This is an interesting question to ask, since if you look at the server offering of many VPNs, you’ll notice that many of them seem to offer servers in the exact same cities around the world. Which may lead you to ask “are these VPNs actually using the same data centers as each other to route their traffic through?”.
It’s a good question, since it also leads to the follow up question “what am I actually getting that’s unique from any particular VPN brand I pick? Are they not basically all the same?”
Because of the secrecy of VPNs and that they don’t reveal much about exactly how and where they operate (beyond general cities/countries), it’s hard to give a precise answer.
But here’s a quick reasonable summary answer:
Given that VPN servers are very commonly located in the same cities in the same countries, it is likely that at least some Premium VPNs route their traffic through the same data centers. There are however some more upmarket VPNs like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access that have a more unique server location structure.
This cannot be proven definitively however, as VPN providers are understandably quite secretive about their server/data center use. While they do readily share the general location (city) of their servers, it’s very difficult to find out any more precise information than that, such as the exact data centers through which they route VPN traffic in each country.
However, let’s look at the entire issue of VPNs and servers/data centers in more detail, examining common themes across the VPN market, but also some VPNs that do buck the trend and offer something different in terms of servers.
VPNs Are Secretive About Their Server Centers
Since VPNs are primarily an online privacy tool, they understandably guard a large aspect of their operations very carefully.
This means they DON’T typically tell us which exact data centers/servers they use in each country they operate to route their traffic through. They tell us the city their servers are in, but not the exact address or building.
This is completely understandable, since it wouldn’t be very respecting of their users to openly publish exactly where they are routing their traffic through in each country. It might leave them open to hacking, surveillance, or even raids by authorities in more restrictive countries.
For this reason, you won’t be easily able to find articles or videos online about a “tour around a VPN data/server center”, or something similar. I couldn’t find anything like that when I searched. VPN providers are predictably very secretive about the servers they use to protect customer privacy.
However, if you browse through the server location lists of a bunch of Premium VPN services, you can’t help but notice that many VPNs do have servers in the exact same cities in the exact same countries, to the point where it is reasonable to assume that at least some of them are possibly routing traffic through the same generic data centers in the same physical building.
As we said, it’s difficult to prove this 100% because of the secrecy of VPNs. Perhaps VPNs tend to locate servers in capital cities a lot because that’s simply where the best infrastructure and technology is.
However, given that there are dozens, possibly into the hundreds of Premium VPN brands now, it would be very likely that at least some of them are literally renting server use in the exact same generic data centers in the same cities/countries globally. And that is also why you’ll find VPN server locations commonly offered in the same locations by many VPN providers.
Some Commonly Used VPN Server Locations
Let’s reinforce this general point by listing some server locations (cities & countries) that you’ll find offered by most VPN providers:
- USA – New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC
- UK – London
- Germany – Berlin
- France – Paris
- Italy – Milan
- Spain – Madrid
- Portugal – Lisbon
- Switzerland – Zurich
- Greece – Athens
- Austria – Vienna
- Hungary – Budapest
- Poland – Warsaw
- Romania – Bucharest
- Ukraine – Kiev
- Brazil – São Paulo
- Mexico – Mexico City
- Sweden – Stockholm
- Netherlands – Amsterdam (also a very common free VPN server location)
- Denmark – Copenhagen
- Finland – Helsinki
- Norway – Oslo
- United Arab Emirates – Dubai
- New Zealand – Auckland
- Japan – Tokyo
- South Korea – Seoul
Peruse the server lists of most Premium VPNs, and these are the locations you’ll most often find, with few exceptions. Here are some VPN server lists we provide, so you can check for yourself: (NordVPN, AtlasVPN, VyprVPN, PrivadoVPN, ProtonVPN, Private Internet Access)
As you can see, it’s most often the capital cities of countries where VPN providers seem to locate their servers. For sure, capital cities are mostly quite big and there will be lots of data centers there in some countries.
But it’s not unreasonable to assume that at least some of them (especially smaller, newer, lesser known VPN brands) are renting usage of the same generic data centers as each other, possibly sometimes in the same building.
VPN Parent Company Ownership & Server Choice
This is another factor that can play into why some VPNs appear to be offering the same server locations and perhaps even using the same servers – many of the lesser known VPN brands are ultimately owned by the same parent companies.
See this very interesting article which digs into the ultimate ownership of VPN brands, finding that 40 of them can be traced back to 7 parent companies, some located in countries like China and Pakistan, raising serious customer privacy issues.
