While they might sound similar, it’s important to consider the differences between a VPS vs VPN. In fact, aside from both having the word “virtual” in their names, they don’t have much in common. One is a dedicated operating system hosted offline and offered as a service, and the other is a network of dedicated servers that facilitate the use of the Internet.
- A VPS is a computer
- A VPN is a service
As a business owner, it can be difficult to know what you need. You know you need a website and a hosting service, but from there it can get confusing. But think of the value of what both services communicate: privacy.
This article will explain the differences between VPN and VPS to help you make a more educated decision.
What is a VPN?
While websites offer secure connections, Internet traffic is basically unsecured and can be tracked. When you visit a secure website, any data you exchange passes over a connection that has been encrypted by additional software. However, basic web surfing from page to page is visible on the public web. This does not mean you can be easily identified personally, this exchange of information is passed along via IP addresses controlled by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). However, an IP address can give away a lot of public data.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a network of dedicated servers, which run a VPN service to create a private “tunnel” for Internet browsing. The VPN service then makes a secure internet connection available through that infrastructure. This is good for maintaining integrity in business communications or for managing anonymity when surfing the web. If you are looking for a safe and easy way to encrypt your Internet usage, then a VPN is for you.
These anonymous, secure connections to the internet help keep users’ sessions safe from hacking by routing traffic through a server in a remote site. This can conceal the location, IP address, and online activity of the user. In effect, this routing is “obfuscating” Internet traffic.
In addition, data is usually encrypted so if any information is breached, the culprit won’t be able to read it. It is worth noting that although the market is flooded with providers offering free VPN services, these options are often unreliable and slow. This is definitely an instance in which it is worth spending a little money. What you end up with will most likely be a better performing product, and an easier configuration.
How does a VPN work?
As an internet user, you start the VPN software using your VPN service. The software immediately encrypts your data, before it even heads to the VPN server. Once it’s ready to go, traffic is sent to the VPN server and then on to your online destination. The destination sees the information as coming from the VPN server and its location – not your computer and your location.
For the most user-friendly option, you will need to install some additional software, compatible with Windows, Mac, or Linux, provided by the VPN service or your IT coordinator. The same software can also be installed on a smartphone or tablet. However, some VPN services can be used right from your browser. For more advanced usage, there are open source software solutions like OpenVPN that can be installed on a private network.
Why use a VPN?
If you want to browse the internet securely and anonymously, maintain privacy, and avoid Internet censorship, a VPN can help you accomplish that goal bit by private bit. Also, most VPN services come with an easy, convenient cross-platform app you can use to route your traffic through different servers across the world.
Many users are similar with “incognito” mode in their browser, which allows them to use the Internet without saving any remote content or searches. However, the browser software reminds you, this does not mean your usage is hidden from your employer or ISP or offering any protection against your data being intercepted. For one reason or another, some users may not want a log of their Internet activity visible to prying eyes or third-parties.
It doesn’t matter if you’re logging on from major airports or the local coffee shop, or checking banking information on public Wi-Fi, a VPN will mask your location and hide your actual IP address, making it very difficult for hackers to track and steal your private information. This is excellent for people who travel a lot, work remotely, or take client meetings in public locations. Easily and freely communicate anywhere with a VPN, and it’s like you are always in the same location.
A VPN provider can be located in any continent or country. This means you can connect to a VPN in Great Britain, USA, Canada, or virtually any applicable country. Most hosted VPN services have locations in multiple countries to facilitate this. Thus, a VPN can bypass regional restrictions on content, social media, streaming services, or other geographically restricted assets that are blocked in your country. The benefit of breaking geo boundaries can be massive if you travel frequently or want to prevent price discrimination based on your actual location.
A VPN can help anyone in any country participate as citizens of the free Internet by encrypting search, protecting information, and making it easy.
However, while a VPN sounds like a great idea for securing your Internet activity and protecting business secrets, it does not protect your computer from malicious software, or “malware”. It is still up to you to use the Internet responsibly and only deal with reputable websites. Advanced users should also be concerned with “DNS leaks”. The first hop onto the Internet often starts with the ISP. Your personal DNS configuration can be configured to hop from a different IP address.
