When setting up a VPN service for the first time, many users are unsure about what protocol they should be using. Some may value security over speed, while others may want speed to be the most important factor.

VPN technology relies on protocols to create the private tunnels through which your information will be transmitted, but what exactly is a VPN protocol, what are their different types, and what does each one have to offer?

Understanding all of this can indeed prove confusing, especially if you’re not much of techie. Fret not, though! In this post, we’ve explained all you need to know about VPN protocols in an easy to consume way:

What’s a VPN protocol, what does it do?

VPN protocols, or VPN tunneling protocols to be more exact, are the methods through which a secure and fast connection is established between your device and the VPN server. Each of these protocols come with various features: some focus on security, some focus on speed, and a few give you the best of both.

Although the vast majority of VPN providers will automatically choose the best VPN protocol for your network, they also allow you to use a different protocol of choice. For this reason, it’s important to know what are the advantages and disadvantages of each VPN protocol, and how they compare against one another.

PureVPN offers supports for all major VPN protocols (OpenVPN, L2TP, SSTP, IKEv2, and PPTP) on all their 2,000 servers and 300,000 IPs, giving you the freedom to pick the one that’s best for you. Moreover, the service is backed by an industry-first 31-day money-back guarantee, which means you get plenty of time to test it out.

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More about the different kinds of VPN protocols below…

Common types of VPN protocols

There are many types of VPN protocols currently in use today, and each one of them bring their own set of strengths and weaknesses to the table. We’ve discussed the most common ones for your convenience:

OpenVPN

OpenVPN, or Open-Source Virtual Private Network, is a relatively new protocol that utilizes a combination of technologies like TLS and OpenSSL to deliver full-featured VPN solution. Since it’s so hard to detect, OpenVPN can traverse through firewalls with ease. The protocol can be configured to run on both UDP and TCP ports and offers up to AES 256-bit encryption for top-notch security.

Being open-source, OpenVPN is inspected, maintained, and updated by a community of expert developers. However, the biggest drawback is that it requires third-party software to run on any OS and can’t be configured directly. When it comes to speed, you should get good performance as long as you’re using UDP, which is faster.

IKEv2 VPN

IKEv2, or Internet Key Exchange version 2, is a popular IPSec-based VPN protocol that was jointly developed by Cisco and Microsoft. In terms of security, IKEv2 is number two and just a little behind the best: OpenVPN. Its effective message exchange system and newer architecture though, allows for good speed and performance.

The biggest advantage of using IKEv2 is its MOBIKE support, making it a great and reliable choice for switching between networks, such as from your home Wi-Fi to mobile data and vice versa, without losing your VPN connection. Furthermore, IKEv2 is the only protocol available to privacy-conscious Blackberry users.

SSTP VPN

SSTP, or Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol, is one of the most secure VPN protocols that utilizes TLS just like OpenVPN. Developed by Microsoft, the protocol can only be run on all versions of Windows – this means no one can audit it for vulnerabilities. Moreover, there’s close to no chance that SSTP will ever support iOS devices.

As such, SSTP is a good choice for Windows users as it comes with built-in support for the world’s most used desktop OS. It offers a high-level of encryption and uses TCP port 443 to disguise your Internet traffic so that you can easily get around firewalls. However, a major downside is Microsoft’s cooperation with government agencies in the past.

L2TP VPN

L2TP, or Layer-2 Tunneling Protocol, is essentially a replacement of the outdated PPTP with better security and high performance. Since it doesn’t offer any encryption of its own, L2TP is used in conjunction with IPSec for this very purpose. The protocol is built-in to most modern operating systems, so setting it up is as easy as PPTP.

The best part of all, LT2P is free from any sort of security vulnerabilities that have given PPTP a bad reputation. It provides users with up to AES 256-bit encryption, but can struggle with powerful firewalls. Additional, SSTP can be slower than other protocols as it takes a greater toll on your speed and bandwidth.

PPTP VPN

PPTP, or Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, is an obsolete VPN protocol that’s built-in to almost all platforms, making it extremely easy to setup. The best thing about using PPTP is that it offers faster speeds than all other protocols. So, if you’re actively engaged in activities like gaming, streaming, and torrenting, PPTP is the best possible option.

As far as security is concerned, PPTP is the least secure of the lot because it has many known security issues. More importantly, it only offers basic protection with its 126-bit encryption, which is why you should opt for another protocol, such as OpenVPN or SSTP for example, if security is your topmost priority.

Final Word – Which VPN Protocol to Use?

As you can see, all of these VPN protocol have different attributes to offer. It all comes down to your requirements at the end of the day. Each protocol has pros and cons and you should pick the one that best suits your needs – whether its security or performance or a combination of the two that you’re interested in.

If you have questions or anything to add, feel free to voice your thoughts in the comments section below!