Smart DNS vs VPN Service

Today we’re looking at both Smart DNS and VPN.  Comparing the strengths and weaknesses of each.  When we started VPNSP users were relying on VPN providers to access content abroad.  Last year the BBC coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games brought a lot of interest to VPN.  It also helped spawn a new line of DNS services.  With companies like OverPlay, ibVPN, StrongVPN and HideIPVPN launching Smart DNS services.

Smart DNS

The first time we heard about Smart DNS it didn’t make sense to us.  Why use a DNS service when VPN provides access to the same US and UK content with the additional benefit of encryption.  Hiding your IP address and providing online privacy through their network.  After testing OverPlay’s SmartDNS we started to change our opinion.  While we still prefer VPN there are some advantages to using DNS if you don’t care about encryption.

Let’s take a quick look at the advantages and limitations of each option:

Smart DNS Service

The goal of Smart DNS is to help members access content in other countries.  Services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, Pandora and BBC restrict access.  You can’t watch BBC online unless you’re in the UK.  We had a lot of Olympics fans asking about BBC last year.  Looking at which VPN would work best.  Had the Smart DNS providers been around they would have had more options to choose from.  The same is true for Netflix and Hulu in the US.

Let’s start with the advantages.  Smart DNS is easy to set up and use.  You don’t need to install and run any additional software.  Simply change your DNS settings to the ones provided and connect.  Smart DNS is faster than many VPN services since you’re not encrypting the data.  You can also use it on game consoles, network DVD players and mobile devices that might not otherwise support VPN without a custom router.

There are some downsides to Smart DNS.  The first being the lack of encryption.  You are not browsing privately.  VPN will protect your privacy but Smart DNS won’t.  Your IP address may also be seen after the initial connection using a DNS provider.  For those reasons we prefer VPN for privately accessing content around the world.

Personal VPN

VPN stands for virtual private network.  With a VPN service you can protect your privacy online.  Without getting too technical we’ll describe the process.  You connect to a provider like IPVanish or Hide My Ass through their client software.  For mobile devices you might use an app or manually configure a connection.  With protocols like OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and SSTP you can connect to the VPN network and encrypt all your data.

Privacy isn’t the only advantage for VPN.  Users can access servers around the world.  Depending on the company you choose there are a variety of locations.  Connecting to a server in the United States will allow you to access content like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora.  While connecting to a server in the United Kingdom will change your IP address to the UK and give you access to BBC content.  A good VPN will provide privacy and worldwide content.

Just like anything else VPN isn’t perfect.  If you want privacy then VPN is the way to go.  If you’re good with non-secure access to services like Netflix then Smart DNS has some advantages.  For starters encryption puts additional overhead on your system and can slow down the connection.  The speed varies between providers.  We use IPVanish and get great speeds but have also tested services that slow down considerably.


We’ll keep it simple.  For privacy and content access we recommend VPN.  If security doesn’t matter then look at Smart DNS.  There are a few VPN services like OverPlay, ibVPN and HideIPVPN that offer a combination of VPN and Smart DNS.  Keep an eye on our blog for the latest news, updates and deals on Smart DNS and VPN.