What is the Best VPN Protocol for Small Business Owners?

As a small business owner, you’re likely already aware of the benefits a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can provide for your company. Protecting your company and client data and transmissions from snooping eyes is an essential aspect of running a modern business.

But did you know that different VPNs use different protocols to handle transmissions and encryption?

Understanding the differences between these various protocols and what they offer can help you make the right VPN choice for your company.

Why Does VPN Protocol Matter?

The protocol that your VPN uses determines how it handles your data. Different protocols have different priorities, just as your priorities may differ from the business down the street from you.

Some VPN protocols emphasize security, making it their top priority — a wise choice if you handle ultra-sensitive client data on a daily basis. Other protocols specialize in performance and speed.

Understanding your own business priorities can help you choose your VPN service wisely.

The Major VPN Protocols and What Each Offers

PPTP

If your main goal in using a VPN is to unlock and stream content from websites that are location-restricted, PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) might be an adequate choice for your business. Otherwise, this older VPN protocol is one to stay away from.

While PPTP is very fast, making it a good choice for video streaming, its encryption protocols are very weak, providing next to no cybersecurity protection. PPTP’s security vulnerabilities have been well-known since 2004.

It’s still around because it was one of the earliest VPN protocols, having been developed by Microsoft for Windows 95. It’s also still in use because Windows, macOS, and Linux have it integrated into their systems. But if you’re a business looking for comprehensive VPN protection, there are better options.

L2TP/IPSec

If you’re looking for a good balance between performance and security and you don’t want to hassle with compatibility issues, L2TP (Layer Two Tunneling Protocol) may be sufficient for your needs. L2TP doesn’t contain any encryption functionality, so it’s typically paired with IPSec (Internet Protocol Security), which handles both encryption and authentication between the VPN server and your computers.

L2TP is generally believed to have few security vulnerabilities, though some claims have been made that the National Security Agency (NSA) has cracked the protocol. Its main disadvantage is that it’s quite easy to recognize and block. Meaning that if you conduct business in a country that blocks the use of VPNs, L2TP isn’t the right choice for you.

SSTP

If you’re working with a Windows platform, SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol) could be a good choice for your small business. SSTP was developed by Microsoft and introduced with Windows Vista, and while it technically works with Linux, macOS, and Android, you shouldn’t expect much in the way of support from those platforms.

SSTP provides fairly robust security, although there are some vulnerabilities associated with SSL 3.0, the encryption standard that SSTP uses. It’s a good choice if you’re concerned with VPN blocking by countries that practice censorship.

IKEv2

IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange) is fast and exceptionally stable, and when paired with IPSec, it also provides reliable encryption. It’s an especially strong choice if you’re concerned about mobile security, since it was designed to let mobile devices switch back and forth between Wi-Fi and mobile internet use without losing the VPN tunnel.

However, IKEv2 doesn’t have much support across multiple VPN providers (though Blackberry provides native support for it, if that’s helpful to you). Some speculate that VPN providers haven’t adopted IKEv2 widely since it was developed jointly by Microsoft and Cisco, and the providers expect vulnerabilities to appear in the future as a result. To-date, however, there have been no reported issues.

If you’re looking for outstanding speed on your VPN-using mobile devices, this could be the right protocol for your business.

OpenVPN

As you can probably tell from its name, OpenVPN is an open-source protocol. That means it’s platform-agnostic, working well across multiple platforms. This feature can be a plus and, to some small degree, a minus. The main negative is that OpenVPN isn’t built into any operating systems, so it requires third-party software to operate. However, since most VPN clients provide that software, this likely won’t result in a bump in the road for your small business.

OpenVPN is extremely stable and secure. It’s also ultra flexible, keeping pace with changes in cybersecurity practices. While it may not be the fastest VPN protocol available (since its powerful encryption hinders connection speeds just a bit), many VPN providers make OpenVPN their protocol of choice. If you’re considering a VPN provider that uses OpenVPN, you can feel confident that you’ll get the protection you need now and well into the future.

Understanding what different VPN protocols offer can help you narrow down the VPN providers you’re considering. Weigh the factors that matter most to you as you take steps to protect your small business’s online security.

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Michael Gargiulo

Michael Gargiulo

CEO at VPN.com — The worldwide leader in VPN research