Top VPN providers have up to thousands of servers worldwide. Moreover, they tend to be spread out over multiple continents and dozens of countries. So yes, VPN server location does matter – but in what ways? And how significantly does it affect your online experience?
Well, we’ve got your answers right here. Here’s what you need to know.
- VPN Server Location Is Crucial Against Geo-blocking
- Bypass Censorship with the Right VPN Server Location
- Location Affects Your Internet Speeds
- Privacy and the Fourteen Eyes
1. VPN Server Location Is Crucial Against Geo-blocking
You’re probably aware that VPNs can help you bypass geo-restrictions. For example, you can watch YouTube videos unavailable in your country due to copyright laws. Similarly, you can unblock streaming sites from around the world, so you can get more out of your subscription.
Netflix, YouTube, and other websites detect your location through your IP address. By connecting to a VPN server in a different country, your real IP is masked, and a new one is assigned based on the server you connect to. If you live in Europe and want to watch US Netflix shows, you simply need to connect to a US server to do so.
Not sure which VPNs are fit for the job? Don’t worry; we’ve pretty much covered most major streaming services and which VPNs actually work for each. Check them out below:
- They’re not in their prime anymore, but they’re still the world’s largest streaming service. Check out some of the best VPNs for Netflix and unlock over 5900 shows with a US VPN server.
- It’s no Netflix, but you can still catch some exclusive shows not found anywhere else with the best VPN for Hulu.
- Are you a fan of Doctor Who and can’t be bothered to buy individual episodes off Amazon? Try out the best VPN for BBC iPlayer, and enjoy a myriad of UK-exclusive productions.
2. Bypass Censorship with the Right VPN Server Location
The same principle that allows you to view blocked content applies here. If your government blocks major websites like Facebook or Twitter, you can get around that by connecting to a VPN server in a less restrictive country.
In 2013, Turkish citizens turned to VPNs as a way to bypass possible Internet crackdowns following the Instanbul protests of the time. They used free VPN provider Hotspot Shield, making their install numbers soar up by 1000% over the course of the weekend.
3. Location Affects Your Internet Speeds
It’s no secret that a VPN can slow down your Internet speed. For one, the act of encrypting your data takes time and processing power. Why? Well, encryption uses complex mathematics to make your online data virtually impossible to read by outsiders. That includes hackers, your ISP, and even government intelligence agencies.
Second of all, your data needs to pass through a different location before it reaches its destination. The longer the distance it has to travel, the slower your connection becomes. As such, it’s a good idea to pick a VPN server location that’s closer to you. Unless you absolutely have to connect to a specific region for unblocking purposes, that is.
Of course, this doesn’t always help. For instance, you could connect to a VPN server that is used by too many people at once. In other words, the server is experiencing a high load, meaning you’d get slow speeds even if its location is close to you.
The same applies if the country you’re connecting to has poor Internet infrastructure. Australia’s broadband Internet is infamously slow and its new National Broadband Network (NBN) doesn’t show much promise at the moment.
Finally, if your provider can’t afford high-performance servers, it doesn’t matter how close they are to you. Check out our list of the fastest VPNs in 2020 for some lightning-fast providers.
4. Privacy and the Fourteen Eyes
The “Fourteen Eyes” isn’t part of a movie title, though we wish it were. Instead, it’s an alliance of 14 countries that share military intelligence among themselves. That may seem relatively normal at first until you realize they can (and will) share information regarding their own citizens.
Here’s what countries make up the alliance(s):
- 5 Eyes – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, the US
- 9 Eyes – all 5 Eyes countries plus Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Norway
- 14 Eyes – the 9 Eyes plus Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Sweden
The US and UK are part of this alliance, and they’ve infamously tried to include backdoors in software that would compromise your privacy. In fact, they’re still trying to. This is why you’ll find many VPN reviewers recommending providers that aren’t based in a 5/9/14 eyes country.
While VPNs can still protect your data in these locations, it can all change at a moment’s notice. At the same time, and this is purely speculative, it’s also recommended that you pick a VPN server location outside the 5/9/14 Eyes for privacy purposes.
The reason we say it’s speculative is that there is no concrete evidence that anyone can spy on your VPN traffic, even in these surveillance-heavy countries. But again, with all the anti-privacy legislation being passed nowadays, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
While you’re at it, see which are the best VPN services that will fight for your right to privacy and security in these uncertain times.
Best VPN Server Location for Your Needs
We’ve previously covered how to choose the best VPN server location in more depth, right here. You can find out which locations are best for booking cheap flights, as well as some great tips for website developers – so we highly recommend the guide. Here are some other highlights:
- Bypassing geo-blocks and censorship – you’ll need a server outside your current location. The US and European countries are good bets if you’re trying to escape Internet crackdowns. Choosing a US server will likely get you past irritating copyright blocks as well.
- Better browsing and download speeds – pick a VPN server closer to you. This largely depends on your VPN provider and the server load, so a bit of trial-and-error is involved. A location that’s a bit further (but whose servers aren’t overloaded) may be the better choice sometimes.
- Privacy and security – a server outside the 5/9/14 Eyes is ideal, but not necessarily dangerous if you can’t avoid it. “No-logs” providers such as ExpressVPN have proven that even getting their servers seized under oppressive regimes hasn’t done anything to affect the privacy of their users.
Ever used a VPN to escape censorship? Is there anything you feel we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.