VPN Alternatives in Professional and Personal Domains
By Johan Curtis 14 minutes
VPNs have long been the go-to solution for securing online activity, protecting privacy, and accessing geo-restricted content. While VPNs offer high security and privacy, they can be complex to set up and manage. They can also lead to slow down internet speeds. Fortunately, there are alternatives to VPNs that offer unique advantages and benefits, such as faster speeds, reduced complexity, and cloud-based security functions.
This blog will explore some of the most popular VPN alternatives, including smart Proxy Servers, SSH Tunnels, DNS services, Shadowsocks, and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), and compare their features and benefits to traditional VPNs. Whether you are looking for faster internet speeds, improved privacy, or a more comprehensive security solution, a VPN alternative can meet your needs.
Table of Content
- Pros and Cons of using VPN for business, and why do firms use it?
- Why do firms use VPNs?
- What else can I do instead of using a VPN?
- Proxy Servers
- SSH Tunnel
- Zero trust network access (ZTNA)
- Smart Domain Name Server (DNS)
- Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)
- FAQs – VPN Alternatives Reliability
- Wrap-Up to VPN Alternatives
Pros and Cons of using VPN for business, and why do firms use it?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) provide secure and private connections between remote users and company networks. There are multiple pros and cons to using VPNs for business, and firms use them for a variety of reasons.
Pros of using VPNs for business:
- Security: A VPN provides encryption of data, which helps to protect crucial information from hackers and cybercriminals.
- Remote access: VPNs allow employees to access company networks and data from anywhere, which is especially useful for remote workers or employees who travel frequently.
- Cost-effective: VPNs are typically less expensive than other security measures like dedicated leased lines.
- Enhanced productivity: With a VPN, employees can access company resources from any location, which increases productivity and efficiency.
- Multi-purpose use: VPNs can be used for a variety of purposes such as secure communication, file sharing, and accessing company resources.
Cons of using VPNs for business:
- Slower internet speeds: Because VPNs encrypt data, internet speeds can be slower, affecting productivity and user experience.
- Technical issues: Setting up and maintaining a VPN requires technical expertise, which can challenge smaller businesses.
- Privacy concerns: While VPNs are intended to protect privacy, some companies may use VPNs to monitor employee activity, which can be a privacy concern.
- Dependency: When relying solely on VPNs, businesses may face issues if the VPN goes down or becomes unavailable.
- Limited control: With VPNs, businesses may have limited control over the security and privacy protocols the VPN provider uses.
Why do firms use VPNs?
- Secure remote access: VPNs allow employees to access company networks securely from any location.
- Data protection: VPNs encrypt data, which protects sensitive information from cyber attacks.
- Cost-effective: VPNs are less expensive than dedicated leased lines and other security measures.
- Enhanced productivity: With a VPN, employees can access company resources from anywhere, which increases productivity and efficiency.
- Multi-purpose use: VPNs can be used for various purposes, such as secure communication, file sharing, and accessing company resources.
In some cases, businesses may gain special benefits from utilizing VPN substitutes. When it comes to remote access, for instance, cloud-based solutions such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANs) can offer greater flexibility and security than conventional VPNs. While SD-WANs can prioritize and reroute traffic based on security regulations, VDI enables workers to access a virtual desktop anywhere.
Although while virtual private networks (VPNs) are frequently adopted for distant data protection, other options may be more suited to certain organizations and individual who needs a VPN. Similarly, we’ll discuss the alternates of VPNs for different purposes and their ease of use.
What else can I do instead of using a VPN?
A VPN application creates an encrypted tunnel to the internet by redirecting your data traffic through its servers. Logging into your client and launching the application is all that’s necessary to secure the entire network. While a virtual private network (VPN) is great for protecting your privacy as an individual, you should also consider investing in one for your company.
VPNs and proxies are both similar in one way. They change your IP address and reroute your data (Internet Protocol). But let’s talk about proxy. With this service, another server on the web acts as a proxy for your device (pun intended). Learn more about what is the difference between VPNs and Proxies.
Depending on where you are, your internet service provider (ISP) gives you a different IP address. Your browser sends requests to every server it talks to on the web using your IP address.
How do Proxy Servers Operate?
When you use a proxy, your data traffic flows through their servers and gets a new IP. This is a good way to get around geo-blocking and keep your IP address from being tracked (and all that comes with it).
Hypothesis: Using a proxy server will give you a new IP address, a great way to find cheaper markets and get around online Geographical prohibitions based on your location. But, besides changing your IP address, a proxy doesn’t make the web or your network safer in any other way.
The onion router (TOR) is a good way for individual users to get around this problem. But if you run a business that needs speed and is thinking about using TOR instead of a VPN, you should think again.
What is ToR in a nutshell?
The onion router is the name for the Tor software and the network of ToR servers that it runs on. Volunteers play a vital role in the operation of the program.
