When you’re searching for a personal VPN service, there are typically four VPN protocols to choose from, including PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, and SSTP. Each of these protocols has different setup as well as well as level of security. At the end of the day, all protocols provide some level of security and privacy depending on your needs.
PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)
Developed by Microsoft along with a couple of other technology companies, the PPTP protocol is the most popular VPN protocol in terms of number of devices (users) supported. This protocol is natively supported on Windows and it is also compatible with MacOSX, iOS, and Linux. Its biggest drawback is that the security (encryption) it provides is relatively weak. That said, PPTP is easy setup, making it suitable for mobile computing where there’s less sensitive data being transmitted via the mobile device.
The second protocol is known as Layer 2 Tunneling protocol over IPSec. Like PPTP, this protocol is natively supported on a range of operating systems and devices, meaning that you don’t need client software to set it up in most cases. L2TP/IPSec provides slightly increased security over PPTP as it was primarily developed by Cisco systems in collaboration with Microsoft to addresses known deficiencies of PPTP.
IPSec is a protocol of its own but it is typically used to provide the encryption tunnel for L2TP, which doesn’t have encryption capability of its own. The downside of IPSec is that it requires client setups that are both costly and time consuming.
SSTP (Secure Sockets Tunneling Protocol)
This is another VPN protocol that’s commonly used for personal or business connections. For personal connections, it’s arguably the best as it’s both secure and fast. Traffic in transmission is protected with 256-bit encryption along with user authentication. However, what’s important to the average user is that SSTP connects via port 443, a generic port that is not frequently blocked by firewalls and other security layers in a network. This means that if you’re using SSTP over a network that is not ‘friendly’ to VPNs (such as corporate networks, national computer networks, and schools, among others), you’ll still be able to connect. VPN users whose aim is to bypass country restrictions for countries such as Iran, China, and Oman, among others, should consider this protocol.
Finally, there’s the OpenVPN protocol that you can choose as well. However, OpenVPN is typically used for site-to-site connections rather than personal use. Open VPN implements the highest level of encryption at 256-bit as well as fast connections over high-latency networks. Traffic is checked while exiting a computer or network and once it reaches the destination network, the protocol performs a data integrity check to make sure that it has not been manipulated during transmission. This provides increased security and privacy that other protocols cannot guarantee.
So when you’re considering a personal VPN service, these are basically the VPN options you can choose from. Your needs are what should determine the protocol to use.