Different Types of VPN Protocols (Tunnels) & VPN Types Explained

Last Updated:Thursday, November 9, 2023

In this article, we will talk about the different types of VPN protocols, as well as the different types of VPN in general. 

We’ll also break down some of the more overwhelming acronyms, from VPN to UDP to TLS and ISP. 

Then, we’ll touch upon which VPN is best for which purpose, as well as which protocol you should use, considering operating systems, devices, routers, and everything from private networks to public wi-fi connections.


What are the different types of VPNs?

VPN stands for a virtual private network. In general, there are four main different types of VPN. Most VPN providers serve just one functionality, though some cover more than one type. 

VPNs do not have the same definition of a VPN protocol. What is a VPN protocol? It is the set of rules the type of VPN will follow to send your data through the VPN’s encrypted tunnel. 

The four VPN types are:

  • Personal VPN services

  • Mobile VPNs

  • Remote access VPNs

  • Site-to-site VPNs

Personal VPN services

The first VPN type is the personal VPN, and this is probably the most common VPN that you know about, including such names as ExpressVPN. 

Personal VPNs hide your personal IP address from your internet service provider, or ISP, when your internet connection is from your home computer through the VPN server.

Mobile VPNs

As the name suggests, mobile VPNs are used on mobile devices like iOS or Android. This type of VPN works whether you are on your own wi-fi or public Wi-Fi or if you need encrypted protection for other kinds of cellular public network connections.

Remote access VPNs

The third VPN type is the remote access VPN. This is used for connecting to private networks. For example, a company makes its own private network, and the employees can access this remote network via a remote VPN when they are not in the office or on company premises.

Site-to-site VPNs

The fourth and final type of VPN we are discussing here is site-to-site VPN use. 

This is for establishing a secure connection between two networks instead of routing an individual IP address to the internet or connecting multiple LANs to a single network. It is common, for example, to link two offices of the same company or two campuses of the same university.

Intranet vs extranet-based VPN

Site-to-site VPNs come in two different flavors. The intranet-based VPN is for connecting to a single WAN or wide-area network, like a company's private network. Meanwhile, 

an extranet-based VPN connects different private networks and does not use a WAN.



VPN Type

Connection type

Software type

Best VPN use

VPN provider examples

Personal VPN

Individual connects via a VPN server to the internet 

Web browser VPN, mobile device VPN, router VPN 

Masks IP, protects data, bypasses geo-restrictions

ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, CyberGhost, IPVanish

Mobile VPN

Individual connects to the internet via a private network

App downloaded to a mobile device

Access the internet securely via public wi-fi or cellular network

TunnelBear, ProtonVPN, Bittium SafeMove Mobile VPN

Remote access VPN

The user connects to a private network 

Software installed on both a private device and the private network

Connecting to a private network from your home or personal location

Cisco AnyConnect, Perimeter 81, NordLayer

Site-to-site VPN

Private network connects to another private network

Software on both networks, users do not need apps

Creating a secure tunnel between two private networks

Cisco’s Dynamic MultiPoint VPN, Access Server by OpenVPN


So, what are VPN protocols? (AKA VPN tunneling protocols)

If you’d like VPN protocols explained, then read on. A VPN protocol is the set of rules and guides that a VPN app follows when creating tunneling modes with encrypted connections for data transfers between your IP and another network, like the public internet or a private network.


How many types of VPN protocols are there?

There are six types of VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv2, WireGuard, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP. 

There are several different protocols used in virtual private networks because each protocol has advantages for different VPN purposes like cybersecurity, bypassing censors, and protection from data vulnerabilities.


What types of protocols are used in VPNs?

