If you download and install a virtual private network (VPN), the chances are that it will be built on OpenVPN technology.
This is one of the most popular and widely deployed protocols used by contemporary VPNs, which leverage the technology to encrypt traffic while ensuring quick and impressive performance.
But is OpenVPN, which is now nearly 20 years old, still fit for purpose in the digital age? I’ll explore this below, while asking whether there are superior alternatives available in 2023?
The Benefits of OpenVPN – Comprehensive Privacy and Open Source Technology
At its core, OpenVPN remains an inherently secure and effective VPN system, and one that relies on open source technology to generate security and privacy for users.
For example, it leverages OpenSSL to encrypt data, while its support of both TCP and UDP ensures a flexible and secure user experience for all. This certainly earmarks OpenVPN as a superior option to WireGuard and similar protocols, especially if security and privacy remain your primary concerns when completing a VPN download online.
Certainly, while OpenVPN’s core code may be a little more complex and lengthy (I’ll touch more on this later in the piece), it negates the need for VPN clients to patch privacy issues before the product can be rolled out.
Of course, this also means that regardless of your chosen VPN provider, you’ll be able to access the same trusted OpenVPN features and level of security. This is not necessarily the case with other protocols, which are less transparent and may initiate a number of code changes before the client’s product hits the market.
What About OpenVPN’s Drawbacks?
I’ve already touched on VPN’s complex and slightly elongated code, which is even more bloated when compared to more modern protocols such as WireGuard.
So, although regular independent testing of OpenVPN highlights frequent speed improvements, these are incremental by nature and restricted to a select few VPN service providers. At the same time, these speed improvements pale in comparison with more streamlined alternatives, while OpenVPN remains considerably slower than other options on the market.
There are steps that you can take to optimise the speed of the OpenVPN protocol, of course, such as choosing the right VPN client and opting to use UDP rather than TCP.
Although the former is far more reliable and uses tracked data packets, this is arguably not necessary when leveraging the secure and robust OpenVPN protocol. So, by opting for UDP (which eschews extensive error checking), you can look to maintain a much faster connection that harnesses both speed and security to your advantage.
Another potential downside of using OpenVPN protocols is that their mobile performance is noticeably poor. This is of significant concern, especially with some 52% of VPN users in the US and UK now reportedly using an iOS device.
It can cause particular issues when switching between Wi-Fi and mobile networks, creating significant outages and potentially causing you to lose connectivity when you’re out of the home.
The Last Word – Combining OpenVPN with Other Protocols
Despite these potential performance issues and drawbacks, OpenVPN still benefits from its core open source technology. This is why most VPN clients for the UK will feature OpenVPN as at least one of its core protocols, despite the technology’s advancing age.
This is also highly beneficial from the perspective of transparency, while it negates the need for proprietary patches to support what should be the basic functionality of any VPN client. This also allows for easier downloads and usage, so OpenVPN remains a viable protocol option in 2023.
In order to leverage the best of OpenVPN protocols and optimise the speed of performance, some VPN clients are also looking to implement more creative solutions. Take the aforementioned Surfshark product, for example, which combined OpenVPN with Wireguard to create optimal performance and the very best of both worlds.
Both of these protocols are built on open source technology (Wireguard is completely open source), while Wireguard is also one of the newest additions to the marketplace. So, they can be combined to optimise many aspects of your VPN usage experience, while delivering exceptional performance across all device types.