VPN Protocol(2020): Which Should I Use? The Definitive Guide

In this article, I will be discussing on different VPN protocol available and give you a quick overview of what protocols you should use for your various online activities.

I will also give highlights to the major features of popular VPN protocols and the major difference between these VPN protocols.

It is important to take a close look at the protocol a VPN offer when choosing your provider, because this protocols have the ability to affect speeds, security and Privacy.

Before digging into the type of protocol we have, let’s discuss what a VPN protocol is.

Well, if you’re interested in learning about VPN protocols, this is the right article for you.

Let’s get started!

Below is a list of what I will be covering.

  1. What Is a VPN Protocol?
  2. Types of VPN protocol.
  3. Which VPN protocol is the best?
  4. What Is the Fastest VPN Protocol?
  5. Which VPN protocol is most Secure?
  6. Best VPN Protocol for P2P File Sharing?
  7. What Is the Most Stable VPN Protocol?
  8. What Is the Most Cross-Platform Compatible VPN Protocol?
  9. What Is the Easiest VPN Protocol to Set Up?
  10. What VPN protocol should I use?
  11. Conclusion

1. What Is a VPN Protocol?

VPN protocols is the processes and sets of instructions data routed through a connection to ensure VPN users get to enjoy stable, secure VPN client-VPN server communications.

These protocols have different specifications based on the benefits and desired circumstances; for example, some VPN protocols focus on masking or encrypting data packets for privacy and security, while others base on speed.

Different protocols vary in their speed and security. So many are considered obsolete and not secure, which is why they are rarely used. This type of VPN protocol we shall also discuss below.

2. Types of VPN protocol.

The different VPN protocol available include:

  • IKEv2
  • PPTP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • IPSec
  • SSTP
  • OpenVPN
  • SSL/TLS
  • SoftEther VPN
  • Wireguard

Lets give a comprehensive details on these types of VPN protocol.

IKEv2

Which stands for ‘Internet Key Exchange version 2‘ isn’t technically a VPN protocol, but can be treated as such because but it does behaves like one.

It was developed together by Microsoft and Cisco. It is very fast, secure and reliable

It is useful for mobile devices because it handles network changes very well. I.e, it’s good at reconnecting whenever the connection drops out or whenever you want to switch from WiFi connection to data plan connection on your mobile, the VPN connection will remain stable throughout the process.

IKEv2 can use a range of different cryptographic algorithms, including AES, Blowfish, and Camellia. It supports 256-bit encryption.

Support for IKEv2 is built into Blackberry devices. Though it is not widely supported for most devices, but those devices that are compatible, it is also very easy to set up.

Unforfunately, IKEv2 can be hard to implement on the VPN server side, so a VPN newbie or beginner could make mistakes which can result in connectivity or security problems.

Secondly, IKEv2 can potentially be blocked by some firewalls.

Interested in finding out more about IKEv2? Then click on this IKEv2

PPTP

Which stands for ‘point-to-point-tunneling‘, is the oldest most-used VPN protocol.

It was designed by Microsoft, which goes all the way back to Windows 95, Despite its age, it is still popular today because it is integrated into Windows, as well as Linux and macOS, It is simple to setup, and has fast speeds.

PPTP is used for both connecting to internet and intranet (i.e. accessing a corporate office building’s internal network).

Microsoft’s Point-to-Point Encryption protocol (MPPE), which uses the RSA RC4 algorithm. MPPE’s maximum strength is 128-bit keys.

PPTP enables the encrypted tunnel between the PC and VPN server using TCP port 1723 and General Routing Encapsulation (GRE).

In truth, providers who offer only PPTP protocol should be avoided because of a known susceptibility to the ASLEAP dictionary attack tool dating back to 2004 that pretty much rendered it obsolete.

Secondly, PPTP can be blocked by firewalls with little effort most of the time.

Hence, it barely offers any reliable security. But it is number one when it comes to speed.

