How to Choose the Best VPN Server Location
Using a VPN service is pretty simple. But one thing that even seasoned VPN users struggle with is finding and connecting to the right server location.
An all-purpose nearby server may offer good speeds, but a far-off optimized server may provide a better experience for your particular use case.
Which server location should you choose then? Whether you are gaming online, streaming geo-restricted content, or simply wanting to maximize your privacy, we’ve got tips for you to choose the right server.
Why a VPN Server Location Is Important
Regardless of the online activities you do, your server location will influence your overall internet experience. It will affect your upload and download speeds, latency, security and privacy, and the range of content you can access with a VPN.
Also, several problems with VPNs occur due to the wrong choice of VPN server location. While some issues can be caused by poor service, a lot of them occur because you didn’t choose the right server location.
For a smooth, reliable, and convenient online experience, the server location is the first thing to consider when using a VPN. Here is how you can pick the right server location for your particular use cases.
The Best VPN Location for Fast and Reliable Connections
If speed and connection reliability are your only concerns, it’s best to connect to a nearby server. When you connect to a server that is close to your physical location, it takes less time for the data packets from your device to reach the VPN server, the desired webpage, and back to your device.
With nearby servers, you will likely get fast connections that won’t drop out on you and interrupt your online experience. But you still need to take a few factors into account before connecting to the nearest server location.
- A country’s digital infrastructure can affect the internet speed and your VPN connection. Regions with better connectivity and advanced networking equipment usually offer fast speeds and reliable connections.
- The number of VPN servers in a country can also impact the performance of your VPN connection. If a VPN’s servers are always crowded, chances are that you will experience slow speeds, packet loss, jitters, and increased latency.
Fortunately, certain VPN services, like PIA and NordVPN, show you the server’s ping or load. If you’ve access to these metrics, make sure that you choose a server with the lowest ping or load to ensure fast speeds.
The Best VPN Server Location for Unblocking Geo-Restricted Content
If your government blocks access to popular websites like Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter, you can get around the restrictions by using a VPN.
You can also use a VPN to access content that’s unavailable in your country due to broadcast rights or copyright laws. Netflix and Hulu, for example, use your IP address to serve you content available only in your location.
So, if you are traveling or want to stream content from another region’s library, you will need an IP address of your desired location. A VPN does this by masking your real IP address and assigning you a new IP based on the server you connect to.
Note that some streaming services block any users it detects using a VPN.
The Best VPN Location for Privacy and Security
VPN services are designed to improve your privacy regardless of the server location you choose. They offer strong encryption, leak protection, a kill switch, and strict no-logs policies, so no one can compromise your data.
Some services even use RAM-only servers that retain data only when you are connected to them. All the data is wiped clean at the end of a session or when the server is rebooted.
However, when it comes to security, the server or country you’re connecting to plays a vital role. Some countries make it mandatory for VPN services to monitor, log, or collect users’ data and hand it over to authorities if asked. Such data collection laws go against the no-logs policies and beat the purpose of using a VPN.
When choosing a VPN, it’s best to go with one that is based in a country with strong data protection laws like Iceland or the British Virgin Islands. Countries that are part of the Five-, Nine-, or 14-Eyes alliance will share information among themselves regarding their own citizens. Here’s a list of countries that make up these alliances.
- Five-Eyes Alliance: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US, and the UK.
- Nine-Eyes Alliance: France, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, and countries in the Five-Eyes alliance.
- 14-Eyes Alliance: Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy, and countries in the Nine-Eyes alliance.
Member states of the alliance have tried several times to include backdoors in software that would compromise your security and privacy. This is why many security experts recommend VPN services headquartered outside the alliance.
However, VPNs that operate from within these locations can still protect your data. Private Internet Access, for instance, is based in the US—a member state of the 14-Eyes alliance—but its no-logs policy has been verified in court more than once.
There’s also no guarantee that VPNs in other regions will not monitor your internet activity. Several countries have passed anti-privacy regulations, making it mandatory for VPNs to log customer data. With all these regulations being passed, it’s necessary to choose services that will fight for users’ privacy in these uncertain times.
Choosing the Best VPN Server Location
Choosing the right server location is a matter of personal preference and individual internet needs. If a fast and reliable connection is your goal, you should choose a server closer to your physical location.
To bypass censorship or unblock geo-restricted content, connect to a server location where the content is available. This applies both to free websites and premium subscription-based services. And if data protection is your main concern, try connecting to a server location with strong data privacy laws.
The best VPN services are usually located in countries like Panama, Switzerland, Iceland, Romania, and the British Virgin Islands. These countries have strong laws that protect users’ privacy and prevent companies from collecting and processing users’ data.