What is OpenVPN? [A Beginner-Friendly Guide]

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Aditya Rayaprolu
Written by
Aditya Rayaprolu

Updated · Sep 19, 2023

Aditya Rayaprolu
Technology Architect | McKinsey & Company | Joined February 2023 | LinkedIn
Aditya Rayaprolu

Aditya is an Azure DevOps and Infrastructure Virtualization Architect with experience in automation,... | See full bio

Teodora Dobrilova
Edited by
Teodora Dobrilova


Teodora Dobrilova
Editor-in-chief, Social Media And Digital Marketing Expert | Joined October 2021
Teodora Dobrilova

After getting a master's degree in Literature, Publishing, and Mass Media, Teodora spent most of her... | See full bio

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In the digital age, where everything we do involves the Internet, keeping our online activities safe and private is important. This can be accomplished using a VPN.

VPNs or Virtual Private Networks are a service that masks your device's IP address. It protects your data through encryption, making your transmitted data unreadable so no one can exploit it.

1.5 billion people worldwide use a VPN, and about 43% of all VPN users use it for security reasons. OpenVPN stands out for its ability to provide a secure and encrypted connection. It enhances the capabilities of a VPN by bringing in advanced features and more robust security measures. 

Like any place, a few villains lurk around, trying to peek at your secrets. Discover what OpenVPN is and how it takes your safety to the next level. 

🗝️ Key Takeaways

  • OpenVPN allows for secure and encrypted internet connections.
  • Both a protocol and software, OpenVPN is known for providing secure connections.
  • OpenVPN is safe to use when deployed correctly.
  • Complex setups and slow speeds are some issues with OpenVPN.
  • OpenVPN uses tough codes and keeps your data safe anywhere online.

What are VPN Protocols?

VPN tunneling protocols are rules that dictate how a device establishes and maintains a connection (via encryption, authentication, and transmission) with a VPN server.

The following are the different types of these rules or protocols, each with its strengths: OpenVPN, IPsec, and PPTP.


This protocol employs 256-bit for tunnel encryption and 4096-bit keys for authentication. It has high-end ciphers and can use TCP and UDP, offering more control over your connections.


IP Security, or IPsec, is a suite of protocols that provides security services for IP network traffic. It protects IP packets by authentication, encryption, or both. IPsec uses two protocols: ESP (Encapsulation Security Payload) and AH (Authentication Header). 

Confidentiality, authenticity, and integrity are the primary services an IPSec provides


Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the oldest and most common network protocol. It has fast speeds and is compatible with almost every operating system, making it a solid online streaming and gaming option. However, it has a weak encryption standard and needs to be simplified to set up.

👍Helpful Articles

A VPN’s default protocol might not be ideal as it can impact the secure connection’s performance. The following articles will guide you to determine the most suitable option. 

Understanding OpenVPN Protocol

OpenVPN Protocol

OpenVPN is like a secret tunnel that keeps your online activities safe. It makes a shield around your data. 

This protocol can stand for two things:

  • It is a set of secure rules, often called “protocol”, which lets your device create a safe connection to the Internet.
  • It is a piece of software. An app you can use on your device that helps you build your own safe internet connection, also known as a VPN server. 

👍Helpful Article:

If you’re looking for a country with the fastest and safest VPN server, Iceland is one of the best to connect through. Open the following article to unlock more from Techjury’s list.

History of OpenVPN

Two leaders, James Yonan and Francis Dinha, launched OpenVPN. Yonan authored the original open-source VPN software titled “OpenVPN.” 

Dinha heard about Yonan’s project and was impressed with the potential, eventually leading them to join forces and take OpenVPN to the market in 2002.

With Dinha as the CEO and Yonan as the CTO, OpenVPN rose to fame and succeeded. 

 🎉 Fun Fact:

CEO James Yonan’s motivation when creating the OpenVPN project was his frustration trying to connect to his office remotely. Those with shady security practices were the only available servers during that time.

How OpenVPN Works

Infographic About How OpenVPN Works

OpenVPN is both a protocol and software. Its dual nature makes it a versatile tool in internet security. Explore how OpenVPN functions in these roles:

OpenVPN Works as a Protocol

As a protocol, OpenVPN is responsible for handling client-server communications. It acts as a tunnel between the VPN client (i.e., an end device, software, or user using a VPN) and the VPN server (a standard server installed and configured to host and deliver VPN services to users).

