For travelers to and residents of government censored countries like China, using a Virtual Private Network is a way of life. Access to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and some of the other most popular websites in the world is either heavily restricted or completely disabled.
VPN service providers like IPVanish or VyprVPN provide packages that are easy to install and use. Unfortunately, many people will still run into unstable or slow connections from time to time, through no fault of the vendor.
There are a few ways to optimize a VPN connection for improved reliability and speed. These are a combination of this we apply ourselves and suggestions from the VPN providers themselves. Most of these solutions required very little technical knowledge and can be implemented by anyone.
Pick the Fastest Server
Most VPN vendors offer several server, or gateway, locations in various geographical locations around the globe. There are two key stats to consider: throughput and latency. You should figure out which of them is important to you and pick the server based on that decision.
Throughput, or how quickly large amounts of data can be downloaded and uploaded. It is important to users that stream videos or transfer large files. The best way to test throughput is to use a speed test website. Running these tests will tell you exactly what the up and down data transfer rate speeds are.
This stat is important to those individuals who use real-time applications. These applications include voice over IP, Skype, gaming, and even regular web browsing. Latency tells you how quickly data can get to from your device to the destination and back again.
Just as is the case with throughput, latency can be tested using any number of speed test sites. Running a command called ping from your operating system’s command line also tests latency.
Make the Connection Faster
If, after picking the quickest server you have access to, you find your connection still isn’t quite up to par, here are a few other things you can try doing.
Contact the VPN Provider
All VPN services come with support. There is no harm in contacting them, explaining your issues and seeing what they suggest. At best your speed problem is going to be fixed. At worse, you’ll be in the same position as you were before contacting support.
Change Your Internet Provider
This is, of course, meant more for travelers, since changing your ISP at home can be quite involved. Particularly in a country like China. If you do travel abroad, you will certainly have an option of ways to connect to the Internet. Experiment with alternatives like a different cell phone company, your hotel’s WiFi, or a corner coffee shop.
Choose the Right Protocol
When you connect to a VPN server, you will typically be allowed to select one of a multitude of protocols. If OpenVPN is one of those options, that is the one you should choose. More precisely, OpenVPN over UDP, not TCP. Using this protocol will yield the highest VPN speeds in most cases.
There are of course other steps that can be taken to improve your VPN connection speeds. Most are however beyond the scope of this post. That being said, for those that are interested, we will likely touch on them shortly.