Secure Network Communications Revealed- IPSec vs. OpenVPN


In the modern landscape of interconnectedness, safeguarding network communications has become a paramount concern, particularly in the realm of IoT and M2M. In this era where every data exchange demands unwavering security, two titans of the VPN world step forward, namely IPSec and OpenVPN. These protocols stand as stalwarts of privacy and protection, but what sets them apart?

Decoding IPSec- A Fortress of Internet Protocol Security

Originating from the urgent need for impervious communications across IP networks, IPSec has maintained its relevance over decades due to its robust and multifaceted design. At its core, IPSec relies on two indispensable components: Authentication Header (AH) and Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP). AH orchestrates packet integrity and authentication, while ESP takes the reins of encryption for data confidentiality.

IPSec manoeuvres through two distinct modes

1. Transport Mode : This mode encrypts solely the payload and ESP trailer, leaving the rest of the packet untouched.

2. Tunnel Mode : The entire IP packet is encrypted, encapsulating the original packet within a new one.

Complementing its capabilities, the Internet Key Exchange (IKE) protocol ensures the secure exchange of keys between communicating peers. Enterprises with intricate IP architectures favour IPSec for its seamless integration and interoperability.

Unveiling OpenVPN

OpenVPN, the relatively newer contender, has rapidly gained ground due to its remarkable versatility. Designed for compatibility across major operating systems, OpenVPN even has the prowess to manoeuvre through firewalls, which often vexes other protocols.

The SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocols underpin OpenVPN’s functionality, ensuring encrypted communication pathways. OpenVPN offers two distinct modes-

1. Routed Mode : This mode leverages a new subnet and IP range, streamlining the integration process.

2. Bridged Mode : This mode creates the illusion of devices existing within the same local network by bridging two networks.


OpenVPN excels in scenarios necessitating remote access, such as VPN services and enabling remote worker connections. Its adaptability and compatibility shine through in these contexts.

Deciphering the Distinctions

While both IPSec and OpenVPN guarantee robust security, their mechanics differ under the hood. IPSec boasts superior speed but can prove cumbersome when grappling with compatibility and intricate configurations. On the other hand, although slightly slower due to TLS overhead, OpenVPN offers a streamlined setup process and exceptional capabilities for traversing firewalls.

In key management, IPSec’s IKE mechanism might appear intricate, yet its security is unmatched. OpenVPN, rooted in SSL/TLS foundations, embraces a more accessible approach, balancing security and simplicity. Furthermore, OpenVPN’s operational modes cater to diverse network scenarios, granting it enhanced adaptability compared to IPSec.

Advantages and Disadvantages of IPSec and OpenVPN

IPSec :

Advantages– Boasts superior speed, robust security and is well-suited for large-scale networks.

Disadvantages– Configuration challenges, potential compatibility issues, and occasional struggles with specific firewall traversals.

OpenVPN :

Advantages– High compatibility, adept firewall traversal, adaptability across scenarios, and relatively straightforward setup.

Disadvantages– Slightly slower due to encryption overhead compared to IPSec.

Key Considerations when Choosing IPSec or OpenVPN


The nature of your network environment often dictates the choice between IPSec and OpenVPN. IPSec might emerge as the preferred option for expansive enterprise networks with extensive IP setups. Conversely, OpenVPN’s flexibility could offer a better fit in dynamic scenarios involving diverse devices and remote access requirements.

The technical expertise of your network administrators also weighs heavily. If your team understands VPN intricacies in-depth, IPSec’s complexities might not be a deterrent. However, OpenVPN is a more favourable choice for teams seeking a smoother learning curve.

The emergence of hybrid approaches, amalgamating IPSec and OpenVPN in diverse network segments, presents a comprehensive solution ensuring holistic coverage.

Real-World Applications in IoT M2M

Consider a smart city IoT setup brimming with thousands of sensors. IPSec could seamlessly facilitate the relay of substantial data batches between major hubs, capitalising on its speed and efficiency.

In contrast, visualise a scenario involving globally dispersed remote monitoring devices, each necessitating individualised access. Here, OpenVPN’s adaptability steps into the spotlight, offering a tailored solution.

The protocol choice carries significant weight in the intricate world of IoT M2M, where security is paramount due to the multitude of devices. Hardware requisites, software intricacies, and security vulnerabilities will differ, but the ultimate goal remains constant- establishing seamless, secure communication channels.

The Choice Ahead

Ultimately, whether your allegiance leans toward IPSec or OpenVPN, the crux lies in catering to specific network requirements, ensuring scalability, security, and operational efficiency in the ever-evolving digital landscape.  In today’s world of technology, it’s crucial to prioritise secure communication. Choosing a protocol that works well with the current network architecture is vital. It’s essential to select a protocol that’s appropriate for the intended purpose and maintains the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of communication. Therefore, it’s important to conduct a thorough assessment and evaluation of the available protocols to make an informed decision. By doing so, we can ensure that communication is secure and protected from unauthorised access or interference.

Get started now with our M2M SIM plan for IoT connectivity

Our exceptional M2M connectivity solutions are backed by over 30 years of experience in telecommunications. Our transparent and easy-to-use IoT solutions are available across Europe, North America and beyond without incurring any additional roaming fees.


per SIM / month