A Cheat Sheet to Understanding VPN Protocols

You must have heard about various protocols while using VPNs. Many may have recommended OpenVPN to you while others may have suggested to try PPTP or L2TP. However, a vast majority of VPN users still do not understand what these protocols are, how do they work, and what can they do.

So, to make things easier for you all, we have prepared this VPN protocol cheat sheet in which you will find a comparison of VPN protocols along with the important details about each of them. We are going to put the summarized pointers before we get started, as it will help those who want quick answers.

Quick Summary:

  • Always choose OpenVPN as it is the most reliable VPN in terms of both speed and security.
  • L2TP is the second best option and is commonly used by many VPN users.
  • Then comes SSTP which is known for its good security but you cannot expect good speed from it at all.
  • PPTP is the last resort mainly because of its security flaws. However, it is one of the fastest and easiest VPN protocols to use.

VPN Protocol Cheat Sheet

Now we will describe each of the VPN protocols individually, so you can learn everything about them in an easy to understand manner:


OpenVPN is an open-source protocol. It is extremely flexible with it comes to configurations on a variety of ports and encryption types. Moreover, it has been proven to be the most reliable and secure VPN protocol out there.

Use: As it is open source, OpenVPN is most commonly utilized by third-party VPN clients. OpenVPN protocol is not built into computers and mobile devices. However, it is becoming very popular and is now the default VPN protocol for many VPN services.

Speed: OpenVPN protocol is not the fastest VPN protocol, but considering the level of security it offers, its speed is really very good.

Security: OpenVPN protocol is one of the most secure protocols. It utilizes a custom security protocol that is based on OpenSSL. It is also very good in terms of stealth VPN because it is configurable on any port, so it can easily disguise the VPN traffic as normal internet traffic. Many of the encryption algorithms are supported by OpenVPN which include Blowfish and AES, two of the most common ones.

Ease of Configuration: The manual configuration of OpenVPN is not easy at all. However, you do not have to configure it manually because many VPN clients already have the OpenVPN protocol configured. So, it is easy to use via the VPN client and preferred.


Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol or L2TP is a tunneling protocol that is often paired with another security protocol to provide encryption and authorization. L2TP is one of the easiest protocols to integrate and it was developed by Microsoft and Cisco.

Use: It helps in getting access to the internet securely and privately through a VPN because of its tunneling and third-party security authorization.

Speed: In terms of speed, it is actually quite competent and is almost as fast as OpenVPN. However, if you compare, both OpenVPN and L2TP are slower than PPTP.

Security: The L2TP protocol does not offer any encryption or authorization by itself. However, it can be coupled with a variety of encryption and authorization algorithms. Most commonly, IPSec is coupled with L2TP which raises concerns for some as the NSA helped in developing IPSec.

Ease of Configuration: L2TP is compatible with many devices as most now have built-in support for L2TP protocol. The setup process of L2TP is also quite simple. However, the port which this protocol utilizes is easily blocked by many firewalls. So, in order to get around them, the user needs to use port forwarding which requires a more complex setup.


Point-to-Point tunneling or commonly known as PPTP is the oldest and one of the most popular VPN protocols. It was originally developed by Microsoft.

Use: PPTP VPN protocol is utilized for both internet and intranet networks. It means that you can also use the protocol for accessing a corporate network from a remote location.

Speed: Since PPTP uses a lower encryption standard it provides amazing speed. This is the main reason why it is the fastest VPN protocol among all.

Security: In terms of security, PPTP is the least reliable VPN protocol as it offers the lowest encryption level. In addition, there are various vulnerabilities in this VPN protocol that make it the least secure one to use. In fact, if you care about your privacy and security one bit, you should not use this VPN protocol.

Ease of Configuration: As it is the oldest and most common VPN protocol, it is the easiest to Setup and almost all the devices and systems offer built-in support for PPTP. It is one of the simplest VPN protocols in terms of the configuration of various devices.


SSTP or Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is a proprietary technology that was developed by Microsoft. It was first built into Windows Vista. SSTP also works on Linux based systems, but it was primarily built to be a Windows-only technology.

Use: SSTP is not a very useful protocol. It certainly is very secure and it can get around firewalls without any hassle or complexities. Still, it is mainly used by some hardcore Windows fans and it has no advantage over OpenVPN, which is why OpenVPN is recommended.

Speed: In terms of speed, it is not very fast as it offers strong security and encryption.

Security: SSTP utilizes strong AES encryption. Additionally, if you’re running Windows, then SSTP is the most secure protocol you could use.

Ease of Configuration: It is extremely easy to set up SSTP on Windows machines, but it is difficult on Linux based systems. The Mac OSx do not support SSTP and they probably never will.


Internet Key Exchange version 2 is an IPSec based tunneling protocol that was developed by Cisco and Microsoft together.

Use: It is most commonly used for mobile devices due to its brilliant capabilities of reconnection. Mobile data networks often drop the connections for which IKEv2 comes really handy. The support for IKEv2 protocol is available in Blackberry devices.

Speed: IKEv2 is extremely fast.

Security: IKEv2 supports a variety of AES encryption levels. There are some open-source versions of IKEv2 available as well, so the users can avoid Microsoft’s proprietary version.

Ease of Configuration: It is not a very compatible VPN protocol as there are limited devices that support it. However, for compatible devices, it is extremely easy to configure.

Final Words

So this is everything you need to know about the most common VPN protocols. We hope that our VPN protocols comparison cheat sheet has been informative and useful for you. Let us know if you have further questions about any of the protocols in the comments section below.

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