So, what are the six types of VPN tunnels, otherwise known as VPN protocols? Which are best for different operating systems or bandwidth speeds? To learn about the best VPN protocol for every situation, let’s categorize the different protocols involved in VPN:

  • WireGuard

  • IPSec/IKEv2

  • OpenVPN

  • SSTP

  • L2TP/IPSec

  • PPTP


If you are looking for cutting-edge tunneling protocol technology, then check out WireGuard. This is a relatively new VPN protocol, and because of that, it may still have some vulnerabilities that haven’t been spotted yet. 

However, it is open source, so a community is behind it. WireGuard is said to be the most lightweight protocol with about 4,000 lines of code, less than 100 times the amount in alternatives. 

People enjoy WireGuard for downloading content, as well as streaming and gaming.


The next VPN tunnel type is the internet key exchange protocol version 2.0, otherwise known as IKEv2. This protocol was made by Cisco together with Microsoft. This tunneling method employs IPSec, or internet protocol security. 

IKEv2 is fast and secure, but its most significant benefit to users is its stability thanks to its use of multi-protocol. It works with most encryption methods too. However, it doesn’t work with every single operating system - mostly with Windows. 

The best uses of IPSec/IKEv2 are for streaming, gaming, and regular switching between mobile data to wi-fi.


OpenVPN is the main open-source VPN protocol. Anyone can view the code or check for vulnerabilities. It is a very secure tunneling system, running on both the TCP and UDP security protocols, as well as SSL/TLS for key exchange. 

OpenVPN is usually regarded as quite competent at bypassing most firewalls. However, one of the issues with OpenVPN is that it is the most complex VPN protocol to set up. 

For those looking for the best cybersecurity, for example, when using free public wi-fi, OpenVPN is the way to go.


The next type of VPN tunnel protocol is the secure socket tunneling protocol, or SSTP, also created by Microsoft and, therefore, great with Windows. However, it does have functionality for other operating systems like Mac or Linux. 

Like tunnel protocols, the encryption here is AES-256, which is military-grade. It also has little difficulty handling most firewalls. 

SSTP really stands out for maximum internet privacy while browsing.


Layer 2 tunneling protocol is a VPN protocol that is quite limiting, as it does not offer authentication or does it do encryption. It’s just a direct connection between a user and a VPN server. 

For cybersecurity and private browsing, you pair it with IPSec to get the combo L2TP/IPSec. Otherwise, L2TP is adaptable to other encryption systems and runs smoothly on all operating systems. One drawback is that it suffers the most from VPN latency out of all protocols. 

When paired with the right encryption and authentication, L2TP/IPSec is the most secure.


Finally, we have a point-to-point tunneling protocol or PPTP. This is the original VPN protocol and today is considered to be among the weakest tunneling protocols. What it makes up for with decent speeds, it loses in security. 

However, it is also quite compatible across the board. What’s more, many firewalls are able to block PPTP VPN tunneling successfully.

PPTP is fine for home use and personal use, especially for getting around geo-restricted content.

VPN protocols comparison

The table below sums up the pros and cons of each of our six VPN protocols, using a system of 5 stars. 












































Total average








VPN examples

Let us turn to commercial VPN tunnels and explore the virtual private network example usage for different purposes.

Example of VPN usage for business

If you run a business and want to keep all your employees on the same secure and private network, you’ll probably want to use a remote-access VPN or a site-to-site VPN with an intranet-based VPN. The best protocols for business are probably WireGuard or OpenVPN for top security.

VPN example for streaming

For streaming Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, most people will go for a personal VPN, as it is the most convenient and affordable. The best security protocols for streaming are WireGuard, OpenVPN or IPSec/IKEv2. 

Example of VPN for gaming

Gaming is a lot like streaming, except gamers seem to prefer Windows over Mac or Linux. Therefore the best VPN for gaming is also a personal VPN, and the ideal VPN tunneling protocol for gaming is still WireGuard or IPSec/IKEv2, no matter if you are a Microsoft Xbox or a Sony Playstation user.

VPN example for torrenting

Torrenting is all about peer-to-peer data transfers, or P2P. It is not the kind of functionality heavily advertised by VPN providers, though VPNs are a must-have for downloading torrents. 

