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VPN vs. DNS: What is the difference?

6 mai 2021

Many websites, portals, streaming services, and similar platforms might be blocked in a certain area due to government restrictions, different policies, cultural differences, and more.

To access the resticted contents, many users look for the tools to overcome them. When users search for the tool to access the geo-restricted contents, they come across terms like VPN, DNS and smart DNS.

So, what are these, and how they differ from each other?

What is DNS?

DNS is short for the term Domain Name System. It is like the phone directory people used before smartphones came into existence as it contains the IP addresses of every website in the world.

Every website has a unique IP, but IP is hidden under the domain name to make things simpler, just like saving the contact number under the contact’s name to make things simpler.

When you enter any website URL into the browser, the DNS receives it, looks for its IP address to call it, and then connects it to your browser. It is similar to making a call. You save your friend's number as their name, and for calling you just tap on their name rather than dialing the whole number.

Changing the DNS can help you access the restricted contents on the internet. For example, if your local government has directed ISP to block Twitter, you won't be able to access it with your current DNS. Changing the DNS would look like changing the geo-location, and hence block wouldn't work.

What is smart DNS?

Smart DNS is an advanced version of DNS that uses a proxy server along with the DNS server. When users want to access the geo-blocked contents, the smart DNS will reroute the request to access those content using a proxy server. The proxy server would display the restricted content to you (Read here VPN vs Proxy - What's the best?)

If you are streaming the restricted contents using the smart DNS, the streaming service servers assume that the user is actually connecting from the proxy server's location. So, if the proxy server location is the US, then all the US content would be available to stream even if you are streaming from UK or Asia.

Using the smart DNS would also help to restrict web-based malware threats. To verify this, you could visit the malware-infected sites with and without DNS and scan the system for malware infection using a robust security solution like MalwareFox. The malware detection was comparatively low while using a smart DNS than without it.

What is VPN?

Like DNS, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service is also used to access websites, portals, and other services that are restricted in a particular area, region, or country. Using a VPN, a user can get unrestricted access to anything on the internet by overcoming the DNS block, IP blocks, and other internet limitations. Most ISP can track your online activities and provide all those details to the government if asked for. Using the VPN services, the users can hide their IP addresses, DNS from the ISP, making it challenging to track their online activities. Enabling VPN would encrypt the data you transfer online, making the conversation genuinely one-on-one.

What is the difference between smart DNS and VPN?

On the first look, you might wonder that both smart DNS and VPN are used for accessing the geo-restricted contents, so what is the difference between them?

While it is true that the major end goal of both DNS and VPN is the same, they are still a lot different in their functionalities based on which a user decides on which one fits best for it.

Here are the factors on which smart DNS and VPN are different from each other.


This is the most significant standout factor that makes the VPN different from the smart DNS. While a smart DNS would surely help a user to access the restricted content on the internet, unlike VPN, it does not encrypt and hide your IP address from the ISP. It means that your Internet Service Provides can still know that you are visiting restricted sites and can store that information. Using VPN would completely encrypt your online activities, making it almost impossible to detect.

Device Support

While users can set up DNS on devices like Xbox, PS4, and others like smart TVs, a VPN does not support most of them. However, a VPN can be installed on the WiFi router, so anything connected to that router would automatically come under the VPN.

Security and Privacy

As already mentioned, a VPN encrypts all your online activities so that not even your ISP could access anything. Smart DNS does not do much into this, as using DNS would still expose your IP. So, when it comes to security and privacy, VPN is way ahead of smart DNS.


A VPN uses extra bandwidth to encrypt the connection, which makes browsing and downloading comparatively slow. On the other hand, using the smart DNS would not affect the internet speed as it does not encrypt your data.

Bypassing Firewalls

Many organizations and educational institutes put up IP firewalls to restrict users from accessing certain websites. While some advanced VPN can easily bypass such firewalls and overcome censorship, a smart DNS could not do so.

VPN vs. DNS: Which is better for me?

Using a VPN or just a smart DNS totally depends on your requirements.

If you just want to stream the restricted services in your region, you can use the smart DNS in such a case as it would not deteriorate the speed, and browsing would be smooth. Using DNS would not slow down the downloading speed, so it is better compared to VPN.

On the other hand, if you want your data to be encrypted while browsing the internet or sharing sensitive data, you must go for a VPN. The same goes for when you need to access the geo-restricted contents or download torrents. A VPN gives you a lot more flexibility than a DNS. You can easily choose which country's server you want to use for accessing the internet. It is undoubtedly a more powerful tool than smart DNS when it comes to removing the restrictions from the internet and being hidden simultaneously.