Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) provide secure access to business files for remote workers, making them a crucial part of an enterprise’s technology stack. But they need the right protocols to run properly. A VPN protocol creates the tunnels that your traffic travels through when you use a VPN to keep your communications private. WireGuard and OpenVPN are two popular open-source VPN protocols that businesses and users can choose from when they sign up for a VPN service. So, what’s the difference?
When comparing WireGuard vs, OpenVPN, you should consider:
WireGuard uses fewer lines of code than many other popular VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, leaving less room for errors and vulnerabilities. This also makes it easier to audit. It also uses modern cryptography and is likely one of the safest VPNs currently on the market. However, the platform is very new (released in 2019), so it’s possible that vulnerabilities exist but haven’t been found yet.
OpenVPN supports more encryption types than WireGuard, which only offers ChaCha20 and Poly1035. Because of this, if OpenVPN discovers a vulnerability in one of the algorithms, it can inform users and they can quickly switch the service over to a different option. Neither OpenVPN nor WireGuard have any known vulnerabilities in their platform.
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WireGuard is typically the faster of the two options because of its clean codebase and the fact that it runs using the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), but how much faster depends on the protocols used. WireGuard is only about 15 percent faster than OpenVPN using UDP, but it’s about 56 percent faster when OpenVPN uses the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). However, WireGuard only runs on UDP, so it won’t work with networks that block UDP traffic.
However, there are a few VPN servers, like Private Internet Access (PIA), that haven’t been optimized for WireGuard yet because it is so new. For these instances, OpenVPN would be the faster choice. Mullvad was another that hadn’t optimized for WireGuard, but it rolled out an update in April 2021, and now WireGuard is the faster choice. Users can expect similar findings once PIA updates their servers.
WireGuard’s time to connect is also much faster, only taking around 100 milliseconds. OpenVPN can take as long as 8 seconds to connect.
Because mobile users often have to switch wireless networks, especially if they’re browsing while on the go, WireGuard is typically better for mobile usability. It has no problems when users switch networks, but OpenVPN typically struggles. The connection speed comes into play here, too. If it takes OpenVPN 8 seconds to connect every time there’s a change in network, users may get frustrated quickly.
Using a VPN increases the amount of data you use, which may matter to mobile users with data caps. WireGuard adds one of the smallest amounts of data to browsing, while OpenVPN adds one of the largest. Additionally, WireGuard has fewer lines of code, making it more efficient to run and less taxing on your devices’ batteries. OpenVPN, on the other hand, is more likely to drain your batteries faster.
Privacy is the main purpose of using a VPN (it’s in the name, after all), so the VPN shouldn’t store any personally identifiable information (PII). OpenVPN follows this, keeping PII off its servers and ensuring your browsing sessions do ultimately remain private. WireGuard, however, stores your IP address on its servers until the system is rebooted. A server breach could then render the service useless because someone could connect your IP address to your browsing history.
The good news is, most partner VPNs that support WireGuard have measures in place to mitigate this vulnerability, including assigning dynamic IP addresses instead of stagnant ones or deleting IP addresses from servers after short periods of inactivity.
While both WireGuard and OpenVPN are open-source, OpenVPN seems to have actual support available, while WireGuard mostly has community support. OpenVPN offers support tickets, as well as a helpful knowledge base where users can self-serve. WireGuard offers an IRC channel where users can submit questions and get answers from developers and other members of the community. It also has its own knowledge base.
Because WireGuard and OpenVPN are both open-source, they do not cost anything for users to implement. The only cost users will incur is that of the associated VPN. WireGuard does accept donations to keep the project going, but those are completely optional.
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Both OpenVPN and WireGuard will require some knowledge of coding to implement if you’re planning to go the DIY route, which will require a VPN server. However, WireGuard only has about 4,000 lines of code compared to OpenVPN’s 70,000+. This makes WireGuard much easier for users to implement without help. However, OpenVPN is natively supported by more commercial VPN solutions, which means most users don’t have to install it on their own, instead relying on their VPN service.
WireGuard vs. OpenVPN: Which is Better for Your Business?
WireGuard is currently ahead in many of the feature categories we listed, but it is still relatively new in the tech world. Neither service has any known security vulnerabilities, so both are good options for keeping your business data secure. Businesses that prioritize privacy and longevity or use a VPN or network that doesn’t support WireGuard should opt for OpenVPN. Companies that want more speed and lower resource usage should go with WireGuard.