What's VPN Protocol?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and VPN protocols are not the same thing. VPN service lets users choose from a number of different VPN protocols depending on their needs and the device they’re using.
A VPN transmits your online traffic through encrypted tunnels to VPN servers that assign your device a new IP address. VPN protocols are sets of programs and processes that determine how that tunnel is actually formed. Each one is a different solution to the problem of secure, private, and somewhat anonymous internet communication.
No VPN protocol is perfect. Each may have potential vulnerabilities, documented or yet to be discovered, that may or may not compromise your security.
VPN Protocol Comparison: Quick Answer
If you simply want to use the VPN protocol recommended by industry experts and VPN providers alike, here’s a very quick summary for you:
- Use OpenVPN/SoftEther/WireGuard when available.
- Stay as far from PPTP as you can.
- Avoid SSTP if possible.
- L2TP/IPSec is a good choice if implemented correctly, but not recommended.
- IPSec/IKEv2’s open source iterations are a decent alternative to OpenVPN.
How Do The Different VPN Protocols Stack Up?
All the VPN protocols above have various strengths and weaknesses. Some are more widely used, while others serve more specific niches and problems.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how each VPN protocol stands out:
OpenVPN is the most often recommended, and widely used VPN protocol. It’s fast, secure, and open source, so it can be vetted and improved by third-parties. The only real downside is the difficulty in setup and configuration. Failing to set it up the right way could lead to security holes and lackluster performance.
PPTP is already installed on most older Windows operating systems, making it an attractive option. But, it’s generally very insecure and should be avoided, if privacy is a concern. It stands out with its compatibility, ease of setup, and speed. It can work for accessing geo-restricted content, but if you’re doing anything else, you should at the very least opt for L2TP/IPSec.
L2TP/IPSec is a solid VPN choice if you’re not exchanging sensitive data. It’s basically an improved version of PPTP. Some older devices and platforms won’t support OpenVPN, so this could be an attractive option. The only real downside is it’s security standards, which have been weakened and compromised by the NSA.
SoftEther is a newer VPN protocol, but don’t let its youth fool you. It offers similar features to OpenVPN but offers even greater levels of flexibility. With the ability to integrate across multiple different platforms and operating systems it’ll be hard to find a setup where this protocol can’t be used. Plus, it’s fast and secure. It doesn’t have the legacy and stability of OpenVPN but is a contender in its own right.
WireGuard is an up and coming VPN protocol. The current release is best suited for technical Linux users, but support for other platforms and operating systems is in the works. It shines in its lean nature, speed, and security. By having less moving parts and selection it’s easier to maintain and catch any security issues. It’s currently working towards a stable release, so it’s not recommended for non-technical users, but the future of this VPN protocol is bright.
SSTP is a solid choice for Windows users. It offers you similar security and speed as OpenVPN, but there is one big downside. Since it’s created by Microsoft there is no vetting by any outside third-parties. This means there could be backdoors built into the code, which compromises the overall security. Other platforms and operating systems can implement SSTP, but it’s poorly supported.
IKEv2/IPSec is a solid fast and secure VPN protocol. It stands out in its ability to maintain a secure VPN connection, even while the connection is lost, or you’re switching networks. Its primary use is for mobile networks. Also, if you’re a Blackberry user then this VPN protocol will be your protocol of choice.
Which VPN Protocol to Use?
By now your head is probably spinning trying to decide which VPN protocol to use.
Overall, it depends on your needs, and why you’re using a VPN. But, to keep things simple—you can’t go wrong when using OpenVPN.
Still not sure?
Here’s a breakdown that’ll help you choose the best VPN protocol:
- OpenVPN is fast, flexible, and secure. No matter your operating system or platform, you’re covered.
- PPTP should almost never be used. It’s easy to setup and fast, but it’s incredibly insecure.
- L2TP/IPSec is a step up from PPTP, but it’s also one of the slowest connections, and its security is questionable.
- SSTP is pretty good for Windows users. It’s fast and easy to setup, but once again you don’t know how secure and private your connection is.
- IKEv2/IPSec is a pretty good choice for mobile users and a must-have for Blackberry users. But, beyond that go with OpenVPN.
- SoftEther is good OpenVPN contender. If you’re willing to use a newer VPN protocol, instead of the legacy of OpenVPN, then this a great second choice.
- WireGuard should really only be used by technical Linux users. Once the release is stable it may gain more traction, but general VPN users should wait it out.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best VPN protocol?
There is no such thing as the best VPN protocol suitable for everyone. The answer to this question depends on your needs and what you do on the internet. If you’re an avid gamer, you probably use VPN for different reasons than someone who watches a lot of TV shows or often works from cafes.
What is the fastest VPN protocol?
WireGuard is considered to be one of fastest VPN protocols, offering quicker connection/reconnection times and improved battery life for mobile devices. IKEv2/IPsec is also considered a fast protocol and it may serve the needs of many.
What is the most secure VPN protocol?
Many VPN experts recommend OpenVPN as the most secure protocol. It uses 256-bit encryption as a default but also offers other ciphers such as 3DES (triple data encryption standard), Blowfish, CAST-128, and AES (Advanced Encryption Standard).
What is the most stable VPN protocol?
IKEv2/IPsec is considered to be the most stable VPN protocol as it provides a strong connection and allows users to switch between networks without risking their security.
What is the easiest VPN protocol to set up?
PPTP protocol is built into many devices, making it one of easiest protocols to set up. However, since it is outdated and is well-known for security issues, we don’t recommend using it. Look into other options such as WireGuard or IKEv2/IPsec.