What are VPN Protocols?
Summary: This article explains the difference between the main kinds of VPN protocol, looking at which VPN protocol is best for safety, security, and speed. After considering all the features of the top names out there for VPN, our vote goes with ExpressVPN for its unrivaled VPN protocols.
What are VPN Protocols and Why Do They Matter?
A VPN protocol is simply put, the way in which your VPN works. A good VPN will hide your traffic, protect your data, and remove geographical restrictions from the way you use the internet. But the systems they put in place are not all the same, and have various pros and cons.
A best VPNs should let you choose which protocol to use from a selection, and even let you vary your protocol depending on what activity you’re doing. In order to make the right choice, you need to know what the difference is between a whole lot of technical abbreviations and jargon, so here goes.
PPTP VPN Protocol
Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol is one of the oldest protocols out there, and has been around since Windows 95. It’s one of the most basic forms of VPN protocol, and also one of the most widely used. This is often because it is supported on so many channels, including both Mac and Linux. It’s offers great speed, and it is simple to set up, and it’s even integrated into Windows, making it effortless. PPTP VPN Protocol is arguably the best VPN gaming protocol.
When it comes to security though, it’s far from ahead of the curve. It’s well known that the NSA can see straight through this protocol, and the encryption it uses is 128 bit, which is pretty weak by today’s industry standards.
L2TP, which is Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol is not capable of encrypting in and of itself. Instead, most providers use IPsec for the encryption part, and L2TP refers to the routing tunnel. It’s a better choice for security, as the encryption is 256-bit rather than 128. It’s easy to set up on both Mac and Windows, and is generally supported by modern operating systems and devices. Best of all, it doesn’t have any of the security concerns which are giving PPTP a bad name.
It’s not great for Linux users, and as it has a higher encryption, it’s going to take more of a toll on your bandwidth and speed. Plus it’s not difficult to block by your ISP if they wanted to.
Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is one of the most secure choices, and definitely one of the hardest to block. It uses high encryption levels, TLS 3.0 over TCP port 443 so it basically disguises your traffic as HTTPS. This means that NAT and firewalls are no problem.
On the down side, it’s really only good for MS devices, and as it’s created and developed by Microsoft, no one can take a look at anything behind the scenes. Microsoft are known for certain security issues, as well as cooperation with governmental agencies, so your data may not be as private as you think.
This is Internet Key Exchange (version 2) and it is developed by both Microsoft and Cisco. It’s a great choice for moving between networks, such as from your mobile data to Wi-Fi and then back again, without losing connection to your VPN. It’s also faster than both PPTP and L2TP.
The only thing which might put you off, is that it’s not available for Apple devices.
OpenVPN is exactly what it sounds like, an open source application. It is based on SSL/TLS encryption, but is custom made. It’s great if you want a faster connection, and is notoriously hard to detect, as it can look like HTTPS traffic, hiding in plain sight. It’s a reliable choice, and doesn’t often lose connection. Because it’s open source, the active users are fixing problems and keeping things working well in real-time, so you’re contributing to a community of VPN users who are working together for data privacy.
One thing to look out for is that you use a higher encryption protocol than the standard 128-bit, or you’re opening yourself up to security issues. Check with your VPN provider that they run with 256.
Here are the protocols offered by our top VPN services.
#1 ExpressVPN Protocols – OpenVPN with TCP/UDP, SSTP, PPTP, and L2TP/IPsec.
ExpressVPN offer four protocols, OpenVPN with TCP/UDP, SSTP, PPTP, and L2TP/IPsec. They use OpenVPN on UDP anywhere that they can by default. The company offers a 12 month subscription for only $6.67 per month, and you’ll receive another three months for free. You can also try it out for 30 days and get a full money back guarantee.
#2 NordVPN Protocols –L2TP, PPTP, OpenVPN TCP and OpenVPN UDP
NordVPN offers three protocols, as well as having two types of OpenVPN protocol, on both UDP and TCP. If you connect simultaneous devices to the same server, you will need to use different protocols for each one. Sign up for 12 months for $5.75 per month, with a 30 day free trial as well.
#3 PrivateVPN Protocols – L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, OpenVPN TCP and OpenVPN UDP, IKEv2
PrivateVPN has a very extensive list of protocols, and even allows the user to choose which ones they want to use. If you don’t, the VPN will automatically choose the best one for your network. Another great extra is the ability to protect six devices at the same time. And all for $6 per month! Don’t forget, you can also utilize their industry standard 30 day money back guarantee.
#4 IPVanish Protocols -L2TP, IPsec, PPTP, OpenVPN TCP and OpenVPN UDP, IKEv2
IPVanish has a wide array of protocols to choose from, making it a powerful and extremely adaptable choice, whatever you’re looking for. They support L2TP and PPTP, as well as OpenVPN over TCP and UDP, and IPsec and IKEv2 for mobile devices, too. Try their seven day money back guarantee and then sign up for just $6.49 per month.
VPN Protocols –Add Ons
TOR is another way to keep your privacy in check. All TOR users are added to what you can think of as a global room, where your traffic will travel before it reaches its destination. This makes it impossible to see where your login comes from. Be warned, it could slow you down.
Another great extra to look out for is double encryption. This doesn’t come as standard, but some VPN companies are now offering it. It’s exactly what it sounds like, your data is not just encrypted once, but twice. This gives you the best chance of anonymity and safety, too.
Which is the Best VPN Protocol?
The best VPN protocol will depend on what you’re looking for. If speed is all you’re interested in, then PPTP is fine and will give you the fastest connection. If security is more important than privacy then you might want to choose SSTP. If privacy is at the top of your wish list, then one of the OpenVPN choices should fit the bill. Make sure to discuss your needs when you choose your VPN solution. We love ExpressVPN, for their wide variety of protocols and the transparency with which they use them.
More information on the above-mentioned VPN providers can be found in: