Physical VPN Servers vs Virtual VPN Servers

3 min

A server is the most important part of a VPN infrastructure. It is an advanced computer used by VPN providers to host, create, and deliver virtual tunneling and encryption, the two main functions of VPN software. When you connect to a VPN, your connection passes through such a server, which switches its IP address with its own. It is also responsible for other features such as IP hopping and DNS leak protection.

VPN servers are usually spread across locations in several countries, giving you the flexibility to connect to specific cities and regions. Such VPN servers come in two main types: physical and virtual. VPN companies may choose either or both of them to build their global VPN infrastructure. While physical VPN servers are better suited for most VPN needs (from a user perspective), both types have their sets of pros and cons.

Let’s quickly examine physical and virtual VPN servers and why they matter.

VPN Servers: Physical Versus Virtual

Physical VPN servers (also known as RAM-only servers) are advanced computers that are housed in data centers around the world. VPN providers can choose to set up data centers in locations (regions) whose IP addresses are in great demand. Generally speaking, United States IP addresses are in high demand by users from other countries. This is why VPN companies have a lot of physical servers across the US.

Such a physical server then attaches its local IP address to all connections routed through it. If a physical server is located somewhere in Miami, it’ll effectively have a Miami IP address. Other advantages of a physical server include:

  • Easy configuration and customization
  • Faster tunneling and encryption (better speed)
  • Easy compliance with local data regulations (for the provider)

In contrast, virtual VPN servers are an extension of physical VPN servers. They simulate the operations of a physical server virtually while relying on the physical server’s resources. A single physical server can host several virtual servers depending on its resource bandwidth. 

The biggest advantage of virtual VPN servers over their physical counterparts is lower infrastructure costs. VPN companies can create as many virtual servers as they want (or as many as their physical servers’ resources allow) and configure different IP addresses on them.

For example, a physical server in Miami can host a dozen virtual servers that may each generate different IP addresses. However, the IP address location will remain the same, that is Miami.

Other advantages of virtual VPN servers are:

  • Easy IP network extension 
  • Easy data compliance avoidance (for the provider)
  • No need to have dedicated physical servers

If a company wants to simulate different IP locations, it can use virtual server locations. These can be based on physical or virtual servers but mimic the locations of any region in the world. Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds, as we briefly discussed in our take on creating your own VPN. You are better off investing in a virtual private server (VPS) than looking to create your own VPN.

Many VPN startups depend on virtual VPN servers because of their lower cost and maintenance. At the same time, bigger players invest in virtual servers to test out new locations and gauge their demand. If they see a need in any specific region, they consider building a physical data center.

All that demands another question: which one is better for you? A physical VPN server or a virtual one?

TuxlerVPN recommends choosing physical VPN servers over their virtual counterparts. If you want high-speed and uninterrupted tunneling, it’s better to choose physical servers any day.

Many VPN providers do not disclose this information in their VPN apps, so you will have to check their websites to see how much of their server network contains physical servers. Virtual servers may still get your job done but they can be slow, unsafe, and vulnerable to data logging.

When choosing a VPN provider, do not get swayed by the number of locations or servers in its kitty. Instead, look for the number of RAM-only physical servers and then make a decision.

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