Behind the Scenes Exclusive: PIA’s 50 Servers in 50 States Campaign
On July 4th this year, Private Internet Access joined the US in celebrating a momentous occasion. It was Independence Day, of course, but also the day we deployed server locations for each of the 50 US States (plus DC). In doing so, PIA became the first US-based VPN with a server location for each star on our flag.
While fireworks blazed across the skies, our servers lit up, too, providing fast, reliable connections – and much needed online privacy for our US customers. Americans across the nation could celebrate national and online freedom at the same time.
This is a milestone worth celebrating each and every day of the year, though – so we thought we’d take a moment to share the backstory for this initiative, and why we believe having 50 Servers in 50 States is important for every American. Join us as we take you behind the scenes.
Why You Might Need a Server in Every US State
Why would you need a server in every State? To increase your online security and privacy, while also being able to access local content.
Data privacy in the US is a growing concern. While data privacy laws are improving, there’s still a lack of cohesive legislation. Several states offer excellent data privacy laws, like California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), but not all states are stepping up to the plate. Until the laws catch up with the times, you can use PIA to increase your anonymity and mask your data anywhere you travel.
Additionally, many sports events and live broadcasts are blacked out in other parts of the US for licensing reasons. Local podcasts, news outlets, and work platforms could be unavailable in certain areas. That means you won’t get access to them unless you have an IP address from the right state.
A Look Inside the Process
50 server locations didn’t happen overnight, as there were multiple factors to address before complete coverage for all 50 states became a reality. Fortunately, our team was up to the challenge and keen to give PIA clients in the US secure, reliable connections nationwide.
Check out a few of the ways we made decisions on critical components, and how your feedback fit into the picture.
Choosing a Location
Strategically, the largest cities in each state offered the best speed. For this reason, PIA provisioned server locations in the most populous cities in each US state — usually the capital.
We used a mix of physical and virtual locations to meet our goal. In addition, many of our physical locations have been upgraded to NextGen servers, which require colocation. Colocation means the server is built by us, sent to a specialized data center, and activated. The space (server rack) in the data center may be rented, but we own the server, and no one except our team has access to it.
The team then evaluated several ISPs to find the most trustworthy connections in each location with the least risk of outage. PIA only considered services with experienced support teams that could effectively resolve issues and escalations when necessary.
Deployment & Testing
Everything started with a proof of concept (POC) obtained by deploying four test locations across the US. The test servers were split between the East and West coast and monitored for two months.
A POC is a small scale test that helps determine if it’s possible to go forward with a large scale project. Aside from determining whether or not the technical aspects would work, the POC was used to verify that ISPs met our performance and coverage requirements.
When the POC was a success, the development team secured the rest of the locations and launched the initiative full-scale. PIA deployed servers and IPs, installed new servers where necessary, and began production proper.
Meeting Server Requirements
PIA strictly uses RAM-only servers to increase data privacy and to maintain our No Logs policy, so all the servers considered need to meet that criteria. Below you’ll find the specifications that helped PIA determine if a data center’s servers were a good fit for our VPN:
- 10 Gbps network connections: We use 10 Gbps network cards to offer broadband-quality speeds, so servers had to provide a minimum of 10 Gbps.
- Available Residential IPs: A residential IP is a genuine IP address assigned to you by an internet provider. Because residential IPs are tied to a physical location, they mask your true location more effectively and they’re harder for websites to block or ban.
- Excellent performance: Reliable connections, minimal outages, average response time (ART) and peak response time (PRT), and security capabilities were key determining factors.
- Good network peering worldwide: Network peering is the direct interconnection of two separate internet networks to provide faster information exchanges. Network peering is more efficient and increases data security, since redundancy is minimalized and no third-party network is required.
Including Customer Feedback
How do we listen to our customers? Well, it’s not easy. Since PIA doesn’t collect user data – our No Logs policy is iron-clad, having been both proven in court and independently reviewed – we simply don’t have any customer usage information from our apps or network that we can use to inform these types of initiatives.
Luckily, we do receive some user feedback through customer surveys, social platforms, direct contact, and even market insights. Even this limited amount of feedback provides us with invaluable information that helps us reinforce our decisions. And this one – the decision to offer servers in all 50 states – was driven by a desire to go above and beyond what VPN users in the US had available to them.
Internet Freedom Across All 50 States
The United States was founded on the principles of safeguarding important liberties and inalienable rights. We believe this extends to the internet, and it inspires our own mission: to champion digital rights and ensure that everyone has equal access to online privacy and security.
We believe this should apply across all 50 US States.
We’re adamant that internet freedom is something to be celebrated every day of the year – with or without fireworks across the skies.
As such, no matter in which state you’re celebrating your freedoms, you’ll get the same level of privacy and support from PIA. We’ll provide you with access to fast, reliable connections without sacrificing your data privacy or security – as should be the case for every American.