VPN Vs. SSH – Which Is The Most Secure?

vpn vs ssh

SSH and VPN are not related topics to be compared, both work in different ways on different interfaces, but the main reason for getting the 2 of them together is the security they provide while using them. Yes SSH also provides security and is often referred as the poor man’s VPN. Sounds funny but is true.

There is a lot of difference as to how VPN and SSH work, be it with the purpose they are used for or their functioning.

In simple words, VPN includes connecting of an individual to a server where there a lot of other connections or devices as well whereas SSH allows you to connect to a single device. As it is clearly mentioned that both VPN and SSH are used in order to obtain a secure network, the question definitely arises, Which is more secure. We will discuss all of them in this article.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) :

Virtual Private Network

VPN is a short form for Virtual Private Network, which encrypts your entire internet connection while connected to a server, these server are set up with 256 bit military grade encryption which creates a secure channel or a tunnel while you browse anything online.

As the usage of drives, file sharing has increased over time, there are companies who do not want these information to be available over the public internet, For example, You are out of town for a vacation and your manager calls you to check some important mails but you do not have access to a office network, VPN servers are used here to gain access to the office network which allows you to access all the files in the same network and be secure as well.

The usage of VPN is balanced between users having them for accessing Geo-restricted content and users having them to be secure online mostly when they make online banking, send important emails, or browse classified information.

It is often noticed that VPN is the most chosen tool over SSH as VPN works on transport level, meaning connecting to a VPN server secures your entire network and routes all the traffic through the same server/channel.

When it is discussed as VPN, you should not be confused as there are 2 ways how VPNs can be used.

  • VPN Server
  • VPN client

VPN server is what we have discussed above, i.e setting up a server in your office by restricting the network to have access to all the information through 1 IP of that server so that anyone having the details to login to the server can only access the files from a remote location.

On the other hand, VPN client is basically connecting to a server which is not yours, ( normally Datacenter ) only to access restricted content on the web or to keep your internet network secure in order to avoid unwanted visitors on your network.

Highlights of using VPN :

VPN gives you the local network feeling even when you are working from a distant location, However it has nothing to do whether you are connecting to your own network or your company’s network.

VPN allows you to connect remotely to multiple devices at once, and is always the best option to choose when you wish to disguise traffic with your ISP.

As VPN uses both TCP and UDP protocol and the set up is completed in 2-3 steps, it is an ideal choice for anyone to secure their traffic.

Secure Shell (SSH) :

Secure Shell (SSH)

SSH is a short form for secure shell. As discussed about VPN above, SSH too has its own specialities, SSH works on a application layer and while connected secure only the application you are using, In order to secure the entire network SSH has to be manually set up on the network using an application called PuTTY.

A web browser usually uses http or https protocol to access websites but a shell account uses different other protocols which is when SSH is used. SSH uses public key encryption which makes it more secure as the keys are generated randomly.

In one way, this seems to be good as connecting to SSH will not slow down your connection as it is only one application that is using the encryption and all other applications are normally used on public internet. But you should know that using a SSH it is difficult to disguise someone as the network is partially secure.

SSH is a unified tool and requires a lot of commands to be used when you need to set it up in a proper manner, unlike VPN which is simple to set up and can be done with an IP, mostly a username and password.

Highlights of using SSH :

SSH works more on command line concept, With it being very complicated, it is hard for non technical people to grasp the set up very easily. Increasing the connections, gradually closes all the open applications on your device, but you should also know the using shell commands, you can access all the files, implement sync on your device using the rsync command.

IT admins can use SSH to manage servers, similarly software testers can use the same to test the softwares on their mobile phones, while a non technical person can access or modify his music files from a remote location.

The main drawback of using SSH is you can connect to only a single device/computer at a time. Also it uses only the TCP protocol unlike VPN which uses both TCP and UDP protocol, the key thing to be noted while using SSH is that your network is not completely secured as DNS leaks cannot be controlled on it.

Which is more secure ?

VPN Vs. SSH which is more secure?

If you are looking forward to keep your business network secure then VPN is the best choice as you can force all the traffic through a single channel of encryption, but if it is about securing your network for private use, then both the options do well for you as both VPN and SSH have the best encryption on them.

There are a few complications on this as well, there are some users who can easily connect to VPN but the set up is a tiring process, whereas on the other hand, setting up SSH look easy but the command lines to be used may be a difficult task.

But, if you already have a VPN server and are good at working on it, you can still continue using it, at the other side, if you are a geek having SSH access and good with command line, SSH can still be used unless you are too concerned about securing all your applications on the network. For the both of them the encryption is nearly similar however as discussed earlier, as SSH encrypts partially you will have to give a thought before choosing it.

Conclusion :

While concluding the topic, we recommend choosing VPN over SSH, as SSH is very complicated to set up and there are few handful providers who provide SSH access/support.

On the other end, VPN is been used all over the world for various purposes, but choosing a VPN provider is not simple, you will have to go through all their policies mainly with log keeping policy as there are some providers who sell the browsing data to government organisations, ever wondered how you get a lot of Spam emails ? With a VPN provider like LimeVPN you will not face any such issues as we prioritize our customers security and privacy.

But if you are ready to give up speed over security then both of them can be used side-by-side.

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A Complete gamer and a Tech Geek. Brings out all her thoughts and Love in Writing Techie blogs.