OpenVPN has monopolized the VPN protocol market for the last two decades. During this time, OpenVPN has developed compatibility with multiple devices and operating systems, created more and more customizable configuration options for tinker-happy users, and maintained excellent service.
WireGuard enters in 2018 with much faster and more secure services, revolutionizing the niche and giving OpenVPN a run for its money. You may see VPN services offer both protocols as part of their overall package, but have you ever wondered if they worked in tandem or as fail-safes for one another? And most importantly, if they are similar, why have them both on a package? The more pressing question is: Which is the best? We provide the answer to this and more in this article.
OpenVPN has comfortably held the reputation as the industry-standard VPN protocol for two decades. It offered consistently excellent speeds and adequate security, and for the time being, it was sufficient until 2018, when WireGuard came on board. Then, it was faster, had more modern features and protocols, and utilized the latest advanced technologies.
As a result, WireGuard has consistently rivaled OpenVPN since its release. While the OpenVPN and WireGuard VPN protocols are among the best for setting up and maintaining a VPN connection, we decided to answer the question on everyone’s mind: Which is the best?
To answer this, we have outlined each feature in this article, making fair and clear comparisons to ensure you can deduce which is the best VPN protocol to use. But first, let’s find out which VPN protocol truly reigns supreme: the veteran or the newcomer.
WireGuard vs. OpenVPN – Quick Comparison
Below is a summary to compare the two protocols, something to give you a glance at how they fare against one another.
What is WireGuard?
WireGuard, developed by an experienced independent software developer and security researcher, Jason Donenfeld, is an advanced open-source VPN protocol with amazing solutions for modern cybersecurity problems. This VPN protocol influenced the VPN connectivity game and has stayed within expectations.
WireGuard was initially only available for Linux OS. This slowed its rise to relevance, but today, that has changed as it now supports major platforms. In addition, WireGuard offers state-of-the-art cryptography and super connectivity speeds.
However, these were not responsible for its meteoric rise in popularity. Instead, WireGuard earned its global appeal thanks to its much easier setup and fewer lines of code needed to run it.
What is OpenVPN?
OpenVPN is one of the most used VPN protocols today, and it is so popular because of its reliability and flexibility. James Yonan developed this open-source protocol to be secure and bypass ISP constraints and most firewalls.
OpenVPN utilizes a range of cryptographic algorithms and can function using either Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or User Datagram Protocol (UDP). As a result, OpenVPN works perfectly with every VPN service currently in the market and is considered the go-to for most people.
WireGuard vs. OpenVPN – A Detailed Comparison
Since we have covered the basic information on WireGuard and OpenVPN, it’s time we took a deeper and closer look at how different they are. Below are a few metrics with which we measure their effectiveness:
WireGuard delivers speeds unlike any other provider in the market today. It allows you to establish a connection quickly at approximately 100 milliseconds. No other protocol compares with this speed, nor has almost zero random disconnections. Unfortunately, sudden disconnections plague OpenVPN, and it has a lower connection speed.
Verdict: WireGuard takes the win for speed.
OpenVPN takes around eight seconds to connect and does not offer the same speeds as WireGuard. However, this does not mean that it is dreadfully slow; it has a much more robust architecture owing to its long lines of code that literally and figuratively slow it down.
Verdict: WireGuard has a less weighty structure and is not boggled by this problem. So if you are into online gaming or streaming, WireGuard is the wiser option.
WireGuard uses only one set of protocols and ciphers, which include Poly1305. BLAKE2s, ChaCha20 and SipHash25. The designers made it so to reduce the surface area of vulnerability to attack. With a less complex code, attacks and successful attacks are rare.
Unlike WireGuard, OpenVPN is a much more agile and versatile protocol. With OpenVPN, there is more flexibility, which allows it to run different ciphers and protocols via its OpenSSL library. These protocols include RSA, DES, SHA-1, and AES. But with maneuverability comes increased complexity and a larger surface area for hackers to attack, thus an increased vulnerability to attacks.
Verdict: OpenVPN and WireGuard have top-notch security and encryption, but with WireGuard, there is a reduced risk of attacks than OpenVPN.
Although OpenVPN runs on a more complex code and is more prone to attacks, there are no known security weaknesses. If you configure OpenVPN correctly, you have nothing to worry about. To further assure you, there have been external audits on the code to test for any loopholes, and they found none.
WireGuard is also foolproof regarding security. Since this protocol uses a leaner codebase, it is easier to audit and update. As a result, WireGuard is very secure and employs newer and quicker cryptographic primitives.
Verdict: Both protocols are free of security flaws. OpenVPN has been tested more and presents a more trustworthy reputation, but WireGuard makes up for this by getting a lot of things right early. Its relatively recent introduction should not deter you; the choice is yours.
OpenVPN operates with an unspoken no-long policy, as it does not log any personally identifiable data on the users, such as private IP addresses. Therefore, using OpenVPN in conjunction with a VPN service with a true no-longs policy will ensure 100% privacy at all times.
