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VPS vs. VPN – Understanding the Differences

Posted October 3, 2018

Once you start contemplating your online security in pursuit of safeguarding your devices, Internet connections, and important data, then you face the choice between VPS and VPN.

What are the differences between VPS and VPN?

How to differentiate VPS (virtual private server) from VPN (virtual private network)? Except the “virtual private” word combination and the fact that both deliver an Internet service, they don’t have much in common. These two services are incredibly useful for addressing personal online security concerns, but each one is intended to fulfill tasks of its own.

Network equipment and cables. Image credit: Ian L via, CC0 Public Domain

What is a virtual private server / VPS?

A virtual private server is an Internet service that allows a subscriber to use the spare processing power and operating system of a real server. The server allows the client to install and run pretty much any software on it. In case of a system failure or malware attack, the “computer” hosted on the virtual private server is affected whereas your personal machine remains intact.

Once you log into your VPS, it will look just like just your Windows PC, with exception of several aesthetic features. VPS servers are used for quite a few functions that may include website hosting or remote applications hosting.

What is a virtual private network / VPN?

A virtual private network is a network consisting of numerous dedicated servers that underlie the functioning of a VPN service. A VPN service allows for creating anonymous secure Internet connections so that users can maintain network integrity, prevent their connections from being hacked and, where appropriate, add an extra layer of data security by means of encryption, which makes the information unreadable even if criminals happen to intercept it.

Thanks to VPN’s security features, such as encryption, Internet users are guaranteed privacy of their data. Whether you need to download a movie from a torrent website, or access geo-restricted services like Netflix, or even browse some super private things, you can always rely on a VPN.

So, what’s the fundamental difference?

It boils down to one important feature, that is, the use of a tunneling protocol. When you use a virtual computer hosted on VPS, your connections aren’t hidden, the IP addresses aren’t obfuscated, the connections can be tracked and your data is readable – that’s because there is no encryption in place. VPN uses a tunneling protocol for the sole purpose of ensuring the security and anonymity of an unencrypted Internet connection.


Even though a VPN and VPS allow selecting cost-effective methods to address various aspects of personal or business needs, they represent completely different things. It’s not about figuring out which one is tougher. It’s all about leveraging the right tool to achieve your goal.

VPN protects your personal Internet connections, while VPS may help to keep your devices and/or computers safe.

Virtual private network technologies allow carrying out web activities privately and securely.

A VPS helps hosting websites and applications, where customers benefit from admin-level access to the server itself but still share computer resources with others.

Just think about it: you can use VPN on a VPS or connect to the VPS via VPN. VPS vendors typically don’t allow you to install VPN software on their servers, and it takes a great deal of re-coding to actually do it. However, you can benefit from using both of these protocols. VPN will maintain your individual and non-targeted connections, therefore you can access your VPS. Then, you can use the VPS to safely open suspicious emails or visit websites that may distribute malicious software or execute programs made by unknown publishers.

Long story short, if you want to be confident in your security online, go ahead and sign up for a reliable VPN service.

Author’s Bio

David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 15 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs the project which presents expert opinions on the contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy and white hat hacking. – top 5 VPS hosting providersThe review is based on several months of testing and comparing and includes in-depth analysis of all required metrics, as well as additional benefits.

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