OpenVPN uses the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption protocol to ensure data shared via the Internet remains private. It uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256 encryption, considered the most secure encryption algorithm.

OpenVPN uses two transport layer protocols: User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). Both transport layer protocols facilitate packets' transmission from source to destination.

This VPN protocol runs on Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Linux, routers,  NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Solaris.

OpenVPN is not just a protocol but an open-source VPN as well. 

OpenVPN Works as an Open-Source Software

OpenVPN is fully open-source software, meaning its code isn’t owned by just one entity. Anyone can inspect, modify, and distribute it for free. 

With over 50 million downloads, OpenVPN establishes itself as a de-facto standard in open-source networking. 

OpenVPN provides authentication mechanisms through certificates, pre-shared secret keys, and login parameters (username and password). It is published under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

 📝 Note:

Many prominent VPN apps use OpenVPN to provide online security, including SurfShark, NordVPN, Express VPN, Avast SecureLine VPN, and PrivateVPN.

OpenVPN may be known to boost security, but potential downsides also exist.

Disadvantages of Using OpenVPN

Before deciding to use OpenVPN, it's essential to understand its weaknesses as VPNs.

Here are some drawbacks of using OpenVPN: 

Complex Setup

Setting up OpenVPN can be complicated. Mistakes could make your connection less secure.

Slower Speeds

The main issue with most VPNs is the reduced Internet connection. The encryption and decryption processes of OpenVPN can slow down your Internet speed.

Performance slowdowns can also happen because of the added security layers, particularly when compared to unencrypted connections.

Compatibility Issues

OpenVPN may not work with all devices or systems. Some older or specific mobile devices might need help using it, limiting where and how you can use OpenVPN.

Resource Intensive

OpenVPN needs many resources to work because of its encryption process. Your mobile device’s battery might drain faster, or your older computer might slow down, affecting how well it works. 

Limited by Firewalls

Strict firewalls in some places or countries can block OpenVPN. You might not be able to use OpenVPN everywhere. 

While OpenVPN provides good security and privacy, it’s crucial to consider its drawbacks. Knowing its strengths and weaknesses will help you decide if OpenVPN meets your online safety needs.

Benefits of Using OpenVPN

Other than giving you online security, OpenVPN also includes benefits that improve your online life, such as: 

Strong Protection

OpenVPN uses rigid codes to lock up your data. It's like putting your info in a secret safe that no one can crack.

Keep Your Secrets

With OpenVPN, your online moves stay hidden. It hides your location, ensuring no one can snoop on you.

Wi-Fi Safety Net 

When you're on public Wi-Fi (like at a café), OpenVPN keeps your data safe from sneaky hackers who might want to steal your stuff.

Go Anywhere Online

OpenVPN lets you bypass roadblocks on the Internet. If some websites are off-limits in your area, OpenVPN helps you access them.


OpenVPN has a kill switch feature that automatically disconnects you from the Internet. It also blocks any data leakage in case of a dropped VPN connection. This way, no data losses or miscommunications take place.

 📝 Note:

Not every VPN has a kill switch. Other than OpenVPN, SurfShark, CyberGhost VPN, ExpressVPN, and NordVPN have it. If you don't like the feature, you can deactivate it in the Menu Settings of your VPN app.

OpenVPN isn't just any software – it's your online protector. It keeps your information safe, your online steps hidden, and your web adventures smooth.

Wrapping it Up

OpenVPN is a versatile, secure VPN protocol. It hides your online data, protects against hackers on public Wi-Fi, and allows access to restricted websites. 

However, it can be complex to set up, potentially slow down internet speed, and may not work on all devices due to compatibility issues. Despite drawbacks, it's a strong choice for online privacy and security.


What is the difference between VPN and OpenVPN?

A VPN is a service that encrypts data and hides your online location, while OpenVPN is a specific type of VPN protocol. It’s the technology used by many VPN services to secure data.

Is OpenVPN free?

Yes, it is free. However,  accessing VPN server services may come at a cost.

Is OpenVPN safe to expose to the Internet?

Yes, OpenVPN is highly safe and secure. It uses military-grade AES-256 encryption, which governments and banks also use to protect sensitive data. 


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