Diskless servers are servers that do not use a hard disk; they run entirely from RAM. This means that they cannot store logs and other information in the same way as regular servers.
If you are looking for a VPN, there are many criteria to keep in mind, such as price, performance, and even the interface. One thing you’ll hear less about is the type of servers a vendor uses, especially a newer type called a diskless server, which offers great speed and privacy benefits.
What are diskless servers?
Diskless servers, also known as RAM-only servers, are servers that do not have a hard drive on which they can store files. They exist only to redirect connections – which is the only thing VPNs are supposed to do, anyway – and cannot store long-term information.
We say “long term” here because diskless servers store some information, but they only do so in their random access memory, or RAM, hence the term “RAM only”. Using only RAM has a few advantages, the most important being that it is completely wiped when the server is restarted. Your laptop or desktop works pretty much the same way: restart it and you start with a fresh list of RAM.
Why use diskless servers?
This lack of long-term storage would spell disaster for any other type of server, but for VPN servers, it’s ideal. One of the biggest problems with VPN providers is that we, their customers, take their promises of privacy and anonymity at face value. Sure, they may claim that they destroy all records of our online activity, usually called logs, but there’s no way to be sure.
However, when a service uses diskless servers, this problem becomes moot because log keeping becomes much more difficult. Whatever records they keep would be destroyed by a simple server restart. This is one of the easiest ways for a VPN to destroy logs.
That said, there are still ways a VPN can keep logs on a diskless server, either through malicious intent or incompetence. However, the possibilities of doing so are greatly reduced, so there is less room for error. That said, an unreliable VPN doesn’t magically become just because it uses diskless servers.
Another benefit, however, is that diskless servers make it easier for auditors to verify a service’s claims to be a no-log VPN. Instead of checking whether or not a service is keeping logs – a claim that is hard to refute because a VPN could simply move logs for the duration of the audit – an auditor can simply check if servers are diskless.
Therefore, while diskless servers aren’t a panacea for crummy VPNs, they make it easier to verify, and therefore trust, VPN providers.
Which VPN providers use diskless servers?
Given the benefits they bring, it’s probably no surprise that more and more top VPN services are turning to diskless servers. That said, it’s not a seamless transition: it seems that much of the hardware involved is quite expensive, so many VPNs are making the switch gradually.
Our number one VPN ExpressVPN has made diskless servers an integral part of its Trusted Server technology. In this system, the RAM-only nature of the servers works very well with the service’s custom VPN protocols, which store almost no information in the first place. Add to that weekly reboots and your browsing habits are pretty safe.
Other big players using diskless are Surfshark and NordVPN, both of which made the full transition to RAM only a while ago. Private Internet Access’s NextGen servers are also diskless and have been for over a year now.
Privacy-friendly Mullvad is currently moving to diskless servers as part of its efforts for greater transparency, which will result 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 best known, as well as our favorites. If you’re not sure which VPN is best for you, you can always try a few that sound good to you; all of the above products offer 30-day money-back guarantees.
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