Who is still using a regular internet connection these days? You do? Well, don’t be discouraged about this. Most people are blissfully unaware of their capabilities when it comes to modifying their internet connections for more security, privacy, or empowerment.
However, if you really want to hide your online activities or geo-unblock blocked content, there are several options on offer that might confuse newbies a little. Terms like “VPN” and “Smart DNS” are used with little enthusiasm.
These technologies have some physical similarities, but they work in different ways. If you end up using the wrong technology for your needs, this can have serious consequences. So, let’s dispel the myths about acronyms and resolve any doubts you might have. If you want to know the difference between VPN and Smart DNS, you will profit immediately!
Smart DNS and VPN Services – The Basics
VPN is an abbreviation for Virtual Private Network . It is a technology that creates a secure “tunnel” over the Internet. Connecting two computers as if they were on the same local network. This is very different from how the Internet normally works.
Internet technology transmits data in the form of “packets” that are then sent through the millions of interconnected computers that make up the Internet. Therefore, if you email someone a picture, it is split into these packages before being sent. It doesn’t matter if the packets arrive out of order, they collect perfectly at the other end.
However, on their way to their destination, each computer they passed through can clearly see where the packet is going and where it came from. If the packet is not encrypted, they might even see its contents! Fortunately, HTTPS encryption technology has become almost universal now, and this is a rare situation.
What does it mean? First, it means that your ISP can see exactly which websites you visit, just like anyone else who sends those packages to their destination. The recipient of the packets, which is usually the destination server, can also clearly see your location, along with a list of other facts about your device and Internet connection.
The VPN service includes all information coming from your device with an extra layer of encryption. This means that all anyone monitoring your internet connection can know is that you are connected to a VPN service. They don’t even know what you are doing online.
Smart DNS is another matter entirely. It is short for Domain Name System . It is a service that takes a simple website address and translates it to the specific IP address of the server you need to connect to.
Typically your ISP will be the default DNS provider, but you can specify your own preferred DNS service. Google has a popular service that people love because of how fast and reliable it is.
SmartDNS can be used to mask your IP address so that it appears to the receiving server as if you are somewhere other than your real location. The smart bit refers to the fact that Smart DNS can be selective. This way it will only mask your location for a specific list of websites. Leaving sites you not want to hide will not affect your location.
How are VPN and Smart DNS similar
While the technologies are very different, from a user perspective, VPN and Smart DNS technologies have some similarities when it comes to what you can do with them. In particular, you can use both technologies to make a site or service think that you are in a different location.
This allows you to bypass geo-blocking, for example when someone made a video available only to people living in a certain part of the world.
This works with VPN because the VPN server you’re connected to sees the target site. If this server is located in the USA, then you are also located in the USA. Most VPN services allow you to choose exactly where your VPN server should be located, which allows you to choose the region for your appearance.
SmartDNS selectively intercepts traffic to a list of websites that you want to spoof into thinking you are somewhere else. It then gives the impression that you are in your chosen region.
This is where these technologies are similar. However, the list of differences is much longer.
Important Differences Between VPN and Smart DNS Services
The important differences between VPNs and Smart DNS services
The first and most important difference you should be aware of is that Smart DNS does not provide any privacy protection that a VPN does. Your web traffic does not have additional encryption, and your ISP and everyone they work with can easily see what you are doing.
The sole purpose of Smart DNS is to spoof your location for very specific websites. So, you can imagine it would be a bad idea to use it on public Wi-Fi or when visiting sites that you don’t want other people to know about.
So why use Smart DNS? Well, that brings us to another important set of differences. Smart DNS will work at the router level (covering all connected devices) on any router, allowing you to specify which DNS you want to use. That should be everything.
VPN, on the other hand, only works on dedicated routers that the VPN client software can run on. If you don’t have one of these routers, you’ll have to run the VPN software on each device individually, which isn’t always possible for devices like game consoles or Apple TVs.
Smart DNS also has little effect on connection performance. Passing all of your internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel can cause performance degradation and congestion if many other people are using this particular server at the time. Smart DNS does none of this, so there shouldn’t be any noticeable performance issues.
The bottom line
If all you need is to spoof your location for a specific list of services, then Smart DNS is a great choice. They’re usually cheaper than VPNs, easier to set up, and don’t require special hardware if you want to reach your entire family.
VPNs are some of the most reliable privacy protection tools you can get. If you want a complete privacy package with location spoofing as an added bonus, this is a good choice. However, excluding something from the VPN requires a feature known as split tunneling, which can be difficult to configure.
They need the aforementioned high-performance routers to reach their home with a single VPN connection, and most VPNs are blocked by streaming providers these days. That is, unless you pay a VPN private IP surcharge, that gets around this issue.
That’s all you need to know to make an informed decision between VPN or Smart DNS. Both are great tools when used for their intended purpose, but as you can see, they are completely different technologies!