Advantages and Disadvantages of IPSec – A quick view

Advantages and Disadvantages of IPSec – A quick view

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In internet, data security is a major concern. Be it a simple email communication or website access, security comes first.

Usually, enabling VPN (Virtual Private Network) is one of the popular choices for network security. And, VPNs can be based on different protocols like PPTP, IPSec, OpenVPN, etc.

At 1 onlyhost, we often get requests from customers on choosing the best protocol for VPN as part of our VPN Provider Support Services.

Today, we’ll closely look at the advantages and disadvantages of IPSec and how our Support engineers guide customers in making the right choice.



Basic facts about IPSec

Firstly, let’s get a better idea on IPSec as such.

Internet Protocol Security aka IPSec is a secure network protocol suite that authenticate and encrypt data packets in internet. It has two important roles: Encryption and Authentication.

Again, IPSec can work in two modes — transport mode and tunnel mode.

In transport mode, IPSec encrypts traffic between two hosts. Here, there will be encryption only for the data packet and not the IP header.

However, in Tunnel mode, IPSec create virtual tunnels between two subnets. This mode encrypts the data as well as the IP header. That’s why, our Dedicated Engineers prefer Tunnel mode in most VPNs.

In simple words, IPSec offers higher security than old and vulnerable protocols like Point to Point protocol.

Even though, before deploying an IPsec based VPN, it’s worth taking a look at its advantages and disadvantages.


Advantages of IPSec

Now, let’s move on and discuss the typical advantages that our Support Engineers see for IPSec.


1. Network layer security

IPSec operates at layer 3, the network layer. As a result, it has no impact on higher network layer. In other words, one of the biggest advantage of IPSec is its transparency to applications. The end user need not have to bother about the IPSec or its configuration.

Additionally, as it works at the network layer, IPSec allows to monitor all the traffic that passes over the network. That’s why, our Support Engineers recommend IPsec-based VPNs for customers who need protection for all the traffic flowing in and out of the network.


2. Confidentiality

Similarly, the second advantage of IPSec is that it offers confidentiality. During any data exchange, IPSec uses public keys that helps to safely transfer confidential data. As a result, securing the keys ensure safe data transfer. Additionally, these keys helps to verify that the data has come from the correct host. Therefore, it becomes rather impossible to forge the data packets. That’s why, our Server Administrators always ensure security while sending the public keys.


3. Zero dependability on Application

As we already saw, IPSec security is implemented at the network layer. Thus, it do not depend on the applications used.

IPSec only requires modification to the operating system. As a result, IPsec-based VPNs do not need to worry about the type of application too. That’s not the case with SSL based VPNs, where it requires modification to individual applications. This is yet another reason for the popularity of IPSec.


Disadvantages of IPsec

Till now, we saw the top benefits of IPSec. Unfortunately, IPSec is not free from demerits too.

From our experience in managing VPN servers, our Support Engineers often stumble upon IPSec disadvantages too. Let’s take a look at them.


1. Wide access range

One of the greatest disadvantage of IPSec is its wide access range. Giving access to a single device in IPSec-based network, can give access privileges for other devices too.

For instance, imagine that you are connecting to a corporate network from your IPSec based home network. Here, if any of the computer in your home network has malware in it, it can easily spread to the computers in the corporate network.

Unless there are special security mechanisms, vulnerabilities that exist at the IP layer will pass on to the corporate network across the IPSec tunnel.


2. Compatibility issues

Secondly, IPSec brings in couple of compatibility issues with software too. This happens when software developers do not adhere to the standards of IPSec.

Similarly, when you are already on IPSec based VPN, connecting to another network will be rather impossible due to restrictions in firewalls.

Again, IPsec does not provide support for multi-protocol and IP multicast traffic.


3. CPU Overhead

Unfortunately, IPSec is well known for the high CPU usage. It requires quite a bit of processing power to encrypt and decrypt all the data that passes through the server. When the data packet size is small, the performance of the network diminishes due to large overhead used by IPsec. That’s why, our Support Engineers stay away from IPSec based VPN’s in scenarios where there is only small size data transfer.


4. Broken Algorithms

Again, security of certain algorithms used in IPSec is a concern. If, someone uses these broken algorithms, server will be at a greater risk of hack. Luckily, there are readily available newer and complex algorithms that overcome the known vulnerabilities. To avoid the hacking risk, when using IPSec, our Support Engineers always ensure the use of latest algorithms.

[Need help in choosing the right VPN protocol? We can help you.]



In short, it is possible to guarantee the highest levels of privacy by using security and encryption features in IPSec. Today, we saw the advantages and disadvantages of IPSec protocol. Also, we discussed how our Support Engineers help customers in choosing the right VPN protocol.

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