Choosing a VPN service provider can seem like a daunting task when you face all the available options for the first time. It’s not just about how much you’re paying per month and what kinds of exit nodes you’ll have available. You must also pay attention to various other technical details, like the available security protocols.
Ideally, you’ll want to get your subscription from a company that offers support for all the latest protocols. That will give you an extra edge in your security and reassure you about the state of your privacy even further. Understanding the differences between all those protocols is not easy for a beginner though. You should take the time to familiarize yourself with how each one works, at least on a basic level.
While PPTP is still used in some setups, it’s generally a bad idea to rely on this protocol, and it should be avoided as much as possible. This is due to the various security concerns associated with it. Its outdated nature has made it a target for hackers and other criminals trying to exploit system vulnerabilities.
The good thing about PPTP compared to other, more modern protocols, is that it’s supported across a range of devices. It’s easy to get a PPTP connection up and running regardless of your current setup. The same can’t be said about other protocols, especially when it comes to older, less reliable devices. If you need to focus on backward compatibility, then PPTP may be your thing.
This is an update to PPTP that combines many advanced technologies into a single convenient protocol. As great as L2TP is in most regards, it does have one major drawback. It lacks any encryption support out of the box, making it a relatively poor choice for security-conscious users. This is where IPSec comes in as an extra layer on top of L2TP, taking care of the security aspects of the communication.
L2TP/IPSec is much more secure than PPTP on all fronts, more modern and supported on all current operating systems. This also includes mobile ones, which could be an important factor if you’re planning to use your VPN connection on a smartphone or tablet. On the downside, the protocol also comes with more extensive system requirements and can be problematic to set up on older devices.
Another Microsoft product with a heavy presence on the market, SSTP is one of the most secure protocols available at the moment. It’s also a favored choice for many users. SSTP is up to date with current standards and enjoys widespread support on various devices and operating systems. Even though it has some disadvantages in terms of tunneling support, it’s still a solid choice.
One disadvantage that’s worth paying attention to is that SSTP is only supported on Windows devices. That’s because Microsoft has been somewhat restrictive in allowing other operating systems to use it. If you’re a Mac user, it might be worth looking into alternative service providers.
OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol designed for transparency and community support. It can work with both TCP and UDP connections. Highly flexible and robust, it’s one of the most actively used and supported VPN protocols on the market right now. The project receives a lot of support from the community, with regular security patches and general improvements.
Like other modern VPN protocols though, OpenVPN may not be supported on your platform, depending on how recent it is. Check for compatibility issues before signing up for a subscription. Otherwise, you might find your connection unusable after you’ve gone through the effort of setting everything up. And considering how most VPN contracts are structured, you might not even be able to back out of the deal!
You don’t need an in-depth, advanced technical understanding of the inner workings of each VPN protocol on the market. But it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the general concepts behind each variation of the technology. That way you’ll be able to avoid some common mistakes when shopping around. It’s not that difficult to get a VPN subscription that works well for you, but it does take a bit of research beforehand. And when it comes to the security of your digital devices, there’s hardly any room for compromise.