Why you should choose a VPN with diskless servers

Justin Duino / How-to Geek

Diskless servers are servers that do not use a hard disk; They run entirely out of RAM. This means they cannot store logs and other information the way normal servers can.

When you are looking for a VPN you have to consider many criteria such as price, performance and even the interface. One thing you’ll hear less about is the type of servers a provider uses — particularly a new type called Diskless Server, which offers great benefits in both speed and privacy.

What are diskless servers?

Diskless servers, also known as RAM-only servers, are servers that do not have a hard drive to store files on. They’re just there to reroute connections — which is pretty much the only thing VPNs are supposed to do — and they can’t store information long-term.

We say “long term” here because diskless servers store some information, but they only do so in their memory or RAM, hence the term “RAM only”. Using only RAM has some advantages, most notably that it is completely erased when the server restarts. Your laptop or desktop works the same way: reboot it and you’ll start with a fresh disk of RAM.

Why use diskless servers?

This lack of long-term storage would be a disaster for any other type of server, but it’s ideal for VPN servers. One of the main problems with VPN providers is that we, their customers, take their promises of privacy and anonymity at face value. Sure, they can claim that they destroy all records of our online activities — usually called logs — but there’s no way to be sure.

However, when a service uses diskless servers, this issue becomes moot as keeping logs becomes much more difficult. Any records they keep would be destroyed by a simple server restart. This is one of the simplest ways a VPN can destroy logs.

However, there are still ways a VPN could continue to keep logs on a diskless server, either through malice or incompetence. However, the possibilities for doing this are severely limited, leaving less room for error. However, just because an untrustworthy VPN uses diskless servers doesn’t magically make it bonafide.

Another advantage, however, is that diskless servers make it easier for auditors to verify a service’s claims of being a no-log VPN. Rather than verifying whether a service keeps logs or not – a claim that is difficult to refute since a VPN could simply move the logs around for the duration of the audit – an auditor can simply verify that servers are diskless.

While diskless servers aren’t a panacea for bad VPNs, they make it easier to verify and thus trust VPN providers.

Which VPN Providers Use Diskless Servers?

Given the benefits they bring, it’s probably no surprise that more and more of the best VPN services are moving to diskless servers. However, it’s not a seamless transition: it seems that much of the hardware involved is quite expensive, so many VPNs are making the transition gradually.

Our flagship VPN ExpressVPN has made diskless servers an integral part of its Trusted Server technology. In this system, the pure RAM nature of the servers works very well with the service’s bespoke VPN protocols, which a priori store almost no information. Add to that weekly reboots, and your browsing habits are pretty safe.

Other big players using diskless are Surfshark and NordVPN, both of which only recently switched to full RAM. Private Internet Access’s NextGen servers are also diskless and have been for over a year.

Privacy-friendly Mullvad is currently transitioning to diskless servers as part of its quest for greater transparency, which will culminate in a fully open infrastructure that can be audited by its users. You can follow the progress of this project on Mullvad’s blog.

There are many other services that offer diskless, these are just a few of the most popular and our favorites. If you’re not sure which VPN is best for you, you can always try a few that you think are good. All of the above offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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