What is the difference between SSHs and VPNs?

ssh-vpnSSH stands for Secure Shell and it is a cryptographic network protocol that enables secure data transfer. Even though the popularity of SSH has decreased considerably, while the recognition of VPNs continues on the rise, both methods are still used today.

The main difference to keep in mind is that while a VPN allows you to connect to a network, an SSH connects you to a single PC. Both offer you the option to direct network traffic through an encrypted connection in order to secure data. VPNs are the preferred option by many, thanks to their versatility and security. That being said, in some cases, you may prefer to use an SSH.

In order to determine if an SSH is a good solution, or if a VPN is the right way to go, we will take a look at the advantages and downsides that each of them offer.

VPN

Unlike an SSH, which works on an application level, a VPN is focused on the data transport. Once you have installed it, a VPN will automatically direct all your network traffic through a secure connection. When you set up a VPN client, a virtual network adapter is installed to facilitate the routing of your traffic.

In terms of security, a VPN and an SSH provide the same level of encryption, meaning both are safe options. What makes a VPN stand out in comparison though, is that it allows you to mask your data so that it appears as regular HTTPs traffic to any third party who tries to intercept your connection.

When it comes to the setting up process, a VPN is normally easier to install. The downside being that it doesn’t offer a unified standard, so there is no consistency in the support that you can get and you may experience issues during the setting up. However, this would only affect you of you intend to run your own VPN server. Individual users that have a subscription to a VPN provider, can count on stable software and customer support to guide them though the process.

A VPN is ideal for remote access to your company’s network. It also secures the information that you send and receive, protecting your privacy. If you still have some beginner questions, visit our VPN FAQ page for additional information.

SSH

SSH can be installed without major issues, but setting it up has some complications as you will need to configure all the connections individually and enable browsers to use a SOCKS proxy protocol. On the other hand, SSH is a unified system, meaning that you get more consistent support. SSHs are also cheaper to use and effective for accessing a single computer in a secure way.

An SSH requires manual configuration in order to secure your data. If you want to encrypt all your software, you will have to setup your SSH client manually. That still might not encrypt all your traffic though.

While some users look to encrypt all their traffic, the reality is that not all your programs need encryption. There’s also benefits to not encrypting all your traffic, like the fact that an SSH will not slowdown your connection.

Still, SSH traffic is not easy to disguise, which tends to cause DNS leaks.

Overall

When it comes to security, VPNs and SSHs are strong options, as long as they are set up correctly.

The main advantage of VPNs is that they are easier to configure and since there are more providers that offer these services, you have a wider range of options than you would with SSHs. VPNs can also encrypt all your traffic automatically without manual configuration. The traffic is also disguised, which offers enhanced protection.

Most home users will certainly prefer a VPN for encrypting their data, which also unlocks geologically restricted services and websites. To better understand how to choose the right provider, read our guide on how to select the optimal VPN, or jump to our top 10 VPN reviews to start browsing for yourself.