What are VPN Protocols? Types and Comparison

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There is no denying a VPN helps you in protecting your data and your online identity from various online threats. Besides selecting a best VPN service, you have to choose an appropriate VPN protocol that provides online protection and anonymity to its subscribers.

Through our guide on best VPN protocols, we will solve your queries straightaway.  To know about securing your privacy on various platforms, read our exclusive best VPN list.


What is a VPN?

A VPN is an online protection that allows you to secure your privacy from hackers and ISPs. Moreover, it helps you to use the public internet through a private connection. It provides protection to users on two different levels.

It cloaks your data transmission with the help of VPN encryption. Likewise, it tunnels your data through VPN servers too. When you use a VPN, your data is secured through private server of the VPN service. Hence, you can spoof your online locations from anywhere.

What are VPN Protocols?

When it comes to determining how your data should route between computer and VPN server, role of a VPN protocol becomes significant.  Therefore, you can avail different protocols of your choice to protect your online tasks accordingly.

What are VPN Protocols

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6 VPN Protocols Explained

Here is the list of five major VPN protocols that consists of:

  • OpenVPN
  • L2TP/IPsec
  • SSTP
  • IKEv2
  • PPTP

1. OpenVPN

An open source VPN protocol offers maximum level of online protection to users. It applies military grade AES-256 bit encryption along with 2048-bit RSA authentication and 160-bit SHA1 hash algorithm.  You can use the said protocol on your preferred platforms like Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, iOS, and routers.


OpenVPN Pros

  • Offers optimum level of online security
  • Bypass most firewalls
  • Supports a multitude of cryptic algorithms

OpenVPN Cons

  • Users may experience slower connection speeds


2. L2TP/IPsec

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol is another VPN protocol that provides 256-bit military grade encryption in collaboration with IPsec protocol. This is because L2TP does not offer any kind of privacy or anonymity to subscribers.

L2TP/IPsec Pros

  • Compatible with different platforms
  • User-friendly setup process
  • Provides high level security

L2TP/IPsec Cons

  • Blocked by firewalls



Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is compatible with Microsoft operating system by default. Thus, you can opt the above-described protocol with Winlogon or smart chip. Luckily, different VPN services offer Windows integrated SSTP guides on their website.

It applies 2048-bit SSL /TLS certificates for authentication and 256-bit SSL keys for encryption purpose. SSTP is compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, iOS and BSD systems too.


Image Credit: TechGenix


  • Offers next level security
  • Can be configured with Windows platform
  • Bypasses different firewalls


  • Highly compatible with Windows platform only


4. IKEv2

Internet Key Exchange version 2 is a brainchild of Microsoft and cisco.  It provides a secure key exchange benefit to its users. However, it has to incorporate IPsec for encryption and authentication needs.  The said protocol provides compatibility feature to its Windows, Blackberry, iOS, Linux and Android subscribers.

IKEv2 Protocol

Image Credit: einly

IKEv2 Pros

  • Supports various encryption levels
  • User-friendly setup process
  • Offers decent speeds to users

IKEv2 Cons

  • Firewalls can block the protocol



There is no denying PPTP has become one of the outdated VPN protocols. You can avail the protocol if you want optimum speed at the cost of privacy. It means hackers can access to your crucial data by cracking PPTP encryption hassle-free.


  • Extremely fast
  • Easy to use
  • Compatible with different operating systems


  • Does not protect users’ information


6. SoftEther

SoftEther is one of the easiest VPN protocols available in the industry. You can use it on your desired platforms like Windows, Mac, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD and Solaris too. Above all, you can use this open source protocol free.

Types of VPN Protocols

SoftEther Pros

  • You can use SoftEther free from anywhere
  • Compatible with all leading operating systems and devices
  • Does not compromise on security

SoftEther Cons

  • Does not provide native operating system support


VPN Protocols Summarized

  • OpenVPN– provides safest encryption but slows down connection speed
  • L2TP/IPsec– another impressive tunneling protocol but could be blocked because of using single port
  • SSTP– offers next level security to users and tough to trace
  • IKEv2– a secure and fast VPN protocol with mobile friendly and open source implementations features
  • PPTP– Supports all platforms but security loopholes have been identified


PPTP vs L2TP vs OpenVPN vs IKEv2 vs SSTP

ProtocolSpeedEncryption & BrowsingStabilityMedia StreamingP2P File SharingCompatibility
PPTPFastPoorMediumGoodGoodAlmost Compatible with all major platforms
L2TP/IPsecFastMediumGoodGoodGoodAlmost Compatible with all major platforms
IKEv2/IPsecFastGoodGoodGoodGoodAlmost Compatible with all major platforms
OpenVPN TCPMediumGoodGoodMediumGoodAlmost Compatible with all major platforms
OpenVPN UDPFastGoodMediumGoodGoodAlmost Compatible with all major platforms


IPsec VPN Protocols

Cisco iOS applies IPsec protocol to offer advanced VPN benefits. The protocol acts like a network layer that secures and authenticates IP packets between a PIX firewall and other peers (IPsec devices). Hence, you are able to attain following below mentioned benefits:

  • Data Confidentiality– IPsec users can encrypt their data packets before sending them across a network
  • Data Integrity– Users can authenticate data packets that allow them to make their data secure and alterable
  • Data Origin Authentication– subscribers can also validate the source of IPsec data packets
  • Antireplay– IPsec receiver can identify and reject replayed packets


VPN Protocols that Work in China

Fortunately, VPN subscribers can avail PPTP and L2TP protocols in China straightaway. However, users should not select PPTP when they have to transfer sensitive information. Similarly, you can use L2TP protocol because the said protocol is compatible with all the leading platforms.

