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List of Available VPN Protocols

The term VPN refers to Virtual Private Networks. More specifically, a VPN is a secure connection that runs to and from a network or a computer to another network or computer. Using a Virtual Private Network enables you to access files remotely that are located on another network. This technology is often used by business people who are traveling and wish to access their company network safely from abroad. VPN technology may also be used to get a foreign IP address in order to access geo-restricted content. However, no matter what it may be used for, Virtual Private Networks rely on VPN protocols to function.

Available VPN Protocols

There are a many different VPN protocols available to users. However the most commonly used VPN protocols are: PPTP, L2TP, IPSec, and SSL. Let’s examine these common VPN protocols in more depth.

  • PPTP – PPTP stands for Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol. This is the most widely supported of VPN protocols for Windows users. This makes sense considering that PPTP was created by Microsoft in conjunction with various other technology companies. However PPTP is not just exclusively compatible with Windows. It can also be used with Mac and Linux. The best thing about PPTP is how fast it is. Compared to most other VPN protocols, PPTP is much faster. On the other hand, the biggest drawback to PPTP is security. Unlike many other VPN protocols, PPTP doesn’t provide any kind of encryption and instead relies upon PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) for security.
  • L2TP – L2TP, or Layer Two Tunneling Protocol is a VPN tunneling protocol. It’s similar to PPTP in that it doesn’t provide any kind of encryption and relies on PPP. The main difference between L2TP and PPTP is that L2TP provides better data confidentiality and data integrity. L2TP was also developed by Microsoft, this time in conjunction with Cisco.
  • IPSec – IPSec is a VPN protocol that can be used for encryption in correlation with L2TP tunneling protocol. It’s intended to be used as part of a protocol suite for securing Internet Protocol (IP) communications through authenticating and encrypting each individual IP packet of a given data stream. While IPSec is a versatile and useful VPN protocol, the main disadvantage of it is that it requires an expensive and time consuming installation process.
  • SSL – SSL or Secure Socket Layer is a VPN that’s accessible via https over a web browser. One of the advantages of using SSL is that it’s possible to to restrict access to specific applications, rather than allowing access to the entire network. One of the chief advantage of SSL is that it doesn’t require any kind of software installation and instead employs the web browser as the client application.
  • OpenVPN -OpenVPN is a VPN protocol that’s supported by most desktop computers and is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s a fast, secure protocol that has one of the highest levels of encryption of any protocol.

Choosing a VPN Protocols

Different VPN protocols are appropriate for different uses and are compatible with different devices and VPN providers. Choosing the right protocol is typically reliant on several factors. These include type of device you plan on using your VPN on, the VPN service you are using, and what it is you most wish to use a VPN for.

If speed is your primary concern you’ll likely be very happy with PPTP, provided it’s compatible with your device and your provider. If you’re more concerned with security, you’ll be more likely to appreciate SSL or IPSec.

L2TP is a fairly well-rounded VPN protocol that offers both speed and a respectable level of security. However if you’re looking for a VPN protocol to use on a desktop computer, you’ll probably be happiest with OpenVPN, which delivers both speed and security.

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About Robert Stelson

John Pearce is an expert in internet security and encryption. Before creating VPNMag.com John was the head of the IT department of a famous technology company.