When we choose a new car, we often start with the type of engine choices. Some engines are better for long trips, some are well optimized to work everywhere, and others are pretty basic and they just do the job. In the VPN world, it’s protocols that are the first things buyers look up to.

Are those protocols secure? What is their importance? Are they suitable for mobile? As with every technology, you can’t hit the sweet spot with an all-in-one solution. Instead, you need to accommodate your needs according to the device that you’re using.

In this article, we’ll provide you with more information regarding VPN protocols and help you decide which ones to choose when browsing the web.

What is a VPN protocol?

We’ll start by stating that virtual private networks and VPN protocols are not interchangeable phrases. VPNs are software packages that encrypt your web traffic, while protocols are the logic and the different processes that determine how your encryption is formed.

Every VPN protocol provides a different level of security and sacrifices a certain amount of performance. Newer protocols are generally more optimized but more complex, while older ones can be faster but less secure.

What we can say for sure is that no protocol is perfect, and each and every one of them has weak links. Let’s dig deeper into the pros and cons of each one.

How do VPN protocols work?

VPNs use protocols to encrypt your traffic in order to keep your data safe and secure. These protocols use various techniques to achieve this goal and can provide different levels of security and speed depending on the specific protocol.

All VPN protocols have their own use cases and rely on your personal needs. Let’s see the most popular protocols right now.

The Most Popular VPN protocols

Protocol Speed Stability Security Compatible devices
OpenVPN Fast Very stable Very high All types but mostly Windows, Mac, and Linux devices
WireGuard Very fast Unstable High Cross-platform with focus on Linux, macOS, and iOS, bad on Android
IKEv2/IPSec Fast Very stable High Optimized for mobile devices, weak for PCs, good for macs
L2TP/IPSec Fast Very stable High Cross-platforms, no focus
PPTP Fast Very stable Low Windows
SSTP Fast Stable Average Windows and Linux

1. OpenVPN

OpenVPN is the standard protocol used by most VPN services. It is highly secure, and it also guarantees full transmission of both data and packets. OpenVPN can be found on TCP or UDP internet protocol. It all depends on what you will be doing – if you are looking for a more secure connection, then pick TCP. If speeds are your priority, then UDP will be a better option.

2. WireGuard

WireGuard is the newest VPN protocol many users look forward to using after OpenVPN. Its lightweight nature and zero-knowledge security guarantee a very pleasant experience. But since it’s new, there might still be bugs that must be fixed, as well as some security concerns. First developed for Linux, it turned out to be a sensation in cross-platform VPN providers. Still, it’s under development which you should take into consideration.

3. IKEv2/IPSec

IKEv2 is a tunneling protocol that provides IPSec-based VPN connectivity for security and encryption. IKEv2 is responsible for creating SAs for secure communication between VPN clients and servers. IKEv2 (or Internet Key Exchange version 2) is optimized for mobile devices, and it does a brilliant job, we have to be fair. Still, it’s not considered a great option for desktop computers. It relies on IPSec to secure the communication between the client and the server side of the VPN.

4. L2TP/IPSec

L2TP is the type of tunneling protocol that creates VPN tunnels, which allows data traffic to pass through. L2TP generally has 2 protocols combined, that is the Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and Layer 2 Forwarding. It is generally used by VPN providers but also by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for their operations.

Honorable mentions

There are two honorable mentions that we should mention. However, our team does not firmly believe that using these two protocols is a good idea in 2022.

Finding the best VPN protocol

When it comes to choosing a VPN protocol, it can be tough to decide which one is right for you. There are a lot of different factors to consider, and it can be difficult to know which one will work best for your needs. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best VPN protocols by category, to help you make an informed decision when choosing your next VPN provider. We’ve also included some industry-leading VPN providers and their main protocol recommendations, so you can be sure you’re getting the best for your needs.

Best for website browsing – OpenVPN

OpenVPN is the most versatile VPN protocol by far. It’s fast and extremely secure. It’s supported by most VPN providers, too. It’s also very flexible but one area where it shines is Windows, Linux, and Mac support. OpenVPN can be used on all major operating systems, making it a great choice for those who want a reliable and secure VPN experience.

Best for mobile experience – IKEv2

If you would like to connect your mobile device, then IKEv2 is the best choice. It provides insane speed but IKEv2/IPSec also is very efficient – it drains less battery “juice” and it saves a lot more data than OpenVPN. However, IKev2 works better on iOS than on Android from our tests.

To sum up

Security protocols are the backbone of any VPN service. The right VPN provider will offer the protocols that fit your needs the most. Make sure to pick a provider that offers the security protocols you need for a safe and secure experience.


We cannot provide the answer to this question, as all protocols serve different purposes. However, if you have to settle with one protocol only, OpenVPN is the right pick for you. It provides two options – TCP for better security, or UDP for higher speeds.

Without a doubt, WireGuard is up with the best VPN protocols. It’s faster than OpenVPN and very secure. Yet, it’s still improving and we will see more VPNs starting to utilize it soon. It has the potential to top the industry charts, but it’s still not there yet.

If you wish to stream content from popular services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and YouTube, then you should consider protocols which are a little bit lighter. The tradeoff might be security, but it’s not a big deal. Apart from OpenVPN TCP, they’re all great and will handle videos in 4K. If you’re watching on a mobile device, you’d better pick IKEv2, while TV users can benefit from OpenVPN UDP and WireGuard.

Gaming is an area which is a bit more sensitive to small gaps. From our experience testing all protocols, L2TP and IKEv2 gave the best results. We weren’t impressed with neither OpenVPN TCP/UDP, nor WireGuard where we enjoyed high speeds but were disconnected a couple of times (it happened on multiple VPN services.)