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SSH vs. VPN – Which One to Opt For in 2023?

SSH vs. VPN – Which One to Opt For in 2022

The internet is a magical place filled with limitless possibilities. Whether you are in the mood for shopping, streaming, commuting, working, studying, or anything else, the internet facilitates everything. However, this luxury does come with a downside: digital security. Since people rely on the internet for almost every single activity in their life, it has become a hub for cybercrime.

People routinely become victims of phishing scams, malware, identity thefts, and digital fraud. That is why one must take every possible step to secure themselves while online. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep oneself safe on the web. Two of which are SSH and VPN services.

But which one is better for you? And which service should be utilized in which scenario? These are some questions we shall be answering for you here. Follow us as we shed light on the discussion in elaborate detail.

SSH vs. VPN – What’s the difference?

Both SSH and VPN services are designed to secure your means of accessing the internet. Both create a virtual tunnel that is used to transmit data to and from your device. Ultimately, no unauthorized parties can access the information passing through these tunnels.

VPN (Virtual Private Network) services encrypt the data transmission by encrypting your data on the transport layer level. A VPN can encrypt your entire network. Meaning all the information that will travel from your device shall be encrypted.

In contrast, SSH (Secure Shell) is a technology that functions on the application layer and will secure the data transmission between you and a remote server you are connected to. This technology uses small tunnels that transmit encrypted data and mask the overall traffic.

Advantages & Disadvantages

For further clarity, let us also tell you what each technology has to offer and what each technology holds back. First, let us have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a VPN.

VPN – Advantages

  • Once you connect to a VPN, all the traffic traveling to and from that device will be instantly encrypted. You will not need to perform any form of coding.
  • It does not matter whether you have any technical know-how; anyone can use a VPN on their personal and professional devices.
  • If you are subscribed to a premium VPN plan, you can access a wide range of servers worldwide. As a result, you can pretend to connect from almost anywhere in the world.
  • Some VPNs also help with ISP throttling. They do this by hiding your network usage entirely.
  • A VPN service can hide your online identity, thus securing you from data theft, identity theft, and other cybercrimes.

VPN – Disadvantages

  • A VPN server may often be challenging to set up at the server level. Only a few premium-level VPNs will rid you of the need to face this trouble.
  • With VPNs, you need to stay cautious of the free options. Free VPNs are usually risky as they might be selling off your data to third parties to earn a profit. That is why it is important to always opt for paid VPN plans.

SSH – Advantages

  • SSH requires a relatively more straightforward setup process. Even basic technical knowledge will enable you to complete this process.
  • SSH tunnels make accessing remote servers easier, including performing terminal sessions between devices.
  • SSH offers an air-tight encryption feature that makes it possible to stay safe from cyberthreats such as IP source routing, DNS leaks, data thefts, and several others.

SSH – Disadvantages

  • If you do not have at least basic technical know-how, you will find it hard to configure SSH on your devices.
  • With SSH, you will need to set up individual connections for each device you want to access remotely. Thus, making it extremely complicated if you wish to secure the entire network.

Is SSH better than a VPN?

The short answer is that SSH is not better than a VPN. However, this does not mean that SSH tunnels are useless. SSH tunnels can encrypt a single app at a time. And if you wish to encrypt multiple apps, you will need to set up numerous SSH tunnels.

In contrast, a VPN service will encrypt the entire traffic transmitted to and from your device. You cannot select specific apps to encrypt. Though, there is a way around it as well. If your VPN service offers a split tunneling feature, you can also encrypt specific apps.

Do I need to connect to a VPN to use SSH?

The short answer is that you do not need to connect to a VPN to use SSH tunnels. However, connecting to a VPN might often be a good idea before using SSH tunnels. If you connect a VPN to SSH tunnels, you will automatically get an additional layer of security, thus ensuring you are safe from digital threats.

Are SSH Tunnels Safe?

Yes, SSH tunnels are entirely safe to use. Similar to a VPN, SSH tunnels are also used to encrypt the data that is being transmitted.

Which is better for me, SSH or VPN?

For the everyday user, a VPN is probably the best option to opt for. That is if they go for VPN services that are already set up. All they would need to do is sign up for a VPN plan, down the VPN client, and they can connect to the server of their choice. However, they will face some complications if they decide to set up their VPN network.

Comparatively, IT professionals or people who want to access specific devices or servers remotely would be better off using SSH tunnels. Additionally, they could combine the two technologies and achieve a far more secure and private network.

In a Nutshell

Depending on your usage type, you would benefit from each of these technologies. Hopefully, we have clarified the debate for you completely, and you can now easily choose the respective technology for your needs.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is VPN better than SSH?

VPNs are not better than SSH tunnels. Nor are SSH tunnels better than VPNs. It all depends upon the type of utility you have. A VPN might be the way to go if you need to encrypt your network for everyday use. In contrast, if you are an IT administrator wishing to access the server remotely, SSH tunnels might be better for you.

Is SSH considered a VPN?

Even though SSH tunnels also encrypt data just like a VPN, there is a difference in their functionality. A VPN will encrypt the entire traffic passing through the network; that is, if split tunneling is disabled. On the other hand, SSH tunnels will encrypt transmission for specific apps on the device. And you will need to set up individual tunnels for each app.

Are VPNs safer than SSH tunnels?

One technology is not safer than the other. As mentioned earlier as well, it all depends upon the type of utility you have. Whether you want to secure the entire network or specific apps, deciding this might help you choose the right technology.

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