How does ToR function?
Tor encrypts and reroutes your data as it travels through a network of private servers run by volunteers.
It connects to a list of nodes in the network that are available all over the world. The data flows through a series of three random TOR nodes. They are distinct from one another and employ different encryption keys:
- The entry node is familiar with both the user and the relay node.
- The relay node knows which nodes are entering and which are going out.
- The node leaving knows both the relay node and the final destination.
Your IP and personal information will remain hidden since no single machine can determine the start and end points of a data flow on a distributed network. On the other hand, ToR has its drawbacks. The two most significant are the service’s lack of obfuscation (encryption) tools and the poor internet speeds. Even if your ISP can’t see what you’re looking at online, they can still see if you’re using Tor, which is illegal in some countries.
Hypothesis: Nevertheless, its strongest point is also its weakest. We support the idea that everyone should have equal access to the internet. Still, we believe there is a more efficient and less time-consuming approach to protect your business’s online presence.
SSH tunneling, or SSH port forwarding, sends and receives data across an encrypted SSH connection.
What is the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol?
Using cryptography, the secure shell protocol ensures the safety of data transmissions. You can’t use a mouse, keyboard, or touchscreen to enter commands into a shell; instead, you type them in. SSH allows you to securely access your shell from a remote location and perform administrative tasks without compromising the confidentiality of your data while you are away from your computer.
It’s important to remember that SSH establishes a link to a certain gadget. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Secure Shell (SSH) both use encryption to provide remote access. However, a VPN connects to an entire network while SSH connects just to a single interface.
What exactly is port forwarding?
Via a process known as port forwarding, remote servers can communicate with local devices across a secure network. Port forwarding reroutes data from the internet once it reaches a device through a designated entry point (a port) on the device.
While using Secure Shell (SSH), what is port forwarding or SSH tunneling?
This method allows you to create an encrypted tunnel between a secure shell client and another client application on the same machine. This security protocol can bypass firewalls because of its cryptographic features and direct connection capabilities.
Hypothesis: When considering applications VPN alternatives for a company, SH tunneling is a remarkable safety measure. All of your SSH traffic is encrypted while it’s in transmission. SSH tunneling can also be used independently, although it does require some technical expertise.
There aren’t many limitations besides SSH tunneling only secures the data passing through its client, and implementing it over an entire server network involves skilled employees.
Zero trust network access (ZTNA)
It’s a form of protection that has primarily found success in the business world. Zero trust means that you cannot even be trusted. This is a more paranoid alternative to VPNs that:
- Defaults to blocking all traffic;
- Uses a combination of passwords and biometrics for added security;
- Keeps tabs on all network activity;
- Calls for constant checks of the security settings of all network users;
- Using the concept of least privilege ensures that no one in the network can access the privileged access management tools.
You must re-verify your identity whenever you take a new action on the network. The application sees you and your device as a security risk, so it requires you to re-authorize and employ a “zero-trust” policy constantly.
How does ZTNA operate?
To safeguard the network, the administrator must verify the identities of all users and keep tabs on all connected devices. Additionally, to hide the IP address is beyond the network’s confines, which is a practical option.
Hypothesis: ZTNA is a reliable security solution for guarding your company’s most precious possessions. Superior to VPN routers. Nevertheless, ZTNA has not yet been optimized for home use. Therefore, it is less practical than a VPN application.
Smart Domain Name Server (DNS)
Sometimes, a smart domain name server (DNS) can be used instead of a virtual private network (VPN). A Domain Name System (DNS) is a service that turns domain names, like www.google.com, into IP addresses that computers can understand. Your internet service provider (ISP) usually gives you a default DNS server, but other options have more features.
If you use a smart DNS service, you can access geo-restricted content like streaming services without a VPN. Smart DNS services send your internet traffic through a server in a different country. This makes it look like you are accessing the content from that country. This can help you get to content that isn’t available where you live.
A smart DNS service is also often faster than a VPN because it doesn’t need the same level of encryption and routing. This can be especially helpful for online games and other programs requiring a short delay.
What are the drawbacks of DNS servers?
Smart DNS services offer an alternative to VPNs, but they have their own set of restrictions. One big problem is that it provides less security and privacy than a VPN. Even though a smart DNS service can help you access to content unavailable in your country, it doesn’t encrypt your internet traffic. This means that third parties can read it.
Hypothesis: Also, a smart DNS service might be unable to get around all geo-blocks. Some content providers have become savvier about finding and blocking users who try to access their content from outside their designated region. You may still need a VPN to get to your desired content in these situations.
Shadowsocks is a small, open-source proxy server program that can be used in some scenarios instead of a virtual private network (VPN). It was made to help people in China get around the government’s censorship and get to blocked websites.
