If you’re looking at a new VPN website and want to quickly determine how reputable it is, one particular claim that providers have long used to set themselves apart from the competition stands out.
“We’ve got thousands of servers”, they declare proudly. There are many hundred venues around the world – some of them in well-known tourist destinations like Paris, Las Vegas, and New York City, as well as major metropolises such as London and Los Angeles.
It makes sense to value network size. You’re more likely to have one nearby, improving performance. And 1,000 servers is clearly superior to 100, since it distributes user strain and you’re less likely to see speeds plummet during peak hours.
That may be true, but reality is seldom as simple. We’ll look at why network size might not be as important as you believe and how VPNs are looking to new methods to enhance their service in this post.
Virtual servers (VPS)
HideMyAss is a good choice for people living in Australia, since they have servers all over the world. (or HMA as it’s now more popularly known) is the VPN service to check first if you’re searching for one with servers in every country.
It boasts that it has the “largest VPN network in the globe,” according to its website proudly. Even ExpressVPN, which claims to be “the largest” with 94 countries of operation, trails behind NordVPN’s 59.
However, the HMA website clarifies that some of these are “virtual servers.” The firm explains, “they are physically located outside the country they claim to be in, but use that country’s IP address so it appears as if you’re connecting through that region.”
In other parts of the world, HMA doesn’t often utilize virtual servers, but this is not the case in North America or Europe. For instance, Africa has over 50 countries where HMA already boasts a presence (NordVPN provides service to just five African nations).
However, virtually all of these are virtual servers. They’ll give you an address from Nigeria, Bahrain, Fiji, or wherever you’re from, but the actual servers aren’t located there and won’t provide you with the performance boost you might anticipate.
To be clear, HMA is not doing anything unethical in this scenario. In fact, it’s quite up-front on the website with regard to virtual servers, telling you where they’re utilized and how many and what type of servers it employs. Other firms may bury this information in the support pages somewhere or never disclose it at all.
This implies you can’t assume that selecting a VPN with 250 countries, rather than 25, automatically guarantees you a server physically closer to you. For example, although an IP address from Iraq might be available, the server may well be elsewhere.
VPNs, IP addresses, locations, and countries are other factors that should be considered.
Another issue with network statistics is that they may be interpreted in a variety of ways. HMA tramples over the competition, having 290+ locations in 210+ countries.
That would be a major benefit if you’re constantly traveling across the world or simply want to use HMA as a streaming VPN to access local TV in Asia. If you don’t need all of those countries, things could be very different.
NordVPN is a great choice for accessing geo-restricted Netflix libraries in a single click. While the service does have many servers, it lags behind HMA when it comes to location. For example, while NordVPN has about 1,800 servers, HMA only has around 275.
Even so, these figures don’t paint the complete picture, as you’ll find out. There’s one more key consideration to be made.
The speed of the VPN server
The drawback of VPN network data is that not all servers are created equal. One server from a premium VPN might be a low-cost VPS from a budget web host sharing a 1Gbps internet connection with 25 other websites. Another might be a powerful dedicated server with its own 20GBps connection.
Even if there is a huge difference in the numbers of servers offered by two providers – for example, 100 over here, 1000 over there – it’s hard to properly compare networks unless you have some idea of the technology they employ.
The good news is that VPN providers are beginning to recognize that “I have more servers than you” fights aren’t working any longer. It’s no longer about having a lot of servers; instead, it’s all about the network quality.
Quality rather than quantity is what counts.
In 2021, however, things changed for VyperVPN. The firm has removed many of its old virtual servers, reducing the network from 180+ locations in 140+ countries to only 86 sites in 78 nations.
However, PureVPN had something to say about it: ‘…we’ve abandoned dozens of virtual servers… to provide a premium VPN experience… Our real VPN servers are more stable and better-equipped to deliver faster speeds than the ones built on public clouds.
PureVPN has shifted the emphasis to physical VPN servers in recent years, instead of raw server counts. IPVanish has been talking about its network upgrades for a long time, including a switch to 25Gbps connectivity.
This isn’t only about speed. Providers are coming up with their own methods to set their network apart from the competition.
ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer technology involves servers that are run entirely in RAM to enhance security, whereas NordVPN now runs all of its servers through a colocation agreement.
This is only the beginning of a movement, not its conclusion. Many ISPs simply brag about server counts and don’t give clients any information about the technology they’re using.
However, it’s quite clear where things are heading. In the future, we’ll hear considerably less “my network is bigger than yours” and more details on why VPN servers stand out and what they can accomplish.
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