WireGuard has some privacy concerns; for example, its Cryptokey Routing algorithm saves user IP on the servers pending a reboot. This goes against the concept of a true no-longs policy.
In addition, WireGuard has the issue of a WebRTC leak, which puts users at risk of their IP addresses getting exposed. This problem, however, is well known, and most VPN services have devised workarounds to ensure WireGuard is private.
Verdict: In this regard, OpenVPN is the best choice since WireGuard requires additional checks to maintain full privacy.
For privacy and verifiable security claims, routine external audits are necessary. For this reason, these protocols must include an ease-to-audit feature. While they may be “Open Source,” this does not translate to “Open to View.”
In this regard, OpenVPN is auditable, in the base meaning of the word. But in the practical nature, that is a whole other topic. With hundreds of thousands of codes, it’ll take a lot of engineers over a long period to truly make a comprehensive audit in a short time.
With WireGuard, however, this is not the case. Since it has only a few hundred lines of code, a single person can conduct the audit relatively quickly.
Verdict: WireGuard edges are the easier protocol to audit and update.
For mobility, we refer to the ability to transition from one internet connection to another without losing connectivity. For example, users are notorious for switching from WiFi to mobile data without prior notice, so the protocol must be able to keep pace efficiently and effectively.
WireGuard has no trouble keeping pace with the network switches and can smoothly transition with each switch. But OpenVPN lags terribly and struggles to meet the standard WireGuard set, showing major delays in transitioning between network switches.
For this reason, most VPN services utilize IKEv2/IPSec for mobile devices since it helps to handle switching more seamlessly. However, this protocol is notorious for security compromises, so be wary.
Verdict: If you need to switch between WiFi and mobile data steadily and you need a protocol to keep pace, WireGuard is better suited for you. Not only is WireGuard faster, but it is considerably more private than IKEv2/IPSec.
While the WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols are solid and reliable, you should note one key difference. WireGuard and OpenVPN will offer and maintain a stable internet connection, but only one utilizes TCP. Unfortunately, that option is only available with OpenVPN, which is essential because it helps bypass censorship placed upon your internet by your ISP.
Using the 443 port (similar to the one used by regular HTTPS traffic) via TCP connections, you can successfully evade any internet censorship, letting you access services that would otherwise be blocked.
Verdict: OpenVPN shines in this regard, offering you a means to circumvent censorship using TCP and UDP. WireGuard, unfortunately, does not support TCP connections.
OpenVPN has been around longer than WireGuard, so it should not be shocking that it is far more compatible with a wider variety of devices than WireGuard. OpenVPN is compatible with popular devices, platforms, and even the less popular ones, such as FreeBSD, QNX, ChromeOS, Solaris, and Maemo.
Unfortunately, WireGuard only tends to the big, more popular brands such as Windows, iOS, Linux, and Androids. But we can say with some certainty that this list will only grow as time passes.
Verdict: OpenVPN is the more compatible and versatile protocol, so if you seek versatility, this is your choice.
WireGuard vs. OpenVPN – Which Option is the Best for You?
While WireGuard is a fantastic attempt at introducing diversity in the VPN protocol market, it still has a long way to go. On the other hand, OpenVPN has time, compatibility, and versatility and continues to grow in popularity and usage. As a result, experts have hailed WireGuard as the new best thing, but it is still only in its early days.
We recommend that you use both protocols to complement each other in whatever areas the other is deficient. For example, ExtremeVPN has an OpenVPN protocol and now offers support for WireGuard for its Android and Windows apps.
Can WireGuard Replace OpenVPN?
Looking at the two protocols squarely, this is a great question to ask, one that probably already occupies most of our minds. WireGuard is a new entry to the open VPN protocol market. Although it promises to be more secure and faster, it is still in development, which does not give too much assurance of the long-term fulfillment of said promises.
It is vital to note that several major VPN services have started slowly integrating WireGuard into their packages, which says a lot about its credibility. So, the question once more is: Can WireGuard replace OpenVPN?
The answer? Yes, WireGuard possesses the potential to dethrone OpenVPN as the industry standard. It is faster, more secure, and much easier to configure and set up than OpenVPN, which already says a lot for an “in development” protocol.
Ultimately, if you need a protocol focused on speed and security, WireGuard is your best bet. But if you want speed, security, and compatibility, OpenVPN ticks all those boxes with adequate speeds and security, although it is a letdown from WireGuard’s.
OpenVPN and WireGuard offer excellent security for open-source VPN protocols. With the right configuration, you should not worry about security risks. WireGuard, however, is newer and much faster than OpenVPN since its designers took into account the modern processing power of the newer devices. WireGuard is also much easier to maintain, and most VPN services that use it primarily offer stellar services.
With OpenVPN, however, you get the familiar, safe, and more compatible service backed by a lengthy history. Whether you choose OpenVPN or WireGuard is up to you and your preference. If you want fast and secure, WireGuard is an excellent choice, but if you don’t want to experiment with new software, OpenVPN works just as well on average.