In case you’d like to read more about the PPTP encryption protocol, feel free to click on this PPTP

L2TP/IPSec

Which stands for ‘Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol‘ is a VPN protocol that it uses double encapsulation, and was designed by Cisco and Microsoft in the 90s.

it’s usually paired with IPSec (Internet Protocol Security) because L2TP does not have integrated encryption for security.

L2TP/IPSec can use either 3DES or AES encryption, although given that 3DES is now considered a weak cipher, it is rarely used.

Generally it is considered an improvement over PPTP, L2TP/IPSec is basically an extension of the PPTP protocol, with the main difference being that it uses double encapsulation:

The first encapsulation sets up the PPP connection.

The second encapsulation has the actual IPSec encryption.

This double encapsulation may make L2TP/IPSec more secure, but, it can also slow it’s traffic, because it needs to first be converted into L2TP form, and afterwards you also have an extra layer of encryption added on top.

It is used for accessing the internet through a VPN when security and privacy are concerns.

L2TP is a more recent protocol, and has been supported in Windows since XP, as well as macOS 10.3 or better, and mobile operating systems.

It can also be more difficult to set up and configure. It is generally felt to be secure, although more recent claims that NSA has cracked or weakened this VPN encryption protocol would suggest that L2TP is vulnerable to attacks when the encryption is using pre-shared keys.

Click on L2TP/IPSec to learn more about it.

IPSec

Which stands for ‘Internet protocol security‘ is a secure network protocol suite that’s used to encrypt data packets which are sent over an IP network

In VPN technology, IPSec is often paired with other VPN protocols like L2TP and IKEv2 to provide encryption, but it can also be used by itself.

It’s frequently used for site-to-site VPNs, and many iOS VPN apps also utilize IPSec in lieu of OpenVPN or some other protocol.

IPSec is generally considered faster and easy to set up, but your results may vary depending on configuration and intended use.

Regarding downsides, IPSec can be difficult to configure, so errors can arise if the VPN provider doesn’t have enough experience with it.

Also, IPSec is secure, although in 2013, there have been claims – though, unfounded – that the NSA has intentionally weakened the protocol.

If you want to read more about IPSec, follow this link.

SSTP

Which stands for ‘Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol‘ it was developed by Microsoft with Windows Vista.

The name is derived from the traffic being routed through the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol, which uses TCP port 443, and makes it pass through firewalls and proxy servers, so it is much less likely to be blocked. As it is not open source.

The protocol works on Linux and android, but was primarily thought of as a Windows-only technology.

SSTP is one of the most secure of these VPN protocols.

SSTP might be used by a few hardcore Windows fans because it comes built-in, but it has no real advantages over OpenVPN.

It’s better than L2TP for getting around firewalls without a complicated configuration. Its speed is same as OpenVPN

SSTP is significantly superior than PPTP when it comes to security since it can be configured with AES encryption.

Manual setup is fairly easy on Windows machines. Macs won’t run it and probably never will. Linux and a few other systems will have a harder time

Want to read more about SSTP? Follow this link.

OpenVPN

An open-source protocol is one of the most popular VPN protocols among users created by James Yonan. It is one of the newer protocols with an initial release in 2001.

OpenVPN is open source and published under a GNU General Public License. This gives the community access to the source code so that any security flaws are identified and dealt with, rather than allowing potential flaws and backdoors to exist in the code.

OpenVPN can use any of the different cryptographic algorithms contained in the OpenSSL library to encrypt its data, including AES, RC5, and Blowfish. OpenVPN supports 256-bit encryption.

It’s very secure, configurable, and works on multiple platforms. Furthermore, OpenVPN is very difficult to block because OpenVPN traffic is extremely difficult to tell apart from HTTPS/SSL traffic.

The protocol’s main downside seems to be the fact that using it with strong encryption ciphers can sometimes slow down connection speeds. I.e OpenVPN is not as fast as PPTP, but about the same speed as L2TP and SSTP, depending on the device and configuration, that problem can sometimes be solved by having OpenVPN use the UDP protocol since it’s faster.

