Smart DNS vs VPN – What’s the Difference & Which Should You Use

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In this digital age, you will come across two popular tools for unblocking websites – a smart DNS and a VPN. The battle between both the tools has been raging on for years and has left many users with a confusing choice.
On paper, Smart DNS and VPN offer similar unblocking features. However, they are very different in terms of the technology they use to achieve this feat. To help you resolve the debate of DNS vs. VPN, we compared each service with one another.
Our analysis revealed that VPN offers superior security and privacy as compared to Smart DNS. On the other hand, a Smart DNS offers fast and reliable speeds for streaming.
Here’s an in-depth look at VPNservices and Smart DNS.

Difference between Smart DNS and VPN

Our friends at ExpressVPN have created this illustration to show the difference between a VPN and Smart DNS. It shows how your device communicates with the internet and what happens in the background.

Picture Courtesy by ExpressVPN

Smart DNS

There are many companies providing the service of Smart DNS. What it actually means is that they offer a DNS server and users pay a fee to use the server. So, how does it work?

A Smart DNS swaps the DNS address of your device and routes certain part of your traffic through its own DNS server. It works like a proxy service, working as an intermediary between you and the website you want to access. It provides the authentication information for a webpage through its own DNS server, making it appear as if you are located in the prescribed region.

For instance, if you want to access BBC iPlayer outside the UK, a Smart DNS will pass the request to access the streaming service through its own DNS server located in the UK. Hence, allowing you to stream content on BBC iPlayer with ease.

Checkout an exclusive BBC iPlayer on Mac guide to watch your favorite British TV shows and movies on your preferred device securely.

Benefits &Drawbacks of Using Smart DNS

Since a Smart DNS does not encrypt or tunnel your internet traffic, it offers fast connection speeds. While this is a good thing if you are streaming online, it is not good for protecting your online privacy. A Smart DNS will not change your IP address, only the DNS settings.

Therefore, your identity is visible while using a Smart DNS. Likewise, your internet traffic is exposed to different cyber threats as it travels through unencrypted.However, Smart DNS services can be setup on multiple devices, without the need of flash routers.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A BBC iplayer VPN is the second tool you can use to unblock different websites and services. However, it functions differently when compared to a Smart DNS. A VPN offers different servers located in various regions. When you to connect to a VPN server, it forms tunnels between your device and the internet.

This way all your internet traffic travels through concealed pathways. To add an extra layer of security, a VPN encrypts the contents of your web traffic. It converts them into alphanumeric characters and making them unreadable to the naked eye.

In addition, a VPN cloaks your IP address and shows the IP address of the VPN server. Therefore, you are changing your virtual location altogether. This is how you are able to bypass restrictions on any website and are able to access them from anywhere.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Using VPN

The main benefit offered by a VPN is anonymity and protection of your data against cyber threats. Its ability to tunnel your data using different protocols and encrypt it using encryption algorithms, it provides better security as compared to Smart DNS. Likewise, a VPN protects your identity by changing your IP address.

Whilethis is good from security perspective, a VPN can compromise your internet speeds. This is primarily due to the process of encryption and tunneling. Similarly, another drawback of using a VPN is that you cannot configure the service directly on streaming boxes (such as Roku and Apple TV) as compared to Smart DNS. You will need a flash router to setup a VPN and then stream on streaming boxes. Infact you can secure your self by using an Apple TV VPN.

Smart DNS vs VPN: Which is better for Netflix?

Now many online streamers ask the question: ‘which should they use, DNS proxy vs VPN for Netflix?’ The case for Netflix is a complex one. Ever since Netflix expanded its operations into different regions around the world, it had started hunting download VPN and proxy services.

The aftermath of this crackdown was that many services (VPN and Smart DNS) stopped working with Netflix. However, a Smart DNS is better for streaming, but you will have to try your luck with which services are still operational for Netflix.

The same goes for VPN services. Last we checked, the VPN providers that were working in accessing Netflix of different regions included NordVPN and ExpressVPN. However, not all providers are working and it is better to inquire their customer support before subscribing to a VPN service.

Conclusion

To conclude our analysis of Smart DNS vs VPN, both the tools are beneficial in certain situations. A Smart DNS is best for unblocking websites (such as Hulu, Pandora or Spotify) that are either region locked or censored. It offers fast connection speeds and can be directly configured onto any device of your choice.

A VPN is best for protecting you from data theft and securing your identity. Its ability to hide your true IP address and encrypt your data makes it a viable tool for privacy and security. While a VPN unblocks different websites, it can slow down your internet connection.

Therefore, the choice between the two depends on your purpose of usage. Our recommendation is to use a VPN in case you want to unblock torrent websites and use P2P file sharing services. Moreover, if you want to simple access blocked streaming services and privacy is not your top concern, then a Smart DNS is best suited for this purpose.

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Aazim Akhtar

Aazim Akhtar

Senior Editor
All Posts by Aazim Akhtar

Aazim Akhtar's Biography :


A privacy advocate by day and a binge-watcher by night, Aazim Akhtar loves to write about online security, internet freedom, and all the latest technological trends. Finding ways to secure any sensitive data and protect against existing and emerging cyber threats is his passion. Follow him on Twitter to stay in touch with his work!


2 Responses to Smart DNS vs VPN – What’s the Difference & Which Should You Use

  1. aletta jacobs says:

    Can you tell which performs better for streaming videos, a VPN or DNS?

    • VPNRanks says:

      In essence, it solely depends on how much you care for data privacy and online protection. As a VPN doesn’t only unblocks geo-restricted sites like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and BBC iPlayer, it also encrypts your entire network traffic, protecting you against ISP monitoring, state-surveillance (NSA, Five Eyes) and hackers. In contrast, a DNS only spoofs your virtual location to another country, without offering encryption. Therefore, a DNS offers faster streaming than a VPN, but with no online protection.

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