The same applies to OpenVPN protocol but you will need to apply obfuscating methods that enable you to circumvent Great Firewall (GFW) restrictions accordingly.

Best VPN Protocol for China

When it comes to protecting your online privacy, you can select different VPN protocols. These protocols are PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN and SoftEther. As you already know, SoftEther is a multi VPN protocol.  Therefore, you can use SoftEther within China to attain online security and anonymity stress-free.

Still, you can avail PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN protocols to unblock and access your favorite streaming sites in China securely. However, you will have to use obfuscating methods to take benefit from OpenVPN in the country.

Likewise, you can select PPTP and L2TP as long as your VPN provider is not blocked by great firewall (GFW) in China.

Best VPN Protocol for Streaming

Connection speeds and VPN protocols security both go hand in hand. Therefore, you will need to compromise on speed if you want maximum online protection. When you wish to use best VPN for protocol for streaming purpose, nothing comes close to PPTP.

The above-explained VPN protocol offers fastest streaming speeds to its users. On the other hand, PPTP does have the weakest encryption level.

Best VPN Protocol for Streaming Video

Interestingly, streamers cannot undervalue the importance of streaming speeds that allow them to watch their preferred media content without any fuss.  Thus, you will have to rely on PPTP protocol to fulfill your media streaming desires.

If you want to attain the right balance between speed and security, OpenVPN turns out to be a right choice. It offers both security and reasonable speed coupled with 256-bit military grade encryption. Therefore, you are able to obtain next level security according to your own terms.

Best VPN Protocol for Gaming

Luckily, you have different protocols available at your disposal. Still, you have to select a right kind of protocol that helps you to accomplish your gaming desires hassle-free. In this case, role of PPTP protocol comes in handy as it provides better streaming speeds.

Best VPN Protocol for Speed

There is no harm if you avail SoftEther protocol to attain extremely fast speeds on your preferred devices. By doing so, you can get an ideal level of encryption that is 256-bit instantly. This way, you can experience next level fastest speed connections on all the leading platforms without any hassle.

Best VPN Protocol for Mac

It should not be a surprise for you if you explore Mac users in huge numbers. Still, you have to secure your privacy from hackers while using your favorite Mac devices. Otherwise, you may become a victim of cyberbullying.

Therefore, you need to use OpenVPN protocol to overcome such hassles. Moreover, you can protect your identity and your crucial personal information through OpenVPN protocol to new heights.

Best VPN Protocol for iOS

The same goes for iOS device as online snoopers prefer to hack users’ data available on iOS devices. You can avail L2TP, and IKEv2 protocols to safeguard your online activities from ISPs and data surveillance agencies. Fortunately, you can use OpenVPN protocol to secure your iOS devices accordingly.

Best VPN Protocol for iPhone

Likewise, you can opt L2TP in collaboration with IPsec protocol to protect your privacy on your iPhone hassle-free. However, you can improve your current level of security to new heights if you avail OpenVPN protocol.

Best VPN Protocol for iPad

Luckily, you can use L2TP along with IPsec and other crucial tunneling protocols like SSTP on your iPads. Still, you should not undermine the significance of OpenVPN protocol that allows you to safeguard your iPad devices from different cyber threats.

Best VPN Protocol for Android

Interestingly, you can select a multitude of VPN protocols to protect your Android devices from online security issues. You can consider using SoftEther protocol that does not charge a single penny from your pocket. Otherwise, you may opt OpenVPN protocol along with L2TP/IPsec and SSTP protocols.


Wrapping Up

We hope you would like our guide on best VPN protocols in 2018. Through our detailed analysis, you can select the right VPN protocol to protect your privacy from anywhere. Still, the task of VPN protocol exploration is a daunting one but our review indicates that OpenVPN turns out to be a clear winner.

If you have concerns about using various tunneling protocols, do raise your voice through comments section given below.

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Usman Hayat

Usman Hayat

All Posts by Usman Hayat

Usman Hayat's Biography :

A business school grad specializing in marketing, Usman found his love for writing during studies. Salmi now pursues a career as a digital privacy & security advocate for VPNRanks working as a blogger. Salmi loves reading about sci-fi & technology while cricket is his game of choice. When the world cries ‘online freedom’ Salmi stands resolute raising his voice for the rights of netizens everywhere.

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