VPN vs RDP: Which is Considered Safer?

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Written By Cooper Bancroft

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Deciphering the labyrinth of remote access technologies isn’t always an easy task, especially when acronyms like VPN and RDP become the topic of conversation. Our aim? To demystify these complex terms, draw key distinctions, and assist you to select the right tech for your specific needs.

By understanding the pros and cons of each, you’ll be able to make an informed decision, regardless of your level of technical knowledge. Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • VPN focuses on securing network connections, while RDP enables remote control of specific devices.
  • VPN offers encryption and protection for data transmission, constrarily RDP’s security depends on the underlying network.
  • RDP is tailored to specific devices and VPN provides access to entire networks.
  • RDP ensures real-time performance on local networks, whereas VPN may introduce latency due to encryption.
  • VPN is ideal for remote working and circumventing restrictions, while RDP excels in remote administration and technical support tasks.

VPN vs RDP: Understanding the Basics

A Virtual Private Network, known as VPN, is a tool that creates a secure connection between a user and a remote network over the internet. By acting as a private tunnel, it ensures secure data transmission and grants the user the illusion of direct network access.

The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a Microsoft-developed technology that facilitates remote access to a computer or server. It allows a user to control and interact with the desktop environment of another computer remotely, as though they were sitting directly in front of the target device.

remote desktop protocol

Advantages of Using VPN for Remote Access

1. Enhanced Security and Encryption

VPNs amplify digital security by encrypting data during transit, creating an impenetrable layer around your information. This ensures that sensitive information, whether personal or business-related, sent over the network remains safeguarded from potential threats.

2. Anonymity and Privacy

VPNs provide a robust shield of anonymity and privacy by concealing your IP address. This vital feature makes it significantly more challenging for websites, third-party trackers, or potentially intrusive entities to monitor your online activities or pinpoint your physical location.

3. Access to Geographically Restricted Content

VPNs provide the distinct advantage of accessing geographically restricted content. By making it seem as though you are browsing from any global location of your choosing, VPNs enable you to circumvent geo-restrictions. This allows you to enjoy or interact with content, such as streaming services, news outlets, or social media platforms, which might otherwise be inaccessible due to regional limitations in your actual geographical location.

4. Protection on Public Wi-Fi Networks

VPNs provide invaluable protection while using public Wi-Fi networks, known for their security vulnerabilities. When you use a VPN, it establishes a secure and encrypted connection, acting as a digital fortress for your data. This fortification ensures your sensitive information is secure, shielding it from potential intruders lurking on the same network.

vpn in public wi fi

Advantages of Using RDP for Remote Access

1. Full Control and Access to the Remote System

RDP empowers users with full control and access to a remote system, mirroring the experience of being physically present at the machine. It enables the execution of software, alteration of files, and performance of various tasks just as if one were directly using the machine.

2. Seamless Integration with Local Resources

RDP offers seamless integration with local resources, facilitating the effortless transfer of files between local and remote systems. Moreover, it extends to sharing peripherals such as printers and scanners with the remote system. This streamlined integration greatly simplifies tasks necessitating resources from both systems, providing a virtually unbroken experience.

3. Efficient Collaboration and Troubleshooting

RDP serves as a potent platform for efficient collaboration and remote troubleshooting. Its capability to allow multiple users to view and interact with the same remote session in real time is invaluable. This feature makes RDP an integral tool for team collaboration, facilitating collective input and ideas. Simultaneously, it’s an effective mechanism for remote support.

Key Differences between VPN and RDP

1. Purpose and Scope


The principal function of a VPN is to facilitate a secure, encrypted connection between a user and a network. The reachability of this connectivity can range from a handful of devices to an entire corporate network, offering broad-scale access. This protective mechanism encrypts data in transit, safeguarding sensitive information from cyber threats, and thereby ensuring enhanced privacy and security in the digital realm. Likewise, internet users prefer to use VPNs in Australia because of better security and speed.


Conversely, RDP is devised specifically for gaining access to and controlling a distinct computer or server from a remote location. Its scope is more concentrated and device-specific, enabling detailed interaction with the target system. It replicates the direct use of the machine, whether for file management, running applications or troubleshooting, providing a virtually seamless experience irrespective of geographical location.

how RDP works

2. Security and Encryption


VPNs utilise end-to-end encryption, guaranteeing the security of data from the user’s device to the network. This technology essentially creates a secure tunnel through the public internet, fortifying data against interception or unauthorised access. It’s like having a private pathway within the public internet, keeping the user’s data encrypted and shielded from potential cyber threats.


