When exploring the Internet for the perfect VPN, you might stumble upon VPS and VPC. These acronyms can be confusing for a first-time user who’s just beginning to understand what a VPN is and what it’s good for.
It might be easy to think the three are related because they share the first two letters. However, if you don’t investigate the matter a little, the confusion can set you on the wrong path when looking for a solution to encrypt your Internet connection. Don’t worry, though, since we’re here to set the record straight and guide you in the right direction.
Breaking down VPN, VPS, and VPC
In this article, we’re explaining the differences between VPN, VPS, and VPC, which utilize distinct technologies. By understanding the role of each technology, you can discover their advantages and know for sure if you really need VPN, VPS or VPC.
To get started, let’s find out what the acronyms mean and what do they have in common:
- VPN = Virtual Private Network
- VPS = Virtual Private Server
- VPC = Virtual Private Cloud
“V” means “Virtual” and refers to the way in which the network, server, and cloud are created and accessed: virtualization. For example, if you are working on your computer at the office and wish to download a file that’s located on another machine in the same office (LAN), then you can directly access it through a network share (no virtualization is needed).
Instead, if you’re home and need to get that file from the office, the intranet is normally blocked to you because you’re considered an intruder. But the company’s administrator can set up a VPN to permit employees to remotely connect to the intranet. Since virtualization technology emulates hardware using the software, you’re basically making the intranet think you’re physically located at the office.
“P” means “Private” and is strongly tied to virtualization. In the previously mentioned example, we said that you’re normally considered an outsider when you’re home and try to obtain a file from your office’s intranet. It’s because the intranet is private and can only be accessed by authorized individuals.
VPN, VPS and VPC services cannot become operational without virtualization and authentication. There are multiple types of authentication that can be configured to permit remote access, such as username/password, one-time password, public or private pre-shared keys, certificates, smart card, or fingerprinting.
Network, server, and cloud
The last letters of the acronyms refer to the type of resources that can be accessed through private virtualization: network, server or cloud.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) simulates a real network to provide remote access to authorized users. It also gives you the opportunity to securely exchange information even when staying connected to the public Internet, as well as to assume a new identity to be able to access Internet resources which aren’t normally available.
A VPS (Virtual Private Server) represents a virtual machine (VM) that emulates a real operating system and has personalized functions based on the needs of each individual. It’s also known as VDS (Virtual Dedicated Server). The VPS has identical baseline features as the real OS, including privacy.
A VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) is a technology implemented by companies who want to facilitate resources from their public cloud to users in private. These resources can be storage, applications or virtual machines, for instance. Multiple VPC users can access the same resources in the public cloud, but they are isolated from each other to retain privacy.
VPN: How does it work?
A VPN service is responsible for securing your Internet connection as soon as you go online. The virtual private network must encapsulate each packet of data in an encrypted layer, thus putting together a secure tunnel that cannot be intercepted by outsiders (protection from man-in-the-middle attacks).
As soon as all data packets reach the intended destination in encrypted form, the VPN decrypts each packet to reconstruct the original info, based on the VPN protocol. Applications dedicated to virtual private networks can have many cool security features, such as kill switch, custom DNS, IP leak protection, and split tunneling.
Some of the benefits of using VPN are:
- Protecting your connection from hackers when using public hotspots
- Hiding your browsing activity from your ISP, such as downloading torrents
- Bypassing bandwidth throttling set by your ISP
- Getting access to exclusive content, like Netflix shows, YouTube clips or PSP games
- Masking your true identity to achieve Internet anonymity
- Overcoming government censorship
- Finding cheaper flights, booking and car rental services
So, do you need a VPN?
If you want to improve your web browsing experience by taking advantage of Internet privacy and anonymity, then you’re better off using a VPN service than directly connecting to the public Internet. Most VPN clients are so intuitive that they don’t need advanced computer skills. However, it takes a bit of time and patience to master the ideal VPN configuration that brings the perfect balance of security and speed (depending on the client).
The following VPN applications have been reviewed by our team and currently occupy the highest ranks on our website:
- ExpressVPN. It has thousands of IP addresses from diverse regions ready to mask your true identity. The tool doesn’t record logs of your VPN activity and is known to have an excellent customer support service. But subscriptions are a bit expensive.
- NordVPN. It does a great job at maintaining stable connections throughout the VPN session. Also, the app is located in a country where it’s not obligated by law to keep logs. But it’s not the best when it comes to speed.
- Ivacy. It was great at unlocking video streaming websites like Netflix during our tests. The VPN app is quite affordable, and there are always discounts offered by the company. However, although it claims to have a no-logging policy, the tool is situated in a country associated with the 5 Eyes surveillance alliance.
- CyberGhost VPN. It has special servers for streaming, with dedicated IP addresses for each streaming website. No security leaks were returned in our evaluation. But the app doesn’t have a generous list of servers, and some of its connections proved to be unstable.
- Mullvad VPN. It stands out from the crowd thanks to the way it registers new users: anonymously, by producing random account numbers and without needing email signup. It’s also one of the few VPN services we’ve seen to accept Bitcoin and cash payments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have too many servers and doesn’t work with Netflix and Hulu.
VPS: How does it work?
We’ve already established that a VPS provides unique virtual machines to users, depending on what they are interested in. But the main advantage is that it’s possible to install multiple VPS (each having its own operating system) on the same physical server, and they don’t depend on each other. The drawback of having many VPS is that they share the disk space, CPU and RAM of the physical server.
