What is the best VPN protocol?
Oliver Bradshaw | Last Updated:
Technical VPN Analyst
We all know that to enjoy a secure and risk-free internet, we need a good VPN. But not everyone understands what VPNs do and why they are so important for maintaining internet security and protecting your privacy whilst online.
Here’s the deal – VPNs basically use tunneling technology to ensure that an internet user’s data remains secure even when it is sent across the unsecured internet. There are many tunneling protocols used by VPN companies and Internet Service Providers.
Knowing which one is the best for you is not necessarily common knowledge. To ease the burden and inform our readers about the best VPN tunneling technologies out there, we have compiled a list of the most common vpn tunneling technologies in use today. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each of these will enable you to choose the right tunneling protocol as well the right VPN service provider for you.
Basics of VPN Tunneling
The first thing to understand is that there are two categories of tunneling protocols – voluntary and compulsory. The difference between the two is simple – voluntary tunneling is handled by the user while compulsory tunneling is handled by the ISP.
While most ISPs provide at least some basic form of encryption-based tunneling, you cannot rely on these alone to secure yourself against spying, hacking, and other forms of cyber-attacks. The best thing to do is to apply an encryption-based tunnel of your own through a reliable VPN service provider. This will make sure that you and your data both remain secure for online transmission and use.
However, not all VPN service providers offer the same kinds of services or the same levels of security. In fact, there are major differences between the kind of security offered by free VPNs and paid ones. Paid VPNs are the best in the market and they earn their price tag by providing their clients with a safe internet experience.
VPN Tunneling Protocols 101
In order to understand how your VPN service provider is going to keep you safe when you are online, you need to know more about the tunneling protocol that they are using. Broadly speaking, there are 4 different types of tunneling protocols used by VPN service providers to secure their clients against cyber-attacks. Each one has its advantages and drawbacks. We will list them all as we go along. Let’s begin.
This is one of the oldest and most frequently used tunneling protocols on the internet. Many organizations worked together to create the specifications for this protocol. It uses PPP (Point to Point Protocol) for data encryption.
Since this is the most basic form of encryption-based tunneling, it boasts of the highest internet speeds among all tunneling protocols. For people who literally have nothing to hide at all, this protocol might be the one. However, if you are a privacy-conscious user and do not want any would-be hacker getting their grubby little hands on your personal information, then you are going to need something stronger than PPTP.
This is a more secure version of tunneling that is highly popular for many reasons. L2TP stands for Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol and it is used together with Internet Protocol Security. Each of these applies its own layer of encryption over your data, thus justifying the 2 layer name. It is generally combined with IPSec to create a safe traveling space for your data.
It creates a secure connection between two L2TP points for communication. So when you use this tunneling protocol, things get a little harder for the would-be hackers and they have a hard time breaching your security.
On the flipside, however, the 2 layers of encryption mean that every time the data is sent, it will have to go through two rounds of decryption as well. This makes this form of tunneling slower than PPTP.
Another problem with this tunneling type is that it cannot bypass firewalls so easily and as a result, the VPN will be of no use against robust firewalls. If you want to watch Netflix while you are outside the US, this tunneling is not going to work for you. However, for day-to-day activities over the net, this technology might be the best one.
SSTP stands for Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol and this technology has been specifically designed for Windows. It is not meant for any other platform, so unless you are a Windows user, you might as well skip to the next one.
For those of you who do use Windows, this type of tunneling technology does make online life a lot safer. SSTP can transfer data through Secure Socket Layers or SSLs with ease. It works pretty well against most firewalls.
Web browsers find it easy to switch to SSL and there is no user action required. Major companies use SSL along with Transport Layer Security or TLS to make user connection and data storage more secure.
The only drawback of this tunneling technology is that it is Windows-exclusive. So unless you use only Windows, you are going to need other forms of tunneling to make your data more secure.
Finally, we get to OpenVPN. Without doubt, OpenVPN is the stand-out vpn tunneling protocol on all fronts. This open-source tunneling protocol is particularly good for Site-to-Site and Point-to-Point connections. However, its encryption is considerably more difficult if your are trying to set it up manually (if you are using one of the free vpn apps provided by your vpn service provider, you wont have to worry about manual setup and configuration). At the same time, it does provide the benefit of great security as well as high-speeds. Also, this system is configurable to all popular computing platforms including iOS, Mac, Android, Windows etc.
Another great thing about this is that it is constantly being upgraded by the international security community. While hackers may get more sophisticated, so will the robustness of this tunneling technology. There have been several independent audits conducted in recent years by leading security analysts, and it has been demonstrated that OpenVPN is indeed the strongest commercially available.
Our choice for the best performing vpn tunneling protocol is: OpenVPN.
To summarize, it is the best option when it comes to speed, security, reliability and stability.
Our TOP 5 recommendations for best vpn service provider (in terms of speed, security, reliability and stability) are listed below.
All of these vpn companies provide their customers with free vpn apps which makes installation a simple and straightforward process. Once installed, you can then select your vpn tunneling protocol of choice … and you are good to go !