Although RDP sessions are encrypted, the security level is largely contingent on the underlying network’s security parameters. Without a secure network or additional protective strategies in place, an RDP session might potentially be exposed to malicious attacks. It’s akin to having a secure door but in a compromised wall, highlighting the importance of comprehensive security when utilising RDP.

3. Accessibility and Usability


A VPN facilitates access to an entire network and its resources, mimicking the experience of a direct connection. Its extensive access capability renders it versatile for various applications, from remotely accessing company resources to utilising home network services.


In contrast, RDP provides access to a specific computer or server, offering a granular level of control. This detailed access is ideal for tasks necessitating control of a specific device, but it doesn’t extend to the broader network resources unless specifically shared by the target device.

4. Performance and Latency


The encryption and routing processes employed by a VPN can potentially add extra latency. However, this compromise in speed is usually outweighed by the superior security that a VPN provides.


RDP generally presents superior performance with reduced latency on local networks, delivering a more real-time user experience. However, over extensive distances or slower connections, the performance could potentially be affected.

5. Use Cases and Scenarios


VPNs are particularly beneficial for remote working setups, accessing organisational resources, circumventing internet censorship, and safeguarding your data on insecure networks, such as public Wi-Fi hotspots. They function like a universal remote, offering secure, private, and unrestricted access to digital resources across various scenarios.


RDP shines in scenarios requiring remote administration of servers, providing technical assistance, or accessing personal devices remotely. It serves as a flexible platform for a diverse range of IT tasks, functioning like a remote control for specific devices, offering detailed control irrespective of user location.

Table 1. Summary of Key Differences Between VPN and RDP

Key DifferencesVPNRDP
Purpose and ScopeSecures the connection between the user and the networkEnables remote control and access to a specific computer or server
Security and EncryptionOffers end-to-end encryption and secure tunnellingProvides encryption dependent on the underlying network
Accessibility and UsabilityGives access to the entire network and resourcesGrants access to a specific computer or server only
Performance and LatencyMay introduce additional latency due to encryption and routingDelivers real-time performance on a local network
Use Cases and ScenariosIdeal for remote working, accessing corporate resources, bypassing censorshipPerfect for remote administration, technical support, accessing personal devices

Considerations for Choosing the Right Solution

1. Security Requirements

Depending on the sensitivity of your data, you might prefer one solution over the other. A VPN is ideal if you need to maintain high-level security and encryption across the network. However, if you need to access a specific device and the network is already secure, RDP might be more suitable.

vpn vs rdp pros and cons

2. Nature of the Work and Level of Access Needed

The kind of tasks you need to perform remotely can significantly influence the choice. If your work involves accessing an entire network, like company resources or home network services, a VPN would be ideal. If you need to control a specific device, RDP would be the better fit.

3. Performance and Latency Considerations

If real-time interaction with the remote device is necessary, RDP might offer a more responsive experience, especially on local networks. However, if the added latency from a VPN’s encryption and routing doesn’t significantly impact your tasks, a VPN could offer broader access while maintaining security.

4. Cost Implications

Depending on your needs and the scale of deployment, costs could differ. Some VPN services charge monthly or yearly fees, while RDP is typically included with the Windows operating system. Consider the ongoing costs and whether your chosen solution provides good value for money in your specific circumstances.

5. Scalability and Flexibility

As your requirements evolve, you’ll want a solution that can scale and adapt. VPNs can be a good choice for larger businesses or those expecting to grow, offering secure access for an increasing number of remote users. In contrast, RDP’s targeted access makes it a great choice for specific tasks, like remote technical support or personal device access, which can be scaled as needed across different machines.

Final Thoughts

Decoding VPN and RDP technologies can seem complex, but understanding their unique strengths and purposes demystifies the process. VPNs provide broad, secure network access, while RDP offers real-time control over specific systems. A careful evaluation of your security needs, nature of work, performance requirements, cost, and scalability can guide you towards the best solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is RDP Superior to VPN for Remote Access?

Determining whether RDP or VPN is better for remote access relies on individual requirements. RDP shines by granting direct control over a specific device, whereas VPN excels in providing broader network access and bolstered security measures. The choice hinges on the desired level of control and accessibility.

Is it Advisable to Combine VPN with RDP?

Combining VPN with RDP offers an extra level of security, particularly when dealing with sensitive data or utilizing RDP over public networks. It is generally recommended to use VPN in conjunction with RDP as it provides added protection, encrypting the connection and safeguarding against potential threats or unauthorized access.

How Secure is Using RDP Over the Internet?

Using RDP over the internet can be secure with the implementation of essential security measures. It is imperative to maintain strong passwords, regularly update software, and limit access to authorized users. Enhancing the security of RDP sessions can be achieved by employing VPN for encrypted connections, providing an additional layer of protection.

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