Short answer is YES, a VPN will slow down your connection by 5-10%. But remember VPNs are meant to offer you more privacy and security, not faster speeds.
At best, a VPN or Virtual Private Network will hide your computer’s IP address from prying eyes and encrypt your data so that only you and your recipient are able to know what you are communicating. And that’s not enough. A VPN will also enable you access content or websites that are banned in specific countries.
But this is at a small cost; speed and data. We already saw how VPN takes up about 10% more data because of the “encryption overhead“. This simply means that a VPN has to take up your gifs, memes or important emails and turn them into gibberish so that no prying eyes can tell what you are accessing, a process that’s called Encryption. This encryption overhead comes with yet another penalty; your internet speeds will reduce by about 5%.
Related post: Does using a VPN consume more data?
This rate is determined by VPN protocol your provider uses. Generally providers support PPTP, L2TP/IPSec and OpenVPN protocols and each one of them has its own encryption level. PPTP and L2TP/IPSec can use 128 bits encryption while more secure but slower option OpenVPN offers 256-bit encryption. Most VPN providers have a default value, so you don’t have to even think about the technicalities here.
Another factor that will make your connection slower is the distance of the VPN server you are connecting to. Recall that a VPN is able to make you pass by censorship by first encrypting your data and then connecting you to your desired destination via another a server located in another country. For instance some specific Netflix shows are only available to users in the US. To access this restricted content from Uganda, you use a VPN which allows you to connect to the internet via a US server. Netflix will be fooled to believe that you are originating from within US mainland because all they see is the IP address of your VPN provider which is located within the US. Genius right!
But if you choose a VPN server location in the US while you are accessing content say BBC website located in London UK from Kampala Uganda. Can imagine the roundtrip. It’s like travelling to London with multiple connection flights through New York from Entebbe. Your journey could be shorter if there was a direct flight from Entebbe Uganda straight to Heathrow airport in London. This how VPNs operate except everything is in bits and bytes.
So always choose VPN server location closest to you for faster connection.
A place to determine how VPN is affecting your internet connection is using internet speed testing tools. First start by turning off your VPN and note the speeds, then turn it again and note the speeds. You will notice a slight drop.
Related post: How to test your Internet speeds
Also take speed tests for various VPN server locations your provider has. You can then choose the one that has the fastest speed test result.
Other factor that might affect your internet speeds could be related to the quality of your VPN provider. Most Free options are slower than premium paid-for providers because too many connect to the free provider hence slowing things down. Also your Internet provider might actually be the one slowing down your connection — what’s called bandwidth throttling. Most Internet users in Uganda are already used to speed caps of 1,2,4,6 Mbps depending on the internet data package.
In the end, remember that the role of the VPN is offer you better privacy, security and access to restricted websites. If this is what you are looking for, then 5-10% reduction on your reasonably fast internet connection is a small price to pay.