If you’re trying to access a streaming service or website that’s blocked in your region, keep your online activities private, or download torrents, there are a few tools you should know about: custom DNS, smart DNS, and VPNs.
But which one is right for you? We’ll compare DNS vs VPN in this guide, with details on everything you need to know.
Summary: Get a Reliable VPN
If you don’t have time to read the whole guide, we’ll sum it up for you: VPNs do everything Custom or Smart DNS can do, and a lot more.
Whether you want to access geo-restricted content, protect your privacy, or torrent safely, a VPN will handle it.
Our pick for the best VPN for most uses is PureVPN. It’s fast, reliable, easy-to-use, and very affordable.
Comparing Custom DNS, Smart DNS, and VPNs
Let’s start our breakdown by taking a quick look at what DNS and VPNs are.
- DNS – You may not know it, but you use DNS (or Domain Name System) every time you visit a website. It translates your normal URL (ex. https://www.cogipas.com) into an IP address (ex. 188.8.131.52), which then allows your web browser to connect to the website
Now, by default, your device uses the DNS provided by your ISP or internet service provider. However, it’s possible to change it, using:
- Custom DNS – A custom DNS simply replaces your default DNS with a new one. There are a few advantages to doing this, which we’ll cover in the next section
- Smart DNS – A smart DNS also replaces your default DNS, but it goes a step further by routing your DNS requests through a proxy server. Again, we’ll tell you why that matters in just a minute
In the end, Custom and Smart DNS aren’t that similar to a VPN, though they can accomplish a few of the same things. Hence why we’re comparing them. So, what’s a VPN?
- VPN – A VPN (or virtual private network) will also change your DNS, as well as re-route your traffic. But it goes a step further by changing your IP address, encrypting your traffic, and more. We have everything you need to know about VPNs.
So, with that basic overview out of the way, let’s dig into the details and see what benefits these tools actually provide you.
Advantages of Custom or Smart DNS
As promised, here are some of the benefits of using a Custom DNS server:
- Separate your DNS from your ISP, potentially improving privacy
- Can be setup to work on multiple devices and/or an entire network
- May be a bit faster than your default DNS
- Some DNS servers, like Cloudflare, will provide low-level encryption
- ...and it’s (typically) free
That being said, simply changing your DNS server doesn’t provide many of the other benefits we’ll see with other options, its security is much weaker than a VPN, and it can be a little confusing at first if you’re not tech savvy.
Okay, so what about Smart DNS? Here are its benefits:
- Allows you to access geo-restricted content
- Allows you to block ads and malicious/unwanted content
- Increases your privacy a bit
- Works on all devices
Basically, a smart DNS does everything a custom DNS does, with some extra bells and whistles thrown in. But... you do have to pay for those extra features.
Who should use a smart DNS? Well, if you’re interested in blocking ads or certain content (phishing, erotica, gambling, etc.) on your devices and networks, it’s a good pick. Since that’s the one thing a VPN can’t do.
If you’d like to give one a try, we recommend playmoTV. It works well with most popular streaming services, and it also provides the ad/content blocking features we highlighted above.
Advantages of a VPN
Now, let’s take a look at the advantages of a VPN:
- Easy setup and use
- Changes your location (aka "geo-shifting")
- Hides your IP address
- Encrypts your traffic
- Provides other security features, like leak protection, a kill switch, etc.
By the way, a VPN will also change your DNS, and some VPN providers even have their own DNS servers. Basically, you get most of the advantages of a smart DNS built in.
In short, VPNs are both powerful and versatile, allowing you to access blocked content, hide your identity and traffic, and much more, all with the click of a button.
The two main disadvantages are:
- A good VPN does require a small subscription fee; and,
- A VPN may cause a small decrease in your internet speeds, though this isn’t a big deal if you have decent internet.
- read more about 'Disadvantages of Using a VPN'
And compared to a smart DNS, it doesn’t work on all devices (or your whole network), and it can’t be used to block ads or content natively. But for the majority of people, it’s the best option.
You can get a good deal on a trustworthy VPN by signing up through our discount, which all of our visitors can take advantage of.
DNS vs VPN for Torrenting
Like we said, changing your DNS is not without its uses. However, if you plan to torrent, your only choice is a VPN.
A Smart DNS service won’t hide your IP address and it won’t encrypt your traffic – but a VPN will, making you much safer in the process. It’s really a must-have for safe torrenting.
DNS vs VPN: Wrap-Up
Hopefully, that clears up your confusion about DNS vs. VPN, and you know what the different services are, how they work, and what they’re good for.
If you have any more questions, feel free to ask in the comments.