It should be noted also, that the identity-blocking software of a VPN is nullified if you log into personal accounts, such as a Gmail account. This login is linked to you personally, and Google can still see what services you use and monitor how you are using the software. This is important because many VPN service providers promises to block your online activity. This is not entirely true. If you interact with hosted services like social media, video streaming, or any service that is linked to a personal account, your activity is still available to those hosted services.
Why Should I Not Use a VPN?
While a VPN can be a useful tool for protecting your online privacy and enhancing security, it is not without its downsides. One major drawback is the increased amount of data usage that comes along with using a VPN. This can lead to significant costs if you are on a limited data plan, or it could even slow down your overall connection speed if you are on a shared network. Additionally, many VPNs require an ongoing subscription fee, which can be difficult to justify when there are cheaper and more effective options available. Finally, VPNs can actually make your data less secure by creating new vulnerabilities in the system. Overall, while there may be some legitimate use cases for a VPN, it is not always the best choice when it comes to protecting your online privacy or staying safe online.
What is a VPS?
A virtual private server (VPS) is a computer, much like the one you use at home. You can install and run various types of software, just like your computer. A VPS is used primary to host websites and provide a reliable hosting solution for apps and other services. Configure it the way you want, a VPS lets you do whatever you need it to do.
The benefits of a VPS are many, but chief among them is freedom. Everybody wants an affordable server without sacrificing performance or abusing shared resources. A virtual private server gives you the freedom necessary to run the software you need to run, the resources to use it properly, and a cost structure that works well with your budget. That’s where a VPS shines.
A virtual private server is hosted online and runs a dedicated operating system, usually accessed through a paid subscription. The main server is divided into several virtual containers, each of which functions independently from the others with its own RAM and disk space. Each of those units acts as a private server for one end user or as a proxy for third-party usage.
And being managed from a state-of-the-art data center, your server is always connected.
How does a VPS work?
Virtualization technology is used to take one physical piece of hardware and divide it into multiple virtual servers, or “nodes”. There is functionally little difference between a virtual machine and an actual piece of server hardware.
Layers are created to ensure that each compartment works as a standalone server, with its own operating system that operates independently of the others. Even though the physical server is shared, other users do not have access to your data, just as you cannot access theirs.
Additionally, a VPS typically allows the user to install custom software and applications. Likewise, security preferences can be applied more easily: for example, opening/closing a port, or multiple ports, is no problem. You can even host games.
Why use a VPS?
If your business is growing or you require special software or apps, a VPS can be just what you need.
Typically thought of as a middle ground between shared hosting and a dedicated server, a VPS offers a high level of customization without the high cost. In fact, a good developer can do anything on a VPS that they could do on a dedicated server – without responsibility for the hardware, maintenance, or support.
Content can also be shared more easily, because there is no censor. Hosted blogs and social media sites have restrictions on some content, but on your own platform you will find fewer arbitrary limitations and avoid getting your content censored or throttled. An eCommerce site will run faster because of the dedicated system resources.
Most VPS plans are now part of larger cloud hosted clusters. This makes them highly redundant and reliable for long term usage with very few, if any, connectivity issues or outages. Downtime is so rare that you will likely not even notice if your server goes down for any reason. Find out what high availability means.
A VPS also gives you root user access to the entire server, including access to critical system logs and scripts that can help you diagnose issues. And you have a choice between a “managed” virtual server, with some software pre-installed or a “unmanaged” cloud server. This is impossible to do with shared hosting, in which you are sharing the server with other users, and checking logs requires technical support.
VPN vs VPS: Similar Names, Different Functions
A VPN is only used for one thing – keeping your data safe and secure when browsing the internet.
A VPS is a service provided by a hosting company in order to host a website or application. While it can ultimately be used to connect to the internet, it does not inherently keep your information secure.
There’s not a “right” option. When it comes to VPN vs. VPS, it’s just a matter of choosing the right tool for the job. Think about your business needs, what’s most important at this time, and the reputation of the providers you consider. If you don’t find that your needs lean heavily in either direction, perhaps you need both. Consider VPS Hosting from InMotion Hosting.