VPN hardware vs VPN software – The main differences explained

VPN hardware vs VPN software – The main differences explained

A mind at ease is already pleased. That is why I like to think that happiness doesn’t exist without peace of mind, just like hardware couldn’t work without its better half, the software. Since we’re talking about hardware and software, let’s discuss the VPN hardware vs. VPN software topic with a pinch of peace of mind.

So, on this post’s menu, we have the following selection: why is VPN important for our peace of mind, what is VPN software, and what makes it different than VPN hardware?

Let’s have a soft start to this article and begin with the Transylvanian explanation of VPN hardware vs. VPN software.

VPN hardware vs VPN software. The Transylvanian explanation

One upon a time, a friendly vampire lived in Transylvania. No matter how amiable he was, people avoided him. Therefore, he lived a very lonely life, a thing that made him really sad. Immortality was a heavy burden on his shoulders, as an eternity of loneliness sounds depressing even for vampires.

The fear he aroused among the people made him take the radical decision of never leaving his castle again. In just a few months, he read all the books in his library, watched all the series and movies on Netflix, and deep cleaned even the most hidden corners of his attic.

Driven by despair, he ordered a large mirror from VAMazon, the biggest e-commerce platform for vampires. In just a matter of days, he had the mirror delivered and installed in his castle chamber. He was excited beyond words that he will be finally able to see something moving around, except his shadow.

Despite his expectations, the idea of ordering a mirror proved to be a bad one. Why? Because he learned with astonishment that vampires’ reflection is not visible when they stand in front of a mirror. So, he started crying so loud that TomBat’s flock heard him from the far. They all gathered and decided to fly and follow the sounds. When they arrived at the castle’s open window, they saw the friendly vampire crying and crawling in pain.

Just like superheroes, they entered the room and surrounded the crying vampire. When he saw that some living creatures entered their chamber, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The friendly bats and our lonely vampire became best friends and, from that day on, as soon as the sun went down, they roamed the Transylvanian streets, having fun and enjoying the beauty of life.

Why is this story relevant to our VPN hardware vs VPN software discussion?

Because, my friends, hardware is a physical component of a computer, something we can see, like a mouse, a monitor, firewall, or a router. The software is a collection of instructions, tasks, and procedures, that are not visible, even if there are running “in front of us” on our computer.

So, our friendly vampire is, basically, hardware, as we can see it (and if we are brave enough, we can touch it), while the vampire in the mirror is the software since is there, but we can’t see it.

VPN technology is like a dose of chocolate for your internet connection. If chocolate would be able to help even a vampire hide his sadness on a Friday night, what do VPNs hide and do precisely to ensure peace of mind?

To use… or not to use a VPN?

I feel like we’re still at that point where internet users know stuff about VPN (Virtual Private Network) but consider this technology a tool for IT staff and tech gurus. In reality, the VPN is legal and easy-to-use, and it helps you accomplish the most basic online activities in complete online privacy, anonymity, and security.

The real question remains: What option does an internet surfer have when it comes to using a VPN? The answer is pretty simple; he can manually set up a VPN on the device of choice or go for VPN hardware or VPN software.

What is VPN hardware?

In IT, hardware (abbreviated as HW) is described as a physical and tangible component of a computer. Even its name leaks its definition. So, any component with a cord, or wirelessly attached to your computer or laptop is hardware. I also like to say that, without hardware, a computer would not exist, and without software, your hardware would be useless. Some examples of hardware: mouse, keyboard, webcam, hard drive, VPN firewall, RAM.

When it comes to the VPN world, there is VPN hardware that helps internet users protect one or more devices simultaneously. The best examples would be a VPN router or a VPN concentrator.

What is a VPN router?

Let’s be honest, nowadays, in every household or company, there are several computer and mobile devices connected to the Internet at the same time.

When you need to connect to the VPN from a bunch of devices simultaneously, having to connect to a series of applications might be time-consuming. To skip a few annoying steps, you can use a VPN router that helps you have a continuous active VPN connection fast and easily.

A VPN router is a regular router that supports various VPN protocols. Therefore, with the help of a VPN router, you can skip the manual configuration of the VPN on each device and enjoy a safer internet in a facile way.

Plus, a VPN router helps you ensure a secure and reliability for devices that otherwise are incapable of running a VPN service (Roku, Apple TV, or Xbox), cuts out the necessity of installing a VPN app, is easy to set up, and a great option for small businesses.

VPN users have a wide range of VPN routers to choose from. If you think about expanding your horizon and look for a VPN router to test its capabilities, Asus, Linksys, and Vilfo are three options worth trying.

What is a VPN concentrator?

Just like the VPN router, the VPN concentrator is hardware that acts like a networking device, capable of establishing multiple VPN connections and manage all of them at the same time.  The most important aspect any user should know about a VPN concentrator is that this standalone device suitable for large-scale corporations who want to provide a secure connection for their employees and allow their remote workers to easily and securely access the company’s resources.

These devices allow data encryption/decryption and create and manage multiple VPN tunnels in a single corporate network and manage users’ authentication and cryptographic keys.

The huge downside of a VPN concentrator is the price. Yet, companies decide to make a smart investment for their business and network security. From what I have read and heard, Cisco Meraki is a top-notch device that changes the way corporations manage their VPN network. 

What is VPN software?

It’s not much to say that software is your hardware’s boss. Software represents the set of programs and procedures that ensure the operation of a computer or device.

Just like any other application, VPN software allows users to enable a connection with a VPN server.

The VPN client software is an automated and controlled method developed to connect to a VPN server easily. The VPN providers are usually developing these kinds of security solutions for the most common operating systems (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux).

