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Truth About VPN Servers

John Mason

John Mason

There’s a lot of open secrets in the VPN space.

And one of them is VPN servers…

Most users aren’t privy to them.

But behind the scenes, it’s common knowledge. And unfortunately, VPN customers are often the victims. So we’re here to set the record straight.

Here’s the truth about VPN server claims (and how you can separate fact from fiction).

VPN Servers (Last updated 1st of May 2018)

VPN Name Servers  Countries
 NordVPN  3350  64
 Private Internet Access  3059  28
 TorGuard  3000  50
 ExpressVPN  1500  93
 CyberGhost  1300  61
 IPVanish  1000  60
 Speedify  1000  28
 SurfyEasy  1000  28
 HideMyAss  760  190
 PureVPN  750  140
 VyprVPN  700  72
 SaferVPN  700  34
 DotVPN  700  12
 StrongVPN  682  26
 HotSpot Shield  500  24
 WindScribe  480  51
 VPN Unlimited  400  52
 OneVPN  390  59
 Astrill  360  50
 TunnelBear  350  20
 Anonymous VPN  336  49
 PersonalVPN  300  44
 TigerVPN  300  42
 SpyOFF  300  32
 VPNArea  230  70
 AirVPN  209  19
 ProtonVPN  190  16
 ibVPN  180  57
 Mullvad  166  29
 SlickVPN  150  40
 SwitchVPN  150  32
 Hide All IP  150  30
 Trust.Zone  135  31
 VPN.ht  128  24
 Hide My IP  117  66
 Ivacy  94  55
 PrivateVPN  80  56
 VPNSecure.me  72  48
 FastestVPN  70  10
 Perfect Privacy  55  23
 Avast SecureLine  52  33
 Goose VPN  50  20
 Ace VPN  48  26
 Buffered  46  42
 VPNTunnel  43  31
 Encrypt.me  43  15
 Zenmate VPN  40  31
 LiquidVPN  40  11
 iVPN  37  13
 Hide Me VPN  35  28
 BolehVPN  35  12
 Ra4w VPN  32  22
 VPN.ac  32  21
 BlackVPN  31  18
 FrootVPN  30  18
 ZoogVPN  27  18
 Avira Phantom  25  25
 TouchVPN  25  25
 CactusVPN  23  14
 PrivateTunnel  22  12
 ProXPN  21  4
 Celo VPN  18  15
 AzireVPN  18  5
 Betternet  11  10
 SecureVPN  5  5
 BTGuard  3  3
 Anonymizer VPN  2  2

What is a VPN Server?

VPNs create a secure tunnel around your internet connection.

You’re still going through an internet service provider (ISP). But you’re also connecting to a VPN’s servers to help encrypt and scramble your data.

That way, both your ISP and the websites you visit are fooled.

How a VPN server works

Neither can see where you’re coming from, where you’re going, or who you really are.

That’s mostly a good thing.

It means your personal data can’t be tracked. Your internet can’t be censored. And you can’t be hacked by bad actors on the same network connection.

But here’s the problem.

Many (most?) VPN companies don’t actually own their own servers.

Instead, they’re often renting or leasing them from other entities.

Think about it:

Some claim they have servers in nearly every big city around the world.

You know how expensive leases for data centers would be?!

Not to mention, you’d need to hire people in each location to maintain the servers. Which means you’d also have to file to do business in each city, pay taxes to each country, and deal with all of their regulations.

Case in point:

Many companies say they have servers inside some of the toughest, most restrictive countries in the world. HideMyAss! says they’ve got two in North Korea.

Hide My Ass North Korea VPN server

All of these extra costs and regulatory hurdles… yet, the average service charges only around $6-9/month.

Something doesn’t add up here. Technically, none of it does.

Especially when it’s far cheaper and easier to simply find someone else who’s already running those data centers in each location.

Pay them a few bucks a month to rent access, and then resell that to your broad, worldwide customer base.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning.

Because it causes a trickle down effect into many other areas.

Like logging, for instance.

Your VPN Doesn’t Log… But Does the Server Owner?

Visit any VPN website and you’ll see the exact same claim:

“No logging.”

Every single one says it.

And yet, almost every single one is lying straight to your face.

First and foremost, their Privacy Policy or Terms of Service will almost always admit to “some logging.” While others, like Hotspot Shield, have had complaints filed by advocacy groups to the FTC.
FTC complaint against Hotspot Shield

Each gives a different reason.

Some say it’s for performance maintenance. Others say it’s for the benefit of the user.

Either way, the end result is always the same.

We’ve confirmed this after reading through 100 different Logging Policies.

But there’s another wrinkle that most neglect.

What happens when a VPN company doesn’t actually own their own servers? What if they’re renting them from a third-party?

I’ll tell you what:

That “logging policy” is complete BS. Because even though the VPN company says they don’t log, doesn’t mean the actual server owner doesn’t.

Really?

And when a government rolls around to collect data, guess who will hand everything over at the drop of a hat? Your VPN can’t always save you then.

Free VPNs” get in trouble here, too.

They suck in users by offering a completely free VPN service.

But guess what?

