Protecting your anonymity online, and getting around regional restrictions on content is one of the most asked for things in an Internet that is fast becoming increasingly accessible, and equally dangerous. There are a variety of services that you can use to keep your online identity hidden, and to access region locked content; the most important being VPNs, Smart DNS, and Proxies. But, what exactly are these services? How do they work? And when should you choose one over the other? If you’re asking yourself any (or all) of these questions, read on to find out the differences between VPN, proxy, and Smart DNS:
What is VPN, Smart DNS, and Proxy
- A VPN, or a Virtual Private Network basically creates a private network that is accessible over the Internet (public network). It allows users to communicate as if they were directly connected over the private network, when they are, in fact, communicating over the Internet. VPNs are widely used by companies that need to allow remote employees to access the private network, and are also used as a way to get secure, encrypted access to the Internet.
- Smart DNS is a server that is specially configured to redirect users to a proxy server. Unlike VPNs, which forward all internet traffic through their tunnels, Smart DNS only forwards very specific traffic. All other traffic is allowed to travel through the Internet as it would without a Smart DNS, VPN, or Proxy server. As such, SmartDNS servers are mostly used to access online streaming websites that restrict their content to specific countries. In such cases, the Smart DNS server tricks the website into thinking that the user is accessing the website from an eligible location.
- A Proxy server, is basically used to maintain anonymity over a network. Every web request you send is first forwarded to the Proxy server, which then transmits it to the server it was intended for. This makes the recipient server think that the Proxy server sent the original request, therefore keeping the user anonymous. When the server responds to the Proxy, it sends the response back to the user.
Differences Between VPN, Smart DNS, and Proxy
VPN vs Smart DNS
VPNs and Smart DNS services are often used for similar purposes, such as accessing geo-restricted content, however, the way that both these systems work is fundamentally different:
- A VPN sends all your internet traffic through a tunnel that is meant to mask your IP Address, whereas Smart DNS usually only routes the traffic that is related to determining your geographical location.
- While VPN provides encryption of traffic, and hides your IP address; Smart DNS does not do either of those.
- A VPN uses a tunnel to make it appear as if you’re accessing the Internet from a different location. Smart DNS, on the other hand, uses a different method. It changes your DNS to fool websites into thinking that you’re accessing them from a different location, often one that falls within their list of “eligible locations” to access them.
- Smart DNS is often faster than VPN, because, unlike VPN, it doesn’t have to route your data through a distant server.
VPN vs Proxy
VPNs, and Proxies, both make it appear as if you’re accessing the Internet from a different location, than you actually are. However, that’s all there is to similarities between the two. There are certain differences, as well:
- A Proxy is like a man-in-the-middle. Your computer sends data to the Proxy, and it forwards it to the Internet, acting as if it is the source of the request. VPN, on the other hand, works at the system level, and captures all your network traffic, and routes it through the VPN tunnel.
- Proxies simply hide your IP address, they do not provide any encryption, whatsoever. VPN, on the other hand, encrypts your Internet traffic, and communicates with the Internet.
- Since Proxies don’t encrypt any data, and they simply change the IP address that is shown to websites, it is pretty easy for someone to snoop in on your data, and it’s not even too difficult to find out your real identity. More often than not, Proxies don’t strip any identifying data from your network, except for changing the IP address. A VPN, on the other hand, heavily encrypts the traffic originating from your computer, which makes it very secure, and thus, it prevents someone from snooping in. If you’re using a VPN (a good one), not even your ISP will be able to get a gander at your traffic. The same can’t be said for a Proxy.
- However, since Proxies do not encrypt any data, the overhead is very low, and latency is minimum. A VPN, on the other hand, has a lot of overhead, due to the processing power required to encrypt data. It also usually introduces a lot of latency into the connection. This is simply the cost you need to pay for a reliable VPN.
Smart DNS vs Proxy
On their face, the two services might look similar, but they are very different. Here are some of the important differences between Smart DNS and Proxy:
- A Proxy hides your IP, and replaces it with its own IP address, so websites don’t know who’s actually trying to access the data. Smart DNS does no such thing. It simply tricks the websites into thinking you’re from a location that is eligible to access their data.
- Smart DNS can unblock major websites from a number of different countries at the same time, since it does not depend on changing the IP address. A Proxy, however, can only unblock access to a single country at one time.
- Smart DNS also has a higher speed than Proxy. This happens because Smart DNS doesn’t do anything except hide traffic relevant to your geographic location, allowing the rest of the traffic to flow through normally.
