TCP vs UDP :- What’s the Difference ?
Are you a VPN user?
If the answer is yes, then you must be looking for a suggestion to choose between TCP and UDP protocol, the good news is you are in the right place, and after reading this analysis, you will get rid of all your confusion.
Before starting the discussion first, I want to tell you why you need to know about these two protocols and why this matters!
Say you are using a VPN to safeguard your online activity and privacy or maybe to protect your confidential information about your business or research. Do you want to sleep without a headache?
Then VPN can be the solution. However, sometimes you may face some speed issues.
Here come our two prime issues TCP and UDP. Both of the protocols used for passing data through the web, but you may not know that they work in totally separate ways and that can affect your internet experience.
Are you interested in gathering more knowledge about them?
Yeah, I will describe them below and show a comparison between TCP vs UDP to eradicate your dilemma.
What is TCP?
TCP is used by the users who need a trustful connection such as internet providers or VPN vendors. The full form is Transmission Control Protocol, and sometimes it is called as Stateful Protocol.
TCP protocol used to send internet traffic to the destination point, but it does not maintain a super high speed.
Do you know the reason?
Suppose you want to send a data to a specific server and TCP is the protocol here to pass your data through the web. Now TCP will send your data to the destination, and if the data is somehow lost on the path and do not succeed to reach the final server, then TCP will send the same data packet again.
First of all, you need to know that, TCP breaks your data into packets before transferring them and it waits for a confirmation signal before sending the next packet.
Now you will understand how this protocol ensures the proper transferring of user's data over the internet.
If the TCP do not get any confirmation signal, then it assumes that the data packets had not arrived at the destination point and that’s why it resends the same packet again.
That’s great because this working method will make your internet connection more stable as well as reliable.
There are some other benefits of using a TCP protocol such as it sends all the data packets in right order also it discards the extra data packets before reaching the final point. Suppose in the path if one packet becomes twice TCP will remove the 2nd one and transfer only one.
TCP ensures the reliability, and that’s why it is used by the businesses like VPN vendors and ISP. Hence, there is a disadvantage that can affect your connection speed badly.
TCP protocol reduces connection speed at a great instant; there are mainly two reasons behind this problem.
First of all, this protocol waits for the confirmation, and that’s why it spends some valuable time.
Another reason is, the protocol resend all lost data packets, and those packets travel more path than a usual data does, and it makes the connection speed slower.
What is UDP?
UDP is often called by Stateless Protocol, and the full form is the User Diagram Protocol. Unlike TCP, UDP protocol transfer data without waiting for any confirmation signal.
That means it passes all data one by one and the data travels through various servers on its way and sometimes it is lost and can’t able to reach the final point.
You must be thinking, then what is the use of this protocol?
Even it is unreliable compared to the TCP still it can serve you with high speed.
Since a UDP protocol does not wait for any confirmation signal nor resend any data it sends the traffic at a less time than TCP.
If your data lost while transferring and you are using a UDP connection, then it may not be a huge concern for you if you don’t require a reliable connection. Like you can merely use UDP protocol for watching videos online or for video chatting and so on.
UDP offers simple features to the users, yet it is faster than TCP protocol. You can say that it is the prime reason why people prefer UDP over TCP.
UDP protocol provides a thin layer of protection over your IP address and sends the data one by one to the destination server.
Since it is an unreliable protocol, generally 1 to 5 percent of the data get lost on the path, and there are times when 0 percent data will reach the final point.
UDP protocol also does not provide any guarantee of the ordering of the data, this protocol does not reorganize the disordered data, and most of the time the receiver gets random data.
UDP offers 16-bit checksum function which is an algorithm to find out the errors and also verify the data integrity.
You must be thinking; then this may be an advantage, right?
It might become an advantage if it is not a 16-bit checksum which is useless. When data is traveling at a fast speed, you cannot trust a 16-bit checksum. You should include your checksum because you cannot depend on this default checksum since it does not provide the required protection.
Cases where you should not use a TCP Protocol:
TCP and UDP protocols do a similar task, but in different mechanisms where TCP is the most reliable protocol that makes sure your data reaches its destination.
While transferring data TCP breaks the data into Packets and sends it to the machine which is on the other terminal. It can be a big problem for those who play multiplayer or real-time games.
When TCP find out that enough data is pending in the queue, it breaks them into packets and then releases. If somehow it receives small data it may wait for more data to come in the queue to make a packet.
Suppose you got into this situation while playing a real-time game, where you will need to input data as fast as possible, but you just cannot do this because of the TCP’s pending issue.