It’s mostly smaller, lessen known VPNs, but a couple of brands we feature on this site also pop up such as PIA and ExpressVPN (both ultimately owned by Kape Technologies, but still appear to be run independently), plus TurboVPN (owned by Innovative Connecting, which is connected to China and also owns 7 other brands). All of these brands also stand out as offering a unique server choice in the VPN market (see next section), so it’s a somewhat confusing picture, but it’s wise to be wary of smaller brands that are one among many of a portfolio of VPNs a parent company owns. PIA and ExpressVPN are well established, long standing brands I would still trust.
Among the well established VPN brands, NordVPN, ProtonVPN and VyprVPN are a few that stand out as having independent ownership and operation, though their server choice doesn’t stand out as being exceptional in the market.
Some VPNs That Use Different Server Locations
However, there are some VPNs that do offer some more unique server locations not readily found with other providers.
Example #1 – ExpressVPN (Europe) – They already offer one of the very best server selections on the VPN market, with almost 100 countries offered, but also the cities within these countries are also more specialized and unique (full server list here). Especially in Europe, they usually have two server locations in the major countries (France, Germany, Spain, Italy), and one of these locations is a more unique one not offered by other VPNs (Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Strasbourg (FR), Marseille, Cosenza (IT), Barcelona and Rotterdam are some server locations they offer which are more rare). You will pay for for this more specialized server selection though – ExpressVPN are one of the more expensive providers, also because they provide the best access to streaming services.
Example #2 – Private Internet Access (USA Server Selection) – Specifically for the USA, Private Internet Access or PIA has by far the best city selection in the market for American users, with around 50 cities within the USA offered as server locations (full list here). Therefore with PIA, you’ve got the more obvious American cities (NY, LA, Chicago, Miami, Washington DC etc) but also other cities to choose from.
Example #3 – TurboVPN – This is a Singapore based lesser known VPN provider that also have a bit more of a unique server list in terms of both the countries offered (China and Russia are offered, which is hard to find), plus the cities in the USA and Europe. Again, you’ll find some more unique server locations that aren’t the obvious capital cities in some countries (see full server list here). Their USA server selection also has some less common cities.
And then specifically about finding VPN’s that offer servers in those really restricted, hard to find countries:
- China – Getting harder these days, but TurboVPN is an option here.
- Russia – Getting harder, but there are still options. See our article on the topic, ProtonVPN being a good well known one.
Are All Users Of a VPN Using The Same IP Address?
This is a closely related question to the issue of VPN servers/data centers. Are all users of a particular VPN server location actually all using the same general IP address? In other words, are VPN IP addresses actually shared among many different users?
The answer to this largely depends on whether you’re using a free or Premium VPN, since you get what you pay for:
Free VPNs (plus “proxy” VPNs etc) – Mostly, these will use shared, generic IP addresses, a perfect example being the Opera Browser VPN, plus most other browser add-on VPNs, plus shared/proxy style VPNs. Basically, any VPN that’s free (with a few exceptions) is going to be using shared IP addresses across many different users. This is often why when using these shared/free VPNs, you will often get those “Captcha” challenges when trying to use Google or other sites, since they can detect you are using a shared IP address and aren’t too keen on it:
Premium VPNs – With any paid-for VPN, users ARE issued with a unique IP address that only they’re using at that point in time. Of course, if you disconnect and then reconnect, you may be issued with a different IP address in the same general location you selected, but each time you use a VPN server on a paid-for service, you should be getting issued a VPN IP address that’s unique to you for that session.
Testing For VPNs Using The Same Servers/Data Centers
There is an interesting way to test whether some VPN providers are in fact using the same data centers or servers, and that’s to monitor specific server location outages across multiple VPN services.
If you’re finding the same specific servers offline/not working at the same time across different VPN providers, and they also all seem to come back online at the same time, it’s possibly evidence that they’re using the same servers. For example, perhaps, the Romania, Bucharest server is offline at the same time across 4 different VPNs, and also (magically) comes back online for all 4 at the same time!
Of course this might be due to more general internet outages in that country, but it would be in interesting experiment to try across different VPN services to see if there’s a pattern with server errors and downtime.
I haven’t had chance to collect data on this myself, but it’s an interesting experiment users could carry out if they have multiple VPN apps installed, or can collaborate with other VPN users. If you’re seeing common patterns of outages across specific VPN servers with different providers, it’s a possible sign that they’re using the same servers.