Therefore, VPN software combines the VPN components (VPN server, VPN protocol, and encryption) in a single and compact application that allows users to activate a VPN connection with just a click.

Due to its ease of use, which requires no technical knowledge, a VPN app is a great option for people who don’t own technology at their fingertips. Plus, it allows users access to out-of-the-box features designed for advanced security or speedy connections. Among these VPN functions, I would mention Double VPN, Tor over VPN, KillSwitch, selection of special servers for gaming or torrenting, split tunneling, secure protocols like WireGuard, OpenVPN, or Shardowsocks, SoftEther, or options that allow you to connect to the fastest server, based on your location.

Just check how, in two steps, you are able to surf the web securely and without restrictions.

VPN hardware vs VPN software comparison of how easy is to use NordVPN app

When it comes to the available option, you must know that there is native VPN software created by VPN protocol developers (OpenVPN, WireGuard, SoftEther) or third-party VPN apps created by the best VPN service providers (NordVPN, ExpressVPN, StrongVPN, CyberGhost, etc.).

VPN hardware vs VPN software

Maybe you think that comparing software with hardware is inappropriate. Since the purpose of both VPN hardware and VPN software is to create a VPN tunnel and ensure a private means of communication between one’s device and the Internet, I see no problem comparing them.

Security, the capability of unlocking restricted content, seamless connections, or speed are just a few important aspects a VPN-related product should meet. So, let’s see how VPN hardware and VPN software perform when it comes to users’ key expectations.

Security

A VPN’s main purpose is to create a private and secured connection between a user’s device and the world-wide-web. Security is also important, no matter if you’re a company or a person. In both these cases, sensitive information that needs to be protected is sent over the web.

The great news is that VPN concentrators and reputable VPN apps do a great job at encrypting and securing the traffic.

Speed

In the era of ultra-fast Internet connections, who has the time to wait for his page to load? It’s no news that a VPN may cause connection speed loss, so it’s mandatory to test a VPN before actually subscribing. Just like in the case of security, when it comes to fast connections and an awesome online experience while working (or better, while unblocking BBC iPlayer or Netflix), both solutions do a great job fulfilling these goals.

Setup

Now that we know VPN hardware and software are great for security purposes and provide satisfying speed let’s find out what setting up such solutions implies.

I am pretty sure you’ve installed a bunch of apps so far. You know how things go – download the app, click on the install button, wait a few seconds, and, just like magic, the app is there, at your disposal. Installing VPN software is not different. Therefore you don’t have to be a geek to accomplish the task.

On the other side of the bridge, we have a hardware VPN that requires some nerves and tech knowledge, as you will need to do mainly everything manually.

The capability of unblocking websites

Internet censorship and other online restrictions take over users’ online freedom. Users in China or Korea are not able to surf the web regularly. Youtube, Google, even Facebook or Instagram are banned in these countries. Therefore, regaining their online freedom and rights are essential aspects for plenty of internet users.

VPN proves to do a pretty good job at unblocking geo-restricted content. There are even special protocols integrated into VPN apps developed for such purposes.

Unfortunately, hardware VPN is not capable of unblocking restricted content. I am not sure if this is a drawn-back, as the purpose of a VPN concentrator, for example, is not to allow employees to access Netflix but to work securely, safely, and to improve productivity.

Remote access

It’s clear who’s the winner, right? Hardware VPN is specially developed to provide secure remote access. Therefore, it does a stellar job fulfilling this task.

On the other hand, software VPN does not provide you the exact IP address every time you connect to a server. Yet, there is the possibility to opt for static or dedicated IP addresses, a benefit that VPN providers usually support.

Scalability

Let’s say that you’re a company that goes for a hardware VPN. In time, your company expands, and your number of employees grows. If your device supports only 150 connections, then your 151st employee will not use the VPN connection. Therefore, in the case of hardware VPN, scaling is not something that defines this solution.

It is known that VPN apps are more popular among regular internet users. VPN services usually provide up to 15 simultaneous connections, which should be more than plenty for a household.

Price

A VPN is a must-have these days. But if a VPN solution is too pricy, that it will remain only nice to have.

The price for a hardware VPN ranges from $50 to “shy is the limit.” On the other hand, you can get a VPN subscription from a top provider that comes with plenty of apps and lots of perks for just a few bucks. Moreover, VPN providers spoil their customers with generous discount campaigns when anyone interested can get a VPN with up to 80% OFF.

Before closing the book on the price subject, I must highlight that, no matter how low on a budget you are, never opt for a free VPN or lifetime subscriptions. NEVER!

 Hardware VPNSoftware VPN
SecurityGreatGreat
SpeedGreatGreat
SetupHardEasy-peasy
Geo-blocking capabilitiesNoneYes
Remote accessYesNope
ScalingLimited possibilitiesSatisfying
PricePricyAffordable

Final thoughts.

VPN hardware vs. VPN software subject brings to light the pros and cons of these two solutions. Yet, security, the most important aspect that these two technologies must meet, is checked.

When it comes to their target market, hardware VPN is more popular among companies who need to secure access to their network. Simultaneously, software VPN is suitable for private users who want to secure their traffic while connected to a public WiFi network, avoid ISP surveillance, unblock websites, avoid bandwidth throttling, encrypt their connection, and other VPN appliances.

Price is another important decision-maker, and, in this particular case, software VPN is way cheaper than hardware VPN.

Another thing that you should keep in mind is that subscribing to my newsletter is free of charge. I promise you newsletters, filled with catchy tech talks, sent to your inbox straight from Transylvania.

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