VPN or Virtual Private Network is not a new technology. As the name suggests, it is a virtual network that offers privacy. Simple. However, a VPN is something that is most suitable when it comes to safeguarding your digital life. It keeps your online activity private and your data transactions secure. Not only that, but a VPN also helps the user in bypassing blocks to access different content on the internet. Now, a VPN uses client software to help users connect to a network of servers owned by the vendor, and the servers then allow users to connect to the internet remotely.
All this is possible with the help of a VPN Protocol that oversees the whole exchange. OpenVPN is one such protocol. Hence, the following OpenVPN review will try to shed more light on one of the most revolutionary protocols of all time.
What is OpenVPN?
OpenVPN has been regarded as one of the most stable, secure, and fast VPN protocols. Other than being able to offer P2P online access, it is completely free as it is an open-source initiative. Thus, it is equally popular because it’s free and open-sourced, which helped to create an OpenVPN library. The protocol is a beautiful blend of security and functionality, which made it the first choice for many vendors.
The story behind the development of OpenVPN is equally intriguing. It is said that the development started as a side project for James Yonan in 2001, when he was traveling across Central Asia, which made him realize how vulnerable his data was. He was later helped by Francis Dinha, who fled the Saddam Hussain reign after expressing anti-government sentiments. Thus, the man valued online privacy. After the meeting of these two, an idea was born that changed how we experience online privacy and security for more than two decades.
OpenVPN is different from other protocols. It is not owned by a vendor. Also, being an open-source initiative ensures that the users enjoy a secure network thanks to the OpenSSL library. Similarly, due to being open-source, a worldwide community gladly supports the protocol by not only reviewing and rectifying the source code but also troubleshooting any issues and helping newcomers.
OpenVPN as a protocol
OpenVPN primarily acts as a protocol and not a VPN client. It helps the various servers in a network to connect, facilitating remote internet communication. It is possible due to a secure and encrypted tunneling process. OpenVPN can create virtual tunnels using two distinct methods. The first one is TCP or Transmission Control Protocol which ensures maximum safety, while the other one is the UDP or User Datagram Protocol, which favors speed. However, the actual data exchange gets handled by SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security). It is the same tech that protects the data transfer to and from HTTPS websites. It is a great advantage because the transmission will look like a common HTTPS communication, easily bypassing VPN blocks.
How to use OpenVPN?
Users need to remember that OpenVPN is not a VPN service provider. It isn’t a VPN Client that adds software to your system where you can simply execute a single click to establish a VPN connection. It is a protocol or a set of rules that helps configure a VPN connection.
There are two methods to use it after installing OpenVPN.
- First, set up a manual VPN connection using OpenVPN and the given servers. This connection will have all the OpenVPN benefits, along with being completely free. However, it is not something a beginner can achieve easily.
- Otherwise, you can pay a VPN service provider and then use his VPN client to connect to OpenVPN.
Features of OpenVPN
OpenVPN, although free, does come with a set of definitive features. Such as:
As we already know, OpenVPN has two methods of connection. While TCP is slower, UDP can give most protocols a run for their money when it comes to connection speed. We know that OpenVPN doesn’t compare to WireGuard’s speed. However, it is so because OpenVPN uses a high level of security and obfuscation that makes it one of the few protocols capable of bypassing VPN blocks.
OpenVPN doesn’t have an exclusive server network. You can either use your own or third-party servers to facilitate a VPN connection. The OpenVPN community also offers a server network that is free to use. However, it is not officially sanctioned. Thus, there is no guarantee of data safety or privacy. For a simpler approach, users can always look to VPN vendors who charge a fee for a premium VPN network.
While OpenVPN is capable of bypassing geo-blocks and accessing various contents, it mostly depends on what servers are connected. OpenVPN is merely a protocol and not a complete VPN service provider with an exclusive server network.
As one of the safest VPN protocols, OpenVPN supports multiple encryption levels like AES, Camelia, Blowfish, CAST, and many more. The standard encryption is an AES-256 implementation, namely 256-bit OpenSSL. The protocol offers certificates for authentication and IPv6 support. Then there is the SSL/TLS encryption for obfuscation. The virtual tunneling with OpenVPN is also done with distinct choices of TCP or UDP. Lastly, the protocol supports features such as Kill switches and Auto-connect. And the protocol excels at preventing IP and DNS leaks.
By itself, OpenVPN is incapable of storing data. However, depending on the servers you connect, your privacy might be at risk. Thus, one should only use OpenVPN when one is sure about the servers.
OpenVPN has obfuscation, and it can bypass blocks. However, this too, is dependent on servers. Still, OpenVPN SSL/TLS is amongst a few that works in highly sensitive regions.
OpenVPN works on almost any device. As it is merely a protocol, differnet vendors provide apps for various platforms with OpenVPN support. It also enables these vendors to offer browser extensions and Wi-Fi VPNs. Similarly, OpenVPN can run on IoT devices like Smart TVs and gaming consoles.
Sadly, OpenVPN doesn’t have a stand-alone customer support team. There is neither a live chat nor any emails. However, it offers a ticketing service. Furthermore, the greatest help is its community which not only offers up-to-date guides, but also a forum for questions and answers.
Price of OpenVPN
As OpenVPN is open-source software, it is free to use. But there are also paid versions available for business use. These are the Access server and OpenVPN Cloud. However, an individual need not worry. As long as he can configure a VPN manually, OpenVPN will remain free for use.
OpenVPN Final verdict
OpenVPN is amongst one of the most used VPN protocols. From tech-savvy users to complete beginners, everyone can benefit from OpenVPN. Even if you can’t configure it manually, OpenVPN allows for the use of third party services to make up for it. The protocol has many things to offer, from strong TCP connection to faster UDP, obfuscation in the form of TLS/SSL and optimum security as 256-bit OpenSSL. All these features make OpenVPN one of the safest VPN protocols.
Although the advent of next gen protocols such as WireGuard, NordLynx or Lightway could see the downfall in the use of OpenVPN, they can’t completely replace it, due to its open-source nature, which will keep on making the protocol one of the best in the market.
OpenVPN is a great choice for anyone who want to configure a VPN server on their own instead of depending on a paid service. You can also integrate it with other services if you want to.