5 Common Types Of VPNs And How They Work

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VPNs are incredibly versatile tools that can guarantee your online activities are protected from hackers or those who would seek to gather data or violate your privacy. Being so versatile, different types of VPNs do different things.

Today we’re looking at the five most common VPN types, what they do, what protection they offer, and how they work. 

With this information, you’ll be best equipped to choose the perfect VPN for you. So, let’s get started with personal VPNs.

1. Personal VPNs

In the world of commercial VPNs, the personal VPN is by far the most common. These are VPN services intended for personal use, as you’d expect.


 Providers offer individuals access to their VPN services where they can establish truly private Internet connections via third-party servers, bypass firewalls, and access content that’s restricted in other regions.

So, if you’re interested in getting a desktop VPN for casual use and protection, you’ll want to get a personal VPN. Fortunately for you, there’s no shortage of great providers out there that will give you a good deal.

Since it’s a competitive industry, paid providers tend to grant the best services to their clients. Those would be services like Surfshark, where you pay a subscription to access their networks. 

2. Mobile VPNs

Mobile VPNs give most of the same benefits as personal VPNs – but now in the palm of your hand! After installing proprietary VPN software onto your smartphone, you can access private networks for all your handheld browsing needs.

5 Common Types Of VPNs And How They Work

Along with the privacy and security benefits that come with standard paid VPN services, you can also use them to get a stabler Internet connection if you happen to wander into an unstable area. If you’re the outdoorsy type, this can be a godsend.

For more professional use cases, mobile VPNs can allow those with a poor connection to connect to their workplace, where a personal or remote access connection cannot be established.

They are sometimes used by law enforcement and other emergency services to connect to databases and other internal systems that require secure Internet access.

3. Remote Access VPNs

Remote-access VPNs allow you to connect to pre-established private networks with a secure connection. They are most commonly used for work office networks, where you can connect to them from home without posing a security risk.

3. Remote Access VPNs

If you travel for business, it’s a great asset to have at your disposal. With so many people working at home nowadays, they have become more relevant than ever.

After installing client software, the VPN should allow you to connect to the company network as long as they also have the VPN software installed.

From there, the VPN verifies that you have access permissions for the network, encrypts your connection tunnel from your location to the target network, and then protects your connection as you do your business.

4. Site-To-Site VPNs

As the name implies, site-to-site VPN services facilitate the connection between two networks. Using one of these services doesn’t often require specialized software, just the service providers working their own magic.

4. Site-To-Site VPNs

They essentially join two or more networks into one, creating a larger combined network.

If a remote access VPN lets a single user connects to a new network, the site-to-site VPN connects a network to another network. If a business has multiple offices, seas apart, then a site-to-site VPN can unite them on one network to collaborate.

When one company connects multiple sites, this is an intranet-based VPN. When different companies connect to each other’s networks, this is called an extranet-based VPN.


This is more of a specific security protocol that’s used as part of a VPN setup. You use SSL every day, with sites ending in HTTPS instead of HTTP.


With SSL VPNs, you get a VPN connection to a network, though user access is restricted to certain services and applications within that network.

This is often used by businesses that want to shore up security by only allowing users connecting via VPN to interact with certain pages online. If not SSL, a VPN service may also use more advanced TLS protocols.

VPN Data Protocols

The type of VPN is largely based on how the network is set up and how it interfaces with individuals or other networks. However, a lot more goes into a VPN and how it works than just the network type.

VPN functionality relies heavily on the data protocols used. This means that VPNs of the same type can be different if they are running different data protocols, so we should include some of them here.

PPTP – Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, or PPTP, is an old VPN data protocol that you won’t find often nowadays. How old? So old that it was used with Windows 95 to create and sustain dial-up connections. 

After its development by Microsoft, its encryption was quickly cracked and so it became untenable from a cybersecurity perspective.

The few who still use PPTP want fast connection speeds and don’t need the heavy encryption that you find with modern VPNs. If privacy or security isn’t a concern, PPTP can still be viable for inexpensive, speedy network connections.

However, for the average person, they’d be better served by modern VPN protocols that are more widely available and guarantee network security.

L2TP – Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol w/ IPsec

To replace PPTP, the Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol was invented. However, the protocol does not have any native encryption or other features that guarantee activity privacy, so it gets paired with a security protocol a lot. 

The most compatible and popularly-used security protocol is IPsec, so you’ll often find that used alongside L2TP to satisfy privacy requirements.

To date, the dream-team combination of the L2TP protocol and IPsec has no known vulnerabilities that aren’t already present in other VPN arrangements.

It also provides good data speeds, though it can get blocked easier because these systems usually rely on single-port UDP.

SSTP – Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is another Microsoft-developed data protocol. This comes with its advantages and disadvantages. For the positives, it is fully integrated with most operating systems and can use powerful 256-bit encryption keys. 

For a modern VPN, the 256 encryption key is very important. It also uses 2048-bit SSL or TLS certificates to authenticate connections.

However, being a Microsoft product, the code used by this protocol is kept away from developers and others who could tinker with it, improve it, and make it more accessible for other computer systems.

That said, Microsoft does provide support for third-party clients.

SSTP has great security measures thanks to its encryption and it’s also stealthier, so detecting and then blocking it becomes more difficult.


OpenVPN is a popular data protocol used with many modern VPNs today

There are many reasons for its popularity – mainly that it’s open-source so developers can collaborate and improve its code, and the fact that it is nearly unbreakable and hasn’t been compromised yet.

It uses AES-256-bit encryption and 2048-bit RSA authentication methods to provide stronger encryption than most other protocols.

This makes it the no-brainer choice for anybody looking to establish a VPN, or just any network, that needs to have absolute security for the activity taking place in them.

OpenVPN can be slower, however, so it may not be best for those who care more about connection and data transfer speeds over privacy online.

IKEv2 – Internet Key Exchange Version 2

Along with OpenVPN, the IKEv2 is a common tunneling protocol that VPNs use. Like with L2TP, it has very few security credentials to speak of, so it’s most commonly paired with IPsec or other means of authentication and encryption.

IKEv2 is agile, being able to switch network connections fast, even across network types. As a result, it’s often used by businesses that use many devices hosted across a variety of networks. It can also re-connect to networks if the connection is lost. 

These features make it very mobile-friendly – many mobile VPNs prefer IKEv2. Following that, it’s also great for those who travel a lot and so have to interact with many networks and brave areas where their online connection may be patchy.


These are the five most common VPN types you’ll see out there. Of course, if you’re an individual, a personal VPN is probably more than enough for you. In that case, you should shop around and find the best deal for you.

Getting a VPN is a surefire way to protect your online activities and any Internet-facing hardware within the home.

If you’re interested in the tech behind VPNs or have more specific concerns, you should also pay attention to the VPN data protocols that we have outlined on this page.

They also change how VPNs work and many of the qualities that we look at when deciding if a VPN service is ideal or not. Most modern VPN services use OpenVPN or IKEv2, so they should be most suitable for the average VPN user. 

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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