What are the different types of VPN and how do they work?

Many users will be familiar with the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and know how useful they are for securing data over public networks, but what are the different types of VPNs and how do they function? The different types are mostly classified through technology, protocols, usage, configuration and functionality. Here we discuss the four most common types.

Point-to-Point-Tunneling Protocol – PPTP VPN

PPTP is a tunneling protocol that provides a method for implementing a Virtual Private Network. This type does not use Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) but rather Control Channels for encapsulating the point-to-point packets. In every VPN, data security is essential and this type of PPTP provides security through point-to-point (PPP) protocol. VPN service PPTP is supported in various mobile devices and it was one of the earliest protocols to be integrated in dial-up networking. PPTP is supported in all Windows operating systems but with a limit of two concurrent outbound connections. A PPTP VPN can be launched without the installation of client software where PPTP is built into the Windows platform.

PPTP is software based and utilizes an existing internet connection to create a secure tunnel that enables a remote user to connect to a remote network. This type of VPN service is usually set up using various hardware and software that are set on a client-server model included for VPN service for Windows, Mac and Linux. PPTP works on layer two of the OSI layer model and it is one of the most popular VPN protocols used for remote access applications. Some of the major advantages of PPTP are ease of configuration, reliability and simplicity. It is therefore ideal for small office and home networks where users may need to access the internet securely especially on a public network or unsecured Wireless connections (ie WiFi in a café).

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol – L2TP VPN

Another tunneling protocol that supports VPN is the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol and just like in the PPTP, Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol does not provide security itself but through the point-to-point (PPP) protocol. VPN server L2TP is regarded by many as better that PPTP because of its ability to provide both data integrity and confidentiality. Developed by Microsoft and Cisco, L2TP VPN can support simultaneous and multiple tunnels for each user. L2TP also supports multiple protocols and privately administered IP addresses over the Internet. This function allows use of infrastructures such as the internet, modems, servers, ISDN terminal adapters etc. You can use L2TP for Mac and Windows.

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol – SSTP VPN

This type of VPN is generally regarded as one of the most secure because it a Windows based SSL Virtual Private Network. It transmits PPP and L2TP data through HTTPs sessions and, by using SSTP VPN on port 443, users are able to bypass internet filters and firewalls especially in countries where the internet access is blocked or heavily censored like China and UAE. Why this type of VPN protocol is difficult to block is because one has to stop all the traffic transferring through the HTTPs port, which is impossible as all major internet websites run HTTPs sessions. Other advantages of SSTP include speed, reliability and stability. SSTP is a VPN service for Windows only and will work with Windows Vista, Windows 7 and above.

Open VPN

This type of VPN will work as a VPN service for Windows, VPN service for Mac OS and VPN service for Linux; also it can be used on Mobile devices such as iPhone and Android. Setting up an Open VPN is fairly easy but users will need Open VPN software (Downloaded free) and which can also be acquired from the VPN service provider. Advantages of Open VPN include the ability to bypass any internet restrictions and censorship when used on port 443, secure tunnel and better reliability and stability than PPTP and L2TP VPN.