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11 MIN READ | Last updated: Feb 02, 2024 |

How to Choose the Best VPN Protocol

VPNs (virtual private networks) rely on protocols to control how your data travels through the internet.

With various protocols available, how do you choose the right one? Which protocols are safe to use, are any faster than others, and are they compatible with your devices? How easy are these protocols to set up?

Let’s find the answers to these questions by looking at how protocols work and exploring the most popular ones. Whether you're streaming, gaming, downloading large files, or handling sensitive data, there's definitely a protocol for your needs.

What Are VPN Protocols?

A VPN protocol is a set of rules that dictates how your internet data travels between your device and the VPN server.

Protocols determine how your data is encrypted and sent. The way they work impacts the speed and security of your connection. Common VPN protocols include OpenVPN, WireGuard®, IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP.

For example, OpenVPN prioritizes security with 256-bit AES encryption, known for its effectiveness in safeguarding data, although it may slow down your connection. PPTP is super fast, but it’s not safe because it lacks strong encryption, so it's easy for someone to hack into it.

There are pros and cons to each type of protocol, so let’s take a look at them and help you identify the one suitable for your needs.

6 Common VPN Protocols Explained

1. OpenVPN (TCP vs. UDP)

OpenVPN is a popular VPN protocol that works on a range of platforms. Its flexibility and open-source design make it a top pick for many users and VPN providers. It offers flexibility by supporting both UDP (User Datagram Protocol) and TCP (Transmission Control Protocol).

  • UDP: UDP is faster than TCP, making it great for streaming and gaming. It may suffer from packet loss on unstable connections. It's best for speed-focused activities.
  • TCP: TCP is more reliable than UDP. It ensures all your data arrives in the right order, but is slower than UDP. It's ideal for tasks like sensitive file transfers.

Depending on your VPN provider, you might be able to switch between UDP and TCP in your VPN settings. CyberGhost VPN gives you the option to use either UDP or TCP with OpenVPN.

Image of the CyberGhost VPN's interface showing the option to toggle between UDP or TCP.

Toggle between UDP or TCP in CyberGhost VPN's Settings panel.

OpenVPN ProsOpenVPN Cons
High level of securityCan be slower
Flexible configurationRequires technical knowledge for manual setup
Cross-platform compatibility
Gets around most firewalls

Best for: OpenVPN is suitable for general-purpose VPN use cases where security is a top priority, such as remote access to corporate networks. It’s also great for security and privacy advocates and may come in handy for bypassing censorship.

2. WireGuard®

WireGuard® is a newer VPN protocol known for being simple, fast, and very secure. It’s gaining popularity thanks to its fast speeds, strong security, and cross-platform compatibility.

This protocol promises quicker connection thanks to its leaner codebase, and this minimal code also makes it easier to audit. Some VPN providers are still in the process of adopting WireGuard® as it continues to be assessed for possible vulnerabilities.

WireGuard® ProsWireGuard® Cons
Blazing-fast speedsSecurity audits ongoing
Low system resource usage
Minimal codebase for easier auditing
Cross-platform compatibility

Best for: WireGuard® is great for streaming, gaming, and downloading files, making it ideal for users who need high-speed performance. It's also perfect for smartphones and tablets because it helps reduce battery drain.

3. IKEv2/IPsec

IKEv2, Internet Key Exchange Version 2, is known for its smooth integration with mobile devices. Developed by Microsoft and Cisco, it is sometimes preferred for its ability to maintain connections while switching networks.

IKEv2 is not open-source, and that’s a real concern for some users and VPN providers. Its closed-source nature poses challenges in inspecting the code and identifying potential vulnerabilities.

When combined with IPSec, IKEv2 strikes a balance between speed and security. This combination is recognized for its quick reconnection times, making it well-suited for mobile devices.

IKEv2/IPsec ProsIKEv2/IPsec Cons
Good balance of speed and securityNot as customizable as OpenVPN
Excellent for mobile devicesLimited compatibility with older devices
Fast connection times

Best for: IKEv2 is good for mobile devices because it can keep connections stable when switching networks, ideal for commuters or travelers.


SSTP, which stands for Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol, was created by Microsoft. It's built into Windows operating systems and relies on SSL/TLS for encryption.

