The difference between VPN and Smart DNS

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When learning to stream content online a huge headache can start to form with all the various technical terminology. The difference between a VPN and Smart DNS to anyone who already has experience of such systems is quite clear but for those of you who are just getting started in this amazing new world it can be confusing and laborious trying to understand the differences while not even knowing where to begin when it comes to which is suitable for your needs.

Firstly the most important aspect to understand is both services can allow you to watch content from countries outside the one you’re currently located in. So from that angle there is very little difference, where it becomes vital to understand is the difference between a VPN and Smart DNS when it comes to what you want to watch. Understanding the services you’re trying to access can go a long way in understanding which of the services from a VPN to a SmartDNS is more suitable in your situation.

How does a VPN or SmartDNS allow me access

A VPN can allow you to watch content from a specific country ONLY IF they have a server in the country of  the service you’re trying to watch. Taking BBC iPlayer for example, this is a service which is open to residents of the United Kingdom. To watch a show on this website if you are outside the United Kingdom then it would require the VPN provider to have a server in the United Kingdom. While most do offer such a location it is not a guarantee and if they do not have a United Kingdom server then you wouldn’t be able to watch any shows on that service.

A SmartDNS provider on the other hand doesn’t require you to connect to any specific server but they must have that service enabled on their system for you to be able to watch. Nearly all SmartDNS providers offer the major TV streaming services so 99.9% would have a service like BBC iPlayer available. In fact if the SmartDNS provider didn’t provide access to something like BBC iPlayer then you would probably want to avoid them altogether owning to the fact that BBC iPlayer is one of the most well known online streaming services.

So in summary, a VPN provider needs a country specific server available to you in the country of the service you’re wanting to access/watch whereas a SmartDNS provider only requires that service to be enabled on their network.

What is the difference between a VPN and SmartDNS

1. Purpose

A SmartDNS provider has the sole aim of providing you access to online streaming content and other websites with minimal fuss. There is no need to download specific software. There is no making connection to any servers or doing any complicated set-up and in theory there is no speed loss because you’re access the content directly from your own connection. A SmartDNS ONLY allows you to stream content, it does not protect your privacy, encrypt any of your data or provide any of the security features of a VPN service.

A VPN is a tool used to protect your privacy AND encrypt your connection, it does not naturally have the purpose to allow you to access online streaming content, it is a handy side effect of the VPN service that allows you to give the impression as if you’re in a specific country of the server you’ve connected to which in essence is why you can stream content through a VPN. A VPN encrypts all your data which makes it possible to slow the connection slightly which wouldn’t be the case with a SmartDNS system. Whereas a SmartDNS connects directly to the content site you wish to watch, a VPN makes connection through a third party and then on to the content and in reverse back to yourself leading to a possibility of slower access.

 2. Price

Due to the fact a SmartDNS service is specific to streaming content they are usually cheaper than VPN services. A VPN provides a slightly different service which is more involved and as such is charged at a higher price. For those who are interested in only specifically streaming content from around the world then a SmartDNS would be the most cost effective choice. A VPN provides additional features and some certain providers also throw in a free SmartDNS service with their VPN package price.

3. Amount of Streaming

VPN services require servers for you to access in each host country of the service that streams the content. For example, for a VPN provider to offer access to Hulu from the US, BBC iPlayer from the UK and SBS from Australia they would need to have at least 3 servers for you to be able to connect to, one in each of the USA, UK and Australia. A SmartDNS service does not require this for the end user and as such they can offer access to many more streaming services around the world as long as they are enabled on their network.

4. Ease of Use and Accessibility

Although VPN access has become easier there is still a certain amount of software installation. A SmartDNS system can be set up rather easily without the need to install any extra software, although the process can be made slightly more user friendly when using a software specifically made for easily changing the DNS servers used on your computer.

Connecting a VPN provider requires in many cases software which makes the system unavailable on certain non-desktop solutions. Many set top boxes and media devices can not install custom software but can allow DNS settings to be changed which would allow the SmartDNS service to work on a much more wider range of systems.


For users who wish to stream content from some of the best online TV services from around the world a SmartDNS service is essentially the better option because the ease of use, speed advantages, lower price and service specific nature of the system. With VPN services allowing similar access by way of being a side line benefit they are not always supported by the provider and so any issues that arise like the recent blocking of the Hulu service may go unanswered, with a SmartDNS service it is their business to allow you access to such content and are much more likely to resolve any such issues with streaming content from around the world.

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