Virtual Private Network (VPN) is no longer seen as a luxury or a secret tool. It’s widely used among internet users. One of the common reasons for its increased global usage is because it helps bypass regional censorship and helps to access geo-blocked websites and services.

Also, the recent 2018 Statista report shows 26% of internet users use a VPN or proxy server. Among the regions, Asia Pacific ranks first.

vpn tunnel explained
The above chart gives an idea of how popular a VPN is in today’s date. Many use VPNs but are still not aware of its actual tunnelling process.

Here, we will explore what tunneling is in regard to VPNs and how it extends its private network services across the internet to make a user safe and anonymous while browsing the Internet.

What Is VPN Tunnelling?

Whenever you connect to the Internet using a VPN, it establishes a connection between you and the Internet. And, all the data sent by your device to an unsafe public network is surrounded by a two-fold process called encryption and encapsulation.

Here, the process of data encryption and data encapsulation works like a tunnel between your device and the destination server of the VPN you are connected to.

Data Encapsulation

Encapsulation of data is the process of combining data and functions within a single unit to hide it from others, like an outer tunnel-like structure. Here, it’s the data sent by your device. For instance, it is like putting a letter inside an envelope before posting it.

Data Encryption

No doubt, encapsulation does hide the data you sent from others. But it’s not enough and to make the data more secure, encryption is also used, which ciphers it into an unreadable format. Later on, it’s decrypted at the connected VPN server.

Hence, this VPN tunneling concept encapsulates and offers encryption as another layer to the data. So it can be carried safely through the non-secure internet.

In other words, a VPN tunnel is a combination of encryption and encapsulation that works as a secure tunnel between the user’s device and the Internet. All the data sent by the user travels through this tunnel. Here, the protected data includes all your browsing history, chatting and other internet traffic from all the sources who can trace you. For instance, the government, ISP (internet service provider) and anyone who tries to monitor your activity.

VPN tunnel, in a real-life example, is quite similar to moving physical cash from one place to another securely in a vehicle guarded by armored security through a public highway. Here, the cash is your data. The public highway is the Internet, a non-secure public network and the vehicle, along with armored security, is analogous to a VPN tunnel (offering encryption and data encapsulation).

Even if dangerous gangsters and skilled criminals get to know about the transfer of money, they can’t do anything about it. Here, two levels are offered – encapsulation disguises the vehicle in which the cash is kept in such a way that no one can recognize it. Encryption ensures that even if someone recognizes the vehicle, they can’t reach it.

Does a VPN Tunnel Keep the Data Encrypted Until It Reaches its Destination?

Data remains encrypted until it reaches the VPN server. Once it reaches there, it’s decrypted and sent to the recipient like a website or an email server.

However, the level of encryption provided by the VPN tunnel depends on the tunneling protocol used for encapsulating and encrypting the data. Many VPN tunneling protocols are offered. Some commonly used protocols in the VPN industry are PPTP, IPSec, OpenVPN, SSTP, IKEv2, and L2TP.

Common Things Users Must Be Aware of VPN Tunnelling Protocols

Today’s VPN providers generally offer multiple VPN tunneling protocols, which is beneficial to the users, as they get a chance to select a protocol of their choice. Some of the key questions every user must ask before choosing a tunneling protocol are:

  • What’s the speed?
  • Is it secured?
  • Does it bypass censorship easily?
  • How easy it’s to access and use it?
It’s important to ask these questions as you should also have good information regarding the available tunneling protocols so that you can make a better decision.

Which VPN Tunnelling Protocols to Use and Which to Avoid?

OpenVPN is one of the highly recommended open-source VPN protocols which offers strong encryption and an ability to bypass firewalls. It’s one of the best VPN tunneling protocols which keeps your internet surfing experience smooth without any security glitch. However, it requires third-party software as it’s not available on all the operating systems.

On the other hand, L2TP/IPSec offers 256-bit encryption, but it’s slower and struggles with firewalls. The secured VPN tunneling protocol, SSTP is only available on Microsoft Windows. Lastly, PPTP is an insecure and outdated protocol that must be avoided.

Furthermore, VPN providers offer single or multi-protocols. Here, single protocol VPNs are generally the ones that offer only one type of protocol, mostly the OpenVPN protocol. And, multi-protocol VPN providers support a combination of more than one protocols, useful for both regular internet users and business organizations.