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When talking about virtual private networks, OpenVPN can mean a lot of different things. For starters, it’s an almost 20-year old tunneling protocol commonly used by many VPN providers, for example, NordVPN. Additionally, OpenVPN Inc. is a cybersecurity company responsible for maintaining the protocol and some business and consumer products.
One of the leading products is OpenVPN Connect – a small app that facilitates a VPN connection when a configuration file is provided. It’s pretty bare-bones but gets the job done. So how does it fare against a dedicated VPN application? To find out, we’ll compare the app configured with NordVPN files against the dedicated app of this provider.
Although the OpenVPN tunneling protocol has been around for a long time, it’s not the fastest option currently available. That title is bestowed upon the open-source WireGuard tunneling protocol. That means that a client that can facilitate a connection with WireGuard will be faster than OpenVPN Connect, which you can only configure with ovpn files or proxies.
Not convinced? Check out our VPN speed test to see how some WireGuard-wielding VPN providers compare against services without it. And pay close attention to NordVPN, which is using the proprietary NordLynx tunneling protocol to become the fastest VPN service in 2021.
A conventional VPN service cannot operate without a server network. And since OpenVPN isn’t a typical VPN provider, it doesn’t offer a server fleet of its own. Instead, you have to choose a server from a VPN that you own or from your workplace and connect to it manually.
Meanwhile, NordVPN has 5100+ servers in 60+ countries. All those servers are bare-metal and not used for any other purpose. Additionally, some are utilizing RAM-only technology to avoid storing information on hard drives. This method ensures that connection data isn’t available when the servers are seized or shut down.
OpenVPN is entirely open-source and free to use by anyone. This is great because it enables anyone to enjoy a VPN-secured connection that’s free from surveillance and data theft. Sadly, this connection can’t be conducted without a configuration file and servers, which come with their own costs. Naturally, this isn’t an issue if you work in a company that has everything covered.
On the other hand, NordVPN is a premium service that offers everything you need at an affordable price.
NordVPN gives you the choice between three different subscription options:
- $11.95/month for a monthly subscription
- $4.92/month for an annual subscription
- $3.29/month for a two-year subscription
As you can see, the lengthiest plan gives you a generous 72% discount and even three additional months for free. If that wasn’t enough, you also have a 30-day money-back guarantee for a month-long risk-free period of use.
Additionally, there are numerous bargains online in the form of NordVPN Black Friday deals that you can take advantage of. Alternatively, you can test the service with the help of the 7-day free trial that’s available on the Google Play Store. You’ll need an Android device but there are no other limitations to worry about once you register.
NordVPN doesn’t disappoint in terms of payment methods either. You can pay using conventional methods, such as credit cards, Google Pay, or Amazon Pay. On the other hand, cryptocurrencies are also available if you’d like to pay for the VPN anonymously.
|Protocols||NordLynx, OpenVPN TCP, OpenVPN UDP, IKEv2||OpenVPN TCP, OpenVPN UDP|
|DNS and IP leaks||No leaks||No leaks|
|Security features||Double VPN, Onion over VPN, CyberSec, SOCKS5 proxy, Obfuscated servers, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, split tunneling||None|
NordVPN is one of the most secure VPN services available. Their software is filled with reliable security features that keep you safe while using the internet. However, OpenVPN Connect isn’t completely barren in this regard. It shares AES-256 encryption and a kill switch with the premium provider. Furthermore, there are plenty of networking-specific options that you can tweak as well.
NordVPN security features
NordVPN customers gain access to one of the greatest digital security arsenals on the VPN market. It ensures protection against a wide array of attacks, plus some handy features in mundane situations.
- WebRTC, DNS, and IPV6 leak protection. Low-quality VPNs leak your IP address and DNS requests even when the software is on. With NordVPN, you have complete IP and DNS leak protection.
- NordLynx. This VPN tunneling protocol is based on WireGuard and provides mind-blowing connectivity when using the NordVPN app.
- CyberSec. You should enable this feature if you’d like to avoid malicious ads and phishing attacks while browsing the web.