OpenVPN comes in two main flavors: OpenVPN TCP and OpenVPN UDP. Not all VPN providers give you a choice between these two OpenVPN protocols, but some certainly do.

OpenVPN TCP is based on TCP (unsurprisingly), the Transmission Control Protocol, which combined with the Internet Protocol (IP) creates a set of rules for how computers exchange data back and forth.

TCP is a protocol that is connection-oriented, and it creates and keeps this connection going while applications perform the exchange of their data.

OpenVPN UDP is the alternative protocol to OpenVPN TCP. UDP stands for User Datagram Protocol, which is another communications protocol for transmitting data between a client and the internet.

Unlike OpenVPN TCP, which is designed to maximize reliability of data transmission, OpenVPN UDP is targeted at low-latency transmission of data, without the emphasis on the guaranteed delivery of data (so therefore reliability is sacrificed).

Third-party VPN clients often utilize the OpenVPN protocol since it isn’t natively integrated into operating systems or various platforms, and setting it up can be difficult, but, many native VPN clients from consumer VPN providers, make it much easier to install and run.

Hence, OpenVPN will need no manual configuration, as the provider’s app takes care of that for you.

It has become increasingly the mainstream for general purpose VPN use, and is now the default protocol used by most paid VPN providers.

In case you’re looking to read more about OpenVPN, follow this link.

SSL/TLS

Which stands for ‘Transport Security Layer (TLS) and its predecessor secure socket layer (SSL)‘ are the most common cryptographic protocols in use today.

Any time you connect to an HTTPS website, your connection to the server is protected with SSL. It is used in some VPN protocols but is not in itself a VPN protocol.

SSL is also used to create HTTPS proxies, which are passed off as VPNs by some companies. These are often advertised as browser-based VPNs that run as Chrome or Firefox extensions and do not provide the full security benefits of a true VPN.

SSL is safe but these safety depends more on the VPN protocol and the level of encryption used.

To maximize security, TLS is newer and better protects against attacks than SSL.

SSL VPNs are generally considered easier to configure than IPSec VPNs for remote client connections.

SSL/TLS is used for pre-shared key exchange, adding to the security. The encryption utilized for OpenVPN is also open source, as it uses OpenSSL which supports up to 256-bit encryption.

SoftEther VPN

Which stands for Software Ethernet is a new protocol and one of the world’s most powerful and easy-to-use multi-protocol VPN software. It runs on Windows, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD, and Solaris.

This protocol started out as a simple project at the University of Tsukuba, but ended up growing into a large open-source multi-protocol VPN software project.

It is said to be ‘multi protocol’ because it’s server can support a large number of VPN protocols, like SSTP, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IPSec, and the SoftEther VPN protocol

SoftEther VPN is open source. You can use SoftEther for any personal or commercial use for free charge.

Despite it being new, SoftEther has quickly become popular with VPN users due to the fact that it’s very secure (SoftEther uses AES-256), stable, and surprisingly fast.

Right now, the only drawbacks that might be worth mentioning are that SoftEther has no native OS support, due to this fact, there are VPN providers who don’t offer it as an option.

If you’d like to read more about SoftEther, check out this link.

WireGuard

Wireguard is a new VPN protocol. It’s allegedly meant to improve on the other protocols in this list in terms of speed, ease of deployment, and overhead.

WireGuard is secure, though we remind readers that Wireguard is still under testing. This is because, Wireguard assigns IP addresses statically and not dynamically, which means some user data needs to be stored on the server.

WireGuard uses ChaCha20 for symmetric encryption (RFC7539), Curve25519 for anonymous key exchange, Poly1305 for data authentication, and BLAKE2s for hashing (RFC7693). It automatically supports Perfect Forward Secrecy.

The only problems with these protocol is the fact that it is still in development, lacks a lot of cross-platform compatibility (at the moment, it mostly just works on Linux), and more testing needs to be done since there isn’t a stable release yet.

