Did you know that you can access and use a computer system from another computer or the device you’re sitting at right now? Sounds confusing, right? Actually, it’s pretty simple. While we’re constantly connecting to remote servers to browse the web, talk to our friends, and play games, getting unfettered access comes from one of two ways: Remote Desktop and a Virtual Private Network, otherwise known as a VPN.
Interestingly enough, however, these are two very different beasts. Both have clear differences and a number of pros and cons as well. In this article, we’ll drill down to explain the difference between the two, so keep on reading for this comparison between Remote Desktop vs VPN to decide which is the best solution for your needs:
What is Remote Desktop (RDP)?
Remote desktop, also referred to as RDP and screen sharing, is software that allows you to connect with another computer system wirelessly, giving you complete access to a different computer.
It doesn’t matter if the computer is in the same building, or thousands of miles away, you can easily connect to and use it as if you were physically there. All you need is a Remote Desktop tool or software, and some popular ones include RealVNC, Netviewer, LogMeIn, Teamviewer, Citrix, and Apple Screen Sharing.
On a Remote Desktop, you effectively take control of the whole system, which also means that it’s usually not available to the person physically being seated at that computer (they instead watch you control it, assuming someone is even there). All keystrokes and mouse movements are sent to the remote desktop through the Internet. The screen, on the other hand, is sent to the user so they can see what is happening.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is much different as compared to RDP. While using a VPN service, your device connects to a VPN server. You cannot directly control the VPN server, which is the case with a Remote Desktop. A VPN acts like a tunnel for your communications and allows you to change your IP address so that you can remain secure and anonymous online.
When connected to a VPN, you continue to use your device instead of an external one. However, your device stays protected against a plethora of online threats, and your virtual location changes which bring other advantages.
The security aspect is the most significant advantage of using a VPN over RDP. Remote Desktop doesn’t come up with features such as encryption, while every major VPN brand offers up to 256-bit encryption.
Using a VPN has plenty of benefits
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Remote Desktop vs VPN
When it comes to comparing remote desktop vs VPN, there are four main concerns. These include:
Whether you want to remotely access a device or network, security should always be the top priority. As you connect to an outside resource, you leave yourself open to a variety of vulnerabilities. A VPN is perfect from a security standpoint and encrypts your connection with military-grade encryption, which considerably reduces the risk of intrusion or theft of data.
RDPs, on the other hand, use encrypted channels to provide a safe remote environment. However, some clients (especially the older ones) may not be compatible with this encryption. That’s why most experts recommend using RDP over VPN as a solution to this security woe.
If you want to gain access to a network and its resources from anywhere, a VPN can help. However, RDPs give you complete control over a local computer from a remote location, unlike VPNs. So, the latter is better than the former in terms of flexibility.
But one must consider that a VPN does more than screen-sharing, increasing your online privacy and security all the while providing remote access to a network. So, in the end, it all comes down to what your needs are precisely.
As far as RDPs are concerned, they can only be set up and used on desktop or laptop computers. They also require high Internet speeds in order to function smoothly, but in most instances continue to lag despite that.
VPNs, however, can be used on any device of your choice as there are user-friendly apps available for all major platforms. Most of them can also be used on your browser as an extension or add-on. They slow down your connection to some extent, but can increase your speed in some instances.
VPNs are generally cost-friendly in comparison to RDPs (since the pricing is mostly based on a per device basis). Many VPN providers also offer seasonal deals and offers allowing users to get their hands on a subscription at a reasonably discounted price.
RDP or VPN or Both?
It depends on your situation and whether you’re a business or individual.
- VPNs should be used by employees to provide safe access to the Internet when using public Wi-Fi networks.
- VPNs must be deployed by employees to ensure secure remote access to the corporate network and its resources.
- If your employees need to access and use a standalone system from a remote location, use a RDP.
- If your IT team requires to remotely access employees’ computers, they can easily perform troubleshooting and maintenance activities with a RDP.
- If you want to access the Internet safely, privately, and freely, use a VPN.
- For streaming unavailable content from anywhere, use a VPN.
- Avoid intrusive government surveillance, use a VPN.
- There might be a rare instance where you need to access your home computer from a remote location, or allow a trusted acquaintance to do so. Here, you should use a RDP.
As a note, you can’t do ANY of that with RDP. They’re just not the same thing, not at all.
A VPN is the best solution as it provides the best features for your everyday browsing needs. It takes care of your online privacy and disallows foreign entities from accessing your network. You can’t do that with RDP, we’ll tell you that’s for sure.