CyberGhost VPN doesn't use this protocol due to security concerns. SSTP isn't open source, it belongs exclusively to Microsoft. Because of this, the protocol's code isn't available to the public for inspection. Being closed source means users don't have the same freedom and control as they would with open-source protocols.

Easy to set up on WindowsLess secure than other protocols
Good performance on WindowsLimited cross-platform compatibility

Best for: SSTP is a good choice for Windows users looking for a straightforward VPN protocol within the Microsoft ecosystem.

5. L2TP/IPsec

L2TP/IPsec is a tunneling protocol that combines Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) with Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) for encrypted communication. When combined, L2TP encapsulates the data being transmitted and IPsec encrypts it, providing a secure communication channel.

CyberGhost VPN no longer supports L2TP. L2TP doesn't have its own encryption and it depends on other protocols like IPsec for encryption. This can lead to vulnerabilities if IPsec isn't implemented correctly or if weak encryption algorithms are used.

L2TP has faced attacks like denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, brute-force, and packet sniffing, putting sensitive data at risk. Furthermore, L2TP hasn't seen many improvements or updates in recent years. This lack of recent updates may result in more security vulnerabilities.

L2TP/IPsec ConsL2TP/IPsec Pros
Widely supported across platformsNot as secure as OpenVPN or WireGuard®
Lightweight designSlower than some other protocols

Best for: L2TP/IPsec is a good choice if you need a VPN protocol that works on older devices and is easy to use. It may not be the fastest and most secure option, but it's compatible with a wide range of devices.


PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) was once popular for its easy setup, but it's now considered insecure due to outdated encryption methods. As a result, people prefer safer options like OpenVPN and WireGuard® instead.

PPTP has encryption weaknesses and authentication flaws, which cybercriminals can leverage to gain access to your private data. CyberGhost VPN no longer supports PPTP because it’s vulnerable to security breaches.

Very fastOutdated encryption methods
Widely supported across older devicesSecurity vulnerabilities

Best for: PPTP is best suited for users who prioritize speed over security. It’s not recommended for sensitive data transfers due to its significant security risks.

Looking for a VPN service that supports best-in-class VPN protocols? CyberGhost VPN uses the fastest and most secure protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard® to give you online freedom and enhanced security.

What Is the Best VPN Protocol?

Here's a cheat sheet to help you pick the best VPN protocol for your needs:

  • Best VPN protocol for securing highly sensitive data

If digital privacy and security are your top priorities, OpenVPN is the king. However, for most people, WireGuard® provides a very good mix of security and speed.

  • Best VPN protocol for streaming

WireGuard® 's lightning speed makes it perfect for streaming. Its streamlined design and strong encryption ensure fast, stable connections, ideal for uninterrupted HD streaming.

  • Best VPN protocol for gaming

WireGuard® stands out for its impressive speed and minimal system resource usage, making it a top choice for gamers. It also maintains stable connections, seamlessly transitioning between Wi-Fi and mobile data, resulting in uninterrupted gaming sessions.

  • Best VPN protocol for downloading large files

If you're downloading files with sensitive info, choose OpenVPN for best-in-class security, even though it might be slow. If you want both speed and security, go for WireGuard®.

  • Best VPN protocol for mobile devices

WireGuard® or IKEv2/IPsec will do the trick in providing fast reconnection on your smartphone or tablet.

Beyond just choosing the best VPN protocol, have you thought about the trustworthiness of your VPN provider? Sure, some free VPNs may seem appealing because they claim to use strong protocols and not log your online activities. If you need proof why you shouldn't use certain free VPN services, a major data breach revealed that many do keep logs, despite their claims.

CyberGhost VPN has a strict no-logs policy, which means it doesn’t give away anything about you. All of CyberGhost VPN’s servers are RAM-only, meaning we couldn’t store any data on them even if we wanted to. This adds extra security against both data storage and any potential attempts to infiltrate them.

Deloitte completed an independent audit of our no-logs policy, providing further confirmation that CyberGhost VPN’s server configurations align with internal privacy policies and do not identify users or pinpoint their activities. Want to try CyberGhost VPN? Test it risk-free with the 45-day money-back guarantee.

WireGuard® is widely recognized as the speediest VPN protocol out there. Designed for efficiency and speed, WireGuard® boasts a smaller codebase than other protocols and uses the most up-to-date cryptographic techniques, setting it apart from traditional protocols like OpenVPN and IPSec.

