Privacy and Security

OpenVPN over TCP vs. UDP: what is the difference, and which should I choose?

OpenVPN is one of the best open source protocol widely used for VPN. It can be based on TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) as well as UDP (User Datagram Protocol). This flexibility of OpenVPN gives rise to a great confusion i.e which one to choose.

Both have pros and cons, it is difficult to decide which one is the best. Most of the time this choice is not made available to the end customer by the VPN providers. UDP is known for its speed and TCP is known for its reliability, both factors are unavoidable and independent of each other. But, which one will you choose if you are given a chance to?  The ultimate aim of this article is to overcome this dilemma.

Before we proceed further let’s see some major differences between TCP and UDP:-

TCP:- TCP is a connection-oriented protocol. In this protocol whenever a data packet is transferred between two devices the receiving end sends out an acknowledgment for every packet. If a packet is lost in between the packet is sent again, which means there is no loss of data. This feature makes TCP reliable, but at the same time, it makes TCP slow as it has to confirm the delivery of every packet.

UDP:- UDP is a connectionless protocol. In this protocol, data packets are transferred between devices without any acknowledgment. This acknowledgment-less transfer makes data transmission faster, but, at the same time, it makes UDP unreliable.

Now you are in a position to make a choice. Speed or reliability?

Still confused? Let’s go through some scenarios and application.

  1. Choose UDP, if you are someone who loves playing online games or loves streaming videos online.
  2. Choose TCP, if the VPN server you are connecting to is nearby as you can get reliability without losing much speed.
  3. Choose UDP, if the VPN server you are connecting to is far away as with TCP it will be remarkably slow.
  4. Choose TCP, if every bit of data is important to you and a loss of even a single packet can lead to consequences.

Do you hate censorship? Lets beat censorship with OpenVPN implemented with TCP on port 443.

These days most of the websites are safeguarded by SSL encryption, which makes it secure.  SSL works on TCP port 443.

If OpenVPN (which is based on SSL basics) is implemented with TCP on port 443, the traffic generated through VPN will be similar to the traffic generated by the websites safeguarded by SSL encryption, making it nearly impossible to detect VPN connections.

The government cannot remove SSL, as it necessary for functioning of the websites, this is a great help for us to continue using OpenVPN with similar traffic.

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