be able to stream their content to his/her iPhone.
Very few people these days operate on only one device. If you want a VPN to stream content for your family’s enjoyment (movies, music, YouTube videos, etc.), then odds are you’ll want the content available on more than your laptop.
Yet providers limit the number of devices the VPN network can cover. Sometimes it’s a hard cap; other times you can add more devices by paying more money. Knowing this number before signing up is key for making a good decision.
Bandwidth Throttling Policy
In previous years, VPN networks needed to institute throttling policies and usage restrictions to stop users from abusing resources. Nowadays, most have a no throttling pledge in the terms of service. Still, it’s a good idea to check to make sure your VPNs do not throttle bandwidth before signing with it.
Server Selection/General UI Presence
The user interface (UI) for the VPN network should enable customization without leaving too large a footprint on the operating system. Functions such as server selection and encryption preferences should be accessible with speed and regularity. This way, a user can adjust his/her settings to maximize performance.
Tip: Many providers show their UI on their company websites. Taking tours of the UIs (when available) will give you a good idea if the options are easily accessible.
Conclusion: VPN Networks Must Focus on Performance Criteria
While browsing privacy and security is still the main motivator for using a VPN, accessing entertainment content is not far behind. The days when it was cool to find a movie blocked in your country are over; now it’s frustrating if the movie does not stream completely flawlessly in HD. As such, providers are offering more and more performance options while breaking down old practices like bandwidth throttling.
Unfortunately, some providers have been more successful than others at optimizing performance. We hope this article provides some guidance on what to look for, and we wish you unlimited hours of entertainment, no matter what country you reside in.
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