Does VPN Use Data? (And How Much?)

Connecting to the internet through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) has a range of benefits. These networks help to hide your IP address, keep sensitive data safe, and provide better protection while browsing.

The main reason people use VPNs is to access online content that may be restricted in their particular area. For instance, if you want to watch a sport’s game from another country, it may be restricted in your region. By using a VPN, you can connect to another country and appear as if you are there.

One area in which VPNs are not so useful is when helping you stay inside your data plan. When you use a VPN, it will count against the data limits on your smartphones or tablets.

Why? This is because the data that you access through different devices have to appear through your internet service provider’s servers first. This all happens before the data reaches the server of your VPN provider.

However, the benefits of using a VPN usually outweigh the drawbacks. You just have to be aware of how much data you are using so you do not go over and have a nasty bill at the end of the month.

How much data do VPNs use?

Most of us rely on a data plan when visiting sites, watching movies, or sending emails on a phone or tablet. The one thing we all have in common is that we want to use as little data as possible to save money.

Most data plans come with caps but if you go over these, it can cost extra or even slow down your internet speed to a snail’s pace. The bad news is that using a VPN does not mean data caps can be forgotten about. Whether you’re browsing social media, downloading videos, streaming TV shows and movies, or listening to your favorite tunes, these all count against your data limits.

Whether you use a VPN or not, your data can take a hit. Unfortunately, VPNs use up slightly more data, too. This is because the service encrypts your data. This is a function that encodes data so only authorized users can access it. It safeguards internet users against unlawful or unauthorized processing of personal data and protects information that is stored on different static or mobile devices.

Because of this encryption, you can expect a VPN to consume 5 percent to 15 percent of your data. This is a significant amount, especially if your data plan is quite small. If this is the case, you will probably go over your data allowance on most months, unless you monitor your usage closely.

Estimating this usage is relatively simple. Imagine you are downloading a large movie file that makes up 2GB of data.

When using a regular public connection, the data usage will be exactly 2GB. But, this isn’t the same with the use of a VPN. Because the data is encrypted for you by the VPN, the data usage increases. Therefore, 2GB of data is actually 2,048 MB, so it means you’re transferring something that is closer to 2,348 MB in total.

This number then multiplies for every file you access. If you stream multiple HD or 4K movies using a VPN over the course of one day, you could be adding up to 1 or 2 GB of extra data. And this is just from the encryption that takes place. That’s just a single day.

Now, add up this total over a number of days or weeks, and your VPN could be using several hundred GBs of encryption data alone.

How to use less data with a VPN?

There are certain methods that you can implement when connecting to the internet through a VPN provider. These “protocols” use various amounts of data but using one that takes up less data is not always the best course of action. These VPNs are generally less secure and have a higher risk of compromising your privacy as you search the web.

Let’s take a look at some of the protocol types with VPNs and see how much data each uses:

  • 128-bit PPTP - This uses the smallest amount of data. But, as we mentioned, this also provides the least security and privacy for your online activities. Therefore, this is not recommended when connecting to the internet through a VPN.
  • 128-bit L2TP/IPSec - This uses a lower amount of data but slightly more than the 128-bit PPTP. However, this protocol’s security is also quite weak so not recommended. 
  • 128-bit OpenVPN - Although this uses a low level of data and provides a better level of security, it still isn’t enough to warrant a recommendation. 
  • 128-bit Stealth OpenVPN - Compared to the three protocols above, this uses a higher amount of data. Even with this higher level, it only offers a moderate level of security so your files and personal information remain at risk from hackers.
  • 256-bit L2TP/IPSec - While this uses quite a bit of data, it provides a supreme level of security.
  • 256-bit OpenVPN - Similar to the 256-bit L2TP/IPSec above, this protocol also offers very good security and only uses a moderate amount of data on your device.
  • 256-bit Stealth OpenVPN - This is one the best out there for protection. It provides excellent levels of security but you pay the price (quite literally) with a higher amount of data being consumed.

Considering these protocols is important as data plans can be very expensive. However, using slightly more data and spending a little extra is usually worth it. Many VPNs provide privacy benefits that you simply can not enjoy otherwise. Yes, you should take steps to conserve your device’s data but keeping your personal information safe from hackers is even more important.

While the data encryption that VPNs provide may cost extra every month with higher data usage, you will remain safe while browsing the web as well as hidden.

In Summary

VPNs may use up more data through encryption but your online activity and personal information will remain hidden and safe. This is usually worth the extra cost.


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