VPN vs DNS – What's best and easiest for streaming?

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First things first—before we get anywhere near the big fight, we need to know who the competitors are.

What is a VPN?

Virtual Private Network.
VPN directs your IP address through a set of servers in the country where you need to be, replacing your IP address with a new, virtual one. In doing so, it creates an exceptional level of security and privacy, protecting you from hackers, data snoops, and all kinds of different trackers.

What is DNS?

Domain Name System.
Think of DNS as the phone numbers of your friends. You can’t possibly remember all of their numbers, but it’s easy to remember who they are. Your phone converts your contact’s name into a number to call them.

DNS does a very similar thing. Every website, computer, and server has an IP address; DNS switches each of them into an easier to manage option for the computers in control to work with.

What is Smart DNS?

Smart DNS converts your IP address into a new virtual location via a proxy server. This creates a Smart DNS address. The proxy server is located in the country of the services you want to access, so they think you’re there too and unlock their content.

So, if you change your DNS to a US location, you can stream their Netflix catalogue or access the American sports channels. Your American DNS server takes care of the heavy lifting, while you kick back and watch the baseball or your new favourite box set. Or if you’d rather, choose a different country, switch your DNS, Netflix Mexico is now available where your UK catalogue used to be.

What’s the difference between VPN and DNS?

Smart DNS and VPN servers do a very similar job, yet in quite different ways.

Although both provide methods of navigating around the blocks set up by streaming services, they each have their advantages and disadvantages. The main one, being that a VPN is far more secure. That said, if you’re only streaming TV and movie content, Smart DNS is generally faster and cheaper, and security isn’t likely to be the highest priority in that situation.

Avoid free VPN and DNS services at all costs

One thing we’re adamant about is that you shouldn’t ever opt for a free VPN or DNS server or service. No free service has the resources they need to do the job properly. In fact, many of the free options will often sell your data to people who you shouldn’t be giving that kind of access. Free VPNs and Smart DNS? Don’t do it.

We’re not getting any closer to picking a winner in the DNS vs VPN battle yet, are we? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each method.

Advantages of using a VPN to access streaming services

  • Excellent protection for browsing and website access, with full encryption of your data
  • Provides complete anonymity by changing your IP address
  • Easy setup on many devices
  • Offers a variety of additional functionality
  • Accesses location-based and geo-blocked content

Disadvantages of using a VPN to access streaming services

  • It’s generally more expensive than Smart DNS services
  • They’re often slower than Smart DNS options
  • Not available on all devices

Advantages of using Smart DNS to access streaming services

  • It travels through fewer servers, so is often faster than VPN
  • Generally cheaper than VPN services
  • Often available for devices without access to VPN software or apps
  • Can work with any WiFi router, covering more devices simultaneously
  • Accesses location-based and geo-blocked content

Disadvantages of using Smart DNS to access streaming services

  • Without encryption, there’s very little security
  • Doesn’t hide your IP, so you can still be tracked
  • Often complicated to set up
  • Higher-end Smart DNS services are becoming as expensive as VPN services

More of the popular arguments between VPN / DNS

So, Smart DNS is typically cheaper, but VPN gives you a lot more for your money. The big question is, do you need those extra services, or could you save yourself some cash?

When it comes to streaming media, we’d have to nudge towards Smart DNS, as it will do pretty much precisely what you need without the hefty charges.

  • For bypassing Firewalls – VPN will do you proud; Smart DNS doesn’t stand a chance.
  • Boosting security – VPN will completely block snoopers, hackers, trackers and more. Smart DNS won’t.
  • Using torrent websites – VPN will switch your IP address and keep you anonymous. Smart DNS will show your true IP, leaving you extremely vulnerable.
  • Highest network speeds – VPN uses part of your bandwidth to provide encryption; Smart DNS doesn’t do that so is generally faster.
  • Available on most devices – Smart DNS can be applied to many devices where a VPN service or app isn’t available. However, Smart DNS is often far more complicated to set up than a VPN.

When it comes to applying your chosen service, VPNs tend to be a lot more user friendly. They’ll typically have a simple on/off button, and feature a kill switch for when you need one. Finding and changing your Apple TV DNS settings or understanding how to change the DNS server on LG smart TV, for example, can be both challenging and incredibly frustrating. Downloading VPN on your Mac, PC, mobile phone, or Smart TV, is pretty simple and straightforward.

Games consoles are another tricky option. Where many won’t have access to a native VPN app, digging into their DNS isn’t too straightforward either. Changing PS4 DNS settings or your Xbox 360 DNS can be far too taxing for the average gamer, so you’d have to search out an alternative, one that does the hard work for you. I mean, who needs to know the difference between primary and secondary DNS on your PS3 or where to find any model of PlayStation DNS settings, when all you really want to do is pull in a movie or a game that’s just been released in another country?

That’s where StreamLocator comes into its own.

StreamLocator works with your WiFi router, so you don’t need to worry about applying software and settings, or downloading apps to any of your devices.

Any device you connect to the Internet through our smart hub is automatically catered for. No more worrying about how you should switch your Xbox DNS settings, or what you need to have the correct DNS settings for UK Netflix, it’s all sorted for you. If you need to switch your Amazon Fire Stick DNS to access Prime Video in another country, we have an app for that, or our smart hub can do the job easily and simply, by itself.

StreamLocator uses the best of both worlds

When it comes to the VPN or Smart DNS debate, the ultimate option would be to use both. Ideally, we should all use a VPN to provide protection when we need it, and then Smart DNS for the fastest streaming when security isn’t too big an issue.

When it comes to streaming geo-blocked media, StreamLocator uses a combination of technologies to find out which is the best option for the servers it’s accessing. By communicating with each of them, it determines the best option to bypass their blockades and uses that to stream your shows.

There’s nothing quite like it.