Getting started with OpenVPN products

Introduction to OpenVPN

James Yonan started the OpenVPN open source project in 2001, and released the first open source version of OpenVPN in 2002.  James set out to create a protocol for a virtual private network (VPN) tunnel program that would be secure, free, fast, and work on standard TCP and UDP protocols across the internet. With OpenVPN, you can create a virtual network that securely connects computers over existing networks by encrypting all of the data in transit. This encryption ensures that you can use an OpenVPN tunnel over the public internet and no one can intercept the data in the tunnel.

Francis Dinha and James Yonan co-founded the OpenVPN, Inc. company. Today’s OpenVPN team is made up of a global workforce 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. provides business enterprise solutions based on the OpenVPN code. OpenVPN Connect, OpenVPN Access Server, and OpenVPN Cloud are the commercial products that include extra features and are supported by a team of professionals around the world, ready to answer your questions or assist with problems.

Which OpenVPN product to use

OpenVPN Access Server

OpenVPN Access Server gives you full control of your OpenVPN self-hosted solution with software you install on your server. Access Server is built around the open source OpenVPN core and simplifies the rapid deployment of your VPN. It includes a powerful, easy-to-use Admin Web UI that makes it easy for you to manage and configure everything — with or without Linux knowledge. Admins can configure certificates, users, groups, and access control. Additionally, OpenVPN Inc. provides professional support for Access Server.

Access Server is free to install and use for a maximum of two simultaneous VPN connections, so you can trial the full feature set without having to pay up front. When you’re ready to connect more users, you can purchase a subscription from our website and activate it on your server. You can also purchase a licensed tiered instance on Amazon AWS, which is billed directly through Amazon. We provide clear details about costs on the pricing overview page.

It is important to note that Access Server must be installed on a Linux operating system. However,  the Linux server can be a virtual machine, which makes it possible to install Access Server on almost any host platform, including Windows Server (through HyperV virtualization).

While Access Server must be installed on a Linux operating system, your users can connect with the OpenVPN Connect app, which has clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and almost any Linux system. You can connect your team with pre-configured clients directly from your Access Server portal.

With Access Server there’s a very clear separation of purpose: the OpenVPN Access Server runs as a server accepting incoming VPN connections; OpenVPN Connect — or a compatible OpenVPN open source client — can start a connection to this Access Server. For detailed information about system requirements, refer to OpenVPN Access Server System Requirements.

To launch OpenVPN Access Server you can follow the quick start guides found on the installation options page, or download the software for the platform of your choice from the download OpenVPN page.

OpenVPN Cloud

You can utilize our next-gen OpenVPN Cloud to launch OpenVPN-as-a-service. OpenVPN Cloud eliminates the need for installing physical or virtual VPN servers. You simply connect to our hosted service with regions around the globe. OpenVPN Cloud provides secure networking over the internet between your private networks and remote users in a “private network in the cloud.” Our customers use OpenVPN Cloud to create worldwide access and full-mesh connectivity to on-premise or IaaS private cloud networks. From the OpenVPN Cloud portal, administrators can manage networks, hosts, users, and other access settings.

OpenVPN Cloud is free to install and use for a maximum of three simultaneous VPN connections, so you can trial the full feature set without having to pay up front. When you’re ready to connect more users, you can purchase a subscription from our website and activate it in the administration portal.

You can connect to your OpenVPN Cloud network with the OpenVPN Connect app, which has clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and almost any Linux system. You can connect your team and networks with pre-configured clients directly from your OpenVPN Cloud administration portal.

To get started, create a free online account for Cloud and start testing.

OpenVPN Community Edition

OpenVPN Community Edition is an open source project that focuses on the core OpenVPN program, which is available for many platforms. Community Edition is a powerful tool for VPN connectivity, but it requires some knowledge for you to get started.

Community Edition can run as a client or server on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Its configuration requires 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; it mostly 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.

While iOS and Android aren’t listed as being supported, the same client apps that are available for connecting to an OpenVPN Access Server also work for connecting to most OpenVPN Community Edition servers. Likewise, when used as a client, the open source OpenVPN program can make a connection to an OpenVPN Access Server because they use the same standardized OpenVPN protocol.

If you’d like to understand more of the differences in detail, we’ve provided a comparison of OpenVPN Access Server and OpenVPN Community Edition: Comparing OpenVPN Access Server with OpenVPN Community Edition.