What are VPN protocols?

VPN protocol allows the connection of two network segments via a virtual private network.

The VPN manages the packet-switched data tunnels using pre-shared or public security credentials to authenticate users and allow data to flow in both directions across the shared tunnel.

Depending on the VPN you’re using, a protocol may be optional or mandatory.

The most popular protocols are TCP and UDP.

TCP – Transmission Control Protocol is the standard for data being sent over networks, and it’s what you’ll use to connect to a VPN server. It’s reliable and it will work to send your data over the internet securely, but it also slows down your connection speed because of packet re-transmission.

UDP – User Datagram Protocol is used for transmitting data on networks, but it’s more efficient than TCP since it doesn’t re-send packets. It’s used in some VPNs, but not very often because UDP isn’t reliable on its own.

These are the most common protocols, but you’ll also come across SSH or SSL for some VPNs.

SSL/TLS – Secure Sockets Layer / Transport Layer Security is an internet security technology that works on top of TCP/IP. It’s used to encrypt data and information transmitted online. You’ll see this protocol when you use a website that requires you to log in.

SSH – Secure Shell is another encryption technology used to secure data and information exchanged online. It was created by the US Department of Defense, but it’s available for public use too. You’ll find it in VPNs that support SSH tunneling.

PPTP – Point-to-Point Protocol is a protocol used in VPNs to establish an encrypted tunnel between two devices over the internet. This protocol is also often referred to as PPTP tunneling.

L2TP – Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol was originally developed by Cisco Systems for VPNs, but it’s more commonly known as a protocol that works in conjunction with Layer 3 protocols. L2TP uses the header compression technique of GRE and IP, which makes it faster than L2F and L2A.

We should get in detail with those later on.

What does the VPN protocol do?

The protocol you’re using in your VPN will determine the security of your connection.

This is why it’s important to learn about the different protocols used in these services, in order to choose the one that suits you.

No matter what protocol you use, the VPN protocol has only one job – to help your data travel securely between your computer and the VPN server.

It should provide data encryption, server authentication, and connection reliability.

What are the most popular VPN protocols?

IPSec is the most popular protocol with the highest level of security.

It’s generally used for traffic within an organization, but it can be used to establish secure connections between different organizations as well.

IPSec is considered one of the best VPN protocols that you should use when you connect to a server.

PPTP is actually considered obsolete, even though it’s still one of the most used protocols.

What are the benefits of using a VPN protocol?

1. More secure connection

– All protocols are designed to make sure that your data is sent securely between you and your VPN server to prevent any outsiders from snooping on your internet activity.

2. Faster connection speed

– Most VPN protocols are faster than the alternative. This is mainly because protocols like PPTP and SSTP use compression, while OpenVPN doesn’t.

3. Easier setup

– Some VPNs require you to set up an additional layer of security like L2TP or IKEv2 to connect to their servers. However, if the protocol is built into the VPN client you’re using, you’ll be able to use it right away without additional configuration needed.

How to choose a protocol for your VPN?

To choose a protocol for your VPN, you have to be careful when looking at what features are provided by each one.

Packet-oriented protocols are more reliable but they are slower than other ones when it comes to transferring data over the internet.

You should also remember that these protocols are more efficient in terms of bandwidth usage, which is why they’re the best choice if you have a limited internet connection.


Most people understand the fact that TCP is better for getting transferred data to its destination.

However, TCP is not well-suited for online activities since it’s very slow when it comes to uploading or downloading information. It also doesn’t provide any security or help with packet loss.

UDP is lighter than TCP, but it’s not reliable when it comes to connection setting up, meaning that there’s a possibility of losing data in transit.

This is why UDP isn’t considered a good protocol, especially when you’re looking to establish a VPN connection.

SSL/TLS gives you the best security possible when connecting to a server over the internet.

6 Common VPN Protocols You Should Know About

Some VPN protocols are more common than others, but it doesn’t mean that you should only use one protocol on your VPN.

Depending on your personal preference, you should select the one that suits you the most.

Now, let’s get to learning and understanding some of the most common VPN protocols that most VPN providers are utilizing.

1) Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)

– developed by Microsoft for Windows XP and Server 2003. It is a proprietary protocol that uses SSL technology to create a VPN connection. Many people prefer to use SSTP as well as IPSec because it’s easier to install, configure, and troubleshoot than other protocols. It’s also well-supported by all the major operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

2) Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)

– developed by Microsoft and Cisco, this protocol was integrated into most of the operating systems. It is very popular because it’s quick, but it’s considered obsolete now even though it is still used in most VPN servers today.

However, PPTP is considered obsolete because it has been surpassed by the more secure protocols.

3) Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)

– developed by Cisco Systems, this protocol is also considered obsolete, even though it’s still one of the most used protocols. However, L2TP was designed to work with IPSec and IPsec. This protocol allows you to create a VPN connection between two devices over the internet. However, it doesn’t replace OpenVPN as a good protocol for setting up a VPN connection.

4) OpenVPN

– it’s considered the most secure protocol available today. It’s open-source, but it’s also considered the best protocol for setting up a VPN connection. OpenVPN is built into almost all VPN clients, including any of the top VPN services you can use. OpenVPN provides AES encryption, support for all the major operating systems, and it’s also very easy to install. Also, it can be configured manually if you need to.

5) Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2)

– developed by Cisco Systems, this protocol offers the best security to the users. It uses a 256-bit key exchange algorithm for data encryption, which is considered stronger than 128 bit. It’s also considered the best for setting up a VPN connection since it’s easy to install and configure.

6) Wireguard

– WireGuard is a new IETF standard that aims at replacing the current limitations of the current VPNs such as OpenVPN, Open-SSL, L2TP.

So what is Wireguard?

Wireguard is a new way to create VPN tunnels that are more secure than previous ones such as OpenVPN or IPSEC. Dig deeper with our article here.

Custom protocols

Some custom protocols are built from the ground up, but many of them are just forks of open-source protocols.

NordLynx, for example, is just Wireguard with a double-NAT system to prevent logging of IP addresses.

What VPN Protocols Are Not For

Unfortunately, using a VPN isn’t as simple as connecting to an opened port and then creating a secure connection to the Internet.

It’s much harder than that and you need to understand all the different aspects and capabilities of each protocol before choosing your preference.

Though all the protocols serve the same purpose, they don’t all work the same way.

You can’t use a PPTP or an L2TP protocol to secure your data when you’re using a public hotspot.

However, this is why it’s important to choose the right protocol when setting up your VPN connection.

You should also remember that use your anonymity with responsibility.

This isn’t a way to go around the world breaking rules and getting away with it.

It’s just a way to stop some nosy people from keeping track of your actions on the internet, especially if you’re an activist or if you’re working on certain projects that require your anonymity.

Conclusion: Pick The One That Work Best for You

VPN protocols are like roads.

If you don’t stick to the right road, you can end up in a dead-end or even get lost.

That’s why it’s important for you to understand how VPN protocols work and be sure to choose the best one for yourself.

Please note that this article is just an overview of privacy, privacy laws, and privacy tools that can be used to protect your privacy online.

There are much more than just the ones I’ve mentioned in this article.