Despite that, there are VPN providers who have started using Wireguard.

VPN providers like ExpressVPN said WireGuard was still very much a work in progress, while NordVPN has implemented WireGuard on Linux (Nordlynx) and are planning on implementing it in other devices

Other VPNs have decided to add WireGuard to their line-up, though. Mullvad, Hide.me, VPC.ac and TorGuard also offered some support and we are expecting others to be joining the party very soon.

3. Which VPN protocol is the best?

This can be a difficult question to answer, it all really depends on what you want to do on the Internet.

What might be considered the best VPN protocol by some people, might be the opposite for others.

However, there are two different kinds of VPN protocols. One is good for security. The other offers better streaming speeds. None can provide the best of both worlds, though.

A VPN protocol that offers good security is poor with browsing speeds. To understand how this happens, you’ll have to imagine the VPN protocol as a tunnel.

When we add more security features, like encryption, it gets narrower. Every packet of data is encrypted first before it is sent on to the World Wide Web.

In the case of speed friendly VPN protocols, they do not offer security features.

These tunnels are wider and your data packets route in an easy manner. Hence, you receive great streaming speeds.

4. What Is the Fastest VPN Protocol?

VPN Protocol
(source: www.purevpn.com)

For a long time, PPTP was considered Fastest VPN protocol. But, that speed comes with the price of a severe lack of encryption, leaving you virtually exposed online.

That is to say, for you want to stream at high-speeds, PPTP is the fastest VPN protocol but recall when I say connection speeds are closely related to the security provided by your VPN protocol. The faster the protocol, the lesser the security.

Also, Wireguard, seems pretty fast from the tests they have on their website, but its inaccessibility for most users and lack of stability get in the way for now.

Our Recommendation: PPTP

5. Which VPN Protocol is Most Secure?

VPN protocol
(source: www.purevpn.com)

If we talk about security, PPTP is far from secure. And, it is the last VPN protocol you would want to use to stay safe online. IKEv2 and L2TP are more secure because they encapsulate your data twice.

OpenVPN would be our first choice. It offers 256-bit encryption, it doesn’t require IP stack and kernel operation since it runs in userspace (providing better memory protection), and it also runs a custom security protocol that’s based on TLS and SSL.

SSTP also comes with strong security, but it can only be used on Windows operating systems.

SoftEther is a decent option as well. The security you get to enjoy is pretty much on par with the protection you get with OpenVPN.

Using SoftEther for top-notch Internet security comes down to whether or not you’re okay with using a newer VPN protocol instead of the legacy OpenVPN one.

As for Wireguard, it’s true it’s a secure protocol, but it’s still in the experimental phase so it’s hard to rely on it for online security for now.

Our Recommendation: OpenVPN

6. Best VPN Protocol for P2P File Sharing

VPN protocol
(source: www.purevpn.com)

When it comes downloading, use a protocol that offers good security and speed. While PPTP is the fastest protocol, it lacks security as it uses 128-bit encryption.

Both L2TP and IKEv2 use 256-bit encryption through IPSec. But, L2TP lags behind when it comes to speeds while the latter is not supported on old platforms.

Though not as fast as PPTP or IKEv2, OpenVPN still provides speeds and top-notch security. The 256-bit encryption makes it the best VPN protocol for P2P file sharing.

Our recommendation: OpenVPN

7. What Is the Most Stable VPN Protocol?

IKEv2 is an excellent choice when it comes to stability on mobile devices since it can actually resist network changes.

SoftEther does very well too given that it was made based on the idea that it will run 24/7 permanently once it’s started up.

Its code was written in such a way as to prevent both memory leaks and various crashes. Even if something goes wrong, SoftEther is programmed to re-start automatically as fast as possible.

Other stable VPN protocols include OpenVPN (when it uses the TCP port), SSTP, and L2TP/IPSec. PPTP is also pretty stable, but keep in mind it can be blocked by firewalls with ease sometimes.

