IPSec or SSL VPNs? Choosing The Right Virtual Private Network

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April 4, 2017 Networking Blog Articles

Every company should be familiar with virtual private networks (VPNs). By employing encryption, VPNs give companies the ability to transfer critical information securely across public networks. VPNs also unite remote employees and offices over one common, secured connection.

But when it comes to choosing which VPN is right for you, the debate arises: IPSec or SSL?



Internet Protocol security (IPSec) is an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard suite of protocols providing private, secure communications across networks.

IPSec provides:

  • Data authentication;
  • Data confidentiality;
  • And data integrity

to prevent:

  • Denial of service (DOS) attacks
  • Network-based attacks
  • Data corruption
  • Data theft

IPsec gives access to an entire subnet on the network, and since it is applied transparently to applications, you don’t need to deal with messy security configurations for each application.



While an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) VPN also provides data security to prevent the same concerns as IPSec, SSL is specifically designed for web applications.

Unlike IPSec, SSL provides granular access control of your applications, and does not require the installation of specialized client software to use. As a result, it’s also typically considered to be a cheaper solution, and one that is simpler to configure and implement.


IPSec or SSL, Which Is Right For You?

Nowadays, SSL’s are becoming increasingly popular compared to IPSec’s for a number of reasons. First and foremost, IPSec has become somewhat infamous for administrative headaches and costliness. Some users also find it concerning that IPSec doesn’t provide granular access security, meaning that once a user has access to the VPN, that user has complete access to corporate resources.

Despite these issues, IPSec is known for providing always-on connectivity and giving users just about every tool in the shed. While this might be overkill for the average user, the experience IT guru with needs beyond Web apps could find IPSec to be more ideal than SSL. By working at the network layer (layer 3 of the OSI model), IPSec’s are also application agnostic, meaning that they IPSec can support many legacy protocols and traditional client/server applications. Since SSL’s are built around Web apps, they don’t have this same functionality.

On the other hand, SSL’s tend to boast a smaller price tag since companies don’t need licenses for client software, since SSL is a common protocol and most web browers already have SSL capabilities built-in. Another huge plus is that SSL’s do provide granular access control, including specific authentication parameters for particular user populations. With built-in logging and auditing capabilities, compliance requirements might also be better met through SSL than IPSec.

In summary, IPSec’s can be ideal for:

  • Legacy protocols
  • Always-on connectivity
  • Permanent connections between locations
  • Organizations that need more than just web apps

Meanwhile, SSL can be ideal for:

  • Granular security
  • Security policy enforcement
  • Meeting regulatory compliance
  • Companies just dealing with web apps
  • Reducing VPN total cost of ownership (TCO)


For more information on how to keep your data secure in transit and at rest, contact us today at 317-707-3941.

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