- RAM-only servers. Most VPN providers use hard drives to store user-relevant data and other information. Hard drives retain this information even when unplugged. Meanwhile, RAM-only technology ensures that information gets wiped when server hardware gets shut down.
- Double VPN. As the name suggests, Double VPN connects you to two servers for greater security and encryption. Keep in mind that performance will also slow down more than usual.
- Onion over VPN. These servers are optimized for connections with the Tor Browser and for visiting the dark web.
- Obfuscated servers. Specialized technology is needed to get around heavy censorship and DPI (Deep Packet Inspection). Thankfully, NordVPN has servers with such capabilities.
- Split tunneling. Aptly named, this feature lets you split your VPN tunnel to secure specific apps or domains. With NordVPN, it’s available on Windows and Android devices.
- SOCKS5 proxy. You can secure your torrent client by utilizing a SOCKS5 proxy. This masks your IP address without the need to enable a VPN connection.
- SmartPlay. This feature ensures that getting around geo-blocks becomes a breeze on any streaming device.
- Dedicated IP. You can unlock an exclusive IP address that isn’t shared with anyone else for an added price. It ensures better unblocking performance for streaming platforms and other online services. You can choose from five locations (the USA, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands).
OpenVPN security features
Unsurprisingly, the OpenVPN Connect app doesn’t offer much in terms of supplemental security. Luckily, there are some additional settings that advanced users might appreciate.
- Minimum TLS version. You can select what minimum version of TLS or SSL for communication with the OpenVPN servers is needed.
- IPv6. IPv6 preferences can be modified if necessary.
- DNS fallback. You can choose to use Google DNS servers if the VPN does not define its DNS servers.
|Logging||Independently-audited no-logs policy||No logs|
A crucial aspect of VPN use is privacy, as it can collect a lot of personal information about you. Thankfully, it’s possible to know if a service is reliable by looking at their jurisdiction.
NordVPN picked Panama as their base of operations since the country is a well-known haven for privacy. Additionally, it went through two independent audits to verify that it doesn’t store any logs. Lastly, users can minimize the amount of data they share with NordVPN by paying for the service anonymously using cryptocurrencies.
OpenVPN Inc. is based in the USA. This could be a little cause for alarm as the country is a founding member of the Five Eyes alliance. Furthermore, OpenVPN Connect is closed-source, meaning there’s no way to verify if it isn’t intercepting connections in any way. However, there is no need for baseless distrust as the company has worked diligently to ensure the security and functionality of the OpenVPN tunneling protocol – one of the most secure and trustworthy options available.
Having a VPN compatible with numerous devices is essential if you want to secure as much of your digital life as possible.
Thankfully, NordVPN delivers good results in this regard. It has dedicated apps for the most widely-used platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android). Specialized apps exist for streaming devices as well, such as Android TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick. Furthermore, you can install proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers.
There’s also a solution if you own a device that isn’t compatible with NordVPN natively. It involves setting up a router with a VPN and then connecting that device, for example, a gaming console or smart TV, to the router network. Finally, one NordVPN account allows you to secure six devices simultaneously.
OpenVPN Connect is only compatible with the main platforms – Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. It’s worth noting that the protocol itself can be implemented on numerous devices, but that’s the VPN providers’ responsibility.
Successful streaming involves getting around geographical restrictions and maintaining high-speed connections throughout a film or TV show. Luckily, many streaming VPNs perform reliably when using the OpenVPN tunneling protocol.
When using NordVPN, you can choose between OpenVPN or NordLynx for streaming, though NordLynx is recommended as it’s faster. Additionally, the service has no trouble unblocking extra content on Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and numerous other streaming channels. Plus, SmartPlay ensures that geographical restrictions are easy to deal with on practically any device.
Since OpenVPN Connect doesn’t provide a connection by itself, it’s not usable for streaming without configuration files. However, we tested whether it can get around Netflix geo-blocks with NordVPN configuration files, and we’re pleasantly surprised that it unblocked Netflix US and other streaming platforms. Thus we can conclude that the OpenVPN app performance depends more on the VPN provider.