Our Recommendation: IKEv2, SoftEther, or OpenVPN TCP

8. What Is the Most Cross-Platform Compatible VPN Protocol?

PPTP seems to be the most natively supported VPN protocol being available across multiple operating systems and devices.

However, it’s worth noting that due to its security weakness, PPTP might no longer be supported on newer devices and operating systems.

For example, the VPN protocol is no longer natively supported on macOS Sierra (and higher versions).

A good alternative to PPTP is L2TP/IPSec which is natively available on numerous platforms as well. IKEv2 is a good option too – especially since it works on BlackBerry devices.

OpenVPN doesn’t have native support on operating systems and other devices, but it’s easily available through third-party software like VPN clients.

Our Recommendation: L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, IKEv2, and PPTP.

9. What Is the Easiest VPN Protocol to Set Up?

For now, PPTP seems to be the easiest VPN protocol to configure simply because it’s natively built into so many platforms. L2TP/IPSec and IKEv2 are fairly simple to set up as well because of the same reason.

SSTP is also very easy to manage, though only on Windows platforms. And Wireguard is simpler to set up than OpenVPN at least according to this review, where it took the writer around six hours to configure Wireguard compared to a few days for OpenVPN.

SoftEther is not extremely difficult to set up compared to OpenVPN since it comes with an easy-to-use installer and it has GUI Management Tools. But compared to the other VPN protocols mentioned above, there’s still some work involved.

Of course, if you use third-party VPN software, you get easy access to any VPN protocol you want as long as the VPN provider offers it, and as long as it works on your device or operating system except for SoftEther since you need to install its software on your device, and connect to the VPN provider’s servers manually.

Our Recommendation: PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, or IKEv2

10. Which VPN protocol should I use?

VPN Protocol
Source: Hide.me

It is very hard to say which VPN Protocol you should use because it all really depends on what you want to do on the Internet.

Here’s a quick list/Summary of all we have said above which will help you choose the best for you.

PPTP is best used when you just want fast access to geo-blocked content.

L2TP/IPSec is basically an improved version of PPTP, so you can use it when you want to download torrents, access geo-blocked content.

IKEv2 is a great option if you’re looking to secure your online traffic and enjoy decent speeds.

It’s also ideal if you use your mobile device (especially if it’s a BlackBerry device) a lot since your VPN connection remains stable when switching from WiFi networks to your data plan.

SSTP is a good option if you’re a Windows user, and you want to enjoy decent online security and speed with less power.

OpenVPN should be your go-to option if you want a secure, stable online connection. For better speed OpenVPN UDP is the better.

SoftEther is an excellent OpenVPN alternative, and it’s the right choice if you want a new VPN protocol, with secure, stable and fast connections.

Wireguard is best used if you’re a Linux user, and if you want to try out an experimental VPN protocol that can allegedly deliver a smooth online experience.

11. Conclusion

“So, we have come to the end of our comprehensive guide on VPN protocol.

Users need to be aware of the various VPN protocols, in order to make sure that their provider supports the newer, more secure ones, while avoiding the older, less secure protocols.

So, Tell me…

Do you have any issues with your VPN protocol
Or

You want to discuss your experiences with us, make sure to leave a comment.

Do not hesitate on dropping a comment below.

Cheers.

Maryjane Ibeabuchi
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27 thoughts on “VPN Protocol(2020): Which Should I Use? The Definitive Guide”

  1. Yes, SSL is the most common cryptographic protocols everywhere in the world, almost everyone we operates online knows or have an idea of what SSL is, as a means of security protocol.

    Reply
  2. I have been learning a lot from your site about VPN. I have only used SSTP until now.. Others I do not hae much knowledge.

    Reply
  3. While I have used VPN’s for a few applications I had no idea about all of this information! My son is in IT and has a degree in computer engineering so I usually get him to work out all the details for me. 🙂

    Reply
  4. I’m really not familiar with VPNs although this article has helped me understand them better! I find this really helpful for those having problems on which vpn they should use!

    Reply

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