VPN Protocols Explained In Plain Language
(You don’t need to know about VPN protocols, but here’s just a little bit of information for you anyway.)
Here’s good news for non-IT types, which is most of us.
You’ll be relieved to know that if you sign up for a VPN account someday (and even if you’re using one now), you will likely NEVER have to adjust, play around with, switch or change—let alone understand—what VPN protocols are and how they differ.
Count your blessings.
Because VPN protocols are pretty technical and get very confusing fast.
Here are the VPN protocols you’re likely to come across if you ever read a VPN review:
- OpenVPN. Always OpenVPN; never called Open Virtual Private Network.
- L2TP/IPSec. Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol, combined with Internet Protocol Security.
- SSTP. Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol.
- IKEv2: Internet Key Exchange version 2; developed by Microsoft and Cisco.
- PPTP. Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol.
Do NOT feel bad if this looks or sounds confusing, even intimidating. Very few people know this stuff, even many tech-savvy types. (If you need information on VPNs, Virtual Private Networks, start here.
Besides that, you don’t need to become a VPN protocol savvy unless you’re:
- 1) the very curious type
- 2) a computer “control” type
- 3) an IT consultant
- 4) a glutton for punishment
Already overwhelmed and just want some help choosing the best VPN for you? Try our VPN Simplifier and simplify the selection process. We’ve researched it for you.
Having said that, here’s pretty much all you need to know about VPN protocols.
VPN protocol, defined.
A protocol is a rule. Not only do people follow rules, but so do computers, networks and VPN software. They’re programmed that way.
VPNs all do the same thing, from protecting your data and privacy to changing your IP address. However, VPNs use different protocols depending on what kind of device you use, what you want to do, or how you want to do it.
Take note: only a small percentage of people ever fiddle with or change protocols. (And you know who you are.)
But most VPN review sites don’t make the following fact clear about these VPN protocols:
The protocols that you saw listed above are different technologies.
Protocols for different things, different devices.
Security software companies (such as VPN providers) are always trying to make technology better for us—including VPN protocols. Protocols change.
Also, different VPN protocols exist for phones and tablets, etc., or to do a particular task— or do it better than before.
I can guess what you’re thinking about now.
“That’s all well and good. But can you just tell me which VPN protocol should I use?”
Here’s why you don’t need to worry, or even think about it that question.
The VPN protocol decision is made for you.
VPNs have security and privacy in mind for you. They know that’s what pretty much all we want.
So, rest assured the VPN you choose—if it’s a reputable one—will choose the best VPN protocol for your network…and your protection.
In other ones, they’ll use the right protocol in terms of privacy, security and helping you gain access to otherwise restricted websites.
Here is how SaferVPN explains it on their website:
“So the SaferVPN app automatically selects the VPN protocol best suited to your network, utilizing all available protocol types.”
Still, when you go to any VPN provider’s website (such as NordVPN, Private Internet Access VPN, CyberGhost VPN, etc.) they’ll tell you about the VPN protocols they support—as if you NEED TO our WANT TO get in there and test the options.
Most of us don’t
That leads to this fact, which you may be curious about.
“So what’s the preferred or leading VPN protocol in use today?”
OpenVPN. Today’s top protocol.
OpenVPN is considered the top VPN protocol in terms of security technology. Virtually all VPN review sites and experts will tell you that.
And virtually all VPNs are using OpenVPN as the default VPN protocol, especially for computers.
Here’s an excerpt from a PC Magazine review of TunnelBear VPN that does a nice job of explaining this in plain language:
(And if you’ve gotten this far in the article, this excerpt might now make some sense):
“You can’t change which protocol TunnelBear uses in its app, but that’s fine for most users. TunnelBear secures your connection with the OpenVPN protocol for Android, macOS, and Windows. This is my preferred protocol, as it is newer, faster, more secure, and open source.” The TunnelBear iPhone app, meanwhile, uses the IKEv2 protocol, which is a good option for that platform.
Sign up for a leading VPN. And rest easy.
So, when you’re considering VPNs, don’t let the protocol section scare you off. Just keep these points in mind.
- The VPN has your back. They’ll likely default to the best VPN for your device and the best protocol available.
- You don’t need to study the protocols. Unless you’re handling a specific type of task (like bit-torrenting) when using a VPN, you’re ready to hop online.
- OpenVPN is the leading protocol for computers. It’s the VPN providers’ protocol of choice, but it’s not an option for some mobile devices.
Remember, everything will be fine if you choose a reputable VPN.
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