When starting up a VPN app, choosing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) server location is probably one of the first things that you’ll do. However, many people often overlook this tiny detail, not realizing how important it is to carefully choose a server in a specific country or region.
But with numerous countries to choose from, how can you tell which is the “best?” Luckily, our handy guide walks you through this process. Let’s begin!
Why Does VPN Server Location Matter?
Simply put, location is everything when it comes to your VPN. Picking an optimal server location will allow you to bypass regional restrictions, surf the internet more privately and securely, and perhaps most importantly, have the best connection speed.
As for what’s the best VPN server to connect to, the answer, as always, is it depends. Are you more concerned about your privacy than your speed, or is ensuring a fast, stable connection your priority? Read on to find the server location (and VPN service) that best suits your needs.
How To Pick VPN Servers If You’re Optimizing for Speed
The short answer? Pick a VPN server location that is close to you.
The full answer? Well, when you connect to the internet, your computer sends data packets through your network. These data packets are routed through various servers before reaching their final destination. However, when you use a VPN, these servers act as an intermediary between your computer and the web server that hosts whatever website or service you’re accessing.
For example, imagine that you live in the US but are connecting to a VPN server in France to watch a show that’s hosted on a German web server. The data from that web server has to go through the French server first before moving on to your PC in the US.
Remember: Not all servers are created equal. One rule of thumb is that the closer you are geographically to the server that you choose, the better off your connection will be because it will have a shorter distance to travel.
Like everything else in the world, your data packets are subject to the laws of physics, which will affect your connection speed and latency, regardless of how fast your internet connection is.
However, just because a location is close by doesn’t mean it won’t have poor performance; multiple factors determine how fast your internet will be when it’s connected to a VPN, such as the following:
- Geographic location (as stated above)
- Bandwidth throttling by your ISP
- Cable quality
- Router distance (just move your wireless devices closer to your router)
Unfortunately, your ISP choices may be limited, and there is close to nothing that you can do about the quality of the cables that your packets will go through (this is mostly the responsibility of your ISP as well as the companies that manage transcontinental data cables).
However, you can make the most of what you have: To achieve the best speed, you can pick a server located in a country that’s closest to you, and test it out using an online speed test, such as Speedtest.net or Fast.com. If you’re using a Mac, ExpressVPN has a built-in speed test that you can run simply by going to the main menu and selecting “Speed Test.”
You can then compare different servers from the same country to help you find the one that’s the fastest for you.
How To Pick VPN Servers If You’re Bypassing Regional Restrictions
VPNs are also great for accessing region-locked content. A VPN can help you access content from other countries, whether it’s a movie, series, or game that isn’t available in your country or even as simple as a website that has been blocked by your ISP.
If you got a VPN solely to watch shows or films that are limited to specific countries, then you can simply prioritize servers based on what country (or countries) the movies or shows are currently exclusive to.
For example, if you want to watch Pulp Fiction using your existing Netflix subscription from anywhere in the world, you can simply go to UNOGS.com (the Unofficial Netflix Online Global Search), look up Pulp Fiction, and pick one of the 15 countries that currently host it in their Netflix catalogs.
VPNs can also be used to get around censorship and geo-restrictions placed by governments and corporations alike.
By connecting to a VPN server located outside of your own country, you can gain access to websites that would otherwise be inaccessible due to local laws or restrictions imposed by your ISP.
How To Pick VPN Servers For Increased Privacy and Security
Your VPN can hide a lot of things, but some countries make it mandatory for VPN providers to keep logs of their users’ data.
If you prioritize your privacy and data security above connection speeds and region-locked content, you can connect to a server located in a nation that has strict data protection laws.
Consider the following countries:
Has very strict data protection policies, preventing companies from hoovering up your online data and selling it to the highest bidder.
Has especially favorable personal data and privacy protection laws, and the collection of such data is not required by law, allowing you to stay anonymous as you browse online.
Does not have any data retention laws, which means that VPN providers do not need to store any data on their users, effectively providing a spotless record of your online activities.
Pick a VPN that lets you connect to a server hosted in any of these countries, and you can rest assured that your personal data (and browsing activities) will remain safe from any prying eyes.
The Top VPNs With the Best Server Locations
Whether you’re aiming for privacy or speed or simply itching to watch shows on a region-locked streaming service, you’ll need to pick a VPN. Here are some of our top recommendations, starting from the one with the highest number of countries in its server network:
Lets you connect an unlimited number of devices to 3200 servers in 100 countries, which is perfect if you have a lot of devices that you want to use a VPN on.
ExpressVPN, on the other hand, comes with a sleek, user-friendly interface and boasts high-speed servers situated in 94 different countries.
Allows you to connect up to 7 devices to 9130 servers located in 91 countries, letting you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Has a free (albeit slower) version that lets you connect to servers in Japan, the Netherlands, and the US. However, subscribing to its paid version lets you connect to 2193 servers spread out across 67 countries at a faster speed.
Lets you link up to 6 of your devices to 5466 ultra-fast servers hosted in 60 countries.
VPN Server Locations: Decisions, Decisions
Choosing the optimal VPN server location (or the best VPN) is your decision: Whether it’s speed, online privacy, or access to the coolest and latest movies, you will need to weigh these factors (among others) to single out the best server for you.
But, with the handy tips that we’ve listed, you can make that decision a lot faster and easier, ensuring that you have the best experience, and letting you get to what matters the most quicker: enjoying a fast and restriction-free internet privately and securely!