In 2021, we are feeling a need for speed, but we are also feeling more than ever a need for security.
One of the most important steps you can take to improve your security online is to get a VPN. But obviously, in today’s streaming-heavy world, many people can’t accept a slow VPN; they need the best performance possible.
That’s why I have some good news for you.
Fastest VPN services in Ireland
A VPN doesn’t have to be slow anymore
The good news is that VPNs over the past decade or so have made some really incredible improvements in many areas. In particular, VPNs, which often used to be painfully slow, have gotten a lot faster. Most of the time, with a good VPN, you don’t even know it’s on because you don’t notice any performance hit at all.
Lots of options out there
Competition is the name of the game in 2021, especially when one is referring to VPNs. Many of the top VPNs are perfectly capable of streaming video while you are working from home and possibly sending and receiving large files at the same time.
Some quick caveats
It’s not necessarily the best idea to take the statistics that the individual companies publish at face value. It’s important, first of all, to remember that testing the speed of something like a VPN in an essentially lab-like setting is naturally going to produce results that will be unattainable for you or anybody else in the real world.
If you are interested in doing your own testing, the best way to do it is to simply use the same speed test immediately before and then after connecting to the VPN. Do it at various times of the day to get a good average.
It’s also important to bear in mind that the speed when using a VPN will never be exactly the full speed of your internet connection, no matter how good it is. Also, the further away a server is from you physically, the more likely it will be to slow your connection down, especially in the area of ping time.
My four best picks
It’s probably not going to be worth it for you, however, to perform your own testing, since I’ve gone to all the trouble for you already. I am, in fact, happy to present you with the results of my research.
Below you will find information on four very highly rated VPNs, all of which are known for their speed, among other good qualities. They are ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark VPN and CyberGhost VPN.
ExpressVPN is a very famous name among VPNs, and not without reason. Actually, many people have said over the years that ExpressVPN absolutely lives up to its name, and this has been one of its biggest draws for customers.
So, does ExpressVPN live up to its name in 2021? The short answer is: yes and no.
Still good, but competition is stiff
ExpressVPN is still an excellent option, but I have noticed that, depending on the time of the day, some of the servers definitely tend to get clogged.
When I tested ExpressVPN, I found, surprisingly, that the best download and upload speeds came from Europe, despite testing from all the way in California. And, also surprisingly, US servers often couldn’t match their speeds, especially at peak times.
Do the server dance for best results
This explains then why I say “yes and no” to whether ExpressVPN is fast. Or, to put it another way, ExpressVPN can still be among your fastest options if you are willing to pick and choose the best servers at the best times.
This may sound like it’s too complicated. However, there are two things that need to be kept in mind. Firstly, for many people, this won’t be necessary, as even the worst speeds I encountered were still adequate for the vast majority of the things you probably want to do on the internet.
Secondly, if you are one of those people who really need maximum speed at all times, this is something you are going to want to do with any VPN, so ExpressVPN really isn’t going to complicate your life any more than another VPN would in this case.
NordVPN is unique among the four options mentioned here in a couple of interesting ways. It has its own proprietary VPN protocol, called NordLynx, for one thing. And, unlike other VPNs that use OpenVPN as the default option, NordVPN opts for NordLynx, unless the user actively changes it.
The jury is still out on whether NordLynx is safer than OpenVPN or not, but one thing is for sure: NordLynx is definitely a bit faster overall.
The stability factor
The best part of NordVPN is that, while its download and upload speeds are good, what is really impressive is its rock-solid stability. At no time in the testing process could I get speeds to drop more than 10% below-average speed.
This makes NordVPN an excellent choice for reliably sending and receiving large files, and also for things like streaming, where small interruptions can cause major havoc.
The Asia factor
NordVPN is also the favorite for customers in the Asian market or customers located in Asia. Many people swear by it, for example, as the best option to connect from within the borders of mainland China, where the internet is heavily censored.
I do have to recommend caution for people who decide to do this, however, as VPNs were made illegal in mainland China some years ago.
VPNs are also very useful in other Asian countries, as the internet quality tends to be very good, but people from the West are constantly running into region blocks. NordVPN works wonders in that kind of environment.
Surfshark wins hands down in the category of most-improved VPN in 2021. In fact, this time around, Surfshark VPN was actually the fastest option out of the four mentioned!
