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RDP vs. VPNs: What’s the Difference?

There are so many technologies out there, that it’s easy to get any two confused with each other. This can often be the case with RDP and VPNs, two protocols that have different dynamics and purposes. So, what do these two technologies do, and should they ever be used together?

What Is RDP?

RDP, an acronym for Remote Desktop Protocol, is a type of software that allows a user to access a desktop from afar, without having physical access to it. This process involves a server and a client. The server is the device you want to remotely connect to, and the client is the device you’re using to do so.

RDP is particularly popular for remote workers, such as those who are out of the office but need access to their work computer or laptop. For example, if an individual is working on the road, but needs to use applications and files on their office computer, they can use the Remote Desktop Protocol offered by their employer to do this.

There are many different kinds of RDP software programs available today, such as RemotePC and ZohoAssist. Using such a technology can be incredibly convenient, though cybercriminals tend to target this software in order to illegally access users’ desktops. This is often done to access sensitive data, install malware, or carry out harmful actions.

Now, let’s discuss the basics of VPNs to see how they differ from RDP.

What Is a VPN?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a protocol one can use to encrypt their online traffic and mask their IP address. VPNs have become hugely popular in recent years, with the need for online security and privacy being greater than ever before. Companies like ExpressVPN and SurfShark are now widely successful among those who are looking to protect themselves while surfing the web—but how is this actually done?

A key component of VPN technology is remote servers. When you connect to a VPN using a legitimate provider, your online traffic is redirected through a remote server. You can either choose the location of your server or let your provider choice for you. As your data passes through this server, it is encrypted, meaning it cannot be deciphered by your ISP, the government, or other third parties.

On top of this, the remote server takes your original IP address and replaces it with its own IP, meaning you cannot be tracked geographically. You can also use this technology to avoid geoblocking by connecting to a server in a different country.

All in all, VPNs can be very useful, but they are not the same as RDP…

What’s the Difference Between RDP and VPNs?

When it comes down to it, RDP and VPNs are very different from each other. It’s true that both technologies allow you to remotely access a certain kind of hardware. While you can use a server remotely using a VPN, you can use a desktop remotely using RDP. But this is where the similarities between these two protocols end. So how are they different?

Firstly, Remote Desktop Protocol is not designed to keep your devices safe. This technology is geared towards functionality, not safety. While RDP programs can have security features, this is not the purpose of the technology. So, if you want to use RDP, remember that some programs may be susceptible to cyberattacks. After all, criminals targeting RDP users will scan the internet for vulnerable connections to exploit. So, if the RDP software you’re using is outdated or poorly designed, your devices may be at risk.

VPNs, on the other hand, are almost entirely focused on user privacy and security. When you sign up for a VPN service, you should expect increased protection through the encryption of your data and masking of your IP address. But VPNs do not allow you to connect to and control other desktops. Rather, the only thing you’ll be remotely connecting to is a VPN server.

Note that this is the case for legitimate, trusted VPN providers. Today, there are many illicit VPN services that track your activity and sell your data without your permission, while also offering subpar security features. Free VPN providers are particularly known for this, with the allure of a payment-free service pulling in users who are unaware of how their data is being handled. So, if you’re looking for top-tier protection, opt for a well-established VPN service, even if you have to pay a fee to use it.

When it comes to choosing between RDP and VPNs, it really depends on what you want to do, as the two protocols have different capabilities. If you want to access a secure network, VPNs are the right choice for you. But if remote desktop control is what you’re looking for, you’re going to need some kind of RDP software.

Though RDP and VPNs differ drastically, this isn’t to say that they can’t work together to benefit the user. But why would you want to use these two technologies simultaneously?

Why Should You Use a VPN and RDP Together?

As previously mentioned above, cybercriminals often target RDP connections when they want to access a victim’s computer. RDP hacks are by no means uncommon, with attackers even installing ransomware on targeted devices to threaten organizations and individuals into handing over money for the return of their sensitive data.

This is why using a VPN while your RDP is active could be a great idea. Hiding your IP address and encrypting your connection can lower the chances of being targeted by cybercriminals who run scans for vulnerable connections. This will keep your RDP client and server safe, and will therefore protect the data and applications stored on your devices.

Together, RDP and VPNs Can Be Beneficial

It’s safe to say that RDP and VPNs are by no means the same technology, as they both perform different core functions. However, if you’re looking to use RDP, find a reputable VPN provider so that your connection always remains encrypted and secure. This will prevent prying eyes from grabbing your data or performing harmful actions on your devices.

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