VPN, Smart DNS or Proxy: When to Use What
By now, you must have understood fairly well how these three services differ from each other. However, they’re still very similar, and the choice of which service you want to use, lies completely on you. So, how do you decide which one of these three things to use when? Well, some common uses that befit each of these services are mentioned below:
Why You Should Use Proxy
A Proxy is the least secure method of all three. It only hides your IP, and can’t really protect you from being identified by anyone who is snooping in on the network. You can use Proxies in situations where you just need to make the website treat your computer as a different system, each time. For example, if you play a game where you get points for rating the game server on a website, and you want to do this multiple times. You can use a Proxy to make the website think that a different computer is accessing it each time. This can easily fool most websites that place restrictions such as the number of ratings that you can post every day.
Basically, Proxies should only be used for tasks where you don’t need any type of security. As such, it is not recommended to use a Proxy to keep yourself anonymous while accessing the Internet from a coffee shop.
Why You Should Use Smart DNS
Smart DNS is the best option to use in situations where you just want to access geo-restricted websites at the best possible speeds. So, you can use Smart DNS to access popular online streaming websites that are not yet available in your country. Also, if you want to access multiple websites, where each one is restricted to a different country, a Smart DNS is probably your best bet, as it can unblock access to multiple countries at the same time.
Smart DNS simply tricks the website into thinking that you’re accessing it from a location that is eligible to access its content. However, Smart DNS also doesn’t offer any sort of encryption, and is not recommended to be used when you need a secure connection to the Internet.
Why You Should Use VPN
VPN is the most processor intensive, bandwidth heavy option of all. However, it is also the most secure. As long as you use a VPN from a reliable VPN provider, you can be rest assured that your internet traffic will not be snooped in on. Even your ISP can’t see what you’re doing on the internet. This high security is VPNs strongest point. Therefore, you should use VPN services when you need to maintain the highest possible level of security while you’re browsing. VPNs should definitely be used when you’re accessing the Internet from a public WiFi network, such as the one at your local coffee shop, or at a hotel.
A VPN can bypass most restrictions placed on websites, whether it be from the website developers, or even from your government. VPN can allow you to freely access the Internet without worrying about being spied on by your ISP, your government, or a man-in-the-middle. If anyone snoops in, they’ll only be able to see encrypted data flowing through the connection.
Best VPN, Smart DNS, and Proxy Services
The only problem with using services such as VPN, Proxy, and Smart DNS, is finding a reliable provider. While there are a lot of providers that give these services, how do you figure out which one is the best? So, here are some of the best VPN, Smart DNS, and Proxy services that you can use:
- TunnelBear is one of the best VPN services. They even have a great free tier of their service, which will give you 500 MB of free data every month – a limit you can increase by tweeting at the TunnelBear twitter handle. TunnelBear is very competitively priced, and I would definitely recommend that you give it a try.
Download TunnelBear (Free, plans start from $3.33 per month); (Available for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS)
- ExpressVPN is another really great VPN service that you can try. They include unlimited data with any of their plans, and while they don’t offer any free tier, you do get a 30 day money back guarantee, so there’s no harm in trying.
Download ExpressVPN (Plans start from $8.32 per month); (Available for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS)
Smart DNS Services
- Smart DNS Proxy is a really great option to go with if you want to use Smart DNS to access geo-restricted content on your system. They offer competitively priced plans for their service, and support more than 300 websites and services. They have a trial option available, so you can definitely check it out.
Visit the Smart DNS website (14 days free trial, plans start from $2.07 per month); (Available for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Smart TVs, and Gaming Consoles)
- CactusVPN is another website that offers Smart DNS services. They have a 7 day trial period when you have access to all of the premium features, after which, you will have to pay to continue using their service.
Visit the CactusVPN website (7 day free trial, $4.99 per month); (Available for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS)
There are a lot of websites that offer Proxy servers that you can use to access websites that are otherwise not accessible in your region. You can use 4everproxy, or dontfilterus to access geo-restricted websites from a Proxy server.
Use VPN, Smart DNS, or Proxy to Freely Access the Internet
Depending on your requirement, and the type of service you want to access, you can now make a choice between a VPN, Smart DNS, or Proxy to unblock geo-restricted content. You can use VPNs to ensure that your internet traffic is encrypted, and that no one can see the websites you’re accessing on the web. However, since VPNs are inherently slower, if all you want is to access an online streaming website, you should use Smart DNS instead. At the end of the day, it’s completely up to you, to use the service that you think is best suited to your applications.
As always, we would like to know your thoughts on VPNs, Smart DNS, and Proxy. Also, let us know about your favourite VPN and Smart DNS providers, in the comments section below.