A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, has become a popular service in recent years. It provides a way for users to protect their personal information and privacy while using the Internet. Internet security is compromised all the time. Malicious parties are stealing sensitive information from those who browse over unsecured networks. A VPN works to ensure that the user’s information is secured no matter which websites they visit. It does this by encrypting a user’s data so that, even if it is intercepted, it is unusable.

A VPN can secure data through a variety of protocols. A quality service provider typically offers more than one choice of protocols. This helps to ensure that the user’s device, whether stationary or mobile, can support the protocol. It also allows the user options on speed and security. The three most commonly used protocols are PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol), L2TP/IPsec (Layer-2 Tunneling Protocol with IP Security), and OpenVPN. Understanding each protocol’s benefits and limitations is important.

OpenVPN

The OpenVPN protocol is recommended for desktop devices. It is not supported by most mobile devices such as smart phones and laptops. This protocol offers the top level of security available in a VPN protocol. The data is encrypted by digital certificates. Installation requires special software.  However, the process is neither difficult nor time consuming. OpenVPN is considered the most stable and reliable of the top three protocols. Even on non-reliable networks such as Wi-Fi hotspots and behind wireless routers, OpenVPN performs well. It is also the fastest protocol, even over high latency connections. For users who value speed and a high level of security, this is the protocol of choice if their device supports it.

PPTP

The PPTP protocol is very fast. It provides basic 128-bit data encryption. That is less than OpenVPN or L2TP/IPsec, but it is sufficient for many casual users.  No software is required and configuration is very easy. Built-in support is available in most desktops, tablets and mobile devices. PPTP is very stable and is accepted by most Wi-Fi hotspots. The PPTP protocol is an excellent choice when OpenVPN is not available. It is ideal for users for whom speed and ease-of-use take priority over enhanced security.

L2TP/IPsec

With 256-bit encryption, L2TP/IPsec offers a high level of data security. However, because the data is encapsulated twice, it uses a lot of processing resources. This protocol is therefore often slower than the others. Like PPTP, L2TP/IPsec has built-in support is available in most desktops, tablets and mobile devices. Installation, however, is not as easy as it required customized configuration.  This protocol is stable provided your device supports NAT. The L2TP/IPsec protocol is an excellent choice when OpenVPN is not available. It is ideal for mobile device users for whom enhanced security takes priority over speed and ease-of-use.

Users should be aware of which protocols are offered by their VPN provider. They should know which protocols are supported by their devices. This information will help them choose the best protocol to meet their needs.

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