The best VPN type for torrenting is likely to be a mobile VPN or even a personal VPN. As for tunneling security, you can go with SSTP. Otherwise, OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2 are also worthy.

VPN example for public Wi-Fi

One of the most important reasons for a VPN when you are not at home is when you log on to public Wi-Fi, which often is free because it profits off your data. Public Wi-Fi is also a hotbed for hackers. 

That’s why you need the toughest protocol like WireGuard or OpenVPN, and obviously, the best type of VPN is mobile VPN, though a personal VPN can also work on your laptop browser.


What type of VPN should I use? Our conclusion

When choosing the best VPN type and learning about which VPN protocol to use, it’s a good thing you’ve done your homework by reading this article. 

There is no one answer for the best VPN type, since each has their unique algorithms, pros, cons, and niches. 

The best type of VPN depends on your personal preferences. However, if you want the most secure connection and good speed at the same time, we recommend WireGuard or OpenVPN as the best VPN protocols for private browsing. For streaming purposes, IPSec/IKEv2 is almost as secure but faster. SSTP offers similar speeds but is weaker in terms of security. Finally, for casual use, L2TP/IPSec and PPTP are safe choice. 

We also recommend that you check the reputation of your VPN provider and read reviews to make sure they offer reliable and secure services. In addition, look for features such as logging policy, data encryption, kill switch, and other security features in order to keep your data protected when using a virtual private network. Finally, always make sure that your VPN provider is compatible with the device you are using. Happy browsing!  



Which VPN protocol is the oldest and least secure of the VPN protocols?

The oldest of all the VPN protocols is the PPTP, or point-to-point tunneling protocol. PPTP is also the least secure when compared to the other protocols for VPNs, like WireGuard or OpenVPN. PPTP was created back in 1999 for dial-up purposes. Today few people still use this VPN tunneling protocol.

What name is given to a protocol to implement a VPN connection between two computers?

The name of the VPN security protocol to establish a secure connection between two computers, routers and other endpoints is PPTP, otherwise known as point-to-point tunneling protocol. It is not very secure and therefore no longer widely in use today. WireGuard or OpenVPN are more common to connect two endpoints.  

What is a VPN client?

A VPN client is a virtual private network. It is used to hide your IP from your internet service provider. With a VPN, you can access the internet without exposing your data or location, and you are not restricted by whatever country you are in to consume content from anywhere.

Which VPN protocol provides constant connectivity?

If you want a VPN service provider that gives you constant connectivity, then IKEv2 is the best VPN security protocol, or you can use the combination of IPSec/IKEv2. This is the ideal VPN protocol for network stability especially if you need to switch from wi-fi to cellular data.

Which VPN protocol typically employs IPSec as its data encryption mechanism?

The VPN protocol type that most typically uses IPSec, or internet protocol security, as a data encryption tool is IKEv2, or internet key exchange version 2. Also, L2TP uses IPSec, which stands for layer 2 tunneling protocol. IPSec is considered to be top-grade encryption for the best cybersecurity.

Which VPN technology is the most common and the easiest to set up?

The VPN technology that is probably the most common is the personal VPN or the mobile VPN. These days, the set up for these types of VPNs is as simple as downloading an app and signing up with a few clicks. Then you select a server and that’s it.

Which VPN protocol connects using SSL?

SSL, or secure sockets layer, is commonly used by several VPN tunnel types. SSL uses TLS protocols, which stands for transport layer security. Some of the VPN protocols that use TLS and SSL are L2TP, IKEv2 and SST. OpenVPN is a type of VPN that uses SSL.

VPN vs tunnel: what’s the difference?

The VPN is the virtual private network that is the application which provides you with a secure and private connection to the internet. This connection is called the tunnel, and tunneling is the set of rules for how your data travels through a VPN, bypassing your internet service provider.