What is OpenVPN and is it suitable for you?

Ruth C. | April 22, 2020

OpenVPN is a well-known name in the VPN community, but for newbies, it might be challenging to understand its full meaning. The confusion surfaces when people learn that OpenVPN is an open-source protocol used as a base for many VPN products on the market.

In addition to that, OpenVPN is also a full-fledged product that users can use to ensure their anonymity and privacy online. So, let’s take a look under the hood of this protocol/application, and its role in the online security field.

What is OpenVPN?

OpenVPN is a VPN software application, a flexible and stable solution for keeping all your online matters private and secure. OpenVPN-GUI controller helps manage VPN connections.

It is popular to depict a VPN as a tunnel, and OpenVPN does not stray far from this comparison. It works on two ends:

  • OpenVPN client: an automatic and stable software application usually installed on users’ computers or other devices. It establishes a secure VPN connection. In other words, it is the VPN app itself.
  • OpenVPN server: the foundation of the VPN technology, which guarantees secure data transmissions, encryption, authentication, and safe access.

OpenVPN uses either UDP (User Datagram Protocol) or TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) protocols to build reliable and secure communication between the client and the server. Connections through both of these transport layer protocols are fair game. However, the application chooses UDP as its priority due to its better performance and speed. If UDP is unavailable, then the application will use TCP.

OpenVPN is an open-source project, meaning that the community has full access to its code. Thanks to its sophisticated, flexible, and stable built, it is the solid foundation that VPN software applications require. Enthusiasts can produce their unique offshoots and take advantage of the advanced encryption, authentication, and high compatibility.

How to use OpenVPN?

OpenVPN aces the versatility test. Users can use the software application on various operating systems and devices. From computers running on Linux or Windows to Android or iPhone smartphones – they are all welcome. However, newbies might have wondered: what is OpenVPN GUI? It is a graphical frontend for users on Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10. After you set up the software application, it will build an icon in the icon tab. From there, users can choose their connections and handle all VPN components.

After getting OpenVPN-GUI, control your VPN connection without the need to use command-line prompt or console window. So, you can perform various changes, like viewing the log or changing your password via the OpenVPN GUI.

So, to set up OpenVPN, you need to download the application compatible with your device. Since this is an open-source project, you can use it entirely for free. However, the open-source project requires a decent amount of setting up and configuration.

This necessity to complete long instructions to get the VPN working is not a preference for beginners. They usually prioritize simple and less time-consuming options. While the company offers a pre-configured commercial OpenVPN Access Server, it might not be the tool for an everyday user.

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Is OpenVPN one of the best open-source VPNs?

  • The primary advantage of OpenVPN is the fact that it is an open-source project. Interested parties can easily create their own take on the VPN and offer it to the general public. Additionally, they can adjust it to match their personal preferences. However, a decent technical how-to is necessary for such customizations to be possible.
  • OpenVPN takes advantage of the OpenSSL security library and brings the force within to offer advanced encryption (with the most sophisticated option being 256-bit). Also, the app tackles the deep packet inspection and firewalls.
  • OpenVPN is compatible with devices running on QNX, Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. This feature is also excellent news to enthusiasts who want to use OpenVPN as the foundation for their projects.

There are many reasons to choose this option to add that extra layer of protection. However, specialists claim that OpenVPN is more suitable for advanced VPN users. Therefore, you need to have some technical knowledge to fully set up and use it.

  • One of the downsides is that with so many advanced security features and high-end encryption, OpenVPN is not the fastest option available.
  • The setup process of this application might appear complicated, even if you follow the recommended instructions. If you are not a fan of repeating lengthy steps to get an application running, you should consider a tool with all bases covered.
  • OpenVPN also requires an additional piece of software to work. Therefore, newbies might find it less stressful to use a VPN that offers a user-friendly interface automatically.

WireGuard or OpenVPN? 

Every VPN relies on protocols to secure its connections. OpenVPN and WireGuard are among the most popular options for reinforcing VPNs. However, which option is ahead in this race for protected connectivity? Let’s judge both on several criteria. 

  • Security. Both protocols have no known vulnerabilities. Some experts might give this point to WireGuard due to its smaller attack surface. However, both have incredible cipher agility and can protect your data from interception. 
  • Performance. Reports vary when it comes to the speed of WireGuard and OpenVPN. According to Ars Technica, establishing an OpenVPN connection can require up to 8 seconds. WireGuard does the same in approximately 100 milliseconds. Similar reports note WireGuard to be much faster than OpenVPN (if configured correctly). 
  • Network changes. WireGuard is much more capable of providing consistent protection. It will adapt faster to sudden jumps from, say, Wi-Fi to cellular data. 
  • Data usage. WireGuard consumes less data than OpenVPN. So, if you worry about internet data caps, WireGuard will help you preserve more.

Why is it worthwhile to use a VPN?

A VPN is a powerful tool for preventing intrusive monitoring, tracking, and unlocking the content restricted to specific geo-locations. With a VPN, you are in control of who gets to take a peek at your online activity or learn your actual location. As a result, you get to put a stop to all logging of your search queries and online activity. Atlas VPN also offers two protocols to choose from: WireGuard or IKEv2/IPSec.

Additionally, you won’t be targeted by companies and marketers with passive-aggressive advertising strategies. You also get to connect to public Wi-Fi without worrying about suspicious parties that might be lurking to steal your data and credentials.

Ruth C.

Ruth C.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.



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