You can solve this issue with the NoDelay feature that makes TCP release all data without waiting for a specific time.
Now you can play multiplayer games with a reliable protocol, right?
The answer is NO, you still can’t play real-time or multiplayer games with a TCP mechanism because NoDelay feature only solves the delay issue of the pending data at the start. But it doesn’t change the working method of the TCP protocol.
TCP makes sure the arrival of the data packs and also it can maintain the order of the packets.
When any data duplicated itself, TCP discards the extra one and gives you a perfect reliable facility. That’s the benefit of a TCP protocol, but this benefit is the most significant disadvantage for the real-time gamers.
In this mechanism, data packs take extra time while completing all the checks and the connection becomes slow.
This is not a superior connection speed for the multiplayer gamers, and it becomes a miserable experience for them.
The main point is you should avoid using TCP where you need a fast speed, whether is it for real-time games or other means.
TCP and UDP Comparison:
When we decide to buy anything, we always look for reliable products, and in case of TCP and UDP protocols, TCP wins the reliability round.
With a TCP protocol, you can stay relaxed because you know the traffic will reach the destination terminal for sure and if it's not the case, the protocol will send another packet until it succeeds.
Unfortunately, a UDP protocol does not have any re sending technic and unable to ensure the transit of the data, the traffic passes a lot of servers at the time of transit, and this thing boosts the possibility of data loss. You can do nothing with a UDP protocol to recover your data.
Accessing the web with a poor connection speed is the most irritating thing for the users. In some cases you may require a high speed, now between this two protocol, UDP wins the challenge of providing better connection speed.
UDP does not waste time by checking the order of the packets nor by re-sending any lost data, so it does not take any additional time by doing any measurement.
UDP gets the data and sends it to the line that allows you to access the internet with super fast speed.
UDP offers the data boundary to the users, and you know that it transfer traffic individually, not in packets. The data are checked after it arrives at the final terminal, not before it.
However, the way of TCP is different, it converts all data into a byte stream and then sends them in the line. It does not have a specific segment boundary when enough amount of data is present, it breaks them into packets and releases them to the line.
This working method of TCP ensures the optimum use of bandwidth, but here TCP doesn’t offer any data Boundary.
If we consider the data boundary matter the winner is UDP and if we consider the bandwidth usage the winner is TCP.
UDP does not offer any flow control, but TCP does, in a TCP connection, it needs a socket connection consists of 3 data pack. This socket is a must thing to send a data packet using TCP.
If you want a better congestion control, then you must go for the TCP which offers you a quality service in this matter.
So for both flow control and congestion control TCP is the Winner.
What did you get by reading this comparison?
TCP is the winner because it gets more winning percentage than UDP. Yes, it is better in many cases and offers various features, but unfortunately, all these factors do not make this protocol the overall winner.
What if you don’t need those features and only prefer the speed? Or what if you need both?
The answer is critical, but still, we have a solution.
Can we use them both?
If you are thinking about combing these two protocols and utilize them like some other VPN protocols which can be used together for better performance, then you must know that’s not going to happen.
It's complex to mix both of the protocol, and if we do so one protocol will interrupt the other one, and the control will be unbalanced.
There is great news. Also, you cannot mix those protocols, but you can enjoy features of both protocols together.
With a switching function, you can enjoy all benefits of TCP and UDP, some popular VPN providers and some other services offer this feature where you can get all facilities.
Most of the time the VPNs do not allow users to choose between TCP or UDP, but in case you have to choose one of them you can follow the suggestions below.
The final Decision:
Choosing the right one between the TCP and UDP protocol depends on your preference.
For corporate users TCP is the best option, you have to handle and share sensitive data for official matters, and you shouldn't compromise with the reliability.
If you stream a lot or play games without any doubt, you can select the UDP protocol that will offer you the best experience in gaming.
If you need to get rid of any censorship restrictions, you can use an OpenVPN with the TCP protocol to get the best security with the perfect reliability.
For banks and online shopping sites, TCP is the best option. Hence, for broadcasting you cannot use a TCP and can’t even for video chatting, so for this type of situations go for the UDP protocol.
The overall concept of this article is, you should use a TCP protocol if you are looking for a guarantee of reliability and not for connection speed. On the other hand, for a faster connection and fun experience, you should pick the UDP protocol.
We are a group of Technical experts who are very much concerned about Online Privacy. Every review that we write is the result of multiple testing on various devices. We verify the locations and the server that provides the IP and check whether it is safe to work with or not.
Really nice and informative article. Glad that I found this. I now know the difference between TCP and UDP and how those works. Thanks once again.