VPS packages can include software for a web server, email server, FTP and e-commerce to be sold by domain hosting providers who wish to extend their web hosting services. Customers are granted superuser-level access to the emulated OS, which means they can install any type of software, as long as it’s compatible with the OS.
Managed and self-managed VPS
Most providers offer managed and un-managed (self-managed) VPS. Self-managed VPS is recommended for skilled users who want to build their own VPS from scratch and choose the exact software configuration tailored to their needs. Managed VPS places this entire responsibility on the shoulders of the company (in accordance with the customer’s specifications), allowing customers to focus on the business side without bringing coding into the mix.
For instance, if you want to open an online shop but don’t have a hardware setup powerful enough to accommodate your plan, then you can pay a VPS subscription by turning to a domain hosting provider. Thus, the company lends you part of its physical server via VPS. The package can cover 1 or 2 CPU cores, 1Gb or 4Gb RAM, 20Gb or 100Gb cloud storage, 1 or 2 domains, 1 or 2 IP addresses, DDoS protection, 1Gbps connections, free backups, and round-the-clock technical support, to name several examples. Most customers find it cheaper to pay a monthly VPS subscription than gearing up with their own hardware (dedicated server).
So, do you need a VPS?
If you want to manage your own website or remote-access app but don’t meet the recommended hardware requirements and can’t afford a dedicated server, then you need a VPS.
Some benefits of using VPS are:
- Full control over your hosting service. Thanks to root access, you can install any new third-party apps which are compatible with your emulated OS, remove unwanted features, and reconfigure settings.
- Enhanced reliability. Using shared web hosting services is risky because all customers have access to the same server: if one customer crashes his server, then all servers are crashed, including yours. But servers run independently when using VPS, so this risk doesn’t exist in the first place.
- Cost effective. It’s simply cheaper to not only rent the hardware resources of a VPS provider but also benefit from hardware upgrades. The alternative means paying obscene amounts of money to buy your own equipment, only to later worry about upgrades when the time comes.
VPC: How does it work?
A VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) is similar to VPS but bigger and with more perks. While VPS restricts users to the hardware and resources available on the physical server, the VPC lifts these boundaries. Instead, it facilitates remote access to many virtual machines and servers stored in the cloud.
VPC is a technology designed for those who were interested in employing cloud services but who were worried about security and privacy. The company renting its VPC services is responsible for separating the private clouds of its customers through data encryption, private IP addressing, tunneling or unique VLAN allocation. Customers can directly enable and disable servers as well as set and manage network-related elements like IP addresses, gateways, subnets, and access control policies.
Public cloud, private cloud, and virtual private cloud
It’s important to mention the differences between public clouds, private clouds, and virtual private clouds. Firstly, a public cloud is a hyperscale platform that allows a large number of tenants to reserve and rent cloud services on demand.
Secondly, a private cloud operates on dedicated infrastructure and provides its services to a single tenant. It’s typically handled by a company’s data center, either on or off the company’s premise. But it can be also operated by a managed private cloud provider. Besides the fact that the IT department has to ensure that it’s always operational, the private cloud is not as versatile as the public cloud because it’s limited by the fixed infrastructure (depending on the datacenter).
Thirdly, a virtual private cloud is supposed to offer the best of both worlds: taking advantage of the security and exclusivity of a private cloud while running in a public cloud whose infrastructure has zero constraints.
So, do you need a VPS?
If your website doesn’t have a steady number of visitors, then a VPC is a better solution than VPS. It can seamlessly adapt to any traffic-related circumstances, even if there’s a surge of incoming traffic, by automatically measuring and allocating the necessary amount of virtual resources.
Also, VPC makes more economic sense than VPS if your website or web app doesn’t run all the time. If it has fixed working hours instead, then you can go with an hourly rate of a VPC provider because it’s cheaper than paying for a monthly subscription to VPS.
VPC shares most benefits of VPS. Additional perks include:
- Hybrid cloud setup. It uses a combination of a private cloud running on the company’s premises with a public cloud service operated by a third party. This interoperability adds to the versatility factor of VPS, making room for extra data deployment options.
- Eco-friendly technology. More and more businesses are forced to turn green, due to government legislation. Since they must cater to the needs of multiple individuals, many VPC providers have already become carbon neutral or are willing to resort to renewable energy when it comes to hosting hyperscale servers within data centers.
- Streamlined hardware upgrades. Because all VPC customers access resources from the same hardware, the VPC provider can easily upgrade its equipment and refresh changes for all customers at the same time. Further, the provider must continuously ensure server uptime to keep everyone satisfied.
Synopsis: key differences between VPC, VPS, and VPC
Although these acronyms share two traits (virtualization and privacy), VPN, VPS and VPC are different technologies available for users with different needs. VPS and VPC are made for companies that want full control over their hosted websites or web apps, thanks to superuser-level permissions.
However, VPC offers greater possibilities than VPS. It’s not bound to hardware limitations and can automatically scale virtual resources to fit traffic requirements, thanks to the cloud’s elasticity. Plus, VPC can be quickly enabled or disabled when the user wants it.
VPN, on the other hand, it’s not solely designed for companies or website owners. It’s a cost-effective technology that permits any users to secure their Internet connection, have safe conversations and VoIP calls, protect their login credentials and banking info from hackers when using public or unencrypted Wi-Fi, as well as get exclusive access to online content that’s not normally available in their country. But it’s also possible to set up and host VPN on VPS or VPC.