With the rise in privacy concerns, more and more people are subscribing to VPNs. Statistics indicate that roughly 25% of internet users have used a VPN at least once in the last thirty days. Moreover, the VPN market is growing at such an accelerated rate that by 2022 it will be worth 35.73 billion dollars.
However, despite this massive growth, it is essential to note that most people have no idea what goes on behind the scenes when using a VPN. VPNs rely on VPN protocols, and whether you are a tech enthusiast or not, it is essential to have a good understanding of some of the best VPN protocols.
That is because each VPN protocol has unique strengths that make it suited to a particular function. To fully understand this, consider the following VPN protocol comparison.
OpenVPN protocol is an open-source protocol that helps create a secure end-to-end or point-to-point connection. That it is open-source means anyone has permission to use its source code, content and design documents.
A key feature that makes OpenVPN so popular is the fact that it is run over both User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) tunnel transports. These two protocols—UDP and TCP—are the most widely used in establishing connections between various applications on the internet.
That OpenVPN uses both means that web traffic running over the OpenVPN protocol is indistinguishable from the traffic that is using the typical HTTPS over SSL. Consequently, it is next to impossible to detect or block.
Another essential characteristic of OpenVPN is the high-level of security. The protocol uses the unbreakable AES 256-bit encryption complete with 2048-bit RSA authentication and 160-bit SHA 1 hash algorithm. SHA stands for Secure Hashing Algorithm, and it is an algorithm that is used for cryptographic security.
Other characteristics of OpenVPN include
Support for dynamic IP addresses
The ability to scale to hundreds and even thousands of users
Support for a majority of OS platforms through a third-party software
Uses a myriad of encryption algorithms to enhance security
It is open-source which makes it easy to vet
Difficult to block
Requires technical knowledge to configure thanks to its complexity
Mobile support still needs improvements
Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is a tunneling protocol that is usually combined with the IPsec which is a security protocol that has strong encryption and authentication. On its own, L2TP is purely a tunneling protocol that has no encryption.
L2TP/IPsec works by checking or authenticating data twice. Essentially, each data packet that goes through an L2TP/IPsec tunnel has two L2TP headers to indicate the double encapsulation. The double authentication slows down performance a little because of the time it takes, but the upside is that it enhances a high level of security.
Note that L2TP defaults to UDP on port 500. That gives rise to one of its most noticeable weakness—traffic over L2TP is easier to spot and block.
A high level of security and encryption
Encapsulates data twice which facilitates double data verification
The protocol is easy to configure
Some firewalls can block the L2TP ports
Slower performance because of double authentication
Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) might not be the most secure, but the fact that it is extremely fast makes it one of the most popular VPN protocols. PPTP is one of the oldest protocols and was first introduced in 1995.
PPTP works by using TCP port 1723 for communication. A data packet that is moving through a PPTP tunnel is encapsulated and treated as an IP packet.
PPTP is hugely popular for two reasons. One, it is compatible with most desktop and mobile operating systems. Two, where security is not an issue and speed is the main concern, then PPTP is the best possible VPN protocol.
People who want to watch Netflix from a different location, for example, are better off using PPTP because buffering will be minimal or non-existent.
Available on nearly all operating systems
East to configure because it is not complex