With CyberGhost VPN, you can change protocols as you like. Say you're getting ready for a movie night at home. You've set up your streaming service (e.g. Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus) and have CyberGhost VPN ready. To avoid buffering, simply switch from OpenVPN to WireGuard®.

Image of the CyberGhost VPN's interface where you can choose your preferred VPN protocol.

Switch between CyberGhost VPN's protocols based on your specific needs.

If you want speedy VPN connections, you need to consider some extra factors. Speed can be also influenced by your geographical location, network congestion, and the server infrastructure of your VPN provider. That’s why it’s always worth choosing a VPN with servers in multiple locations – you're more likely to discover servers with fewer users and experience faster VPN speeds. CyberGhost VPN has a huge network of VPN servers in 100 countries.

Image of the CyberGhost VPN's interface showing VPN server locations.

Search for a VPN server location and save preferred locations for quick access.

It’s easy to find the fastest server too – just choose your location and the VPN app automatically connects you to the best available server. CyberGhost VPN also boasts 10-Gbps servers that can easily handle 4K streaming without buffering or lag. All servers have unlimited bandwidth as CyberGhost VPN never imposes caps on your connection.

What Is the Most Secure VPN Protocol?

OpenVPN is often seen as the safest VPN protocol. It is open-source and has undergone thorough security checks over time, making it a top pick for people and businesses who prioritize security.

The main factors contributing to OpenVPN's security include:

  • Secure encryption: OpenVPN uses strong encryption ciphers known for providing a high level of security, such as 256-bit AES.
  • Multiple authentication options: OpenVPN supports various ways to authenticate users, like pre-shared keys, certificates, and username/password combinations, giving users flexibility in creating secure connections.
  • Reliability: OpenVPN's code is regularly updated and has been thoroughly checked for security flaws, ensuring it's a trustworthy VPN protocol.

Although OpenVPN is often seen as the most secure VPN protocol, the overall security of a VPN connection is also influenced by the security practices adopted by your VPN provider.

CyberGhost VPN has added extra features for better privacy and security. Our kill switch protects you if your VPN connection drops, stopping all internet traffic until it's back on to keep your data private. DNS leak protection shields your sensitive data from your ISP and other snoops.

Image of the CyberGhost VPN's interface showing the Kill Switch and DNS leak protection features.

Turn on the Kill Switch and DNS leak protection features for extra security.

Quick Comparison of VPN Protocols

Here's a table highlighting key aspects of common VPN protocols:

ProtocolSecuritySpeedCompatibilityEase of UseBest Use Cases
OpenVPNStrong encryptionModerate to fastHighly compatibleModerateGeneral-purpose VPN use, security-conscious users
WireGuard®Strong encryptionVery fastLimited compatibilityEasyHigh-bandwidth activities, like streaming, gaming, and downloading files
IKEv2/IPSecRobust encryptionFastWidely supported on mobileModerateMobile devices, fast reconnection
L2TP/IPSecModerate securityModerateBuilt-in on many platformsEasyCompatibility, basic security needs
PPTPWeak encryptionExtremely fastWidely supportedEasyAvoid using it
SSTPStrong encryptionModerate to fastNative support on WindowsEasyWindows users

4 Different Types of VPNs

Personal VPN services

Personal VPN services like CyberGhost VPN are widely used for enhanced digital privacy and online security. They work by encrypting your data and redirecting your internet traffic through their servers, masking your IP address from your ISP. This means your ISP can't see the websites you visit or the data you transmit, only encrypted traffic between your computer and the VPN server.

Remote access VPNs

Remote access VPNs enable employees to securely connect to their company's network from anywhere, granting access to files as if they were in the office. This secure connection safeguards data during internet transit, ideal for telecommuting and maintaining productivity from any location.

Mobile VPNs

Mobile VPNs, tailored for smartphones and tablets on iOS or Android, encrypt internet connections on Wi-Fi or public hotspots. Use a mobile VPN to stay safe online, like when accessing corporate resources or making online transactions.

