What is a VPN Server? How Does It Work?

6 min

Servers play a central role in any virtual private network’s infrastructure. Spread out over different, remote regions, they host and facilitate the VPN tunnel that is used to route and obfuscate user traffic. In a typical VPN infrastructure, it is the VPN server that switches the IP address of a user’s connection through the tunneling process. The more servers a VPN provider has the better for its users to switch between different locations.

A lot of how a VPN functions depends on the quality and quantity of its servers. But there’s a lot more that happens behind the scenes, and the performance of a VPN client directly depends on that of its VPN servers.

So, here’s a detailed look at what VPN servers are, how they work, and how you can use this information to optimize your VPN use.

What is a VPN Server?

A VPN server is a web server that hosts crucial information about its virtual private network. It is just like any other web server with the chief difference that it’s configured and connected to the VPN’s infrastructure. This is how it enables VPN clients or apps to connect to it.

Think of a VPN server as an advanced computer system owned by a VPN company. The company configures this computer using other hardware, its proprietary technology, and other standards (such as VPN protocols) and software (for encryption). When you connect to such a server through a VPN client, you get to assume the IP address of that computer. This is effectively how your IP address is switched, making you nearly anonymous.

In other words, a VPN server is the middleman computer you connect to (via your VPN app) to hide yourself from the websites you visit. We would like to note that while your ISP may not be able to see those websites you visit, they will still know that you are using a VPN.

How Does a VPN Server Work?

A VPN server is built with computer hardware and software. While the hardware dictates the data-processing capacity of the server, the software takes care of encryption and authentication. A lot of how a VPN server functions depends on its configuration by the VPN company. All the different VPN providers you see today differ mainly in this single aspect. 

The quality of a VPN server depends on the sophistication of the hardware and software and how strongly compatible they are with each other. Again, this is where the company’s infrastructure prowess comes to the fore.

The central part of a VPN server is the VPN software set up by the VPN company in question. It’s usually a bunch of applications tied together so that they can handle the incoming and outgoing traffic. This software is made up of any of the different VPN protocols available as open-source standards. Such a protocol is what dictates how user traffic is handled as it is routed through the server

VPN Protocols and VPN Servers: What’s the Relation?

A VPN protocol is an integral part of a VPN server. Its duty is to tunnel the traffic, encrypt it, and ensure that it leaves the server covered and with all the necessary packet information.

Within a server, the success of the entire operation depends on the VPN protocol being used. tuxlerVPN uses and recommends the OpenVPN protocol as it’s the strongest and fastest standard out there at the moment.

Other variables such as computing speed and extra client-based features can also influence the overall experience of a VPN in action. But most of it comes down to the software.

As a user, it is important to evaluate a VPN provider based on its VPN protocols. A cheap (and not free) VPN that uses OpenVPN is far better than a top-drawer VPN app that uses an outdated protocol like IKEv2.

Are VPN Locations the Same as VPN Servers?

Yes, “locations” and “servers” are used interchangeably in VPN marketing. However, there is a slight difference between them. In most cases, a VPN location is a city or a specific region in a state or country. This doesn’t mean that the location only has a single VPN server. In effect, servers are installed as clusters in more popular regions. So, one area may have multiple servers, which in turn, gives users more IP addresses to choose from.

For example, a company might establish 4-5 servers in a specific city if it feels that its user base is more likely to seek the IP address of that city. This is why you see multiple servers of the same location in VPN apps.

This VPN server spread is also helpful when you’re trying to unblock a streaming site. If, for any reason, a VPN IP address is blacklisted, you can route to other servers available in that same region and try again. If you use TuxlerVPN, you can simply select a random server for better geofence.

What are the Different Types of VPN Servers?

There are essentially two types of VPN servers: hard disk servers and RAM servers. These can be differentiated based on how they store data.

Hard disk servers store all processing data, including user information such as authentication credentials, in physical hard disks. The disk may be large enough to handle more data or be overwritten with new data as and when needed. As you can imagine, this increases the risk of data leak or theft. 

On the other hand, RAM-only servers make use of random-access memory (RAM) modules to store data. The advantage of this type of VPN server is that the processing data is auto-reset with every power off. The operational data and software needed to run the VPN service are saved as a read-only image. All the critical user data and processing information is stored in volatile RAM discs.

Stealing data from RAM-only servers and sabotaging entire servers is harder. This is why most new-age VPN providers choose to use RAM-only servers. 

Why Should You Choose a VPN Server Closer to You?

You should try to choose a VPN server closest to you to reduce network latency, which directly influences your connection speed. Choosing the nearest VPN server reduces the time taken for your traffic to be routed and encrypted to the destination (website). You can read more about this in our detailed guide on choosing the best VPN server

Here are the main reasons why you should choose a nearby VPN server for general purposes:

  • Faster browsing
  • Better server quality (in popular regions)
  • Reduced speed throttling

We’d like to note that this optimization tweak is only useful if you’re using the VPN for general browsing. If you’re trying to unblock a streaming site, this hack doesn’t apply.

Tips to Choose the Fastest VPN Server

While connecting to a VPN server is the best way to actually evaluate it, doing so for all the available servers of a VPN company is not feasible. Then how can you choose and use the best and fastest VPN server?

Here are a few ways to find the fastest VPN server:

  • Connect to a VPN server that’s nearest to your physical location
  • Connect to a VPN location in a free, liberal country that has no web restrictions
  • Get a dedicated VPN server (by paying extra)

You can also randomize your VPN servers regularly to get the best output from your VPN service. TuxlerVPN has a feature where you can manually choose a random server every time you start the application. This is a great way to ensure better connections with no speed throttling or lags.

Frequently Asked Questions About VPN Servers

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about VPN servers.

Can I have my own VPN server?

Yes, you can set up your own VPN server if you have the money and the required technical expertise. We have discussed this in detail in our article on creating your own VPN. Creating a private server and maintaining it is a lot of work, and hence, is not recommended for general users. Instead, we recommend VPN apps like TuxlerVPN, which can also be used as browser extensions.

Which server is best in VPN?

For routine private surfing, the nearest VPN server available in your app is the best bet. However, if you want to bypass geofencing or censorship, you’ll have to choose a VPN location in another country, preferably one with lax copyright rules. We recommend using RAM servers if available.

Are VPN servers safe?

Yes, VPN servers are generally safe for VPN users as they are located in remote locations. While they are vulnerable to data breaches and security risks, they won’t affect you directly. Practicing safe online behavior and using reputable VPN providers are recommended. Free VPN servers should be avoided.

How to buy a VPN server?

You can reach out to your VPN provider or local ISP to get a private VPN server. You also have the option of buying a dedicated IP address from your VPN provider, which will give you maximum protection and better speed.

Can VPN servers be blocked?

Yes, VPN servers can be blocked by websites for policy or security violations. For example, streaming sites routinely block VPN servers and even entire IP ranges that are used by their users to unblock their geofence. This is called VPN blocking, which we have discussed in detail in the tuxlerVPN blog.


When looking for a good VPN, if you feel that all the VPN providers look similar (which they do), turn to their VPN servers. See if you can find more information about their servers on their website. Evaluating the VPN service based on the number of servers, number of locations, and types of servers it uses can help you make a wise decision.

We hope this primer on VPN servers helps you make better decisions. In case you’re interested in exploring tuxlerVPN, check out our free VPN app and browser extensions

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