Getting started

Introduction to OpenVPN

OpenVPN is the name of the open source project started by James Yonan. He set out to create a protocol for a VPN tunnel program that would be secure, free, fast, and would work on standard TCP and UDP protocols on the Internet. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network which allows to create a network that exists purely in software to connect computers over real networks securely by encrypting all of the data that’s being transferred. The encryption is so strong that it is secure to use an OpenVPN tunnel over the public Internet and still be assured that nobody can intercept the data in the VPN tunnel.

Francis Dinha and James Yonan originally set up the company now known as OpenVPN Inc., and it currently has many employees working together with the open source community to create and maintain a VPN solution that can be used on a wide variety of devices and systems. The open source project still remains strong while OpenVPN Inc. is creating and offering business enterprise solutions based on the OpenVPN code, but expanded to include extra features, and is supported by a team of professionals around the world ready to answer your questions or assist with problems.

This website you are looking at now is created for the purpose of providing information and documentation to customers of our OpenVPN Access Server commercial product and its bundled OpenVPN Connect Client software.

Which version of OpenVPN to use

To make that decision it helps to know the general specifications of the available programs. Generally speaking there are two main branches: the commercial programs, and the open source programs. First we’ll describe our commercial offering, followed by a description of the open source program.

The OpenVPN Access Server product is a great way to easily set up a secure and easy to manage OpenVPN server and has a web based system to manage configuration, certificates, users, groups, and access control, and comes with professional support from the OpenVPN Inc. company itself. It is free to install and use for a maximum of 2 simultaneous VPN connections, so you can trial it without having to pay first. If you need more connections, you can purchase a license key from our website and activate it on your server, or use a licensed tiered instance on Amazon AWS which is billed directly through Amazon. The pricing structure is very clear and not the type of “request a quote” you see with many other programs, and can be found here on the pricing overview page. The Access Server must be installed on a Linux operating system, but this can be a virtual machine making it possible to install this on almost any host platform. While the Access Server program must be installed on a Linux operating system, the clients that can connect to it can be Windows machines, or Macintosh, Android, iOS, or almost any Linux system. With Access Server there’s a very clear separation of purpose; the OpenVPN Access Server runs as a server accepting incoming VPN connections. And OpenVPN Connect Client, or a compatible OpenVPN open source client, can start a connection to this server. For a list of known compatible devices and programs look at our compatibility guide (UNFINISHED MARKER).

To see which platforms the Access Server are usually deployed on (by no means a complete list) see the installation options page.

The OpenVPN open source project focuses on the core program and is available for many platforms. It can run as client or server on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. Configuration is done with text files with directives that tell the program what to do, and you have to manage certificates yourself. There is less of a distinction between server and client here; this just depends on what configuration directives you feed the program. If you tell it to be a server and accept incoming connections, it will do that. If you tell it to start a connection as a client connecting to an existing server elsewhere, then you can give it the configuration directives to do that, and it will do that. You’ll note that we didn’t mention iOS and Android in the list, but they are supported. On iOS and Android the same client apps available there that let you connect to an OpenVPN Access Server also work for connecting to an open source OpenVPN server. Likewise the open source OpenVPN program used as a client can make a connection to an OpenVPN Access Server as well, since they are compatible because they use the same standardized OpenVPN protocol.

There are a great many services and programs built on both our commercial OpenVPN Access Server product and the open source OpenVPN project. So many in fact that it is next to impossible to list them all. Our compatibility guide lists some of the more well known devices and programs. (UNFINISHED MARKER) This documentation website however focuses on the commercial OpenVPN Access Server program and client devices and programs compatible with it.