Site-to-site VPNs

Site-to-site VPNs securely connect separate networks, commonly used by organizations to link multiple offices or campuses. They create encrypted tunnels between network gateways for seamless communication while ensuring confidentiality. Two main types exist:

  • Intranet-based VPNs: Intranet-based VPNs connect multiple sites within the same organization over a single Wide Area Network (WAN), facilitating secure internal communication and resource sharing.
  • Extranet-based VPNs: Extranet-based VPNs connect private networks of separate organizations, enabling secure collaboration and data exchange between trusted partners with strict access controls and privacy boundaries.

Emerging Trends about VPN Protocols

  • Post-quantum cryptography: As quantum computers get better, they might be able to break codes faster than regular computers. VPN providers are already looking into implementing post-quantum protection to enhance users’ overall privacy and security.
  • User-friendly interface: Making VPN protocol setup easier and providing user-friendly interfaces are becoming important to attract non-technical users who value digital privacy. CyberGhost VPN makes picking the right VPN protocol easy. It can automatically select the best one for you. If you want more control, CyberGhost VPN’s customer support team is available 24/7 via live chat to help you find the perfect protocol for your needs.

Image of the CyberGhost VPN's interface where you can set the VPN to automatically pick a protocol for you.

Set CyberGhost VPN to automatically select a protocol for you.

  • Integration with other security tools: By combining VPNs with malware protection and other security solutions, users can enjoy thorough online protection. CyberGhost VPN, for example, includes a DNS-based ad blocker that offers protection against ads, trackers, and malware. Also, Windows users can benefit from extra privacy features, such as real-time email breach alerts through CyberGhost ID Guard and the ability to disable intrusive Windows settings with CyberGhost Privacy Guard.

Image of the CyberGhost VPN's interface where you can activate the ad blocker mode.

Activate the ad-blocking mode in CyberGhost VPN's Settings panel.

The Verdict

Are you a casual streamer or gamer looking for speed? If so, WireGuard® is your ideal choice. Or perhaps you handle sensitive data and need best-in-class encryption? In that case, OpenVPN is your best bet.

The perfect protocol is the one that fits your needs. But remember, regardless of the protocol you choose, your digital privacy also depends on the security practices adopted by your VPN provider.


What types of protocols are used in VPNs?

Common protocols used in VPNs include OpenVPN, which is known for its cross-platform support, L2TP/IPsec for combined encryption and authentication, SSTP for integration with Windows systems, IKEv2/IPsec for quick reconnections, and WireGuard® for lightweight and speedy performance.

What are the 4 main types of VPN?

The four main types of VPNs are personal VPNs, remote access VPNs, mobile VPNs, and site-to-site VPNs.

A personal VPN service like CyberGhost VPN masks your IP address and encrypts your internet traffic. A mobile VPN helps you stay protected from cyber attacks on public Wi-Fi. A remote access VPN allows individual users to connect to a private network from a remote location. A site-to-site VPN connects entire networks, typically linking branch offices to headquarters.

What is the OpenVPN protocol?

OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol, meaning anyone can inspect its code and modify it. It's well-known for being very secure and flexible. It uses SSL/TLS protocols to keep your internet traffic safe.

What is the strongest VPN protocol?

WireGuard® is widely recognized as one of the strongest VPN protocols thanks to its lightweight design, efficiency, and robust security features. OpenVPN is also considered one of the strongest VPN protocols, known for its open-source nature, flexibility, and powerful security features.

What is the most widely used VPN protocol?

OpenVPN stands out as the most widely used VPN protocol, known for its open-source flexibility, robust security, and broad compatibility across different platforms.

Is OpenVPN or WireGuard® better?

Choosing between OpenVPN and WireGuard® depends on what you need. If you want strong security, go for OpenVPN. But if you want fast connections, WireGuard® is the way to go.

OpenVPN works well with many devices, is very secure, and has been trusted for a long time. Meanwhile, WireGuard® is known for being really fast, easy to use, and very secure too. OpenVPN has been around longer, but WireGuard® is becoming popular because it's more modern.

CyberGhost VPN supports both OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols and allows you to switch between these protocols.

Can I switch between different VPN protocols?

If your VPN provider lets you, you can choose between VPN protocols, like OpenVPN or WireGuard®. Look in your VPN settings to see if you can switch protocols. Protocol availability can also vary based on your device.

Ana Marculescu

Ana is a content strategist with a storytelling heart. When she's not shuffling words or reading books, she's busy cooking. Quirky facts: Ana's the type who insists on reading the book before watching the movie adaptation and flips through magazines from end to start.


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