What is a VPN protocol?

What is a VPN protocolDo you wonder what a VPN protocol is? Or maybe what VPN protocol to use? Whether you should use PPTP, L2TP/IPSec or OpenVPN? Get an introduction to VPN protocols in our IP Address Guide as you read this article.

The goal of this article is not to be very technical, but to rather give an easy and informative introduction to VPN protocols, making sure that even grandmothers reading this article will get a feeling that they have a clue about VPN protocols.

What is a VPN protocol?

A VPN protocol is something that is there to secure your data as it flies across public and private networks. It is often used as a part of a tunnel, protecting the information sent from the outer world, but not only protecting it inside the tunnel, but also encrypting it, making it even harder to get hold of the information moving from one side of the tunnel to the other side of the tunnel. If you want to send information from point A to B, the protocol will encapsulate your package (encrypting it in some way or another, depending in what VPN protocol you use), and once the information reach its destination it will de-encapsulate the package and make sure that the information is transmitted to the right place, and nowhere else.

The most popular VPN protocols

When you subscribe to a VPN service you will find some offering all kinds of VPN protocols in the standard packages, while others only allow one protocol in their standard packages. As a beginner on the subject it can be hard to know what you need, what you do not need, and what protocol to choose if you can use two, three or four different protocols. To help you we will here describe with a few words the most popular and used VPN protocols.


OpenVPN is an open source VPN protocol which gives a 256-bit encryption. This is as much as you will ever need, and if available, this might be the number one VPN protocol. This protocol is widely supported, but it will normally require a plus application installed to use it. Most VPN services do provide such an application, so that will normally not create any trouble.


This is a high encryption VPN protocol, just like OpenVPN. One of the differences is that it encapsulates the information twice, which might make it a bit slower than OpenVPN. If you need high security and protection, but your VPN provier does not have support for OpenVPN, use L2TP instead.


This is the VPN protocol that is most debated. It has 128-bit encryption, which should be more than enough, but there have been successful attempts (taking two days) where people have been able to steal information transmitted using the PPTP protocol. This protocol was created by Microsoft, but now they do not recommend the usage of this protocol anymore. Therefore this is not the protocol to use if security, privacy and encryption is of the essence. However, if speed is of the essence, this is the fastest protocol giving the best speeds, so if you use a VPN provider only to watch TV online or some other innocent online activity, then the PPTP protocol is more than good enough!

Would you like to know more about what a VPN is in general? Read this article!

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