To successfully bypass a BitTorrent-blocking university or the evil throttling of a bad ISP, the use of a seedbox is more than adequate. Another solution is to incorporate a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service, and tunnel all of your Internet traffic through a new IP address. Not only will your ISP be unable to “see” what you’re sending & receiving, but your home IP is kept out of the torrent; or anything else for that matter. Essentially, a VPN anonymizes all of your traffic.
We’ve touched on the subject of VPNs here at FSF before, but never actually ran any conclusive testing to prove that not only does it work; but more importantly, to verify BitTorrent transfer speeds. For this, we purchased a month of VPN service, anonymized the PC and ran some speed tests on both public and private trackers. As expected, the results were unsurprisingly very good.
We opted for BlackLogic as our VPN provider, and to make this a “fair” assessment of their service, we did not contact them for this article. We purchased it via PayPal as any other customer would, so this is very much an unbiased evaluation.
It took just over one day for us to get our login information via email, which we found was an acceptable amount of time. The ‘wait’ is imposed for them to be able to properly prevent any fraudulent accounts. We opted for the $15 “PPTP Unlimited Traffic VPN” package.
DISCLAIMER / TOS: Be advised that most VPN providers have a disclaimer or clause in their TOS which excludes the use of their services for “P2P” traffic of an illegal nature, and BlackLogic is no exception. Familiarize yourself with the TOS, and use at your own risk. Undoubtedly, the VPN provider is the only one that is able to see your actual traffic. Then again, we don’t see much point in a VPN if you can’t tunnel whatever you want. Getting that out of the way, let’s take a look at some speed tests:
To confirm that we were connected to the VPN (and not directly to our ISP) we visited What’sMyIP.org. Certainly, we were now running through the VPN, as our IP address is now replaced with BlackLogic’s Canadian server IP number:
Obviously, a VPN provider cannot increase your ISP account’s line capacity, as it’s only as good as your connection. As expected, we experienced a slowdown due to the tunneling in our speed tests conducted at SpeedTest.net. Before installing the VPN, we shut down all programs that use Internet traffic as to generate genuine results.
Speedtest results BEFORE adding the VPN:
Speedtest results AFTER adding the VPN:
The Results: We conducted the VPN speed test 5 different times at alternate server locations – all with very similar results. According to the speed tests, we lost nearly half of our download speed on the VPN, but our upload speed actually increased. So how accurate was the speed test? Not very, as you’ll see below we quite easily blew away the 3847 kbps download speed (which, when divided by a factor of 8 is 481 KB/s) when running torrents from private trackers.
BitTorrent Speed Testing on a VPN Connection
For these tests, there was no point in trying to download the exact same torrents and run them on both our VPN, and then on our ISP (without the VPN). First, it would be impossible to conduct a clinical study in this manner, as the seed/peer list (swarm) for a torrent would change by the time we got around to testing both methods. Second, we’re already familiar with what speeds we normally can expect to achieve when downloading on our regular Internet connection.
Public trackers are typically much slower than private ones, thus we assumed to achieve some pretty dismal results; but we were pleasantly surprised by the VPN. To generate the best DL/UL speeds, we added 10 different popular torrents, each of them from the categories on mininova’s Top Ten list (the main page).
The Results: We let µTorrent run for about 15 minutes before the speed noticeably began to stabilize at around 400 KB/s download, and ~100 KB/s upload. These are decent results, as we’d be lucky to get these DL speeds with or without the VPN. But just one torrent from a fast private tracker easily eclipsed these numbers:
To test our VPN on private trackers, we needn’t bother adding 10 different torrents. We used one popular torrent from RevolutionTT.net – a very underrated tracker in terms of download speeds. RevoTT is truly one of the quickest trackers, something of which we were already cognizant of. On our home ISP, we’re normally able to maximize our entire connection (1 MB/s DL) on just one popular RevoTT torrent, so the results were not all that startling.
The Results: Again, we let µTorrent run the 1.38 GB torrent for until about the halfway point of DL, and speeds were steadily increasing by the time we took the above screenshot. At that point we achieved a download speed of 812 KB/s with an upload of 62.6 KB/s. Very impressive numbers for a $15/month unlimited VPN account, which quickly erraticated the false stats from the speedtest results.
The BlackLogic VPN really impressed us, as we were able to almost achieve our maximum line speed when running private torrents. Whether or not they’ll discover that torrents are being used on their VPN (and then cancel the service without notice), we really don’t know.
VPNs and Private Trackers — Most trackers probably won’t have a problem with members who use a VPN service, but we recommend you check their rules, or inquire about it first to be safe.
It should be noted that a VPN not only works to anonymize BitTorrent, but for any P2P application, such as uTorrent, Limewire, Shareaza, DC++, IRC, and anything else that connects through your Internet.