Smart DNS vs. VPN – Which Option Is Right for You?
Smart DNS vs. VPN – the debate has been going on for some time, and if you’re like most online users, you likely want to find out which service offers you the better online experience.
Well, in this article, we’ll give you a quick rundown of what both services are, how they work, what their pros and cons are, and we’ll take a look at which one you should use in certain situations.
Table of contents
- Smart DNS – Quick Definition
- How Does a Smart DNS Work?
- Smart DNS – Advantages and Disadvantages
- How Does a VPN Work?
- VPN – Advantages and Disadvantages
- Smart DNS vs. VPN – Which Option Is Right for You?
- Looking for a Service That Offers Both Options?
- VPN vs. Smart DNS – The Bottom Line
Smart DNS – Quick Definition
A Smart DNS is a service that helps you unblock geo-restricted content. A Smart DNS is usually a DNS server (or more) which is owned or rented by the Smart DNS provider, and which users connect to in order to access a list of unblocked websites.
How Does a Smart DNS Work?
A Smart DNS will intercept all your connection requests to a website, and find any data in said requests that can reveal your geographical location. Once it locates it, it replaces it with new data that points to a geo-location where the content you want to access is available.
Besides that, a Smart DNS service will also replace the DNS address that was assigned to you by your ISP. Why? Because that DNS address contains information that can leak your real geo-location. The new DNS address the Smart DNS offers you will instead contain data that links to an “acceptable” location (at least from the content provider’s point of view).
Smart DNS – Advantages and Disadvantages
- A Smart DNS service can give you instant access to hundreds of websites since most Smart DNS providers offer pre-unblocked website lists to users.
- With a Smart DNS, you can enjoy your original ISP speeds, so you don’t need to worry about the service potentially slowing down your connections.
- A Smart DNS is less likely to get blocked because content providers tend to focus more on VPNs. That’s not a guarantee, though, but it’s worth mentioning.
- Smart DNS services can usually be configured on more platforms than VPN services.
- A Smart DNS service doesn’t use any encryption. As a result, your online connections aren’t secured when you’re on the Internet.
- A Smart DNS can’t hide your IP address, so ISPs and advertisers can still track your digital footprints if they want to.
- If you want to set up the service manually, the process might seem a bit complex if you have no experience with this (you need to validate your IP address and edit your network connection settings).
VPN – Quick Definition
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it’s a service you can use to hide your IP address and browse the Internet safely. VPNs can be set up manually, but most online users prefer using VPN services offered by third-party VPN providers.
How Does a VPN Work?
On your end, you just choose a VPN provider, download and install the VPN client, and then connect to a VPN server.
But behind the scenes, here’s what happens:
- The VPN client encrypts your connection requests, and forwards them to the VPN server. Once the connection is established, your ISP-assigned IP address is also replaced with the server’s own IP address.
- Once the server receives the data, it decrypts it, and forwards it to the Internet.
- When the VPN server receives the requested information, it encrypts it and sends it back to the VPN client.
- Lastly, the client decrypts the requested content so that you can freely browse it.
VPN – Advantages and Disadvantages
- A VPN service hides your real IP address, helping you protect your online identity and better hide what you do on the Internet from others. Because of that, you also get to easily bypass geo-restrictions.
- VPNs use encryption to protect sensitive user data. Because of that, your online activity can’t be monitored by any ISP, hackers, or surveillance agencies.
- Since a VPN encrypts all your online traffic, your ISP can’t throttle your bandwidth (intentionally slow down your online speeds in an attempt to get you to purchase pricier subscriptions).
- A VPN service can help you bypass firewalls since your IP address is masked.
- Manually setting up a VPN service from a VPN provider is usually simpler than setting up a Smart DNS.
- If you want to torrent files, a VPN ensures you’ll have a safer experience by encrypting your traffic and hiding your IP from other people who are downloading the same torrent as you.
- VPNs use encryption to secure your online data. Sometimes, if the encryption is too strong, it can slow down your connection speeds (not always by much, but it might be noticeable).
- A lot of content providers (like Netflix, for example) like to focus on blocking VPNs instead of Smart DNS services. So, there’s a higher chance (albeit one that isn’t backed by solid evidence) that you might be blocked from accessing geo-restricted content with a VPN.
