How to Choose the Right VPN Server
Alright, so you have everything settled – got yourself a VPN provider, downloaded and installed the client, and are ready to rock ‘n' roll.
But wait, what server do you use?
If you're not sure, and have questions about that, here's all you need to know:
Things to Consider When Picking a VPN Server
Here are the main things you should keep in mind:
1. Your Privacy
If you want to keep your privacy intact, you need to pick a VPN server that has no logs. Otherwise, the provider might know details about your connection, or – even worse – about what you do online if they have usage logs.
If the server has any logs, the authorities could force the provider to hand them over, for instance.
Yeah, I know the guy in that story had it coming, but that's not what I wanted to highlight. The problem is that government agencies can abuse vague laws to strong-arm VPN providers to hand over any user data.
Besides that, you also have to consider which protocols the VPN server you want to use supports.
For example, if the server can only run L2TP/IPSec or SSTP, it's not gonna work well for your privacy.
For one, L2TP/IPSec might not have any well-known vulnerabilities, but it is based on Microsoft's PPTP – a protocol that can be easily cracked.
As for SSTP, well it solely belongs to Microsoft – a company that collaborated with the NSA, and also the first company to join the PRISM surveillance program.
A server that supports protocols like OpenVPN, SoftEther, Surfshark VPN and IKEv2 would be a much better choice.
2. The Content You Want to Unblock
Obviously, if you want to watch TV shows, movies, videos, and other content that are only available in a specific country, you're gonna need to connect to a VPN server in said country.
3. The Distance
If speed is crucial for your online experience, you should consider choosing a VPN server that's physically closer to you.
Because it'll take less time for data packet transfers to finish up.
They normally flow continuously through the VPN tunnel between the VPN client on your device, and the VPN server. The shorter the distance between the client and the server, the faster the packets will travel.
So that'd mean that if you are in the UK, for example, you'd get better speeds with a VPN server from the Netherlands than one from Poland.
There are many other factors that affect the VPN speed (like your CPU, the encryption, your own ISP speeds), but this is one of the main ones.
You should generally have an easy time finding a server that's close to you if you use services that have hundreds of servers around the world.
4. Whether You Want to Torrent or Not
Using a VPN to download torrents is always a good idea. It keeps your privacy safe, and you don't need to worry about any ISP service terminations or DMCA notices.
But before you start, you need to make sure you're actually allowed to engage in file-sharing on the VPN server you want to use.
Contrary to what you might think, not every single VPN server a provider offers support for P2P traffic. That's because some of them might be in countries where torrenting is illegal – like the US, for example.
If you don't pay attention to that, you might end up having your VPN account closed by the provider since you're basically violating their ToS, and risk getting their company in legal trouble.
Normally, a provider will clearly display which VPN servers support P2P traffic and which don't on their server web pages, or maybe even in the client itself.
5. How Much Data You Want to Use
If you want to stream content for hours on end, you should pick a VPN server that has no bandwidth caps. Essentially, any server that advertises unlimited bandwidth is a good choice.
Normally, you don't have to worry about this if you use a decent VPN provider – most of them don't use bandwidth caps.
Usually, this is the kind of thing you need to worry about when you use a free VPN service.
VPN Provider Features That Make Picking a Server Easier
Sometimes, VPN providers might offer you neat things like being able to sort VPN servers by certain factors – like speed, for example.
Something like that really comes in handy when you just can't make a decision.
Another cool feature is having the VPN client offer you automatic VPN server recommendations based on your current geographical location.
Also, a lot of providers will let you assign servers as Favorites, saving you the trouble of having to find them again.
That and you might even be able to set up auto-connect options to your favorite server every time you start up the VPN client.
Those are just some examples that make life a little bit easier.
Of course, not all providers offer these kinds of features – they usually vary from provider to provider.
How to Find a VPN with Decent Servers
I'm not going to lie – doing that isn't a simple walk in the park.
You're gonna have to check out multiple providers, and that's already a huge hassle since there are hundreds of them on the market.
Next, you'll have to see what features and limitations their servers have, and compare the top providers to see which one works best for you.
All of that can easily amount to a few hours of work.
At least that's how it went for me until I came across ProPrivacy's ultimate list of VPN services. All the info you need is right there, and the comparisons are very easy to understand and scan through.