7 Different Types of VPNs: Explaining VPN Protocols (With Examples)

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There are many different types ofVPNs, each with its own express purpose. Some of these are fine for home users to browse the internet-protocol-television-iptv/’ >internet. Others work well to establish connections for enterprise usage and work-at-home employees.

Each of these protocols is different in the way they approach establishing a connection. Now, for networking students, the different types of VPNs are assumed to be rote. For folks not tuned into the world of cables and routers, it can be a bit murkier.

If you ve been looking into getting your own VPN access, you ve come to the right place. This guide will go over the seven different types of VPNs, how they work, and examples of their usage. VPNs are a great choice for secure connections, but are they right for you?

What is a VPN?

VPN is short for virtual private network and it acts as a means to connect to a network through the internet. This allows users to access network resources without compromising the safety of the network itself.

Now, you could readily access network resources through the open internet. However, this poses inherent security risks which can compromise the safety of the network and your computer. This also carries the risk of all traffic being readily seen by anyone with a packet sniffer.

VPNs see a fair amount of usage from private users and businesses alike. They can mask user traffic, which is great for privacy. It can also be used to mask the location of the original user, which can be handy for bypassing restricted content or regional locks.

Internet Protocol Security (IPSec)

IPSecis a decidedly different type of VPN, as it isn t just establishing a connection between two remote locations. Instead, it functions as a means of connecting to resources securely while using theinternetprotocol as the means of transmission.

It can of course be used to establish private tunnels. However, its main purpose is in establishing encrypted transmissions between two endpoints. It is a flexible type of VPN that is based on an established standard. As such, it is implemented across a wide swath of services.

Examples of Usage

ExpressVPN is an IPSec-based service and is one of the most lauded in the industry. It uses additional protocols for the actual routing side of things, but connectivity is provided by IPSec.

You ll also find it in use for things like college campuses. While some campuses may opt to provide custom infrastructure, remote sites will likely use a VPN to connect. The method of choice is generally IPSec thanks to its ease of setup and ample documentation.

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)

L2TPis a newer type of VPN, built upon the PPTP specification. What sets it apart from other VPNs is the encapsulation of data. Once data is transmitted, it is presented in the same way as a typical packet. Additional processes are applied, however, that lead to it being encrypted on the way to its destination.

Encrypted data in motion is near impossible for a bad actor to compromise. It is a relatively easy type of VPN to get running as well. After the initial setup, there is nothing really for the end user to do aside from connecting to the VPN.

If you re using a VPN service, it is likely leveraging L2TP to establish a connection.

Examples of Usage

As previously mentioned, ExpressVPN uses IPSec and L2TP to provide a connection for users. You ll also find it in use for most enterprise-based VPNs.

If you re a work-at-home employee, you re more than likely using L2TP without even realizing it. L2TP is just a means of connecting endpoints to one another and provides security. It will be coupled with something like IPSec or SSL to bridge between points, however.

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)

PPTPis an older type of VPN and provides a similar level of encapsulation and encryption to L2TP. It has largely been replaced by L2TP in common usage. That said, there are still legacy networks where it might be too costly to implement a new technology to get things rolling.

Once installed, a PPTP VPN doesn t need any additional software to function on a user s computer. You can connect natively through your operating system in many cases.

It is one of the oldest methods of establishing a VPN and is widely available for Windows, Linux, and Mac computers.

Examples of Usage

ExpressVPN and many other VPN services utilize PPTP or L2TP. If you ve done any work in offices utilizing Linux or BSD servers, you ve also likely used PPTP.

It is an older specification but is still in wide deployments around the world. It does lack some of the newer security features present with L2TP. Being widely documented means it is quick for networking personnel to get things up and running for establishing connections between remote sites.

Many older networks are likely still utilizing PPTP to this day. While it isn t as new as L2TP, it is still highly useful for most purposes.

Secure Socket Layer and Transport Layer Security

types of vpns
VPNs can provide privacy when browsing the internet.


Secure Socket Layer and Transport Layer Security are unorthodox types of VPNs. They use a web-based protocol to establish a connection. They are functionally similar to IPSec, but the implementation and deployment greatly differ.

Instead of establishing points of contact on the wider network, there is a far narrower scope. SSL and TLS-based VPNs are likely restricting VPN access to an application or handful of usages. As you can imagine, this does lead to more overall security.

SSL and TLS also provide a great amount of security, utilizing encryption and other safe practices to protect data in motion.

Examples of usage

SSLand TLS can be commonly seen in VPNs that use a web browser. Both specifications on their own are very common as browser-based means of connecting to network resources.

If you work for an organization where you have to log in to a web portal to do work, it is likely using an SSL or TLS VPN to provide a connection.

In a broader sense, connecting to a website using HTTPS is akin to connecting to a VPN. You re establishing a secure and private connection to access resources available to any user. It does require similar levels of authentication and all data is encrypted in motion.


OpenVPNis likely the most popular type of VPN in use today. It has the benefit of being open source and readily available for free usage.

OpenVPN is highly flexible due to supporting not only encrypted internet communications but also providing a secure means for Internet-of-Thing devices to operate. IoT is notoriously light on security, but with OpenVPN, you can have asmart homewithout having to worry about things being compromised.

It has also been particularly popular with cybersecurity professionals. They get a great overview of what is going on without having to worry about the whole network being compromised thanks to an errant decision.

Examples of Usage

OpenVPN sees usage across many industries and use cases. You can use it yourself to establish a secure connection between remote locations, you just need to install the requisite files.

The organization that supports it has seen it in use for banking, medical, and education networking. Given the more stringent need for compliance and security, it speaks well for OpenVPN s pedigree.

One massive user is NetSuite, which has over 10,000 employees. If it s good enough for an Oracle subsidiary, it is good enough for any business out there.

Secure Shell (SSH)

SSHis a decidedly different type of VPN and is primarily command-line based. If you ve runLinux, you re no doubt familiar with Telnet and other means of remote access.

SSH is the more secure younger brother to Telnet and has largely replaced it for all use cases for companies running Linux.

While Telnet is still widely used, it has quite a few security concerns. SSH doesn t transmit data in cleartext across network resources.

SSH also doesn t require the installation of any special software to get running. Instead, network admins will set up permissions to allow personnel to connect.

Examples of Usage

Any organization using Linux is using SSH. If you ve got IT personnel who interact with headless Linux servers, they are likely using SSH to connect to control them.

Most VPN services aren t going to use SSH, simply due to it being a far more localized installation solution. It shines best in use for established private networks, where users are seeking to access a single server or machine.


types of vpns
VPNs allow work-from-home employees to connect to their employers networks.

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Wireguardis a new type of VPN and is poised to act as a competitor to OpenVPN. The advantage of Wireguard over other types of VPN is down to pure speed.

The specification itself uses less code and doesn t compartmentalize its aspects down to separate aspects. As such, it can zip along like you re using a normalinternetconnection.

Like OpenVPN, it is open source, meaning more code-savvy users can see how everything works and contribute to the project if they want.

It does require special software to run but only requires the user to have their own key. This is then authenticated by the host and allows the user to access resources.

Examples of Usage

Wireguard is highly secure and fast, so it is well-suited for environments where speed is a necessity. It has yet to hit the mainstream in wide usage like OpenVPN, but that may be due to change.

It does see wide usage with VPNproviderswith services like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, PIA, and Surfshark all using it to provide access to users.

This has the benefit of secure transmission coupled with fast speeds. If you re looking to protect your internet traffic but don t to compromise the speed of your connection it is a viable choice.

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