What is the best VPN protocol? OpenVPN vs WireGuard vs SSTP & More

A digital illustration illustrating the term "VPN."
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There are many VPN protocols, and which protocol a VPN uses has a huge impact on how it works. Some protocols are much better than others. Fortunately, it is easy to find the best VPN protocol as there are only a few candidates.

What is a VPN protocol?

In short, a protocol is a set of rules that govern how devices within a network communicate with each other. When you connect to the Internet, for example, you are using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to allow your computer to talk to the site you are accessing. A VPN protocol is a specific type of protocol meant for VPNs.

A protocol can contain all kinds of information. In the case of HTTP, it is a set of rules surrounding how two devices exchange data (in the form of HTML documents) as well as some basic security rules.

When you use a VPN, you are redirecting your connection through a server operated by your VPN service. To do this securely, a VPN needs to use a separate protocol, one that is designed for VPNs and contains information about the encryption used in the connection as well as some other technical details.

How does the VPN protocol affect you

This may sound a bit abstract, but it affects you directly: a good protocol will be much faster and more secure than a bad one. Some protocols are slow because they need more steps when sending information, while others are less secure because they contain a flaw or use an encryption key with known weaknesses.

To help you choose the best VPN protocol for you – and thus the best VPN, we’ll go over the protocols we’ve come across often, as well as some special ones. We’ll start with the best ones, OpenVPN and WireGuard, and work our way up from there.


OpenVPN It is probably the most popular VPN protocol. Almost all VPN providers offer it to their customers in one form or another. It offers speed and security, without any major trade-offs in either. When using OpenVPN, most VPN providers will allow you to choose between TCP and UDP. It is generally better to use UDP, because it is faster.

To give you an idea of ​​how good OpenVPN is, almost all VPNs use it as their default. In the vast majority of cases, there is no good reason to use anything else. The only exceptions are WireGuard or particularly hard proprietary protocols like NordLynx and Lightway, which we all explain below.

In fact, we’d recommend not using any VPN that doesn’t offer OpenVPN, and being a little wary of any provider that doesn’t have it as the default — besides the exceptions we mentioned earlier. We’re talking about one example in the Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN trailer, where we’ve made some serious points for Surfshark to fall behind on a mid-tier protocol.


For most people, most of the time, OpenVPN seems to be the ticket. However, in 2021, a very interesting new protocol appeared, which has the potential to get rid of OpenVPN. the name of the thing WireguardIt’s lightning-fast, and often beats OpenVPN in carrying a similar server – but keep in mind that there’s much more than just a protocol for determining the speed of a VPN connection.

With that said, WireGuard looks solid. It has had at least one excellent proprietary protocol based on it: NordVPN’s NordLynx. However, there were some grumblings How special WireGuard It really is, as it appears to store users’ IP addresses indefinitely in some cases.

However, if speed is your main concern, WireGuard may be an excellent alternative to OpenVPN. While we prefer OpenVPN overall, WireGuard is a close second.


Our third entry is Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol, or SSTP, which dates back to the early 2000s and is generally considered fast and secure, although it generally performs slightly lower than OpenVPN. If you can’t use OpenVPN for any reason, SSTP is a solid backup option.

The main problem people have seems to be that its code is owned by Microsoft, a company that has a less than stellar reputation when it comes to privacy. Although it is unclear whether or not Microsoft collects data from SSTP connections, if you are concerned about this, you may want to avoid this protocol.

L2TP/IPsec and IKEv2/IPsec

This entry is two for the price of one: both L2TP and IKEv2 are communication protocols generally associated with the IPsec Security Protocol for enhanced encryption. Either way, you’re making a trade-off: L2TP is reliable, but slow, while IKEv2 is fast – very fast, even – but security issues.

Either way, they are an interesting option for developers because they are more flexible than OpenVPN. However, most casual users may not notice much difference. In general, we recommend using these two options only if you have no other choice.


Among some of the best VPN protocols out there, we turn to one of the worst VPN protocols available. Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is a VPN protocol dating back to the 1990s — technically outdated — that is not particularly secure and incredibly slow.

It is no longer used in general because it is outdated, but for some reason some VPNs still offer it. Whatever you do, don’t use PPTP – especially if you’re doing anything sensitive like using BitTorrent to download files or getting out of China.

Proprietary VPN Protocols

We’ll finish by reviewing three interesting proprietary protocols that have been introduced. Developed by a VPN service for their own use, these protocols usually feature faster speeds, although some are a bit black box.


Hydra protocol was developed and used by protection shield It is a good example of sacrificing some security for speed. It’s very fast but it uses weaker encryption—128-AES instead of the 256-bit variant. It’s not the biggest deal, and the insane speeds in the Hydra tests might be worth it.


NordVPN He also wanted his own protocol, but he modified WireGuard to his liking rather than developing one from scratch. The result is a very fast VPN protocol that appears completely secure. It would be better if NordVPN repaired its servers, something we discuss in our article comparing NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

road lighting

Last but not least, Lightway was developed from scratch by our overall favorite VPN, ExpressVPN. Like NordLynx, it appears to be quite secure but is somehow faster than anything else out there, including WireGuard. Although we hesitate to call it the best VPN protocol – OpenVPN has a better track record and track record – it’s definitely worth checking out.

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