What Is OpenVPN? [A Beginner-Friendly Guide]

Deyan Georgiev
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Updated · Apr 19, 2023

Deyan Georgiev
Website Manager | Joined October 2021

Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Fa... | See full bio


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You might think OpenVPN is a type of VPN. 


It’s not.

So, what is OpenVPN? How does it work? And why should you even care?

We have all the answers.

What Is VPN?

A VPN is a tool that lets you browse the internet with some degree of anonymity. It encrypts your internet traffic data and routes it to a remote server, changing your IP address in the process.

Many VPN vendors run DNS requests on their own network. They don’t rely on the hardware controlled by your ISP, addressing major vulnerabilities snoopers like to exploit.

All standard VPN services worth buying won’t leak your IP address and DNS queries. But some solutions take it further by offering advanced security features such as kill switch and double VPN.

Whether a VPN has standard functionalities or has all the bells and whistles, none are meaningful without a solid protocol.

What Are VPN Protocols?

Protocols, like an OpenVPN protocol, are sets of processes that dictate how VPN clients should package data.

Also, they tell VPNs how to establish encrypted tunnels to safely move internet traffic over a private network of servers.

Since developers engineer tunneling protocols differently, each of them transmits data in its own way. That’s why they tend to serve different purposes even if they have the same job description.

Some VPN protocols are built for speed, but can’t be trusted on the security front. Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol is a prime example.

Stability is the calling card of others. Internet Key Exchange v2 is a good case in point.

But the most popular ones are highly configurable for a variety of uses - you can make them as secure and lightweight as the need arises. In terms of versatility, OpenVPN protocols come to mind first.

The most common tunneling protocols are open-source. They’re transparent, and anyone capable of analyzing their code can look for any vulnerability. A good example is a secret backdoor, that may compromise a VPN’s integrity.

Despite the availability of open-source protocols, some vendors choose to develop their own either from scratch or based on tried-and-true options.

These VPN service providers feel that the standard VPN protocols aren’t good enough to deliver the level of performance they hope to provide.

For instance, Hotspot Shield relies on nothing but its proprietary Catapult Hydra. It used to support OpenVPN and IPSec (Internet Protocol Security), but AnchorFree Inc. (its developer) felt both protocols had unacceptable latency issues.

Over time, new tunneling protocols come along to take it up a notch. At the moment, WireGuard is the talk of the town.

What Is OpenVPN?

At this point, we’ve already mentioned OpenVPN a couple of times. So, what is OpenVPN actually?

OpenVPN is the most popular VPN protocol today. It was developed by a company that goes by the same name. OpenVPN Inc offers its own line of OpenVPN technologies and services., including the: 

  • Connect client 
  • Cloud 
  • Access Server
  • Private Tunnel.

Is OpenVPN Encrypted?

It combines the OpenSSL library’s encryption, authentication, and certification features with Transport Layer Security for private key exchange.

It supports the strongest cryptographic algorithms ever invented - including the industry-standard 256-bit AES encryption - to transmit data safely

With OpenVPN encryption versatility, you can go with either certificate-centric public key encryption or static key–based conventional encryption.

Is OpenVPN Safe?

Despite the impressive design of WireGuard, OpenVPN still is the safest VPN protocol out there. It has been around longer, which inspires confidence.

Further, OpenVPN apps are an open book. Any cybersecurity expert and software developer could look under the hood and search for bugs.

This protocol has a low number of known vulnerabilities. And new ones don’t go undetected for too long because of their open-source nature.

How Well Does OpenVPN Bypass Firewalls?

What is OpenVPN great at?

Breaking geo-restrictions.

OpenVPN sends encrypted data over the 443 Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) port, unblocking many geo-restrictions successfully. But you can also do OpenVPN tunneling through a User Datagram Protocol (UDP) port.

TCP involves multiple verification checks, so it guarantees OpenVPN connection reliability. But UDP promises faster OpenVPN connection speed, for it sends data without checking whether it actually reaches the receiving computer.

Is It Easy to Set Up OpenVPN?

The OpenVPN protocol can be a pain to configure manually.

Its complexity, its only indisputable drawback, can make your head swim. Fortunately, TCP and UDP OpenVPN protocols are usually preconfigured in most VPN apps for personal use.

Speaking of which, almost all of the VPNs we’ve tested support OpenVPN. And you can easily toggle between TCP and UDP as you wish.

Other than Hotspot Shield, Hola VPN was the only other vendor we’ve encountered that didn’t use OpenVPN. 

Still, some of the most popular VPN services - like PIA, Surfshark, NordVPN, and ExpressVPN - support it.

Wrap Up

OpenVPN is one of the best all-around VPN protocols out there. Don’t expect to experience any compatibility issues with it. Without a doubt, OpenVPN technologies are safe.

It’s no longer the best at most things with the advent of WireGuard. But OpenVPN remains a decent option for streaming, torrenting, and private web browsing.


What is OpenVPN and how does it work?

OpenVPN is a highly versatile VPN protocol designed to get around firewalls consistently. A secure OpenVPN tunnel can go over a TCP or UDP port, balancing connection reliability and speed. And it uses TLS for dynamic key exchange too. Moreover, it depends on the OpenSSL crypto library. That’s why it's keeping up with all trusted encryption, authentication, and certification standards today.

What is the difference between VPN and OpenVPN?

A VPN is an internet privacy solution that can conceal your web traffic from snooping parties and hide your real IP address. OpenVPN is one of the many protocols that tell VPNs how to safely package and send data.

Is OpenVPN free or not?

Yes, you can manually set up OpenVPN at no cost, but your connections may be limited. However, you can use a VPN service with a pre-configured OpenVPN protocol, however, to avoid the hassle of tinkering with the client software. Free VPNs aren’t the safest, so go with a paid service with a money-back guarantee instead. This way, you can apply for a refund if it fails to deliver on its promise. What is OpenVPN most useful for? Read this piece from the top.


Deyan Georgiev

Deyan Georgiev

Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.

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