A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is software that many use for multiple reasons.
One person may use it to mask their IP address for privacy, while others may use it to improve their connection to a game they play.
No matter how you use a VPN, you probably read this article because you use a VPN and are interested in Cloud Gaming or would like to know what effects a VPN would have while streaming your favorite games from the cloud.
What is a VPN
A Virtual Private Network is a virtualized network adapter that creates an encrypted tunnel to a server, masking your internet usage from prying eyes.
An example would be that if you navigate to, say, Google Stadia, your Internet Service Provider and other actors between your computer and the server running Stadia will see that you are navigating to Google Stadia.
However, with a VPN, these actors between your computer and the Stadia website will only see that you are accessing the IP address of the VPN server that you are connecting to.
This allows for more privacy as all of the data leaving your computer will be masked by the VPN servers you are connected to.
What is a VPN used for
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, a VPN's main usage is to provide privacy and some security for your internet usage.
With that in mind, many services have servers stationed throughout the world to offer you the best possible connection, with the lowest impact on your internet speeds.
But, because VPNs need to encrypt and modify the traffic sent from your computer, they can affect your overall download/upload speeds and latency.
Also, make sure you do not confuse VPNs with more game-specific private network services like WTFast and Mudfish. These services do not encrypt your traffic like a standard VPN does but instead routes your traffic in the most efficient way to game servers.
Why a VPN may not be a good idea for Cloud Gaming
Cloud Gaming may not be demanding on your hardware, but it is demanding on your internet.
With cloud gaming, you are streaming a game directly to your device. You then need to relay your inputs from your computer to the cloud gaming server running your game. This all has to be done in real-time, meaning that internet speed and latency play a huge role in your cloud gaming experience.
As mentioned above, VPN's encrypt your traffic. This extra bit of encryption will cause an increase in your latency and can cut down your overall download and upload speeds.
Using a VPN that increases this latency will increase the delay from your inputs to the game itself. Not ideal.
Should you use a VPN?
Honestly, for cloud gaming, I highly suggest against using a VPN.
In my opinion, one would only want to use a VPN if they are in a country that is not officially supported by a cloud gaming service, and it is likely that if you are in this country, you will already have a poor connection to these services due to the distance to the datacenters.
Adding a VPN will only increase the latency, causing an even worse experience.
For cloud gaming, you will want to do everything in your power to lower the overall latency and improve your internet connection the best you can. Stop downloads/uploads, limit external streaming factors like Netflix, Hulu, etc., and use a wired connection when possible.
Keeping an eye on all the above will improve your experience, and you would not want to negate the improvements by using a VPN.
A VPN is great for standard browsing, for keeping your information fairly private. But, it is not the greatest for cloud gaming.