Which VPN Protocol to Use

Categories VPN

L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, OpenVPN, and SSTP are the most used VPN protocols today. Every one has its weaknesses and strengths. As such, it is often difficult to choose which one can best satisfy your particular needs.

The main factors that you need to consider in choosing a protocol are ease of use, security, reliability, and performance. It is good to note that most of these VPN protocols will support each other. Also remember to check with protocols are available when picking a provider to ensure the one you want is there.

How VPNs and Protocols Interact

You may not know what VPN means. A VPN or virtual private network allows users to receive and send data across public or shared networks. This network extension works as if the user’s devices were connected directly to it. Applications which utilize the VPN will enjoy the advantages of management, security, and functionality of the private network. Here is, in greater detail, how VPNs work.

Protocol, on the other hand, refers to the set of regulations utilized in electronic communication. To send and receive data, following this set of rules is a must. This system was set in place to cut the time necessary for the exchange of data. It also negates the need for the end-users to intrude at both ends of the communication.

VPN Protocols

To use a VPN you need to pick a protocol To help you select the best one for your needs, here are the pros and cons the most popular implementations.


L2TP is usually encapsulated with IPSec. It is one of the tunneling protocols that do not inherently using any encryption. This fact enables this VPN protocol to offer more security. Behind the scenes, it is a PPP protocol extension, and just like L2F and PPTP uses the double encryption encapsulation method.

Over time, L2TP became more popular in security circuits than PPTP because of this feature. The first encapsulation creates a connection to PPP towards a remote host. The second contains IPSec.


  • Set up is easy
  • It can improve performance due to multithreading
  • Almost all platforms support it
  • It is relatively secure


  • Firewalls can easily block it
  • The NSA can deliberately compromise it, according to John Gilmore
  • It is slower than OpenVPN because of its double encapsulation


PPTP bases its protocols on PPP negotiation, encryption, and authentication. It is simple in that it just needs a server, password, and username to create a reliable connection. Most modern gadgets include support for it.

Since setting up is relatively easy, many VPN companies prefer it over alternatives. It also has a low encryption level, making it among the fastest VPN protocols around. This speed advantage is the primary reason why it is popular among those who want to circumvent geo-restricted content.


  • Setting it up and using it is relatively easy
  • Almost all platforms support it
  • It is among the VPN fastest protocols


  • It can be blocked easily by firewalls
  • It offers a low level of security
  • There is no support for Perfect Forward Secrecy


Since entering the market, OpenVPN has become one of the most well-received and most-used protocols. While it may be just an Open Source VPN protocol, it offers excellent security and very high stability. It is also GNU General Public License (GPL) published.

OpenVPN utilizes different ways and protocols in maintaining safe communications. These include shared keys, HMAC authentication, and OpenSSL. This protocol also supports a vast array of cryptographic algorithms, including 3DES, Blowfish, and AES (the cryptographic algorithm’s gold standard).


  • OpenVPN can bypass firewalls
  • Being open source, it is free and easily vetted
  • It offers high security
  • It supports many cryptographic algorithms
  • Supports Perfect Forward Secrecy
  • It is highly configurable


  • At times, OpenVPN may be difficult to configure
  • Setting it up requires third-party software


Developed by Microsoft, Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol or SSTP launched in Windows Vista. This VPN protocol utilizes SSL v3, and in doing so, it can provide many of the same advantages given by OpenVPN. In particular, it can bypass nearly all types of firewalls by using TCP 443.


  • Using SSTP is very easy
  • Full integration with the Windows operation system
  • SSTP supports a wide array of cryptographic algorithms
  • Support for Perfect Forward Secrecy


  • It works very well with Windows, but not so well with other OSs
  • No independent audit has ever been conducted on SSTP

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