It’s free for a reason. They’re collecting your behavior and browsing data, before turning around and selling it to the highest bidder.

Never Take the Number of VPN Servers for Granted

If a VPN company doesn’t own its own servers, they might not be truthful about the number of servers they have access to, either.

Unfortunately, most server numbers are also a lie.

They’re renting access to large data centers full of servers. So of course, they’re going to claim you have access to all of them.

But the honest truth is that this is almost impossible to verify.

VPNs exist to boost privacy and anonymity.

So by definition, they’re operating in a gray area. They’re not regulated and there are no third-party watchdogs that audit VPN companies.

You take a VPN’s word for it when they tell you “no logging.”

And then when subpoenas show up, fingers get pointed that result in arrests.

Hide My Ass users arrested

Now, here’s the tricky thing.

You do still want to look at the total number of servers advertised by each VPN.

I know, this sounds hypocritical.

But the number matters for two reasons:

  1. More servers means less overcrowding, resulting in better performance.
  2. Servers closest to your physical location will typically provide the best performance.

Why More VPN Servers is Almost Always Better

Servers, at their core, are pretty simple.

Each provides a certain amount of resources that can comfortably be used up by a certain number of people.

More people? Means you need more servers.

Otherwise, server resources can get bogged down and spread too thin.

That’s when performance starts to slide, and upload/download times fall off a cliff.

So no, you can’t always take a VPN’s word as Gospel. However, you should still use their advertised number as a rough estimate.

You can use it as a starting point, even if it does turn out to be less in reality.

Ideally, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice security for speed.

But you will if there aren’t enough servers in location closest to where you live. Or if you’re forced to hop countries.

Why Your Physical Location to a Server Affects Performance

Escaping government surveillance is one of the main reasons behind using a VPN in the first place.

But I don’t just mean China or Russia.

VPN legal by country

This applies to most countries in Western Europe, Oceania, and North America, too.

The extended Fourteen Eyes allegiance means if (and when) the U.S.’ NSA picks up your online scent, they’re going to share it with everyone from Canada, to the:

  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Sweden
  • Spain

Oh, and there are also more unofficial partners including Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and Israel.

The point of this long, drawn-out example is that you DO want to use a server outside of these countries listed.

BUT, that’s not going to be easy. Because there’s a lot of names on this list. And you’ll usually see the best performance from servers that are still relatively close to you.

Once again, it’s simple.

Complex data that has to travel back-and-forth across longer distances means more inconsistencies and potential issues.

The end result you see is sluggish speeds or lagging streams.

A simple speed test confirms this.

First, find your benchmark connection rate without a VPN. Next, connect to a server close to you and re-test. Then, connect to a server on the other side of the globe and see what happens.

You’ll see significant differences in both upload and download speeds. You’ll also notice a drop in the ping, or connection delay between each server and your device.

And the problem is that when VPNs are really slow, you’re more likely to either downgrade encryptions or turn it off altogether.

Which opens you back up to surveillance or cybersecurity risks.

This is why you need to see lots of servers in different countries. No matter how many there actually are.

  • Too few, overcrowded servers means terrible speeds.
  • Servers only in major countries means a greater risk in those governments sharing data.
  • Servers too far away will also cause performance delays.

So you need a happy medium of enough servers in safe countries that are relatively close to your physical location.

Once you’ve found that, you’re almost all of the way across the finish line.

There’s just one last hurdle, though.

Fake VPN Locations Are Common

VPN companies will exaggerate their logging policies or the total number of servers to make themselves look better.

The honest truth is that many VPN products provide the exact same features.

Encryption standards are the same. Protocol options are, too.

So they ‘puff up’ these extra items help differentiate them from competitors.

You can kinda forgive some of those lies.

But not this last one.

After testing dozens of products, we’ve singled-out a few VPN companies that even lie about their server locations. SlickVPN, for example, told us that we were connected to a server in New York.

Except, we tested it. And the results showed we were actually connected to one in Miami, instead.

SlickVPN fake server location

That one wasn’t so bad.

But check this one out from TouchVPN:

TouchVPN fake server location

It said we were connected to a server in the United States.

Maybe we’re trying to access geo-restricted content on Netflix. Except, it didn’t work.

Because we were actually connected to a server in France!

Think about the ramifications of this.

What if VPNs were illegal in your country? What if you were trying to avoid another jurisdiction that shares browsing data? What if you were trying to bank and credit card data secure while buying stuff online?

A single fake location like this could ruin you.

That’s why you need to know more about the company behind each VPN.

That’s why you need to know more about VPN servers in general.

Because there are still a lot of shady characters out there.

Many of which, might be promising you ‘security’ and ‘anonymity.’

While they’re just ripping you off, instead.

3 thoughts on “Truth About VPN Servers

  1. Very well done! Luckily I just user it for Netflix and general privacy so I don’t have to worry so much about getting arrested for my online activities.

  2. OK, you described the pitfalls and the issues with what you believe you are getting and what you actually receive. You do NOT give us any comprehensive investigated and proven information about the “right” VPN services to use.

    There fore you are worthless and just spouting wind.

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