Torrenting and P2P
|Free SOCKS5 proxy||Yes||No|
|Split tunneling||Yes (Android, Windows)||No|
Torrenting is illegal in many countries around the globe due to its connection with digital piracy. Because of this, some VPNs restrict P2P traffic on their networks. However, not all P2P activities are copyright infringements. Therefore, a torrenting VPN is necessary to download files without issues with your ISP and government.
In addition to privacy, a VPN can also provide bonus features for improved performance and usability. For example, split tunneling allows you to customize the VPN connection on a per-app basis. Meanwhile, port forwarding ensures that you can maximize connection speeds and not get slowed down by firewalls.
NordVPN offers specialized P2P servers where torrenting is permitted and provides optimal connectivity. Additionally, split tunneling is available on Windows and Android devices. Unfortunately, port forwarding is absent.
OpenVPN Connect does not include any specialized features for torrenting. Thankfully, it does not restrict P2P traffic either. Ultimately, your performance will depend on the provider that you enable with the app.
|Works in China||Yes||Depends on provider|
|Stealth VPN||Obfuscated Servers||No|
|Tor over VPN||Onion over VPN||NO|
China and other authoritarian countries typically employ Deep Packet Inspection to block unauthorized VPN connections on the web. Thankfully, VPN providers have developed methods to mask their traffic and make it appear as regular online activity. Unsurprisingly, these methods aren’t 100% reliable, and not every provider is offering them.
With NordVPN, you have a few options for dealing with the Great Firewall of China. First, you can enable Obfuscated Servers. They’re not as fast as standard servers but are a reliable option in China. Alternatively, Onion over VPN is also viable if you’d prefer to circumvent blocks with the Tor Browser.
Once again, OpenVPN Connect doesn’t include any bonuses that alter the VPN connection and make it less distinguishable. However, you can use the app to facilitate a proxy connection, a viable alternative in China. Furthermore, the default OpenVPN tunneling protocol is rarely used for getting around online censorship. Instead, users need to employ proprietary technologies that the best VPNs for China offer.
Responsive customer support is crucial for dealing with potential issues that may arise while using a VPN. Thankfully, NordVPN has agents ready 24/7 via live chat. Alternatively, you can search for articles on its extensive support page or submit a ticket with a detailed description of your issue.
OpenVPN Inc. doesn’t offer a lot in terms of customer support. There’s a support center with various articles for specific products, and you can also submit a ticket. However, the absence of 24/7 live chat is a bit disappointing for such a company.
Best VPN by category
|Speed and servers||Wins✔️||Loses❌|
|Total wins||8 out of 9||1 out of 9|
NordVPN vs OpenVPN – which is better?
Comparing OpenVPN vs NordVPN is strange as the former is merely a conduit for VPN providers to utilize. Meanwhile, the latter is a top service provider that you can combine with OpenVPN Connect. There are scenarios where such a combination is necessary but keep in mind that you’re missing out on numerous benefits that way.
However, OpenVPN Connect is easy to use and is an excellent third-party VPN app if you’re looking for a hassle-free method of setting up a VPN connection in your office or at home.
How often do you use third-party VPN apps with OpenVPN configuration files? Share your experiences below!
Is OpenVPN free?
Yes, OpenVPN Connect is free to use if you follow the software license agreement. However, OpenVPN Inc.’s commercial products (OpenVPN Access Server and OpenVPN Cloud) aren’t free.
What is the fastest VPN tunneling protocol?
The fastest VPN tunneling protocol that’s open-source and widely available is WireGuard. It’s modern, lightweight, and is already implemented by a fair number of VPN service providers. Meanwhile, the fastest proprietary protocol is NordLynx, which is based in WireGuard and even faster than its predecessor.
Does NordVPN support WireGuard?
NordVPN supports NordLynx – a proprietary tunneling protocol that is based on WireGuard and has numerous security and performance improvements. It is arguably the fastest protocol available that isn’t used by any other VPN.
Ethan is a security researcher and digital privacy advocate. He spends his time unraveling various anonymity and security tools, plus contributing to open-source projects. Otherwise, he keeps a low profile by hiking or cycling around the countryside.