SSH (Secure Shell) is sometimes seen as the cheaper, less modern alternative to VPN (Virtual Private Network), but you might be surprised to know that both of them remain popular, if slightly different, ways of maintaining online privacy and security.
In this article, you’ll find all the information you need about SSH vs VPN – what they have in common, their benefits, as well as their differences and what jobs they can best be used for.
Before beginning the VPN SSH and VPN comparison, it’s important to understand what each of these systems does. An easy way to understand a VPN is to imagine you are calling a group of people. Everyone in the group can hear your call, and you can hear everything they say as well.
A VPN SSH differs because it is like making a call with one person in the group relaying your message on to the others.
In short when weighing up SSH Vs VPN it can be said that:
- A VPN is your pathway into a whole network
- VPN SSH directs you to a solo computer
Both SSH and VPNs privately channel internet traffic to their destinations using powerful encryption software, keeping your data confidential and secure. Although we are big fans of VPNs, it’s also important to note how useful a tool SSH tunnels can be.
You can use SSH and VPNs in two ways: either externally or internally. We’ll explore these in detail later in this guide. When you run your VPN or VPN SSH externally, you access a remote server. This is often done for remote workers, with the server being at the center of their company computer system. When you run either internally, you use it as part of your own server.
A VPN service works slightly different from an SSH VPN, by transporting web traffic down one tunnel, where it becomes encrypted and made secure. Installation of a VPN service includes a virtual adapter for collecting the network information. SSH differs from this because it operates by using application technology.
Contrary to what some people think, both services offer encryption at the same level, which means that both VPN and SSH VPNs are equally proficient at keeping your data secure.
One benefit of installing a VPN is its ability to disguise web traffic as nothing more than HTTPS when it could be – and most likely is – a different language. This means it is an effective way to access blocked websites, stream content from all around the globe and enjoy other online activities such as torrenting, without a third party being able to intercept and see what you’re doing.
One disadvantage of SSH VPN or VPN services is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all system. Once you’ve installed your chosen VPN, you can’t always be sure to receive standardized support and setup help. However, these days VPNs are increasingly easy to set up and use, even if you don’t have a great deal of computer experience. Modern VPNs also often feature highly sophisticated software and reliable customer support, so if you have a problem it will likely be because you’re accessing a VPN remotely or setting up your own VPN router.
- Functions with UDP or TCP
- Disguises traffic
- No universal standardized system
- Security for online data
- Can be accessed remotely via a company server
As we touched on before, an SSH tunnel functions with applications to create the SSH VPN, rather than as a transporter. To enjoy the benefits of SSH tunnels, you need to manually set up the encryption process for the software you want to protect. Work through your software, and manually configure using a client specifically designed to work with SSH. The most frequently used of these is PuTTY.
Not all traffic needs to be encrypted to keep the important stuff secure. In this way, SSH’s ability to only encrypt certain channels of traffic is a good thing, because it means your connection works faster and you can enjoy solid security where it really matters.
A disadvantage of this is that web traffic is harder to camouflage and there are various plugins that won’t work with SSH tunneling.
Simple installation doesn’t always make for a straightforward setup, and this, unfortunately, can apply to SSH. It requires individual, manual configuration of each connection to the software. You’ll also be required to prepare your browser for using a SOCKS proxy.
An advantage of using SSH over VPN is that there is a whole host of customer support and tech knowledge around that you can make use of during the setup process and while you’re an ongoing user.
- Fast connection speeds
- Inexpensive system
- Standardized & unified protocol
- Tricky to setup unless you’re experienced
- Only encrypts some of your traffic
- Only uses TCP
- Traffic camouflage is difficult
- Risks of DNS leaks
- Access an encrypted system via a remote server
- Provides security for your data
In the battle of SSH vs VPN, things aren’t always black and white.
To sum up, both Virtual Private Networks and Secure Shell systems offer sophisticated security solutions for your online data. They both need to be installed, configured and setup correctly in order to give you the services you need.
SSH is sometimes seen as the lesser of the two, and perhaps it is for a reason: while it is no less effective in providing security, it is a lot trickier to configure, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in the area. There are also not too many SSH companies to choose from, so your options are limited.
VPNs, on the other hand, are offered in numerous different packages and there are loads to choose from. Add to this a VPN’s capability to encrypt all the web traffic that comes its way, and that it can disguise traffic to a potential interceptor, and we are confident that VPNs are the superior online security solution. These are our favorite VPNs:
You might consider using the two systems alongside each other, but this would require a lot of technical aptitudes and would likely slow your connection speed down. For the everyday internet user, VPNs are your best option.