Also, it’s very good news that Surfshark VPN’s speeds tend to be quite stable, and they don’t change very much as you work your way across the globe. This means Surfshark also wins in one major category:
The best option for people within the US
Surfshark also had hands down the best scores for US servers, which means that it’s a great option for people within the US (and generally within the Americas) to use as a VPN.
Corollary to that, Surfshark VPN is a very good option for people who need to connect to US servers from abroad, in order to get around region blocks or for whatever similar reason. They will generally find that this will be among their best options, if not the best option of all, for this type of VPN use.
In fact, most of its competitors were surprisingly sluggish this time around with their US servers, possibly due to overcrowding of servers. Surfshark VPN seemed completely unfazed by this and performed like a champ.
No testing is completely objective
It should be kept in mind that these tests are not done on the level of, say, scientific experiments. On another day, week or month, results may vary greatly.
Still, having said that, Surfshark’s showing was very impressive in more than one way, and it may be time for people who hadn’t taken a look at Surfshark VPN previously to change that.
The most important thing to say about CyberGhost VPN right off the bat is that it’s very difficult to compare apples to apples when dealing with a program like CyberGhost VPN.
Proprietary and innovative technology
This is because CyberGhost VPN uses a proprietary method of channeling your data between various servers, depending on the type of data and traffic in question, combined with which servers are the least busy, and many other factors.
For ordinary surfing of the internet, one doesn’t notice a huge difference due to this system. However, it really is impressive when dealing with things like large file transfers and p2p, which is what it was originally built for in the first place.
The in-app ping test is also really nice
CyberGhost VPN also has a great feature built-in which really helps choose the best server. You can ping multiple servers within the app to see where the lowest ping or pings are coming from, and connect based on that. Ping often directly correlates with other connection quality factors, such as total bandwidth and jitter, so this is a very useful tool at times.
Best choice for advanced users
CyberGhost VPN’s feature set is truly wonderful if you want all of the advanced options available to you. These guys have literally thought of practically everything.
If you need to dig deep into the options in order to do things your way, and like to tweak things down to the electronics, CyberGhost VPN is probably going to wind up being the best option for you for a VPN.
In fact, often you can really boost your speed with a little intelligent poking around with CyberGhost. This is something that is also true of the other VPNs mentioned here in this article. However, CyberGhost really takes these options to the next level.
General tips for VPN speed
There are also many things you can control as the user that will possibly help you get a better speed out of your VPN. Here is a quick checklist for those of you who feel they aren’t getting enough out of their VPN and would like to improve the bandwidth a little:
Change the protocol
Most VPNs allow you to use one of several different protocols to connect to your VPN. The industry standard is a protocol called OpenVPN, which is considered to offer a good balance in most cases between speed and security.
There is another common protocol called IKEv2/IPsec that will allow for better throughput speeds. It’s still secure but perhaps not quite as secure as the OpenVPN protocol. It may be the perfect option for many situations, however, especially those involving things like video streaming.
Split-tunneling is when you choose which websites, domains or apps use the VPN and which bypasses it. This is especially useful on desktops or laptops using web browsers, but it’s also a good technique on mobile devices.
If you are doing this with NordVPN, you will need to install a browser extension to make it possible. All other VPNs listed here offer you the option automatically.
Choose the closest server you can.
Most of the time, you don’t need to pick a specific country for a VPN server. As long as this is the case (an exception would be if you are trying to get around a regional block, for example), you should generally choose a server that’s as close to you in location as possible.
The exception to this rule would be when the closest server or servers to you are very crowded, in which case distance becomes a secondary consideration.
One should always use the closest server that doesn’t have an inordinate amount of traffic. Sometimes there is a necessary bit of trial and error here, and naturally, server traffic is always changing as well.
Eventually, the diligent user will figure out patterns and know when to connect for maximum benefit.
The year 2021 is bound to be another great year for development in internet-related technology in general, including VPNs.
I am sure that you will have even more and better choices as time goes on. In fact, I am sure that the four already excellent options we mentioned above in this article are also going to just keep getting better and better as time gets on.
I am predicting that higher speeds and lower ping times are going to become more and more the norm as the year 2021 marches on. Perhaps VPNs are going to start becoming so common that they will wind up being the standard way that people connect to the internet. They certainly are quickly becoming something more and more people can’t do without.
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Author Per-Erik Eriksson
Per-Erik-Eriksson is the main author of VPNetic. Everything you read here has been written by him or one of his colleagues. Per-Erik has 10 years of experience within cybersecurity and has previously worked at Microsoft as a software engineer.
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