Usually, Shadowsocks is faster than a VPN because it doesn’t need the same level of encryption and routing. This can be especially helpful for things like online gaming or video conferencing, which require a significant delay. It is also better than a VPN because it can be harder to find and block than a VPN. Many countries, like China and Iran, have established advanced ways to find VPN traffic and block it. Shadowsocks, on the other hand, are made to be less obvious and harder to find. This makes it a better tool for accessing blocked content in these countries.
Shadowsocks vs. VPN – The Better Choice?
But, like a smart DNS service, Shadowsocks is not a complete security and privacy replacement for a VPN. While it can help you access restricted content and circumvent government restrictions, it does not offer the same level of encryption or anonymity as a virtual private network (VPN).
Also, setting up and configuring a Shadowsocks server can be more complicated than using a VPN service because it requires more technical knowledge and skill. Some users may not be comfortable setting up and configuring their server, so this can be a problem.
Hypothesis: Shadowsocks can be a valuable tool in some situations, like when you want to access blocked content in a country where the government blocks it. It is usually faster and harder to find than a VPN, but it offers a different level of security and privacy. Before choosing between Shadowsocks and a VPN, you should look for the pros and cons and consider your specific needs and use case, just like you would with any other tool.
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a networking and security framework based in the cloud. It gives users a full set of networking and security services over the internet. It is an alternative to traditional Virtual Private Network (VPN) solutions. Businesses that want to improve their network security and performance use it often.
It is a set of networking and security technologies delivered from the cloud and are meant to give secure access to applications and data from anywhere and on any device.
Key components of SASE
- Cloud-native security functions: SASE comprises cloud-native firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, web filtering, and data loss prevention.
- Software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN): SASE employs SD-WAN to link users’ devices to cloud-based apps securely.
- Zero-trust security model: SASE requires all devices, users, and third party applications to be authenticated and authorized before accessing the network.
- Centralized policy management: SASE makes network-wide security policies easy to apply.
Compared to traditional VPN solutions, SASE has several benefits, such as the capacity to expand as needed, less complexity, more security, and better performance. But it’s important to remember that SASE is a cloud-based solution with a good internet connection. SASE might not be suitable for every use case, especially in places where internet access is limited or unreliable.
Hypothesis: SASE can be an effective VPN alternative for companies that want to improve the security and speed of their networks. But, as with any technology solution, it’s essential to carefully consider your organization’s needs and use cases before choosing between SASE and a traditional VPN.
FAQs - VPN Alternatives Reliability
Are VPN alternatives as secure as traditional VPNs?
This depends on the VPN alternative that is being used. Even though many VPN alternatives offer the same level of security and encryption as traditional VPNs, it is crucial to research and evaluates each solution before using it to ensure it meets your security and privacy needs.
Can I use VPN alternatives for streaming and torrenting?
It depends on the VPN alternative and the content that is being accessed. Some VPN alternatives, like smart DNS services, are made to access content that is only available in certain regions and may need to be improved for torrenting. Others, like Shadowsocks, may have better privacy and faster speeds for torrenting.
Do VPN alternatives offer better performance than traditional VPNs?
Some of the time, yes. Smart DNS services and SASE, which are alternatives to VPNs, can offer faster speeds and less latency than VPNs. But the way each solution works will depend on a number of things, such as how fast your internet connection is and where the servers are.
Is it easier to set up VPN alternatives than it is to set up a traditional VPN?
It depends on the alternative VPN that is used. Some VPN alternatives, like smart DNS services, are easy to set up because you only have to change your device's DNS settings. Others, like SASE, may need to be set up and managed more complicatedly.
Can all devices employ VPN alternatives?
This depends on the VPN option and the device being used to connect to the internet. Many VPN alternatives, such as desktop computers, smartphones, and tablets, support various devices and platforms. Before using a VPN alternative on a particular device, you should check to make sure it works with that device.
Wrap-Up to VPN Alternatives
In conclusion, virtual private networks (VPNs) have been the most significant way to access the internet in a safe and private practice for a long time. However, there are other options that may be better for some uses. Smart DNS, Shadowsocks, and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) offer quicker speeds, reduced complexity, and cloud-based security over standard VPNs.
VPNs are still dependable and efficient in many scenarios. They are easy to find and use, and they provide a significant level of security and privacy. VPNs are great for working from home, staying private online, and getting to content that may not be available in your country.
When choosing between a VPN and another solution, it’s essential to think about your needs and how you plan to use them. A smart DNS or Shadowsocks might be a better choice if speed or low latency is important. If you want a complete security solution that works in the cloud, SASE could be the way to go. But if security and privacy are your most important, a VPN is likely the best choice. Regarding internet access and safety, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s essential to think carefully about your options and choose the one that exactly fits your requirements the best. No matter which solution you choose, make sure to follow best practices for online security and privacy, like keeping your software up to date and using strong passwords.