SSL VPN vs IPSec VPN: What Are the Differences?

VPNs are now so ubiquitous, you’ll find YouTube influencers singing their praises. It’s officially mainstream for non-tech people to use a VPN.

Virtual Private Networks’ ultimate purpose is to allow people outside of a network to have access to its resources. IPsec and SSL are the two most common VPN protocols used today. SSL VPNs are becoming more popular as a result of the widespread use of web-based applications and the migration of software platforms to the cloud, despite IPsec’s lengthy history in the field.

But, if you’re unfamiliar with the two types of VPNs, no worries. Keep on reading for our full breakdown of the SSL VPN vs IPSec debate.

The Basics of IPSec VPN

The need for distant users to connect to networks through the Internet without the need for highly costly dedicated lines led to the creation of IPsec.

To ensure the utmost safety, it employs encryption methods and, in certain situations, two-factor authentication (2FA). The typical configuration involves placing a VPN hardware device in front of the local network.

Then, any user who wants to use the VPN must install a little piece of software on their device. It’ll communicate with the VPN appliance, which encrypts and protects the data traveling via the tunnel it creates.

Keeping VPN client software up-to-date and operating on the correct version that the VPN equipment demands may be challenging for administrators. 


Similar to IPsec VPNs, you can access SSL VPNs (secure sockets layer) from anywhere with Internet access. The client computer doesn’t need to have any special software installed in order to use it. Rather, it runs via the browser (or another application layer protocol).

This simplifies everything considerably.

Most recent PCs come preloaded with at least one web browser that supports SSL. When an SSL/TLS VPN gateway is set up, you must configure it to receive traffic from behind a perimeter firewall. You won’t have to pay any license costs, and the server software will automatically update without any input from you.

As a result, this VPN solution is more cost effective and easier for the IT department to maintain.

SSL, which is incorporated in most up-to-date web browsers, handles the connection between the client and the VPN server.

SSL VPNs may restrict their tunneling to certain websites and services. So, they provide a more secure alternative in some scenarios. Since the user can only utilize the programs that are made available to them, it is much easier to control their access rights.

As more and more networks migrate to the cloud, where servers are software simulations rather than physical appliances, SSL VPNs are becoming more commonplace.

All of the applications in cloud networks can be accessed over the web. Thus, SSL VPNs function in the same way that IPsec VPNs do for traditional, on-premises networks. The user has the option of saving the document as a PDF, downloading it, and printing it from their own computer.

But, if you’re simply looking for a VPN for personal use, you can always filter by your key needs. For example, you can go for the best VPN for streaming if you want a VPN exclusively for streaming.

SSL VPN vs IPSec: Differences and Similarities

Whenever we compare VPNs, we’ll want to start with the OSI model layer.

One key distinction between SSL and IPsec is their respective OSI model layer placement. The OSI model is a conceptual framework for understanding the underlying “layers” and “processes” that enable the Internet to function.

Protocols of the IPsec suite are implemented at the OSI model’s network layer. It operates on top of the IP (the Internet Protocol) without any additional layers.


All IPsec VPN endpoints require client software. Users must log into and run this software to access the internet, data, and programs.

Today, every browser supports SSL (whereas most devices are not automatically configured to support IPsec VPNs). SSL VPNs let customers connect using a web browser instead of a VPN client software.

The VPN won’t protect your data if you don’t use a browser. 

Access Control and Security

Security rules that limit who may access what resources (data, tools, and programs) are collectively referred to as “access control.”

When done correctly, access control restricts access to private company information and the programs used to view and modify it to authorized users only. Since data inside a VPN is encrypted and inaccessible to anybody outside of the VPN, they are often used for access control.

In many big businesses, it is necessary to implement many tiers of security in order to ensure that employees at various levels of the company do not have access to the same information. IPsec VPNs transform every connected device into a full participant in the underlying network. Everything sent over the VPN may be seen by them.

Thus, IPsec VPN-using businesses need to set up and configure numerous VPNs to provide varying degrees of user access. In addition, several VPN connections may be required for certain users to carry out their duties.

Cloud Applications vs On-Premise

Traditional on-premise apps are hosted in an organization’s own data center or other internal infrastructure.

Since IPsec VPNs operate at the network layer, they are well suited for these applications since users may connect to them privately using their internal networks rather than the open Internet.

Cloud apps, often known as SaaS (Software as a Service) applications, are programs that can be accessed and used online. SSL VPNs interface with cloud-based services with little to no setup, whereas on-premise applications need more effort.

Understanding the World of VPNs

If you’re new to the wide world of VPNs, trying to find the right protocol for your needs can be overwhelming. 

We hope that our guide on SSL VPN vs IPSec has given you a solid starting point for your research. But, if you’re still feeling a bit shaky about the details, don’t worry about it.

You can head to our tech section to learn and read all the tips and advice on VPNs and so much more.