Smart DNS vs. VPN – Which Option Is Right for You?
The decision is totally up to your online needs. As a general rule of thumb, you should use a Smart DNS if you want to quickly access and stream geo-restricted content, and aren’t concerned about your online privacy. A VPN is a better choice if you want to secure your Internet connections on top of being able to access blocked websites, and don’t mind a potential drop in speeds.
Still, to make it easier for you to make up your mind, here’s a quick overview of the kinds of activities each service is best used for:
Smart DNS vs. VPN for Media Streaming
In this case, the Smart DNS is the better option. With that service, you get instant access to geo-blocked content and can also enjoy your original high speeds.
Don’t get us wrong – you can also use a VPN for media streaming since you’ll often get good results. It’s just that, if you’re looking for the best experience, you might be a bit bothered if your videos get interrupted by buffering, or if you sometimes have to use a lower video quality for a smoother streaming experience.
The only way a Smart DNS wouldn’t provide you with a better streaming experience than a VPN is if your ISP is throttling your bandwidth. If it is, a VPN is a more ideal choice because it can prevent your ISP from doing that.
Smart DNS vs. VPN for Online Banking
Whether you need to access your bank account at home, at Starbucks, or when you’re abroad, a VPN is the best option. As long as you use a decent VPN provider who uses secure VPN protocols (like OpenVPN or SoftEther) and powerful encryption ciphers (like AES), you’ll be able to do online banking worry-free.
A Smart DNS uses no encryption, so it can’t do anything to protect your valuable bank accounts and credit card details.
Smart DNS vs. VPN for Torrenting
When it comes to torrenting, a VPN is your only choice simply because it – unlike a Smart DNS – uses encryption and hides your IP address. As a result, your ISP can’t see you’re downloading torrents (so they can’t throttle your connection, terminate your service, or share your information with copyright agencies), and the other members of the Swarm (the total number of people who are downloading and uploading a torrent) can’t see your real IP address.
We here at SmartyDNS don’t encourage illegal copyright infringement and online piracy. However, we are aware that some people can only get access to the entertainment, school, and work files they need through torrents.
Smart DNS vs. VPN for Bypassing Firewalls
Once more, a VPN is your best option since only it can bypass firewalls. A Smart DNS, unfortunately, can’t do that. So, if you’re at work or school and can’t access certain websites because the network admin blocked them, or you’re in a country like China where the government uses firewalls to block online content, you should use a VPN since its encryption and IP-hiding abilities can help you bypass pretty much any firewall.
Just make sure you use a VPN protocol that can’t be blocked easily, like OpenVPN or SoftEther, for instance.
Smart DNS vs. VPN for Device Compatibility
Both services are a good choice if you want to run them on as many platforms as possible. You might be able to configure a Smart DNS on slightly more devices than a VPN, but – overall – both VPN and Smart DNS services provide a decent level of cross-platform compatibility.
Just to give you an idea, a VPN and a Smart DNS can be set up on routers, smart TVs, Windows and macOS devices, and Linux distributions.
Need a Reliable VPN Service?
We here at SmartyDNS offer high-speed VPN servers with military-grade 256 bit AES encryption and highly-secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, SoftEther and IKEv2) and we adhere to a strict no-log policy.
Our VPN servers double as proxy servers and we also offer a Smart DNS service that lets you unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other 300+ worldwide geo-restricted websites.
We offer user-friendly VPN apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad, Android, and Fire TV/Stick and browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
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Oh, and we’ll also have your back with our 30-day money-back guarantee.
VPN vs. Smart DNS – The Bottom Line
Both services can help you enjoy a better online experience, but they do it in different ways. A Smart DNS makes it easier for you to access geo-blocked content while also letting you enjoy your own fast online speeds. A VPN, on the other hand, can help you bypass geo-restrictions too, but it also encrypts your connections to secure your Internet traffic and data.
So, you’re better off using a VPN if you want to protect your privacy and online identity from ISP snooping, government surveillance, and advertisers, and don’t mind a potential drop in speeds (which is caused by encryption and other factors). A Smart DNS is a better choice if you just care about accessing and streaming geo-blocked content while enjoying your original ISP speeds.
Overall, we recommend choosing a provider that offers both VPN and Smart DNS services, so that you have both options at your disposal.