VPN vs SSH – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons)

VPN vs SSH – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons). In this article we talk through two systems that create secure tunnel for data travel. Firstly, both of these tools are extremely useful in protecting the privacy and security of our data online. Hence, this article compares VPN and SSH to help you to decide better suited tool for your requirements. 

Nowadays, with most of our activities taking place over the internet, securing your privacy and personal information has become crucial. In order to protect your information, it is advisable to use various tools such as VPNs and SSH. But do you want to protect data just at the application level (SSH), or with VPN that also encrypts and protects all your data on the network?

Let’s find out which tool is better suited and start the article blog VPN vs SSH – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons).

What is VPN?

First of all, VPN (Virtual Private Network) is the easiest and most effective way for people to protect their internet traffic and keep their identities private online. What VPN does, it encrypts your data traffic and sends it through a remote server. After that it changes your IP location.  All in all, it protects your online privacy, ensuring that nobody intercepts your traffic, looks at your data, or see your geolocation. Additionally, it protects you, when using public WiFi networks.

Pros of VPN

  • Enables a secure connection to the internet, as it encrypts the data being transmitted. As a result, VPN users are assured that their information is protected from third parties such as hackers, ISPs or governments.
  • Allows users to maintain their online privacy by hiding their IP address and allowing them to use the internet anonymously. No fear of being tracked or monitored by advertisers or other unwanted parties.
  • Provides secure use of public Wi Fi, which is usually unsecured and exposes users to hacking attacks. A VPN encrypts transmitted data, making the use of public WiFi more secure.
  • Helps to save money by reducing phone or internet bills. Additionally VPN users choose servers from different countries, avoiding costs associated with roaming or blocking services in other countries.
  • Works as a handy protction tool for activists in hostile environments.
  • Protection from DDoS attacks.
  • Protects your online privacy.

Cons of VPN

  • Cheap or free VPNs are slow, insecure and may collect your data.
  • VPN does not protect you from voluntary data collection.
  • Incompatible with certain devices.
  • Some countries block VPN services, which may make it impossible to use them. In some cases, VPN users may face a penalty for using the service, which may force them to stop using the VPN.
  • Not all VPN services are equally secure. Some VPN services may collect user data or contain security holes, which could compromise your privacy.

What is SSH?

SSH stands for Secure Shell and is a network protocol used to establish a secure connection between two devices over an insecure network such as the Internet. Commonly used for remote login and remote command execution on servers, routers, and other network devices.

Generally, it is described as a secure channel over which data is exchanged between two devices. This channel is encrypted and authenticated, providing a secure way to communicate and transfer data.

Pros of SSH

  • Remote Management as it lets you the access to remote devices.
  • Strong authentication, which means that users must prove their identity, before they access remote resources. Furthermore this means, that only authorised individuals have access to remote devices.
  • Much easier to set up on a server level.

Cons of SSH

  • SSH is primarily a tool for web developers, not something for the average user.
  • Application level only, so there is a need to configure each application that uses SSH tunnel.
  • Add GUI but simple things like plugin/theme management can take longer. Also it means, that you have to build out a GUI, if you want to use something other then the command line.

We have reached the main part of the article VPN vs SSH – What’s the Difference ?

VPN vs SSH -Differences Comparison

As you can see VPN and SSH are both used to provide secure connections over unsecured networks, but they differ in several ways:


VPN solutions are pricey, depending on the number of users and security requirements. Some popular choices are NordVPN, ExpressVPN.

Contrarily, SSH is usually available as open source software and used without any licensing costs. However, using commercial SSH solutions, they are ideally better for larger organisations. Important to note, the cost ranges from a few dollars to tens of dollars per month, also depending on the number of users and security requirements.

Network traffic

Encryption is a strong point. With network traffic VPN ensures, that all network traffic between the VPN client and the VPN server is encrypted. So, all network traffic, including data sent between the client and the destination server, is encrypted and transmitted through the VPN tunnel. So VPN solutions are ideal for gaining secure remote access to the entire network.

On the other hand, SSH only allows secure remote command execution and device management, not the transfer of all network traffic. Additional advantage of SSH is that it encrypts the data transmitted between the client and the server, but only that, which is required to execute SSH commands. All in all, that contributes to the fact that network traffic other than SSH data (e.g. web browsing) is not encrypted and is not sent through the SSH tunnel.


Importantly with VPN solutions is that, they are typically scalable and easily adapted to the changing needs of an organisation. Different variants of VPN solutions are available, such as enterprise VPN, multi branch VPN or remote worker VPN. In turn, that allows the solution to be tailored to the specific requirements of the organisation. Besides, VPN support multiple users and are typically available in different variants, such as a VPN private network (VPN LAN) or a client server VPN.

The scalability of SSH is typically less than that of VPN solutions. With SSH, it is geared more towards remote command execution and device management, rather than providing security for the entire network. Whilst there are methods to scale SSH solutions, such as using SSH clusters, these solutions are less flexible and than VPN solutions.


Purpose of VPN is to provide secure remote access to networks and network resources such as files, printers and applications. Also VPN solutions allow users to remotely connect to the network from anywhere, while providing a high level of network security and privacy.

The solutions that SSH offers have been mainly designed for secure remote management of servers and devices such as routers, switches and servers. And on top of this, SSH allows remote command execution, file transfer and device configuration management. Furthermore, it is particularly useful for system administrators and network engineers who often work remotely.


In terms of configuration, setting up a VPN requires configuring the VPN server and client software, as well as configuring firewall rules to allow VPN traffic. SSH, on the other hand, requires only the installation of an SSH server on the remote machine and an SSH client on the local machine.


Security of VPN is at a high level. By encrypting all data traffic between the remote user and the VPN server various encryption protocols are used, such as SSL, TLS, and IPsec. Further, this ensures that data cannot be intercepted or tampered with. Moreover VPNs also provide secure authentication and access control mechanisms, ensuring that only authorized users access the network.

Balanced against, SSH also provides strong encryption and authentication mechanisms, but it is primarily designed to protect against eavesdropping and tampering during communication with a remote server. Following, SSH uses public key cryptography to authenticate users and encrypt data in transit. Furthermore, it also provides protection against various types of attacks such as password cracking, brute force attacks, and man in the middle attacks.

Thank you for reading the article VPN vs SSH – What’s the Difference ? We shall conclude the article. 

VPN vs SSH – What’s the Difference ? Conclusion

In conclusion, both VPN and SSH are powerful tools for securing remote access to network resources. VPN is best suited for connecting to a private network from a remote location and provides robust security features to protect against attacks targeting the entire network. On the other hand, SSH is much easier to set up on the server level. An excellent option for securely accessing a single remote computer and provides strong encryption and authentication mechanisms to protect against eavesdropping and tampering.

The most notable difference is encryption. Vpn does it all by encrypting all data coming to and from a device and it is so simple to use for any level user. Protecting your data is much easier with a VPN as a whole. 

Whereas SSH  you have to configure each application to use an SSH tunnel and it is difficult to set up. 

Ultimately, the choice between VPN and SSH depends on the specific needs of the user. It is important to consider factors such as security requirements, ease of use, and configuration complexity when selecting the appropriate technology for secure remote access.

Do explore more of our VPN content in our blog over here.

Avatar for Kamil Wisniowski
Kamil Wisniowski

I love technology. I have been working with Cloud and Security technology for 5 years. I love writing about new IT tools.

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